Posted: Wednesday November 17, 2010 12:28PM ; Updated: Wednesday November 17, 2010 2:23PM
Stewart Mandel
Stewart Mandel>COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Blame coaching, not recruiting rankings; more mail (cont.)

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Garrett Gilbert and Texas could play in a bowl despite finishing with just five wins.
Garrett Gilbert and Texas could play in a bowl despite finishing with just five wins.
John Albright/Icon SMI

In your most recent bowl projections you state, "As of now, I'm projecting exactly 70 eligible teams for 70 spots." Does that mean it's possible that there could be fewer than 70 bowl eligible teams? If so, what happens then? Since I can't imagine they cancel a bowl game, do we simply get one (or more) with a 5-7 team?
-- Michael Butler, Fort Worth, Texas

Yep. I talked Monday with Big East associate commissioner Nick Capparelli, who chairs the NCAA's football postseason licensing subcommittee, and though he said the group has yet to adopt a formal resolution, it is "committed to making sure every game gets played," which would mean seeking a waiver to allow a 5-7 team to go to a bowl. I assume the bowls would have free reign to choose whichever 5-7 team would buy the most tickets. So your bowl hopes aren't dead yet, Texas.

Having said that, when I do those projections, I'm fairly conservative in predicting how teams' schedules will play out. Inevitably, a couple of teams that look right now like they won't get to six wins will pull an upset or two and get there. So while it could be extremely close, I'd be surprised if the final number of eligible teams is below 70.

How does Nebraska, at 9-1 and ranked ninth in the country, get tentatively matched against 5-4 Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl when Pitt is not even in the Top 25? Heck, Pitt isn't even listed in "others receiving votes."
-- Colonel Chris Krisinger, USAF (Ret), Burke, Va.

Unfortunately, someone will have to play the Big East champ in a BCS game, and most likely it's going to be the Big 12 champ. The Fiesta Bowl, which hosts the Big 12 champ, has last choice of at-large picks this year, and it's hard to imagine it won't get stuck with a three- or four-loss Big East team. Pitt is currently alone in first in the Big East and holds the tiebreaker over second-place Syracuse.

But look at the bright side, Huskers fans: You'd finally get to exact your revenge on Steve Pederson (Pitt's AD).

Stewart, aren't we told that the BCS rewards schools for playing tougher opponents? This week, of the top four teams, TCU played the toughest opponent, 7-2 SDSU, and won, yet was punished by the pollsters because it didn't win decisively enough. Of course, Oregon isn't held to the same standard with a two-point win over a 5-4 Cal. Doesn't it seem like the rules change every week in the BCS?
-- Tammy, Columbia, Md.

You're only now figuring this out, Tammy? The rules of the BCS have changed nearly every week for 12 years, as have the whims of the voters. It's no secret the non-AQs are held to a different standard when it comes to style points, but not without reason. Unlike with Auburn or Oregon, we only get a few chances a year to see non-AQ teams face decent competition. Oregon can afford a mulligan because voters have seen the Ducks clobber the likes of Stanford and USC. But if you're TCU, and you want to play for a national championship without playing the same quality schedule as the big boys, the voters aren't going to give you the same benefit of the doubt. You've got to win big every week. That's the reality.

Having said that, I still contend that the Horned Frogs would not have dropped solely on the basis of the San Diego State game. Anyone who paid even remote attention knows it was a highly atypical 40-35 game in that TCU dominated until late in the fourth quarter. Rather, it was the fact that the close call came at the same exact time as Utah's debacle at Notre Dame, making voters question why they jumped the Frogs over Boise State to begin with. Again, this is not something you would see with a BCS conference team. Nobody downgraded then-No. 2 Ohio State when Miami got crushed by Florida State. I think at this point most voters believe that TCU and Boise State are two of the best teams in the country, but there's enough hesitation that every little misstep, whether by the Frogs or one of their marquee opponents, gets punished.

Stewart, I know it's Wednesday and this is a late request for your Mailbag, but please call out Cal (and every other inferior team, but especially Cal) for faking injuries, and put an end to the idea that "it's gamesmanship." Thanks.
-- Ryan Belton, Eugene, Ore.

I don't know what you want me to do, Ryan. There's no question Cal faked injuries Saturday, as have previous Oregon foes. This video of one guy walking around just fine at the end of the play, looking to the sideline ... and then immediately pretending to cramp up, is downright laughable in its transparency. But what can be done? Refs aren't doctors. They can't determine who's injured and who's faking. If a team thinks it's that important to catch a break against the Ducks' offense, it's not going to let a little Internet mockery get in the way.

I hate to tell you, but it is gamesmanship. It's no different than World Cup soccer players hamming up injuries to draw a yellow card, basketball players intentionally flopping to draw charging calls or Derek Jeter pretending he got hit by a pitch. The best retaliation against a team that resorts to such chicanery: beating it anyway, which Oregon did.

Stewart: First of all, Rob from Fort Collins needs to be hurt for asking his question. Second, you are completely right about Clemson. Third, I'm going to cry myself to sleep tonight. Mailbag day is usually my favorite day. I hate you today.
-- John, Liberty, S.C.

Wow. And John wrote all that before Clemson lost to Florida State on a 55-yard field goal. Just a rough week all around.

Tell me why there is no outrage about the Big Ten using the BCS standings to settle a possible three-way tie among its top teams when it created an uproar when the Big 12 did this a few years ago?
-- Duane Compton, Lyme, N.H.

It's not getting much attention because, first of all, we don't know yet whether it's going to come to that (Ohio State could lose at Iowa, Wisconsin could lose at Michigan, Michigan State could lose at Penn State). Secondly, it doesn't look like it will have national title consequences. The Texas/Oklahoma/Texas Tech enigma in 2008 became a hot-button issue because it determined not just who won the conference, but also whether the Longhorns or Sooners would play for the BCS Championship. Texas considered it an injustice that OU got the nod despite having lost to the 'Horns, while Bob Stoops contended that the Sooners beat Texas Tech, which beat Texas, which created the whole fiasco.

But yes, right now the Big Ten is looking at a situation where a team could possibly get left out of the Rose Bowl in favor of a team with the same record which it beat. The most likely victim is Michigan State. If Wisconsin, Ohio State and the Spartans all finish 7-1, the Badgers -- who beat the Buckeyes but lost to Michigan State -- would get the nod based on the current BCS standings. The problem is, Ohio State and Michigan State don't play this year, so there's really no other way to resolve it.

Personally, I think the Big Ten should go back to the old days, when the team that's been to the Rose Bowl least recently gets the nod. But of course that wouldn't help if one of the two was in contention for the national title. You'd have to follow the lead of Texas AD DeLoss Dodds, who, after the '08 snub, managed to sneak in a rule change that accounts for head-to-head issues.

Stop hating on Cam Stewart!
-- Rock, Jacksonville, Fla.

I'm not sure to whom you're referring, Rock, but I have no issues with either Cam Stewart the hockey player or Cam Stewart the Canadian sportscaster.

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