It was crazy last week that No. 20 TCU had a shot at a Bowl Championship Series game. This week, it is crazier.
Iowa State, North Carolina State, Southern California, Alabama-Birmingham and Baylor pulled off big upsets last weekend, leaving the BCS landscape in ruins. TCU’s chances at a BCS game dropped significantly as a result, but a Sugar Bowl appearance is still not out of the question.
The highest ranked non-automatic qualifying conference champion gets an automatic BCS bid if they are ranked in the top 16, and above an automatic qualifying conference champion.
TCU took down Colorado State 34-10 at home Saturday and locked up at least a share of the Mountain West Conference title. No. 19 Penn State took down Ohio State and No. 18 Baylor upset No. 9 Oklahoma as well. The computer rankings portion of the BCS formula pushed the Nittany Lions and the Bears ahead of the Horned Frogs in the rankings.
No. 8 Houston took full advantage of the national spotlight, beating up on Southern Methodist after ESPN College GameDay made its first appearance in Houston. Nearly half of the top 10 teams fell to conference opponents, allowing the Cougars to jump three spots in the rankings.
The Mountain West Conference Championship is all but the Frogs’ after taking down No. 7 Boise State on Nov. 12 in Idaho. TCU must take care of UNLV Dec. 3 in Fort Worth to clinch its third consecutive outright conference title.
Anyone but Houston has to win the Conference USA championship game for TCU’s pipedream to become a reality.
Tulsa hosts Houston Friday with a spot in the conference championship game on the line. If Houston pulls off the win, they will take on Southern Mississippi, who was upset by Alabama-Birmingham this past Thursday after previously being ranked No. 20.
The Golden Hurricanes (8-3) have quietly put together a solid season, ranking 19th in the nation in total offense and averaging 35.7 points per game. Their three losses came against BCS top 10 teams (No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Boise State and No. 9 Oklahoma), and they have the best chance to knock off the Cougars.
Before this weekend, many people felt the easiest part of the equation was for the Frogs to move into the top 16. The upsets over the weekend dramatically shook the BCS rankings, leaving more moving parts than before and making a late charge by TCU increasingly difficult.
The best-case scenario for the Frogs is for No. 16 Wisconsin to beat No. 19 Penn State this weekend and lose to No. 14 Michigan State. The Badgers and the Nittany Lions would almost certainly fall behind TCU in the rankings in that situation.
If the Bears drop one of their next two games against Texas Tech at Cowboys Stadium and No. 25 Texas in Waco, TCU would be in great position to take the 16th spot in the rankings.
No. 17 Clemson travels to No. 12 South Carolina Saturday for a rivalry game then faces either Virginia or No. 5 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. If the Tigers drop both of those games, they will fall behind the Frogs.
No. 15 Michigan has not beat Ohio State since 2003, and TCU needs that streak to continue to leap frog the Wolverines.
No. 13 Georgia’s rivalry game against No. 23 Georgia Tech could be the difference for the Frogs. If the Bulldogs lose to the Yellow Jackets and the SEC West winner, they would also drop behind the Frogs.
Long story short, the Frogs need Houston to lose and four of the five teams ranked in front of them in order to sneak into the top 16 and bust the BCS for a third straight year.
The most likely scenario is that two of the four Big Ten teams ranked ahead of TCU fall in conference play and two teams out of Clemson, Baylor and Georgia lose at least one of their remaining games.
As outlandish as it may seem, there is a real possibility that TCU will play in the Sugar Bowl.