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Championship Saturday: The Aftermath

Oklahoma State stumbled, Ohio State folded, and the landscape altered. Jon breaks down the BCS picture and the Big 12's options.

Sparty's headed to Pasadena for the first time since before Bill Snyder showed up in Manhattan.
Sparty's headed to Pasadena for the first time since before Bill Snyder showed up in Manhattan.
Andy Lyons

The day started with Oklahoma upending Oklahoma State in Bedlam. It isn't actually over yet, as Fresno State leads Utah State 17-7 at the half in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game, but for all relevant purposes it ended with Michigan State dumping Ohio State out of the BCS Championship Game with a 34-24 win in Indianapolis.

Nothing particularly bizarre happened in between those two events, leaving us with a picture a little clearer than this morning.

It's hard to predict the final BCS standings after today, but we don't really need to predict them with precision to piece together the overall picture. Florida State will be #1, and will almost certainly be the unanimous #1 in the polls as the nation's only remaining FBS unbeaten. Auburn will be #2, and Alabama will slide into the #3 spot to earn an automatic BCS bowl bid (not that there was the slightest shred of doubt they'd grab a spot anyway). Stanford, Baylor, Michigan State, and Central Florida also snag automatic bids.

As a result, the BCS bowl picture looks like so before the bowls start choosing dates:

BCS Championship: Florida State vs Auburn
Rose: Stanford vs Michigan State
Orange: (vacant) vs at-large
Sugar: (vacant) vs at-large
Fiesta: Baylor vs at-large

The selection order this year is Orange (replacing FSU), Sugar (replacing Auburn), Orange, Sugar, Fiesta.

Here's where it gets interesting. You would think the Orange would take Alabama immediately. But Alabama fans <em>just went there last year</em> for the BCS Championship Game, so there's some question as to whether that's a slam-dunk. I see a probable trade-off here with the Orange and Sugar: the Orange uses its replacement pick to grab Ohio State, while the Sugar then grabs Alabama. That sorts out the two gorillas in the room and leaves the real work to begin.

The Orange is then likely to take Clemson. I know I have argued that this wasn't anywhere near a certainty, but with the situation as it now stands I think it's the likely outcome. With that, the Sugar is left to choose from among the remaining eligible candidates. Those are going to include Oregon, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. Missouri, South Carolina, and LSU will likely be in the top 14 but ineligible because the SEC already has two teams in.

We can probably rule out Oklahoma State based on the simple logic that they just lost to Oklahoma today. So who's the Sugar going to take? Oregon's going to have a not-insignificant advantage over Oklahoma in the rankings, but word is that the Sugar <em>really, really</em> wants the Sooners if they're eligible. And that's going to be the ultimate question: whether Oklahoma actually gets to #14 in the BCS Rankings. With that, here's a tentative projection of the BCS bids:

BCS Championship: Florida State vs Auburn
Rose: Stanford vs Michigan State
Orange: Ohio State vs Clemson
Sugar: Alabama vs Oklahoma
Fiesta: Baylor vs Central Florida

So where's that all leave the Big 12? The likely breakdown:

Cotton: Oklahoma State vs Missouri or South Carolina or LSU
Alamo: Texas or Kansas State vs Oregon
Buffalo Wild Wings: Kansas State or Texas vs Nebraska
Holiday: Texas Tech vs Arizona State

The reason for the uncertainty about where K-State and Texas will land is based on one important factor: Texas played in the Alamo Bowl last year, and Oklahoma State's record is probably too superior to the Longhorns' for the Cotton to dip down and grab Texas.

However, if Oklahoma doesn't reach #14, or if the Sugar bypasses them for Oregon anyway, we've got this:

Cotton: Oklahoma vs Missouri or South Carolina or LSU
Alamo: Oklahoma State vs Arizona State
Buffalo Wild Wings: Texas vs Nebraska
Holiday: Kansas State vs UCLA or USC
Texas: Texas Tech vs Minnesota

There are a lot of great storylines in some of these matchups. (Texas Tech/Minnesota is particularly tasty for those who recall the end of Glen Mason's career.) Nebraska's almost certainly going to grab a matchup with either their most-hated nemesis or with their last minor annoyance. Oklahoma's going to get a very interesting matchup no matter where they end up. And K-State's looking at an opponent with whom they have history no matter how you slice it.

We'll have to see how things shake out tomorrow night, of course. It's going to be interesting no matter what.