TCU, Utah or Boise State could take Pac-10's slot in Rose Bowl
If Oregon plays for the national title, and a team from the non-automatic-qualifying conferences is an automatic qualifier for the BCS by being in the top 12 (TCU, Boise State, Utah are currently ranked third, fourth and fifth) that team will play in the Rose Bowl.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
In a college-football world long-accustomed to the eccentricities of the Bowl Championship Series, there are people who will tell you one thing will never change: There's nothing like the Rose Bowl.
There's nothing like Arroyo Seco, nothing like the "Rose Bowl" script on the side of the old stadium, nothing like the hope for the New Year that seems to radiate from the looming San Gabriel Mountains.
With that in mind, get ready to say hi to TCU, Utah or Boise State in Pasadena this season, while a Pac-10 team — and maybe the conference — is on the outside looking in.
Seems that there's a new clause in the BCS selection procedures. If the Rose loses a team to the national-title game — Oregon, that's you — and a team from the non-automatic-qualifying conferences (TCU, Utah, Boise State) is an automatic qualifier for the BCS (by being top 12), that team ... will play in the Rose Bowl.
Flat out. No questions asked.
Bill Hancock, executive director of the BCS, explains it as simply a means of entry for the non-BCS leagues to the Rose Bowl, which is otherwise more restrictive because of tie-ins with both the Big Ten and Pac-10.
So, if Oregon is as good as everybody believes, you can project the Rose Bowl matchup with more certainty than usual on the first weekend in November.
This week, there's a knot of non-BCS-conference teams — they bear the dreaded "non-AQ" label in BCS parlance — in the 3-4-5 spots in those standings. TCU is third, Utah fifth, sandwiching Boise State.
TCU is at Utah on Saturday, and the assumption is that winner, if it stays undefeated, would be the highest non-AQ team. Boise State, even as its schedule ramps up in November, wouldn't appear to have the juice to overcome that.
Ergo, if Oregon keeps clowning everybody it plays and goes to Glendale for the Jan. 10 title game, we have TCU or Utah in Pasadena against the Big Ten winner. There, it's a four-way tie between Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa.
The Fiesta Bowl has usually been the landing spot for the non-BCS-league crashers. Nothing against that bowl, but you have to think the Rose — not only does it drip with tradition, it's always a big TV draw — would be an appealing consolation prize for, say, a Utah, if it gets jilted for the title game.
Not real surprisingly, I didn't get much of a rise out of a couple of those coaches this week when I asked if they were aware of that clause.
Said Boise State's Chris Petersen, "If we can play to our potential and have a little luck along the way, I think at the end of the year, everybody's going to be happy."
Kyle Whittingham of Utah admitted he was aware of the clause, but added, "We're just trying to figure out a way to slow down TCU. That's where it starts and where it ends."
Those teams clearly aren't out of it for the grand prize in Glendale, but they're probably going to need more help.
"We're fully aware we can put ourselves in position to be hard to pass up if we keep winning," Whittingham said. "It'll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, with ourselves, TCU and Boise State."
Meanwhile, the clause isn't the best news for the Pac-10, which hasn't had a second BCS entry in eight years. Arizona, which has never been to the Rose Bowl, stands little chance to backdoor its way there (as the prospective No. 2 team), and it's always been tougher for Pac-10 teams to be selected outside the region.
Might be a test of whether commissioner Larry Scott can work some more magic for the league. That second BCS team is worth about half a million dollars to each Pac-10 program.
JoePa turns 400
Well, in a manner of speaking. Penn State's Joe Paterno can claim his 400th victory Saturday against Northwestern. Earlier this year, he got his 500th as both assistant and head coach at the school.
Referring to 400, Arizona State's Dennis Erickson said this week, "A lot of us would have to coach for a hundred years to do that."
That's not far wrong. Check out how much ground some of the big names in the college game have to make up:
• Mack Brown, 59, of Texas, one of the game's reigning icons, is at 212 wins. So, 19 more seasons of 10 wins.
• Bob Stoops, Oklahoma, 124.
• Kirk Ferentz, Iowa, 87.
• Steve Spurrier, South Carolina, 183.
• Nick Saban, Alabama, 131.
• Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech, 193. At 64 years old, he's almost halfway there.
The end around
• Hats off to Baylor, 7-2 and bearing down on its first bowl game since 1994. On the other hand, the Fiesta Bowl, with the last pick in the BCS selections, might be holding its breath. Imagine Baylor against whatever the tepid Big East throws out there.
• Idaho, 4-4 with five games left, needs to find three more wins among Nevada, Boise State, Utah State, Fresno State and San Jose State to become bowl-eligible.
• Best game in the SEC is Alabama at LSU (both 7-1), where the fans always appreciate the return of Nick Saban.
• T. Boone Pickens said he expected eight wins this year, and Oklahoma State is ahead of schedule at 7-1, hosting Baylor.
• Mike Price's UTEP team (5-4) just spent the house money with a three-game losing streak. Now it finishes with SMU (5-4) and road games at Arkansas (6-2) and Tulsa (5-3).
• Saturday at "College GameDay" in Salt Lake City, Washington State supporters will fly the Cougars flags for a 100th straight appearance. Pretty cool tradition, pretty astonishing perseverance.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
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