Thu, Nov 18, 2004 - Page 19 News List

College bowl picture starts to form

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , FORT WORTH, TEXAS

From 19 consecutive days of football (courtesy of ESPN) we bring you 19 days of bowl talk (courtesy of the NCAA and its open-door policy allowing 28 bowl games.)

By Dec. 5, all of the matchups for the 56 teams will be finalized. Until then, here are some answers to bowl questions.

Why would Utah wind up in a Bowl Championship Series game?

BCS rules state that if a team from outside one of the six BCS conferences (as is Utah, a member of the Mountain West) is ranked sixth or higher in the final standings, that team automatically receives one of the two at-large BCS spots.

The Utes are ranked sixth in this week's BCS standings and are projected to finish in the top six if they defeat Brigham Young on Saturday.

If California and Texas both finish with one loss, why would Cal wind up in the Rose Bowl?

Rules and tradition.

First, theres the "Kansas State rule." That says a team from a BCS conference that doesn't automatically qualify but finishes either third or fourth in the final standings earns an at-large bid to a BCS bowl.

(That rule was put in after the 1998 season when Kansas State fell from No. 1 to No. 3 after losing in the Big 12 title game and went from playing in the Fiesta to the Alamo Bowl.)

Cal is fourth in the current BCS standings behind three teams likelyto win conference titles. That means the Golden Bears would automatically earn an at-large spot.

And if that happens, you can be sure the Rose Bowl would maintain its traditional matchup by grabbing Cal (to replace Pac-10 champ USC) to match against the Big Ten champ.

If all that takes place, what happens to Texas?

Texas could finish No. 5 in the BCS standings and wind up in the Cotton Bowl. That's because both BCS at-large spots would be, by rule, given to Utah and Cal.

So what would the Cotton Bowl do?

For variety, the Cotton would happily take a 10-1 Texas and match it against Tennessee or Georgia. The Cotton's agreement with the Southeastern Conference usually calls for a team from the SEC West.

But LSU, which faced Texas in the 2003 Cotton, would like to play in a Florida bowl this year. Tennessee played Kansas State in the 2001 Cotton. And Georgia hasn't played in the Cotton since stunning the Longhorns in the 1984 game.

What if Texas A&M beats Texas or Texas finishe ahead of California in the BCS standings or if California loses one of its last two games?

If A&M beats Texas, the Aggies would move to the top of the Cotton Bowl's list. If Cal is unavailable to the Rose Bowl, the Rose would probably invite Texas if the Longhorns are 10-1.

If Cal loses to either Stanford or Southern Miss, the Bears would drop and Texas would probably move up to No. 4 in the BCS standings. That would guarantee the Longhorns an at-large bid (probably the Rose).

What about the Fort WorthBowl?

The bowl matches teams from the Big 12 and Conference USA. However, for the second consecutive year, the Big 12 might not have enough teams bowl-eligible to fill its Fort Worth obligation. Iowa State (if bowl-eligible) or Colorado would probably be the Fort Worth Bowl's preference.

Navy, a Big Ten Conference team (Michigan State?) or an Atlantic Coast Conference team could fill the Big 12 spot. TCU, Southern Miss and Cincinnati all could wind up as the C-USA representtive.

If UT-El Paso finishes 9-2, the Fort Worth Bowl could try to "trade up" and get the Miners to fill an open Big 12 spot.

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