If you thought Boise State was out of the Bowl Championship Series picture following the Nov. 3 loss to San Diego State, well, it's BSU, this is BCS, and here's the deal:
If a team from a non-Automatic Qualifier conference finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and is ahead of a champion from one of the six AQ leagues, it receives an automatic bid.
Both No. 17 Kent State (MAC) and No. 20 Boise State (Mountain West) are positioned to take advantage of the Big East's lack of power at the top.
The league's top-ranked team is ... actually, it doesn't have a team in the top 25 -- to the delight of the MAC and MWC (not to mention all those who believe the Big East has no business receiving an automatic berth).
I happen to think Northern Illinois will beat Kent State, eliminating the Golden Flashes. But Boise State will beat Nevada -- yes, even in Reno -- to remain in contention.
The question then becomes: How high will the Broncos climb? Could they get to 16? Well, since you asked ...
No. 16 UCLA visits Stanford.
No. 17 Kent State plays Northern Illinois (11-1) on a neutral field.
No. 18 Texas visits Kansas State.
But even if Nos. 16-18 lose, the Broncos would have to overtake No. 19 Michigan, which is idle.
And there's a chance -- a pretty good one, in fact -- that No. 21 Northern Illinois could jump BSU if it defeats Kent State in the MAC title game.
All in all, it's certainly within reason
If the Broncos (or the MAC champ) don't snatch an automatic berth, that slot would go to the Big 12½²s No. 2 (i.e., Oklahoma).
Which brings us to the projections ...
Assuming the SEC champion faces Notre Dame in the national title game -- even for the BCS, that's a safe assumption -- here's the selection order with projected picks:
1. Sugar: Florida (SEC No. 2 to replace Alabama)
2. Fiesta: Oregon
3. Sugar: Oklahoma
4. Orange: Rutgers
And the games ...
Alabama vs. Notre Dame: A ratings blockbuster (until midway through the third quarter when Bama turns it into a blowout).
Stanford vs. Wisconsin: At one point, the Rose appeared to have a shot at Notre Dame, but it's probably not complaining about Stanford-Wisconsin, a rematch of the Jan. '00 game. (Substitute UCLA and/or Nebraska if there's an upset in the conference championships.)
Oregon vs. Kansas State: The Fiesta is DE-lighted to grab Oregon and match the one-loss, top-10 Ducks against one-loss, top-10 K State. Both teams travel well, and there's a nice little subplot (K State canceling the two-game series).
Florida vs. Oklahoma: The Sugar would rather avoid the loser of the SEC title game, which in this scenario -- with Alabama playing in the NCG -- would be Georgia. The Dawgs slide out of the BCS, and one-loss Florida heads to the Big Easy.
Florida State vs. Rutgers: Other viewing options that night, at least for east coast audiences, could include NCIS, Raising Hope and Betty White's Off Their Rockers.