As always, a recap of our rules for this exercise: We're seeding the BCS bowls with the standings as they are today, not as they are likely to be at the end of the season. Second, the highest ranked team in each conference is presumed to win that conference's title, which looks pretty safe given how the rankings shook out this week.
Obviously, that's quite a bit of change from the last time we did this -- after several weeks of looking relatively static -- so let's break it down a little bit.
First, Oklahoma State's win against Baylor puts the Cowboys in the driver's seat for the Big 12 Championship and the berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois has moved ahead of Fresno State in the standings and would now be the non-AQ that automatically qualifies for the BCS. And Auburn is No. 4, which would guarantee it a spot in the BCS and basic lock the Tigers into the Sugar Bowl.
With Florida State still claiming the second spot in the BCS Championship Game, the Orange Bowl continues to get back-to-back picks to fill out their match-up. The Clemson selection is pretty easy, but then things get a little bit more difficult to figure out. Basically, the choices for the Orange Bowl are No. 9 Baylor, No. 11 Michigan State, No. 12 Arizona State and No. 13 Oregon. (They could also take NIU or UCF, but that ain't gonna happen.)
Here is where we repeat your regular reminder that these berths are decided in part by merit, but mostly on the basis of ticket sales and ratings. Of those four teams, which one has the most pizazz in a meeting with Clemson?
Michigan State is not a flashy pick, and the B1G is still suffering from image problems. (Though there are some plausible conspiracy theories about how Michigan State could still get the berth.) So scratch Sparty. That leaves Baylor, Arizona State and Oregon. Baylor is probably the best team, but I think Oregon is the better choice from a marketing perspective. The Ducks are still an "it" team right now, and that goes a long way in these things. Arizona State is likely to be coming off of a loss in the Pac-12 Championship Game, which will dampen any enthusiasm for the Sun Devils among bowl committees.
The rest is pretty self-explanatory. Faced with the option of choosing a return date with Northern Illinois or taking UCF, the Sugar is more likely than ever to put the Knights in their game. That sends NIU out to the Fiesta Bowl for a game against Oklahoma State.