"Best in the Mountain West" Meets "Middle of the Pac"



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well... while the numbers won't be official until later today, it's clear that not enough things broke BYU's way for the Cougars to end up in the BCS mix. The Boston College and Oregon losses were helpful, but BYU needed Arizona State and/or Hawaii to lose as well, and when both the Sun Devils and Warriors pulled off wins, the pool of eligible qualifiers and at-large candidates was large enough to eliminate BYU from contention.

These are the automatic qualifiers:

West Virginia (BEC Champ)

Ohio State (Big Ten Champ)

LSU (SEC Champ)

USC (Pac 10 Champ)

Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)

Virginia Tech (ACC Champ)

Hawaii*

*if UH ends up 12th or higher in the final BCS standings

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Pending the release of the final BCS standings, these are the likely at-large teams:

Georgia**

Kansas**

Illinois/Arizona State

** any at-large BCS-league team ranked 3rd or 4th in the final BCS standings becomes an automatic qualifier, providing that another at-large team from that league is not playing in the National Championship Game.

Should Hawaii drop below 12th in the final BCS standings, UH would lose automatic qualifier status and re-enter the at-large pool.

Illinois and Arizona State are both projected to be top 14 teams when the final BCS standings are released, and would be eligible for at-large selection. If Hawaii gains "auto bid" status, only one of Illinois/Arizona State will play in a BCS bowl. If Hawaii were to drop out of the top 12, both the Illini and Sun Devils would likely gain BCS bids.

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So, the 10-2 BYU Cougars are once again Las Vegas Bowl-bound, to face a team that either:

a) just finished 3-6 in its league and lost to Stanford to finish the regular season, or

b) just recorded its worst offensive performance of the season, lost to Notre Dame earlier in the year, and will likely fire its coach before the bowl game.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you either Cal or UCLA!

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There are 6 bowl-eligible teams from the Pac-10, and the way it's slotting out, the Emerald and Las Vegas Bowls (or Las Vegas and Armed Forced Bowls) will be left to choose between Cal (3-6, 6-6) and UCLA (5-4, 6-6).

If Arizona State plays in a BCS bowl, Oregon State would play in the Holiday Bowl, Oregon in the Sun Bowl, then the Emerald and Las Vegas Bowls would be looking at splitting Cal and UCLA. If ASU does not play in a BCS bowl, the Sun Devils sould go to the Holiday Bowl, Oregon State would go to the Sun Bowl, Oregon would play in the Emerald Bowl, and the Las Vegas and Armed Forces Bowls would split UCLA and Cal. Clearly, if given the choice, the Emerald Bowl wants Cal over UCLA, for both the area draw and because UCLA played in San Francisco just last season.

On the surface, ASU not playing in a BCS bowl would send Cal to Las Vegas to face a BYU team it beat in the 2005 version of the Las Vegas Bowl. And right now, that's probably the best BYU can hope for (that's right--hope for a 3-6 Pac-10 team).

If ASU plays in a BCS bowl and the Emerald Bowl people get their way (and get Cal), that could ticket the Bruins for Las Vegas (to play in a "bargain bin" game, according to today's L.A. Times). UCLA's last appearance in Las Vegas (2004) ended with the Bruins losing to Wyoming.

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Now, I've heard (and been unable to confirm) that the Las Vegas Bowl bowl contract is written in such a way that regular season rematches are frowned upon, in which case (if faced with the prospects of a BYU-UCLA rematch), the Las Vegas bowl could "request" a team from the Pac-10 (in this case, Cal, ostensibly), and if the conference cannot fulfill the request, another non-Pac 10 team could be pursued. Again, this is just something I've heard, but cannot base in fact.

At this point, we have to wait and see what comes of this afternoon's developments, but if BYU were to end up with either Cal or UCLA, it would be viewed as an unworthy reward for a team that was on the BCS periphery for much of the weekend.

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