The Bowl Selection Day Open Thread posts at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday. Catch the specials on Fox and ESPN at 8 p.m. ET.
It's a slight bit confusing, but here's how this year's BCS process works.
The champions of the six automatic qualifying conferences get into the deal. They are Georgia Tech, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Oregon, and Alabama. TCU also gets in automatically by being the highest ranked non-AQ conference champ that is in the top 12 of the BCS rankings. That leaves three at large spots open.
AT LARGE BIDS
The at large pool consists of any team ranked between 3 and 14 in the final BCS rankings. Each conference can only have two teams in the BCS though, so LSU and either Iowa or Penn State is out of luck.
The likely pool consists of Florida, Boise State, Iowa/Penn State, Virginia Tech, and BYU. BYU and VT are unlikely to get bids since the Cougars aren't in an AQ conference and the Hokies don't have a large traveling contingent. Plus, it would be tough (though not impossible) to take a two loss BYU or three loss VT team ahead of an undefeated Boise State team.
Thus Florida, Iowa/Penn State, and Boise State are almost certainly going to be the at large teams.
This is how the order goes this year. The selection order rotates each season, but this is the order for the January 2010 games. Even if the predictions are wrong, this is the sequence in which the bowls will make their picks.
CHOICES: Alabama vs. Texas
The national title game gets the top two teams in the rankings. This is the easy one. Moving on.
The Sugar Bowl has a tie-in with the SEC champ, and it will have lost that team as the BCS No. 1 to the national title game. Therefore, it gets to pick a replacement. It will pick Florida as a replacement because it loves getting SEC teams and UF always brings tons of fans.
As a side note, if there was a Big 12 team eligible as an at large, it would not be able to take it without the Fiesta Bowl's permission since the Fiesta has a Big 12 tie-in. This clause is not really relevant this year, but if Texas was to somehow end up No. 1 and the Fiesta got the first pick, it would not be able to take the Gators without the Sugar's permission.
CHOICE: Iowa/Penn State
There have been reports for a couple of weeks now that the Fiesta is high on getting the Big Ten runner up (exactly as it did last year) because it will mean a large traveling contingent. If you're looking solely at on-field performance, Iowa should get the bid. However Penn State has a large, national fan base and a legendary coach. Either way, someone's getting free of the cold northern tundra to spend some quality time in Arizona in early January.
The Fiesta must pick a Big Ten team now, even ahead of the undefeated teams, because otherwise the Orange will snap it up. See below.
The Rose Bowl did not lose either of its tie-in teams to the national title game, so it makes no choice for an at large team. It gets Big Ten champ Ohio State against Pac-10 champ Oregon.
The Orange Bowl gets Georgia Tech from its tie-in, and I think it will take TCU to face it. I have a feeling that the Orange will be reluctant to take a team from Idaho, and Cincinnati was just there last year and didn't bring a large fan contingent.
It might take Cincy anyway since it used to have a Big East tie-in, but I think it dropped that tie-in after the ACC expansion spree so as to avoid getting stuck with a Big East team that doesn't travel well. This would be such an occasion. The Bearcats were the last team picked a year ago, and since serious doubts exist as to whether Brian Kelly will even be coaching UC's bowl game, they are the least appealing of the three remaining teams.
CHOICE: Boise State
With two teams left, it makes sense for the Fiesta to take the team from the western half of the country instead of the eastern half. Plus, the Fiesta had a nice experience with Boise State in 2006, and it might be looking to recapture the magic.
This is a bit of a wildcard spot though. BYU is an much older and more established program than Boise State is, and they correspondingly have a larger fan base. If the Fiesta is worried about ticket sales at all, it might think even for a little bit about taking BYU instead of Boise State. I'd put the odds of the Cougars going there at 10% or lower, but this is the BCS. Strange things happening is the rule, not an exception.
There really is no choice at this point, as Cincinnati must go to a BCS bowl and there's only one spot left. The Sugar gets stuck with Cincy and its small fan base, but with Florida as the other participant, no other bowl is as equipped to deal with that. The Superdome will sound like the Swamp on New Year's Day with this pairing.