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November 2, 2010

An early look at possible bowl scenarios



So, Missouri has lost for the first time this season. With the Tigers and Michigan State dropping games on Saturday, there are now five unbeaten teams in America (Auburn, Oregon, Boise State, TCU and Utah). One of them is guaranteed to lose this weekend because TCU and Utah play each other.

At this point in time, there are far too many games left to play to reasonably speculate on BCS bowl teams. Oregon has a road game at Cal, plus Oregon State and Arizona left. Auburn has to survive a game with Alabama and an SEC title matchup, likely with South Carolina. Bama also plays LSU, Ohio State is at Iowa, TCU faces San Diego State after Utah, Oklahoma and Nebraska both have road tests, plus a possible Big XII title game.

In other words, a lot can change. But we can start to get at least some idea of bowl destinations for the Tigers.

Missouri will be favored in its final four games. That is no guarantee they will win them. If they do win out, the worst-case scenario is that the Tigers are 11-and-1, but left out of the Big XII title game. A BCS at-large selection isn't out of the question. However, the conference is not at all guaranteed to get two teams into the BCS this season. The next pick goes to the Cotton Bowl. The Tigers would be in contention for that, but the title game loser (could be Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oklahoma State or Baylor) would as well, along with the possibility of a ten-win Oklahoma State team.

If the Cotton were to pass on the Tigers, a pretty safe bet would seem to be a return to the Alamo Bowl, which has moved up in the pecking order. That game would match the Big 12's third selection against a PAC-10 team, which most are projecting to be Stanford at this time.

In an absolute worst case scenario, where the Alamo Bowl takes a South team it believes would sell more tickets, the Tigers could slide to the Insight, which snubbed them last year, against a Big Ten team.

In other words, at this point, we know very, very little. All teams have four games left to play. Some will play five, including a league title game. The BCS (either automatic or at-large) is not off the table. Neither is a trip to Tempe for the Insight Bowl.

One thing is certain: To be in the running for the big prizes (BCS or Cotton), Missouri is going to have to win its remaining four games. Beyond that, if Tiger fans have learned anything over the last few seasons, absolutely nothing about the bowl selections is guaranteed.

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