Cougars back into Top 15 after win over Falcons

Cougars back into Top 15 after win over Falcons

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NEW YORK -- Iowa and Penn State ended their seasons eligible for an at-large BCS bid, and Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech are also in position to be eligible for invites to the four big-money bowl games even though they have no shot to win their conferences.

The top seven teams in the Bowl Championship Series standings released Sunday were unchanged from last week, with Florida, Alabama and Texas still in control of the national championship race.

Barring any major upsets over the next two weeks, the winner of the Florida-Alabama Southeastern Conference title game will face Texas in the BCS title game on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

With fourth-place TCU a victory away from securing an automatic BCS bid and the loser of Florida-Alabama essentially a lock to be selected, only two at-large berths would remain.

To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must finish 14th or better in the final standings, which are released Dec. 6.

Iowa is 11th after completing its regular season Saturday with a 10-2 record, while Big Ten counterpart Penn State is 13th after also finishing 10-2.

The Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions will likely be vying for an at-large bid with sixth-place Boise State, which is two victories away from a 13-0 regular season but would be unable to gain an automatic bid if it finishes behind TCU.

Oklahoma State (9-2) from the Big 12 is in 12th place with its regular-season finale at Oklahoma on Saturday. The Cowboys need a victory to keep their hopes for an at-large bid alive.

Virginia Tech (8-3) is 14th and has to be considered the longest shot to receive a bid, even if it finishes its regular season by beating Virginia on Saturday.

No automatic bids to conference champions will be clinched this week, but five conference titles and BCS bids will be decided by five games the following week.

Oregon and Oregon State meet in Eugene on Dec. 3, with the winner earning the Pac-10 title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. The loser is essentially eliminated from BCS contention.

Cincinnati is at Pittsburgh on Dec. 5 in what has turned into a Big East conference championship game. Both teams play this week (Pitt visits West Virginia on Friday, the same day Cincinnati hosts Illinois in a nonconference game). If the Bearcats and Panthers both finish 11-1, the loser of their game would definitely be in the running for an at-large bid.

Florida and Alabama both face big rivalry games this week, with the Gators taking on Florida State and the Crimson Tide playing at Auburn. Upsets in those games could keep the SEC champion out of the BCS title game.

Texas plays at Texas A&M on Thursday before facing Nebraska in the Big 12 title game. A loss in either could keep the Longhorns from playing for a national championship, but like Alabama and Florida, the Longhorns don't need to win the conference title to end up in a BCS game.

The Cornhuskers' only route to the BCS is to win the Big 12.

Georgia Tech (11-1), seventh in the BCS standings, play Georgia on Saturday and can earn an automatic bid by beating Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game on Dec. 5. The Yellow Jackets would likely remain eligible for an at-large bid even with a loss in the conference title game.

Like Nebraska, Clemson needs to win the conference to get into the BCS.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press)

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