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(At) Large Marge

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Let's be completely irresponsible, and take 6 more victories for Texas as an unquestioned given.

Yes, getting to 10-2 means exorcising demons on the road against a KSU team that owns Texas the same way Texas owns Nebraska (and look how that turned out). It also means beating a powerful offensive juggernaut in Oklahoma State, avoiding the bizarre letdowns that occur frequently against A&M, and keeping focus against an improved Baylor team.

But still. C'mon. You know you're thinking it. 10-2 baby. After all, 5 of the final 6 games are in the friendly confines of Austin, and Texas may very well be favored (in some cases, comfortably) in all 6 of these games.

So if 10-2 suddenly looms as a realistic goal for a team that a mere 3 days ago was being pinned for the Alamo or Independence Bowl, it begs the question: can Texas still get to a BCS bowl game?

My thought is yes... it's very possible.

Being Realistic

I've seen some misinformation out there in the Longhorn message board community about our shot at an at large berth in the event Texas is capable of running the table. Certainly, a two-loss choke job by Stoops & Co. would be preferable, allowing a 10-2 Texas team to play for the Big XII title/BCS bid outright in Arlington.

But even if the Sooners take care of business to win the South, I really do think Texas can be in decent position to make a run an at large bid. I'm not saying such a bid is guaranteed, by any stretch. I'm just saying that it will be something we watch closely through the final weekend of the season.

First, let me begin with a brief review of history. There have been four full seasons since the BCS "diluted" the BCS bowl franchise by creating a fifth BCS game out of thin air (with the championship host bowl effectively holding two BCS games in one stadium). The fifth game doubled the number of at large (non-automatic qualifying) spots from 2 to 4. Below, I provide the teams and win/loss records for the at large picks during these four seasons.

2009 At Large
TCU 12-0
Boise State 13-0
Florida 12-1
Iowa 10-2

2008 At Large
Utah 12-0
Alabama 12-1
Texas 11-1
Ohio State 10-2

2007 At Large
Hawaii 12-0
Kansas 11-1
Georgia 10-2
Illinois 9-3

2006 At Large
Boise State 12-0
Michigan 11-1
LSU 10-2
Notre Dame 10-2

First of all, note that every single year, there was at least one team that had two or more losses. Clearly, it is quite common for two loss teams to become at large BCS selections, particularly from "power conferences."

Also observe that if you remove the non-AQ Boises and Utahs that played very soft schedules (and therefore had a much easier time posting undefeated seasons), the average amount of losses posted by an at large candidate has been 1.6... which... rounds to 2 losses.

I would also point out that the 2008 season was a bit of an anomaly, with two very powerful teams that were excruciatingly close to going to the NC game themselves (Texas and Bama), and their one loss records were much "stronger" than what we typically see among the field of at large teams.

My basic point, if Illinois can get an at large bid with 3 losses in an off year, there is no reason to rule out Texas getting a bid with two losses at this stage of the game.

What Needs to Happen?

The way I see it, for an "educated" Texas fan to monitor the BCS at large chances, one needs to understand the competition. We need to understand which conferences may have a better shot than Texas in getting an at large invite, and hope that a spot is still left when we factor them in.

Boise/TCU

One of these teams is highly likely to get an automatic bid by virtue of the wiring of the BCS (and they may end up getting a bid to the national title game). The question will become... will they get two bids? The second bid is NOT mandated by the BCS, although many might think that's the case after seeing both Boise and TCU get at large bids in 2009.

Let's say Boise remains ahead of TCU in the final BCS standings. Unless TCU is #2 in the poll to get to play for the NC, I'm not sold that they will be taken (even if they are undefeated) above a team such as Texas. The attendance/ratings influences are very strongly in favor of teams such as Texas, but the media looking out for the "little guy" could be a powerful countering influence.

It's just too early to say how this would progress. One could hope Utah and TCU each somehow get a loss to ensure that they won't take up a second at large spot for the non-AQ conferences. But to be conservative, we should probably assume two spots are tied up with the smaller conferences.

SEC

Too many people assume that the SEC is a no-brainer to get two BCS bids. The dramatic weakening of the SEC East may make that assumption riskier than usual. In effect, there are really only three teams that can aspire for a BCS bid: Bama, Auburn and LSU. They all still have to play each other, which means a few losses will accumulate. If Bama were to win the SEC, and Auburn/LSU each end up with 10-2 type records, their losses would be later in the year, meaning Texas could be in better position.

However, in a scenario that would hurt the Horns, if Auburn beats LSU, and Bama beats Auburn, an 11-1 Auburn team would be likely to dominate the at large discussion.

Big 10

Michigan State may very well end up winning the Big 10, and not having to play Ohio State certainly helps. Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all play each other to varying degrees. At this point, the best rooting interest is for MSU to run the table and knock Iowa down to two losses, and then have Iowa beat tOSU and Wisconsin to knock each of them down to two losses. With the Rose Bowl potentially tied up in having to take a Boise or TCU to fill a possible spot, it makes it harder for the Rose to favor the Big 10 in the at large discussion.

The Big 10 is probably the murkiest picture for Texas fans to evaluate. If every team outside of the conference winner has two losses or greater, it could be a favorable situation.

Pac 10

Oregon (if they don't win out) or the Stanford/Arizona winner are the only teams likely to emerge here, and again, similar with the Big 10 discussion above, the losses could pile up where the runner up in the conference has at least two losses. Not as concerned that the Pac 10 gets an at large spot as I am about the Big 10, but it is certainly possible.

Big East/ACC

Moving on....

Big XII

If OU were to run the table and win the conference, I feel comfortable that Texas will be the chief competitor for the Big XII to get a second BCS bid. The reason is that OU (and Texas) running the table would mean Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State all have two losses (Mizzou to OU and Nebraska or OU again, Nebraska to Texas and Mizzou or OU, OK St to OU and Texas). I think the case is pretty simple here.

Where it gets murky is if OU goes undefeated in the regular season but loses in the conference championship game. Unfortunately, with a better W/L record, a much higher BCS ranking (via computer strength), and a head-to-head win over Texas, OU would get the nod.

Isn't This Way Too Early?

Yes. My only point is to make clear that many other teams above Texas are about to lose, because many of these teams must play other really good teams. Historically, 10-2 power conference teams are usually in the discussion for at large BCS bids. And it's not out of the realm of possibility for Texas to be in that discussion if they continue to win out.

Large Marge
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As always be sure to check out my BCS analysis at BCS 101.