Bowl projections are updated and at the link on the lefthand side. The burning issue in the Big Ten is whether Ohio State can still get an at-large bid if they falter in Ann Arbor. My projection shows them making it, but I wanted to give this issue a little deeper treatment then is possible on the projections page, which are based on my own picks for who's going to win out the rest of the way.
In looking at the race for the four at-large bids to major bowls, one important fact to remember is this--a conference cannot put more then two teams in the BCS, including its champion. The Big Ten was hurt by this last year, when 11-1 Wisconsin was denied a bid. The league will be helped by the rule this time around. So in looking at all the teams that are in the mix for bids, it's helpful to consider that it's sort of like guessing who's going to win a presidential election--the national polls are interesting and maybe even revealing, but the money's in the state-by-state races. Translated into BCS terms, it means that four highly ranked Big 12 teams aren't that relevant. What matters is which four conferences are going to win the bids.
Below is a look at each conference's landscape, as well as the mid-major situation. Other then Michigan and Minnesota, every other school in the Big Ten has a football stake in seeing Ohio State make it in as an at-large (and they all have a financial stake). Two bids to the BCS open up a spot in the New Year's Day games, and further open up a spot down the ladder as the league fulfills its committments. With an astonishing ten teams already bowl-eligible, the question's never been more relevant. So without further adieu, here we go:
Big 12: This conference is a lock for an at-large. OU, Kansas and Missouri are all in the top five. Texas isn't far behind. It's just a question of settling on who. Concede one spot here.
Pac-10: Not quite as much of a lock, but still in very good shape. Between Oregon, Arizona State and USC, two of them should get in. It's best to be safe and concede another spot here.
Big East: West Virginia will win the conference if it beats Cincinnati and UConn the next two weeks. The odds are very good that will happen, and neither the Bearcats or Huskies are a threat to even be eligible for the BCS (you need to be ranked in the top 14 of the final standings) in that scenario. Where it gets interesting is if WVA loses one game and ends up in the at-large pool. They're 10-2 and they travel well. I suspect Ohio State still gets picked ahead of them, but the safest thing is to just see the Mountaineers win out.
ACC: This league is hurting in the at-large race. All their contenders already have two losses. Furthermore, the conference race boils down to a de facto semifinal tournament. BC plays Clemson on Saturday for one division crown. Virginia Tech plays Virginia the following week for the other. So any team that doesn't win the conference is guaranteed to lose one more game. No way do any of them go over OSU.
SEC: This one's the most interesting. Right now, Georgia is sitting on 8-2, while a three-loss Tennessee team controls its destiny for the East title and the right to play LSU in the league championship game. If the Bulldogs win their last two (Kentucky at home, Ga Tech on the road) and don't win the division, they'll be incredibly attractive. But if Tennessee loses a game, and then the Dawgs falter to LSU, the at-large spot suffers. Teams become less attractive to bowls when they lose a conference championship game. The fans are a little down--and unlike Ohio State, there's not as much recovery time, since league title games aren't played until December. More important, a lot of the fan base travels to the championship game and can't pony up the cash for a second trip.
That's the long explanation for why Ohio State and Big Ten fans generally should root for either Georgia to lose one of its last two, or for Tennessee to lose and thus force the Bulldogs into a matchup with LSU. And it's also imperative that LSU win the conference title game, regardless of why they play. The Tigers' pedigree is strong enough to overcome a loss and still get an at-large pick.
Mid-Majors: Hawaii is undefeated, but are currently ranked #16 in the BCS. They need to move up two more spots to get eligible. And if they move up four more spots to #12 they are guaranteed a bid. They can also get in one other way--if they are ranked ahead of one of the champions of the six major conferences. Right now, the Rainbows are ranked five spots ahead of Michigan.
Therefore, it keeps life easier in the Big Ten for either Hawaii to lose, or at least not win impressively enough to move up in the polls. And since this entire scenario is built around a Michigan win on Saturday, they need the Wolverines to close the gap and pass UH in the final standings.
This boils down to a race for two spots, after we concede the Big 12 & Pac-10 their bids. If you go conference-by-conference, you have to think Ohio State looks in pretty good shape to still get picked at 10-2. But it's not a lock, and hopefully the above breakdown helps shed some light on the landscpae.