USC’s final destination remains up in the air, and just as each weekend can potentially create a new path, this weekend will offer more road paving results. One annual rivalry that meant nothing to anyone outside of the Beehive State now looms large for programs anticipating at-large BCS bids. Trojan fans will be scoreboard watching, with Oregon State traveling to Tuscon, as a Beavers loss would end all speculation and solidify USC’s appearance in the Rose Bowl. But if the Wildcats falter, a game played in Utah can weigh heavy in deciding USC’s fate.
When BYU and Utah square off in Saturday’s battle of "church versus state", the end result could have a major impact on the BCS landscape. Mid-Majors need only to finish among the BCS top 12 to gain eligibility for an at-large bid. The current standings show two programs among the top 10, undefeated Boise State (9) and Utah (7). The BCS party has never been crashed by two mid-majors in the same season, but never before did we have two programs eligible. As it is, no team outside of a BCS conference has ever played in a BCS bowl game unless they were undefeated, and we are set up to potentially have two with records unblemished.
As much as the thought is unlikely that two bowl committees would select mid-major teams to appear in their games, the possibility remains. The only guarantees in the BCS are the top two spots in the championship game, and automatic entry for BCS conference winners. The rest is open for invitation, which is why we saw a 3-loss Illini team play in last year’s Rose Bowl, as well as Kansas receiving the Orange Bowl bid, though they weren’t represented in the Big 12 championship game and lost to a Missouri team that was snubbed.
BYU has an opportunity to remove this potential thorn in the Trojans’ side by defeating Utah in the in-state “Holy War”. The Cougars, currently sitting at No. 14 in the BCS, may crack the top 12 with a victory, but would more importantly drop Utah below the magic mark. There’s a big difference between BYU being among the 12, in comparison to the Utes, because the Cougars’ lone loss to TCU will cripple them in at-large discussions. Saturday’s outcome will be highly important in the Mountain West Conference and the state of Utah, and equally important to one loss BCS programs vying for a birth.