Longhorn bowl possibilities

Week two of UT's bowl possibilities outlook is in most ways strikingly similar to last week's, with little change in the bowl picture aside from the teams that could cause Texas problems in its run for the Roses, or more likely simply its run for a BCS berth. The 8-1 Horns still have two regular season games to play -- Kansas in Austin this Saturday and A&M in College Station on Nov. 23. UT's bowl fate, though, largely lies with others. Here's this week's look at the myriad bowl scenarios:

Rose Bowl, Thursday, Jan. 3 (BCS No. 1 vs. BCS No. 2) -- What it will take for Texas (currently No. 5 in the BCS) 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. 3 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 Tennessee and No. 7 Florida to each lose one more game (they square off on Dec. 1, ensuring one of them another loss) and for No. 6 Oregon, No. 8 Washington and No. 9 Washington State to each lose one more game. In the case of both the SEC and the Pac 10 teams, it's probable that, because of strength of schedule, a one-loss team from either league would outpace the Horns in the BCS rankings. Tennessee, coming off a win over Notre Dame and moving up a spot in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls because of Michigan's loss to Michigan State, already jumped all the way from seventh in the BCS rankings to fourth, leaving Texas stuck for another week in the No. 5 slot (although the Vols could drop back again this week because of their game with lowly Memphis). Oregon, with a win this week over two-loss but still highly ranked UCLA, will probably jump past the Horns in next week's rankings and Florida could easily do the same over the next few weeks with a three-game stretch of South Carolina, Florida State and Tennessee. Having said that, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility that ALL of the one-loss teams that threaten a 10-1 UT team's climb to the top of the BCS could lose another game: Oklahoma to Nebraska in the Big 12 Title game (or to Tech in Lubbock, but that scenario is covered below), Tennessee to Florida, Florida to South Carolina or FSU, Oregon to the Bruins or in its rivalry game to Oregon State, and Washington in its rivalry game to Washington State. That's just one scenario, and there are others. As pointed out above, Miami would also have to lose for Texas, at 10-1, to end up in the Rose Bowl against Nebraska, but there's still hope.

Now, 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 moves the Horns to 11-1. That, of course, will require an Oklahoma loss over its next three 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 or Tennessee team, with the Horns shut out at No. 3. Current probability: holding steady at 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: holding steady at 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, Tennessee and Florida (and possibly Oregon and Washington) 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: holding steady at 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: holding steady at 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, the Cotton would still probably take a 9-2 Texas over an 8-3 Aggie team (assuming, of course, that A&M loses to OU in Norman this weekend). In that scenario, the Holiday Bowl probably ends up with the Aggies or the Buffaloes. 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: up to 30% from last week's 25% because of the A&M loss to Tech

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: down to 10% from last week's 15% because of the A&M loss to Tech

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 the Big 12's automatic BCS bid going to A&M or Colorado and either Oklahoma or Nebraska snagging the league's expected at-large berth. That could slide Oklahoma or Nebraska and A&M or Colorado to Dallas and 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 losses to Kansas and to A&M. Current probability: 5%

This weekend could result in a bit more BCS shakeout. Here are the games to watch that will affect UT's place in the pecking order:

No. 1 Nebraska (10-0) hosts K-State (4-4), 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 Miami (7-0) hosts Boston College (6-2), 11 a.m.
No. 3 Oklahoma (8-1) hosts A&M (7-2), 11 a.m.
No. 4 Tennessee (6-1) hosts Memphis (4-4), 1 p.m.
No. 6 Oregon (8-1) at UCLA (6-2), 2:30 p.m.
No. 7 Florida (7-1) at South Carolina (7-2), 6:45 p.m.
No. 8 Washington (7-1) at Oregon State (3-5), 2:30 p.m.
No. 9 Washington State (8-1) at Arizona State (4-4), 5:30 p.m.

We'll do this all again next week.


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