What bowl game will TCU go to? A guide to the possible scenarios

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    TCU heads into its season finale bowl-eligible for the 14th time in 15 years. Where the Horned Frogs go, however, is still a mystery.

    It is likely that TCU will go to one of the four following bowl games: the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., the Holiday Bowl in San Diego or the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.

    Conference standings only play a part in the selection process, however. A team that finishes in third place in the Big 12 does not necessarily get into the bowl game with the third selection. Factors such as travel, potential matchup and revenue are all considered with bowl selection committees.

    With that, here are the following ways TCU could land in each bowl game:

    Alamo Bowl (Big 12 #3 vs. Pac-12 #2)

    The Alamo Bowl in San Antonio is a featured matchup between the third selection from the Big 12 conference and the second selection from the Pac-12 conference.  TCU could land this bowl if:

    1) Oklahoma wins on Saturday, Kent State loses AND the bowl committee prefers TCU.

    Oklahoma must win on Saturday to advance to a BCS game, likely the Sugar Bowl. The Big 12 has nine eligible bowl teams, but only eight automatic tie-ins. If Oklahoma goes 10-2 and advances to the BCS, every Big 12 team will move up in the selection process.

    Kent State also must lose to No. 19 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game Friday. Kent State, currently No. 17 in the BCS standings, can take Oklahoma’s BCS spot through a technicality in the BCS rules.

    Since Kent State will likely move into the top 16 in the BCS rankings with a win, and the Big East, a current BCS conference, will be ranked lower, the Golden Flashes will take an at-large BCS bid by default.

    If Oklahoma wins and Kent State loses, the University of Texas will likely be selected for the Cotton Bowl, meaning TCU will compete with two other schools to get the Alamo Bowl bid.

    TCU will be either tied or next to Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) and Oklahoma State (6-3, 5-3 with season finale at Baylor remaining) in the standings. Those teams will likely be in the top five in the conference after the final week of play and eligible to play in the Alamo Bowl as well, which means the Alamo Bowl committee must find the Frogs as the best bowl selection option.

    2) Oklahoma wins, Kent State wins but fails to get into the BCS top 16 AND the bowl committee prefers TCU.

    While highly unlikely, if Kent State wins, but fails to get into the top 16, Oklahoma will still likely receive a BCS at-large bid. 

    As with the previous situation, TCU will have to be selected over schools such as Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. If Baylor wins, they will be 7-5 and could be a nominee for the Alamo Bowl as well.

    It is worth noting that representatives of the Alamo Bowl have been to at least two TCU games this season: The home game against then No. 2 Kansas State, and the Thanksgiving matchup against Texas.

    If TCU goes to this bowl, their likely opponent is: The loser of the Pac-12 conference championship game. Stanford and UCLA will play one another, with the winner advancing to the Rose Bowl. With No. 4 Oregon likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl as a BCS at-large pick, UCLA or Stanford will stand as the next-best selection for the Pac-12.

    Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (Big 12 #4 vs. Big Ten #5)

    The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. will have the fourth selection from the Big 12 play the fifth selection in the Big Ten. Here are situations in which TCU could land in this bowl game:

    1) Oklahoma loses.

    A loss would knock out Oklahoma from a BCS game. Because of that, Texas and Oklahoma would fill the selections for the Cotton Bowl and the Alamo Bowl. This leaves TCU, which would be 8-4 in this situation, as one of the premiere options for the Big 12. 

    Fresh off a win over conference giant Texas and a hypothetical win over the other conference giant, Oklahoma, TCU will be a hot commodity item for the conference. 

    It’s difficult to select a struggling Texas Tech team or an Oklahoma State team over a TCU squad with tons of momentum behind them.

    2) Oklahoma wins, Kent State loses AND the Alamo Bowl committee selects Texas Tech OR Oklahoma State OR Baylor.

    If Oklahoma goes to the BCS through a win and a Kent State loss, the Big 12 will probably take Texas for the Cotton Bowl. This leaves Texas Tech (7-5), Oklahoma State (either 8-4 or 7-5, following Saturday’s game against Baylor), Baylor (hypothetically 7-5 with a win over OSU) and TCU (hypothetically 7-5 loss to OU) eligible for this bowl.

    If the Alamo Bowl chooses Tech, Baylor or OSU, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl may choose TCU as their next preference.

    3) Kent State wins and reaches the top 16 AND the bowl committee prefers TCU. 

    If the Sooners don’t go to a BCS game, Oklahoma and Texas would probably go to the Cotton Bowl and Alamo Bowl. That leaves a quagmire of eligible teams for the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl.

    To enter the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in this scenario, the Frogs will need the bowl committee to select TCU over both Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. It’s a tough sell, especially if Oklahoma State wins against Baylor to finish 8-4 on the year.

    The determining factor would be whether TCU fans would travel to Arizona for a post-season game against a mediocre Big Ten team. Both OSU and Texas Tech have larger alumni bases and both schools may travel better, which makes TCU more unlikely to be selected in this game.

    If TCU goes to this bowl, their likely opponent is: Michigan State. Purdue, Minnesota and MSU ended the regular season at 6-6 and are all bowl eligible. The winner of the Big Ten conference championship game will go to the Rose Bowl. 

    Northwestern, Michigan and the loser of the Big Ten conference title game will likely fill the next three selections for the Big Ten, leaving MSU, Minnesota and Purdue for the fifth slot.

    The next selection will likely rely on traveling ability and size of alumni, which both favor Michigan State.

    Holiday Bowl (Big 12 #5 vs. Pac 12 #3)

    1) TCU loses to Oklahoma, Kent State is not in a BCS game AND the bowl committee prefers TCU.

    A loss to Oklahoma leaves TCU at 7-5 for their regular season record. If Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are taken for the two previous bowls, TCU will likely be the next best selection.

    West Virginia could hypothetically finish 7-5, but with the Pinstripe Bowl available, it’s almost impossible to believe the Mountaineers would not go to that bowl game.

    Baylor could finish 7-5 as well, and in that case, the Holiday Bowl will have to probably decide between the two Texas schools.

    2) TCU OR Kent State win AND Alamo Bowl and Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl committees pass up the Frogs.

    If Oklahoma doesn’t go to a BCS game and Texas Tech and OSU go to other bowl games, TCU will likely be the best scenario team for the Holiday Bowl.

    Knowing TCU has gone multiple times to the Poinsettia Bowl, which is run by the same committee as the Holiday Bowl, TCU could see a bowl game once again in Southern California.

    Gary Patterson said in his weekly press conference Tuesday that TCU “has friends in San Diego,” which could imply that TCU would be favored for the Holiday Bowl if the Frogs are available for selection.

    If TCU goes to this bowl, their likely opponent is: Oregon State or USC. Oregon State is higher in the standings with a 9-3 record. However, since the game is in Southern California, a potential rematch of the 1998 Sun Bowl could be too tempting for the Holiday Bowl committee.

    Meineke Car Care Bowl (Big 12 #6 vs. Big Ten #5)

    The final game in which TCU could be placed in is the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which features the sixth selection from the Big 12 and the fifth selection of the Big Ten. The game is in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans.

    The last time TCU played there was 2007, when the Frogs beat the Houston Cougars 20-13 in Andy Dalton’s freshman year. Here’s how TCU can end up there:

    1) Oklahoma goes to a BCS game AND the Alamo Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and Holiday Bowl committees all pass up TCU.

    Regardless of how the Kent State or Oklahoma games finish, the only way the Frogs go to the Meineke Car Care Bowl is if the three previous bowls choose teams other than TCU.

    If TCU is in this situation, the Frogs, Iowa State (6-6) and West Virginia (hypothetically 7-5 after playing Kansas to end the season) will be the last bowl-eligible teams left in the Big 12. 

    Knowing West Virginia is bowl eligible, it is difficult to imagine them going to any bowl game other than the Pinstripe Bowl in New York’s Yankee Stadium. The region is the closest for West Virginia fans to travel to and the Mountaineers will play an old Big East rival, likely to be Cincinnati, Connecticut or ideally, Pittsburgh.

    The Meineke Car Care Bowl will prefer a Texas team over Iowa State, thus it is likely TCU’s last resort is Houston. If this situation happens, Iowa State will play in the Heart of Dallas bowl with the final selection of the Big 12.

    2) Oklahoma does not go to a BCS bowl game AND the Alamo Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and Holiday Bowl committees all pass up TCU AND the bowl committee prefers TCU.

    More than likely, this is the last way the Meineke Car Care Bowl gets the Frogs.

    While the Car Care Bowl is likely the last resort for TCU, there is still a chance that if Oklahoma does not go to a BCS game, the Big 12 could be shaken up enough and have enough surprises that TCU falls to the Meineke Car Care Bowl by default.

    The most likely way this happens is if an unexpected committee selection happens, such as if Baylor or West Virginia are chosen by the Holiday Bowl. 

    Despite all this, it seems pretty unlikely that TCU would fall any lower than the sixth selection in the Big 12 bowls.

    If TCU goes to this bowl, their likely opponent is: Purdue or Minnesota. The last of the bowl eligible teams from the Big Ten would be decided here to go to the game by default. Many projections have Purdue in this game.

    Final thoughts:

    Although there are many, many situations which can affect where TCU plays in the post-season, Gary Patterson has made his team bowl-eligible in TCU’s debut in the Big 12 despite losing more than 20 players to injury, grades or legal issues.

    TCU will play a bowl game that pays out far more and will feature a better opponent than any Mountain West Conference bowl game could offer. A bowl game gives Patterson extra practices to improve his team and prepare them for another big year in 2013.

    Author’s Prediction:

    If TCU wins Saturday: TCU is too hot of a commodity to ignore after beating OU and UT, but due to records, the Frogs have to settle for Tempe, Ariz. The Horned Frogs battle the Michigan State Spartans in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

    If TCU loses Saturday: A rematch of the 1998 Sun Bowl is too tempting for the bowl committee. TCU plays USC in the Holiday Bowl.