Stanford won’t be playing in the national championship game, and a Rose Bowl berth is a long shot, but the Cardinal could easily find itself in the Fiesta Bowl playing either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
This assumes Stanford beats Cal in Saturday’s Big Game and Notre Dame the following week to finish 11-1. But if that happens, Stanford is a good bet to land in a BCS game, and the Fiesta Bowl is the most likely destination.
The only reasonable way for Stanford to get to the Rose Bowl is for Oregon to get to the national championship game, which is possible now that Oregon is No. 4 in the BCS standings, but the odds are against it.
However, Stanford has other possibilities.
The champions of the major conferences get six of the 10 BCS berths. The Southeastern Conference is likely to get a second berth, and the Big 12 might get the maximum two bids as well, taking care of eight spots. The Big East and Atlantic Coast Conference are unlikely to get a second bid, and Houston or another team from a conference that does not get an automatic berth is likely to be guaranteed a BCS spot, leaving one vacancy.
There seems to be only one scenario in which that final spot would not go to an 11-1 Stanford team. If a Big Ten team that does not win the conference title finishes in the top 14 of the BCS standings, BCS game officials could decide the crowd a Big Ten team would bring is more important than the star power and ranking Andrew Luck and Stanford would bring.
The choice in that scenario probably would be Stanford, which has one other ace in the hole: Fiesta Bowl executive director Robert Shelton is a Stanford graduate.
The Winners: Houston and Alabama were the main beneficiaries of the losses by Stanford and Boise State.
The Tide, at No. 3, increased its chances for a rematch with LSU in the national championship game, and the Boise State loss virtually assured Houston a spot in a BCS game if the Cougars finish 13-0. Even though Houston remains behind the Broncos in the BCS standings, and even though only one team from a non-automatic-qualifying conference is guaranteed a BCS berth, only conference champions are assured a BCS berth. With its loss, Boise State slipped behind TCU in the Mountain West standings and is unlikely to be a conference champ.
That means Southern Mississippi might end up with a BCS berth if it beats Houston in the Conference-USA title game, but the nation no doubt would prefer to see the Cougars in a BCS game against, say, Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
The Cougars are averaging 54.7 points, which would be the second highest scoring average in history, behind only the 1944 Army team with Glenn Davis and Doc Blanchard that averaged 56.0 points. (Army laid 76 on the Coast Guard and 83 on Villanova that season, outscoring opponents 504-35.)
Houston could become just the seventh team to average better than 50 points for a season. Five of the previous six finished the regular season ranked No. 1 or 2 in the country, the only exception being the 1989 Houston team that had two losses.
Furthermore, with Andrew Luck’s fall from Heisman grace, Houston quarterback Case Keenum finds himself in the thick of the Heisman race.
Another Home Game for Cal?
Saturday’s game against Oregon State may not have been Cal’s final home game after all. There’s a pretty good chance Cal will wind up in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which will be played at the Bears’ 2011 home, AT&T Park, on Dec. 31. The Bears also could wind up in the New Mexico Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl, but the bowl game at AT&T Park is the most likely. Cal’s possible opponent in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl could be any number of teams, such as Utah State or Temple, but the guess here is that it will be Northwestern. If Cal does not wind up in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, Utah likely will be the Pac-12 representative in that game.