Nebraska moves up. Now, where can they go?

After one of the most surprising Saturdays of the season, you knew that when the polls started coming out, the futures would be almost set as to who controls their own destiny and who doesn't. There were a lot of one-loss teams who had a shot at the national title before this last weekend. There are a lot less now.

No. 3 Louisville
No. 5 Texas
No. 6 Auburn
No. 8 CAL

Thank you for playing, but your shot at the national title is now officially gone.

When you are a couple of weeks away from the conclusion of the regular season, four top 10 teams going down is a big deal.

What's an even bigger deal, though, is that while everyone can't wait for THE game to be played next weekend, the long awaited contest between No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Michigan, there are some other match ups which are almost if not just as riveting in their BCS implications.

Not only does the BCS have a No. 1 vs. No. 2 before the end of the regular season, but check out the rest of the top 10:

• No. 4 Florida will more than likely face No. 7 Arkansas in the SEC title game, and Arkansas still has to face No. 11 LSU
• No. 3 USC will host No. 5 Notre Dame
• No. 6 Rutgers will travel to face No. 8 West Virginia

With a little simple math and some not-so-broad assumptions, we can assume that a few things will happen.

The loser of the Ohio State/Michigan game will drop, but probably no farther than to No. 5

The winner of the USC/Notre Dame game will end up being No. 2

If Florida beats Arkansas, they will take over No. 3, but if Arkansas beats Florida, they probably won't make the same jump, unless West Virginia beats Rutgers. If Rutgers wins, they will more than likely step up yet another notch, taking over the number four spot, just ahead of the loser of the Michigan/Ohio State game.

There are a couple of monkey wrenches we can throw into the works, though:

As we noted above, Arkansas has to face LSU even before the SEC title game. The game is at Fayetteville, but LSU is looking like one of the stronger teams in the country. If Arkansas loses, they still get into the conference title game, but that would make a Florida loss ultimately a killer for any BCS Championship hopes any SEC has.

USC has a challenge of their own, and even before the Notre Dame game arrives. They host CAL, who dropped from the top 10 this weekend off a loss in Arizona. If CAL beats USC, like the potential situation with Arkansas, that could effectively take the Pac 10 out of any BCS title consideration as well.

Outside of USC, Notre Dame has only the game against Army this weekend, which should be a walk in the park for the Irish.

So, given the current state of things with the most recent shake up in the top 10, if you were to go simply by the ease of the remaining schedule, and what a loss would do for any team in the realistic contention, Notre Dame has the fewest stumbling blocks to the championship game, to face either Michigan or Ohio State.

All they have to do is beat USC in the Coliseum, something that hasn't been done in about five years.


If USC lost to CAL, Notre Dame lost to USC, Arkansas lost to LSU, Florida lost to Arkansas and Rutgers beat West Virginia, get ready to hang on to your hats, because it's the SCARLET NIGHTS in the BCS title game. And if Rutgers lost, West Virginia would have a second shot at getting into the game against the best from the Big 10.

How is that for drama? How is that for a final two weeks of the season, which will mean everything in regard to who plays. It's not down to one team, two teams or even three. Realistically, you have Michigan, Ohio State, Arkansas, Florida, Rutgers, West Virginia, Notre Dame and USC – all with a mathematical shot at the BSC title game.

There could be a real outside shot that Wisconsin might be able to get in, but with their last game to go against Buffalo (No, not the Bills), their S.O.S. in the computer rankings will take a hit.

So, what's this all mean for Nebraska?

Not a darn thing, actually, but considering how few actual BCS bowl games there are, and with Nebraska still having a shot at one, it does have a major affect on who they could be playing and when.

Let's say that Nebraska runs the table, beating either Texas or Oklahoma in Kansas City. That puts them in a BCS Bowl game. How the conference champs are divided up in respect to which bowl they will go to goes as follows.

• Atlantic Coast Conference-Orange Bowl
• Big Ten Conference-Rose Bowl
• Big 12 Conference-Fiesta Bowl
• Pac-10 Conference-Rose Bowl
• Southeastern Conference-Sugar Bowl

Last year, Texas obviously didn't play in the Fiesta Bowl as they were in the BCS title game, which was actually the Rose Bowl at the time. That format has been changed as there will now be a BCS title game separate to the actual bowl games, but the four major bowls (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange) will rotate the hosting of the title game as before.

Because the Longhorns played in the title game, Ohio State and Notre Dame played in the Fiesta.

With no team from the Big 12 playing in the national title game, the winner of the conference title game will be heading to Tempe.

Who they would play is really impossible to tell right now, because outside of the conference title winners, there are some possibilities for others to have automatic bids, which includes opportunities for those non-BCS schools to have a crack at one of the big bowls:

The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

Only Boise State fits that criteria, ranking 12th right now. To find any other teams from the aforementioned conferences, you have to go all the way down to the bottom of the BCS poll, BYU holding on at No. 25.

The other criterion is the Notre Dame clause, which exists, because out of the few remaining independents, the Irish are the only team who are consistently amongst those teams competing for top 10 honors. The criteria states that N.D. will have an automatic bid into the BCS if it finishes in the top eight of the poll at season's end.

After you have satisfied the automatic bids, you then get into the at-large bids, and after you satisfy the requirements to be an at-large team, you really do get into these bowl committees making their decisions based more on how fans travel than it will on actual record, because the original requirements to be an at-large team have been satisfied.

Remember Michigan getting jilted out of the Outback Bowl? No, the Outback wasn't a BCS game, but Iowa got the nod over the Wolverines for much of the same reasons that will be used to choose teams for the remaining BCS slots.

Reportedly, one of Michigan's largest alumni chapters is located right there in Florida. That means you get far less traveling money coming into the city than you would if you had picked a team with far less of an entrenched fan base.

Iowa didn't have that in Florida, and the Hawkeye fans have a reputation for traveling pretty well.

Conclusion: Take the Hawkeyes.

Of course, if Nebraska doesn't beat Texas or Oklahoma in the conference title game, Husker fans won't care about the BCS anymore than they would about watching Bob Stoops or Ron Prince take home Big 12 Coach of the Year honors.

The options for Nebraska, based on a loss in Kansas City still aren't bad, though.

The Gator Bowl actually pits the top ACC team not in a BCS game against a team from Big 12, the Big East or Notre Dame.

The Cotton Bowl, like the Gator Bowl does with the ACC, takes the top Big 12 team not in the BCS and pits them against the best team they can get from the SEC.

After that it's the Holiday Bowl, pitting Big 12 vs. the Pac 10. Then there's the Alamo Bowl, which pits the Big 12 vs. the Big 10. The Insight Bowl is another which has the Big 12 taking on the Big 10.

The order I mentioned them in is probably the order you could expect them to be perceived as far as importance. That said, bowl representatives ultimately have the choice of just who they want to take for their particular game.

In that, Nebraska has always gotten the best bowls you could probably expect given their overall record, because the common belief is that if you were to hold a bowl contest at the equator, invite the Huskers, 30,000-plus fans of the big red would make it down for the game.

The list above comprises the most logical options for Nebraska if they don't win in Kansas City. There are other bowls which have Big 12 ties, such as the Sun (El Paso, TX), Texas (Houston, TX) and Independence (Shreveport, LA). Consider those, though, only if the unspeakable happens in a couple of weeks.

Either way it does look good for Nebraska, because they will be more than likely a nine-win team. That will get you into a lot of good bowls, because if seven got them the Alamo last year, nine is going to get them into a very nice and more lucrative situation.

When it comes to payouts, you can figure who is at the top. But it might surprise you that while some of these bowls might not be all that high on the list for Husker fans, because at least perception-wise, they indicate a lack of respect, the money isn't all that bad.

The Fiesta pays out between $14 million and $17 million to each of the participating teams.

The projected payout for the Cotton is $3 million per institution. For the Holiday it's projected at just over $2 million. The Alamo projects a $4.45 million payout, but that's combined, not per team. The Sun Bowl actually has a surprisingly good payout, almost equaling the Alamo in the estimated per-team-payout of $2 million, which is approximately what you will get if you go to the Insight Bowl as well. The Independence guarantees $2.4 million to be split up between the competing institutions.

The Gator Bowl, if it does take a Big 12 team, will pay out $2.5 million per team.

So, from a money standpoint, it's the Cotton, Gator or Fiesta if you want to upgrade from the Alamo a year ago. The Holiday would from a financial point of view, be a lateral move from where the team went last season.

Let's look at this from the most important standpoint, though, and that is the all-mighty eye of perception:

The Alamo is almost completely out of the picture right now barring an amazing Husker collapse and the Alamo deciding that it didn't want the same team two years in a row.

You can knock out the Sun as well, and you can most certainly get rid of the Independence, Texas and Insight.

Now, the Holiday, while a great bowl and a great location, featuring a match up against often a pretty darn good team, it is technically for the Big 12 No. 3.

The Cotton is for No. 2.

So, it's BCS, Cotton Bowl or bust, baby!

I think

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