Longhorn bowl possibilities

The 7-1 Horns still have three regular season games to play, but UT's bowl picture is starting to come into focus. Well, into focus about like the oceans on Earth as seen from the space shuttle; you can see 'em and you know their names but you sure can't see what's in 'em. So let's call this a big picture look at the Longhorn's bowl possibilities.

Rose Bowl, Thursday, Jan. 3 (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2) -- What it will take for Texas to play in Pasadena: Finish 10-1 or finish 11-1 with a win in the Big 12 Championship Game, preferably over Nebraska. The most likely scenario for a 10-1 UT team to play for the national title is for the Huskers (currently No. 1 in the BCS) to beat the No. 2 Sooners in the league championship game, for No. 3 Miami to lose one of its final five games (the candidates: at Boston College Nov. 10, Syracuse Nov. 17, Washington Nov. 24, at Virginia Tech Dec. 1), for No. 4 Michigan to lose one of its final four (at Michigan State Nov. 3, Minnesota Nov. 10, at Wisconsin Nov. 17, Ohio State Nov. 24), for No. 6 Stanford to lose one of its last five (the candidates: at Washington Nov. 3, Notre Dame Nov. 24) and for No. 7 Tennessee and No. 8 Florida to each lose one more game (they square off on Dec. 1, ensuring one of them another loss). The more likely scenario that sends Texas to the Rose is a win in Texas Stadium over previously undefeated and BCS No. 1 Nebraska on Dec. 1. That, of course, will require an Oklahoma loss over its next four games (the candidates: Texas A&M Nov. 10, at Texas Tech Nov. 17, Oklahoma State Nov. 24). An 11-1 Texas team, because it would have the benefit of both the strength of schedule boost of playing the top-ranked Cornhuskers and the quality win bonus points of beating NU, needs far less BCS help than a 10-1 Texas team to get to the title game. The biggest threat in that scenario would be an undefeated Miami team taking on an 11-1 Florida team, with the Horns shut out at No. 3. Current probability: 5%

Sugar Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1 (SEC champ vs. at-large) -- What it will take for Texas to play in New Orleans: Finish 10-1 or finish 10-2 with a close loss in the Big 12 Championship Game, preferably to Nebraska rather than Colorado. The most likely scenario for New Years in N'awlins is a Nebraska win over Oklahoma in the league championship game, dropping the Sooners to 11-2 on the season and out of the BCS top four (and sentencing them to Dallas on Jan. 1), leaving 10-1 Texas at No. 3 or No. 4 in the rankings and with an guaranteed at-large spot. The Sugar Bowl, which has sent reps to at least two Texas games so far this season, is very interested in the Horns as its at-large team to take on the SEC's BCS representative (if it's not playing in Pasadena). The other scenario that sends Texas to the Crescent City is a spot in the league title game with a close loss to Nebraska. The Huskers would then head to the national title game and Horns, at 10-2, would still be an attractive option for the Sugar, although the 10-2 Sooners could be competition for the berth. Current probability: 35%

Fiesta Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1 (Big 12 champ vs. Pac 10 champ) -- What it will take for Texas to play in Tempe: Finish 11-1 with a win in the Big 12 Championship Game, but finish outside of the top two in the BCS rankings. As mentioned above in the Rose Bowl outlook, that scenario is possible if any combination of two from among Miami, Michigan, Stanford and Florida win out from here on and finish one-two in the BCS rankings, leaving Texas at No. 3 or lower. In that case, as Big 12 champs, the Horns would be invited to the Fiesta. It's also possible that UT could get an invite to Arizona given the same set of circumstances described above for the Sugar Bowl -- Nebraska to the Rose after beating OU in Dallas and Texas at 10-1, or, Nebraska to the Rose after beating Texas, then 10-2 -- if the Sugar decided on a different at-large team (aside from Oklahoma, which would eliminate UT). Current probability: 10%

Orange Bowl, Wednesday, Jan. 2 (ACC/Big East champ vs. at-large) -- What it will take for Texas to play in Miami: Basically, the same scenario as the Sugar; a 10-1 finish or a 10-2 finish with a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game to Nebraska. Current probability: 5%

Cotton Bowl, Tuesday, Jan. 1 (Big 12 No. 2 vs. SEC No. 3) -- What it will take for Texas to play in Dallas: Finish 10-1 with OU beating NU in the league title game or finish 9-2 with a loss to A&M or finish 10-2 with a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game. If the Sooners beat the Huskers in a rematch in the title game, OU will play for its second consecutive national championship and NU will probably get a BCS at-large berth, relegating Texas to a non-BCS bowl, of which the Cotton has the first pick of Big 12 teams. The Dallas bowl, despite hosting the Horns two of the last three seasons, would not pass on a top five-ranked UT team. If the Horns lose to A&M and, along with the Ags, finish 9-2, the Cotton could take either team. In that scenario A&M may get the bid, but the Holiday Bowl would make a strong push to grab the Aggies (instead of the Horns, who played in San Diego last December) and the College Station crew may push for that result as well. The other possible scenario that could doom Texas to the Cotton Bowl and its ridiculous 10 a.m. New Years Day start is a bad Texas loss in the Big 12 Championship Game to Nebraska, allowing a 10-2 Oklahoma team to snag the Big 12's expected at-large BCS bid, or any Texas loss to Colorado in the league title game, allowing 11-1 Nebraska to take that at-large BCS berth. Current probability: 25%

Holiday Bowl, Friday, Dec. 28 (Pac-10 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3) -- What it will take for Texas to play in San Diego: Finish 9-2 with a loss to A&M. If the Cotton takes the 9-2 Aggies (assuming they win out other than losing to Oklahoma in Norman), the Horns probably head back to spend another Christmas in SoCal. Current probability: 15%

Alamo Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 29 (Big 12 No. 4 vs. Big 10 No. 4) -- What it will take for Texas to play in San Antonio: Finish 9-2 and with just one Big 12 team (A&M or Colorado) receiving a BCS berth. That could slide Oklahoma to Dallas, Nebraska to San Diego and Texas 75 miles south down I-35 from Austin. The Alamo is also a possibility if the Horns finish 8-3 with two losses over the final three games. Current probability: 5%

Of course the analysis above doesn't cover every possible outcome -- there are far too many to run through, particularly with several teams still with five games to play -- but the above list covers all of the most likely scenarios. We'll update UT's paths to each bowl and the probabilities regularly over the final month of the season.


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