The process of how games select their participants is outlined here.
If the season ended today, the following teams would get the automatic bids based on the current BCS and conference standings:
ACC: Georgia Tech (5-3 in conference, beat fellow 5-3 FSU and VT has only 4 ACC wins)
Big 12: Texas (above Oklahoma in the BCS poll, giving them the South Division tiebreaker)
Big East: Cincinnati (5-1 in conference, holds tiebreaker over 4-1 WVU)
Big Ten: Penn State (clinched Big Ten title)
Pac-10: Oregon State (holds tiebreaker over USC)
SEC: Alabama (undefeated so far)
Non-BCS: Utah (12-0, won’t be passed by any other non-BCS teams)
Other: Oklahoma (a non-conference champ in top 4 of BCS standings, thereby getting in automatically)
The Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl get first picks for at-larges since they lost their tie-in teams. This year, the rotation after they pick replacements is Fiesta-Sugar-Orange. The order of the selections goes like this:
- Sugar takes Florida to replace #1 Alabama to lock in an SEC team
- Fiesta takes Oklahoma to replace #2 Texas to lock in a Big 12 team
- Fiesta takes USC, the most desirable at-large left and a nearby team
- Sugar takes Utah
- Orange takes Cincinnati
I am making the assumption that the Sugar Bowl will want to set up an “Urban Meyer against his former team” storyline. It will have the luxury of doing so because of how well Florida fans travel. Plus, Utah at this point probably brings quite a few fans themselves, and I don’t know how big a crowd Cincinnati will bring.
BCS Title Game: Alabama vs. Texas
Rose Bowl: Penn State vs. Oregon State
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. USC
Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Utah
Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Cincinnati
If Virginia Tech beats Virginia, then they go to the ACC title game instead of Georgia Tech. Not much else matters, because the ACC will not be getting any at-large teams this season. Whoever wins goes to the Orange Bowl and that’s that.
If Florida defeats Alabama in the SEC title game, then just flip them. Same thing goes if Oklahoma hops over Texas, something that could happen since OU is a very close third and will get a better bump in the computers for beating Oklahoma State than UT will get for Texas A&M. I assume either would beat Missouri in the Big 12 title game. If Cincinnati somehow loses to Syracuse and West Virginia takes the Big East, I could see the Sugar Bowl taking them instead of Utah.
If Missouri wins the Big 12 title game over Texas, then all bets are off. I would venture a guess that Oklahoma slides up into the No. 2 spot. I could see voters putting USC (and only USC, not Penn State) in the No. 2 spot if they still believe that you must win your conference (or at least tie for the lead) to play for the title. Utah has no shot at all of going to the national title game.
A Missouri win puts the Tigers in the Fiesta Bowl. That much is certain. If Oklahoma goes to the national title game then, just drop them in place of Texas above. If USC goes to the national title game, look for the Fiesta to avoid an all-Big 12 game and take Utah or West Virginia (if available). That pushes Oklahoma to the Sugar, with either Cincinnati or Utah in the Orange.
Then again, Oklahoma and Mizzou didn’t play this year and taking OU guarantees high ticket demand moreso than any other available team. If that ends up being the case, the Sugar probably takes Utah, leaving the Orange with Cincy.
The Fiesta Bowl does get to pick in front of the Sugar in the event of a Big 12 team being No. 1 and an SEC team being No. 2. The Fiesta would not be able to take an SEC at-large without the Sugar Bowl’s permission under BCS rules though, due to the SEC tie-in with the Sugar. That is why the Rose Bowl never could have taken Georgia last year: the Sugar wouldn’t have allowed it. In the same vein, I doubt the Sugar would let the Fiesta take a one-loss Alabama team this year.