Illinois could be BCS-bound after Oregon's tumble
Posted: Monday November 19, 2007 12:07PM; Updated: Tuesday November 20, 2007 12:06PM
In the world of bowl projections, Oregon QB Dennis Dixon's unfortunate knee injury impacted far more than just the Ducks' now-extinguished national-title hopes. Its implications affect the forecast for nearly every BCS bowl and span as far as Champaign, Ill.
Start with the obvious: Oregon (8-2), which as of last week was penciled into the BCS Championship Game, now seem unlikely to even reach a BCS bowl. That would require beating both 5-5 UCLA and 7-4 Oregon State, a tall task without their all-everything quarterback.
The Ducks' anticipated slide affects far more than just their specific bowl status. For weeks, we'd been operating under the assumption that the Pac-10 would produce two BCS teams -- Oregon and the winner of Thursday's Arizona State-USC game. However, if the 9-1 Sun Devils beat the 8-2 Trojans at home and Oregon suffers another loss, that league is unlikely to have a second eligible team.
Who would fill its spot? Most likely, it would be 9-3 Illinois.
BCS rules state that a team must win at least nine games and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings to qualify for an at-large berth, while the bowls can select no more than two teams from the same conference. Figure the Big 12 and SEC are almost certainly going to snare two of the four BCS at-large berths. The winner of Saturday's game between No. 15 Hawaii (10-0) and No. 19 Boise State (10-1) is likely going to lock one up as well.
Meanwhile, the Big East isn't likely to produce a second eligible team, and the only ACC team that could possibly finish in the top 14 without winning the league championship game is No. 8 Virginia Tech (9-2). If the Pac-10 doesn't produce a second eligible team, either, than the last spot could come down to a choice between No. 17 Illinois (9-3), assuming it moves up the necessary three spots, or a three-loss Hokies team fresh off a defeat in the ACC title game. Bowl organizers would likely go with the hotter team, in this case the Illini.
In the span of two weeks, Illinois has gone from a projected Champs Sports Bowl team to a projected Fiesta Bowl team, while in the span of a week, Oregon has slipped from the national title game to a projected Sun Bowl trip. Dixon's knee isn't the only thing hurting in Eugene.
One point of clarification this week: I've been inadvertently disseminating some misinformation regarding the Big 12's selection order. I, and apparently most of those projecting bowls, were under the impression that once over a four-year period, the Gator Bowl can move ahead of the Cotton and Holiday bowls and select the Big 12's No. 2 team. Considering the plethora of highly ranked Big 12 teams this season, we proceeded under the assumption that the Gator would do just that.
However, I was informed last week that the Gator Bowl cannot exercise that right in years when the conference sends two teams to the BCS, as will almost certainly be the case this season. Instead, the Gator chooses fourth (technically fifth, what with the two BCS teams), which means no one was more overjoyed by Texas Tech's win Saturday than the folks in Jacksonville.
As always, here are a few facts to be aware of when reading these projections:
Bowls are not obligated to choose their teams in exact order of conference standings. For instance, "Big Ten No. 3" means "third choice of Big Ten teams" -- not "the Big Ten's third-place team."
Note that a bowl can only select a 6-6 team from a conference if no 7-5 teams from that league are still available. Similarly, bowls seeking an "at-large" team to replace a conference that did not produce enough eligible teams cannot choose a 6-6 team if there is a 7-5 team available.
For the purposes of these projections, the highest-ranked team in each major conference was designated as its "champion." (Feel free to comment.)