What happens if both FSU and NC State win out? Would FSU potentially benefit by not winning the ACC in terms of a better bowl opponent?
I got this question in my Tuesday chat from a handful of people, and so I felt it was worth exploring a bit deeper.
Setting aside the fact that a conference championship is extremely meaningful to the coaches and players (and, I assume, a hefty contingent of the fan base), the answer to the question is still probably bad for Florida State.
Right now, there are 10 BCS bowl bids out there, but six are guaranteed to conference winners. Right now that would be: Oregon, Kansas State, Michigan, NC State, Rutgers and Alabama, according to the current BCS standings. That leaves four other spots up for grabs.
The rules for filling out those slots are somewhat complicated, which makes looking ahead with six weeks of games still on the schedule a tough task, but the scenarios for excluding Florida State aren't hard to envision.
The championship game bids go to the two highest-ranked teams, which right now would be Alabama and Florida, but since we're assuming FSU wins out, that means a loss for Florida along the way. So for now, let's plan on Alabama vs. Oregon in the BCS title game.
In this scenario, both the Sugar and Rose bowls would lose their affiliated conference participant, and this is where things can get a little tricky.
Under the current BCS agreement, the Rose Bowl would be required to take a non-AQ team, if one qualifies. For a non-AQ team to qualify it must either:
a.) finished in the top 12 of the BCS standings
b.) finish in the top 16 of the BCS standings, but ahead of an AQ-conference champion
Boise State is currently 21st in the BCS standings and ahead of the Big Ten leader (Michigan), so if the Broncos win out, they could certainly sneak into the BCS.
For now, however, let's assume Boise State is out.
That likely means the Rose Bowl will stick with a traditional Pac 12 vs. Big Ten matchup, which would likely mean Michigan vs. USC, with the Trojans taking up one at-large bid.
The Fiesta Bowl would get Kansas State, the Orange would receive NC State, and the Sugar would get first crack at picking from the remaining teams. There's a good chance it would select an SEC team (which is its affiliated conference), as there are likely to be several one- or two-loss options from LSU, Georgia, Mississippi State and Florida (all of which are currently ranked higher than FSU in the BCS standings).
The Fiesta then gets to select an at-large team, which would almost certainly be Notre Dame, assuming the Irish qualify.
The Sugar gets next pick, and Oklahoma would likely be the current choice.
Then the Orange rounds things out with the Big East champion (currently Rutgers).
So we'd be looking at:
BCS: Oregon vs. Alabama
Sugar: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta: Kansas State vs. Notre Dame
Rose: USC vs. Michigan
Orange: NC State vs. Rutgers
And, obviously, Florida State would be left on the outside looking in (along with Oregon State, which is currently ranked No. 7 in the BCS).
Keep in mind, this isn't about BCS rankings once the season is done. After determining which teams are qualified for at-large berths and AQ bids, bowl affiliations, TV revenue and fan participation dictates the bulk of the rest of it, making Notre Dame, USC and Oklahoma attractive options compared with FSU.
Now, could the Sugar Bowl take FSU over Oklahoma? Would the Fiesta have interest in FSU if Kansas State ends up in the BCS title game? Would things be reshuffled if Kansas State or Notre Dame goes to the BCS title game instead of Oregon? Sure, there's still plenty of time for things to change dramatically.
But it's just as likely that Boise State slips in and steals another automatic berth, making the road to a BCS bowl nearly impossible for Florida State.
The real problem, of course, is the Orange Bowl, which would feature two teams with virtually no business in a BCS bowl game, but those are the rules. The way to ensure that doesn't happen is to cross your fingers and hope NC State loses again. Because if FSU doesn't win the ACC, things get awfully tricky after that.