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BCS Projections: Could Ohio State Pass Wisconsin, Open Door To BCS For Michigan State?

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With the way Wisconsin finished the season, winning seven straight games and averaging nearly 50 points a game during that streak, the assumption has been that the Badgers will represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. With there being a three-way tie at the top of the Big Ten in both conference and overall record, the tiebreaker for which team gets to play in the Rose Bowl comes down to the BCS standings. Wisconsin has been the top-ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings ever since Michigan State lost to Iowa, and nothing that has happened on the field suggests that will change today or next week when the final BCS standings come out.

Although Wisconsin players and fans were celebrating with roses following Saturday's win over Northwestern, it is important to remember that nothing is final until next week since it is in the hands of the BCS standings. While I personally don't see how Wisconsin could end up falling behind OSU or MSU and not end up in the Rose Bowl, BCS Guru, who provides BCS projections each week, thinks that is exactly what will happen.

2) Rose Bowl: LSU's loss made the Wisconsin-Ohio State race much closer, because the Tigers were wedged between these two teams in the polls. So close that the Guru is calling Ohio State to edge slightly in front. Keep in mind that the Big Ten will send the highest ranked team in the final BCS standings to the Rose Bowl, so this won't be decided until next week even though the Big Ten schedule is done. [...]

This week's projected BCS standings: 1. Oregon, 2. Auburn, 3. TCU, 4. Stanford, 5. Ohio State, 6. Wisconsin, 7. Arkansas, 8. Michigan State, 9. LSU, 10. Oklahoma, 11. Boise State, 12. Oklahoma State, 13. Nebraska, 14. Missouri, 15. Nevada.

I would be pretty shocked if Wisconsin was passed by Ohio State considering how well the Badgers have been playing and the fact that they beat the Buckeyes earlier in the season, but let's entertain this possibility for a second. Ohio State would receive the Big Ten's automatic berth to the Rose Bowl in this situation, leaving an at-large spot in another BCS game for either Wisconsin or Michigan State. Although Wisconsin would still be ranked above MSU in the BCS standings, the BCS games with an opening would be free to pick whichever team they desire for an at-large spot.

In the unlikely scenario that Ohio State ends up in the Rose Bowl, it's just as unlikely that Wisconsin would be shut out of the BCS completely in my mind. While Michigan State would have the head-to-head argument, I still think the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl would pick the Badgers over the Spartans. (The Fiesta Bowl won't have an at-large opening, as it will be stuck with the Big 12 and Big East champions.) Even so, if OSU somehow moved ahead of Wisconsin in the BCS standings, at least MSU would have a chance at the BCS.

If the expected scenario happens and Wisconsin goes to the Rose Bowl, the Spartans really have no shot of being selected over Ohio State for the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl. Because MSU beat Wisconsin, however, the Spartans would at least have an argument to make behind the scenes for an at-large BCS bid if it came down to them and the Badgers. I don't see it necessarily changing anything, but at the very least athletic director Mark Hollis would be able to make his case for why the Spartans would be a better option than Wisconsin. This seems to be MSU's one hope for a BCS bid and avoiding another trip to Orlando.

Again, it seems unlikely, just as this whole scenario with Wisconsin being passed by OSU seems unlikely, but at least the Spartans would have a fighting chance for a BCS bid. If Wisconsin goes to the Rose Bowl, OSU is pretty much a lock for the Big Ten's second BCS bid. Because of the (stupid) rules limiting a conference to only two BCS teams, Michigan State would be on the outside looking in. That still could end up happening regardless of whether it's Wisconsin or OSU in the Rose Bowl, but at least the Spartans would have a shot going up against the Badgers for the Big Ten's second spot in the BCS.