As I watched part of the Holiday Bowl tonight, I found myself cheering for Texas, given that it seemed to have the most impact on BYU, at least as far as perception goes. You hate to see a team that the Cougars lost to, lose. On the other hand, the Texas win might garner them some votes (finished 24 in the BCS, but no real votes in the polls).
That got me thinking, what will it take for BYU to get ranked... They need to win, and the bigger the better. But, which teams ahead of them need to lose? In other words, who should true Cougar fans be cheering for over the next several days?
First, watch the Cougs win big. Then, cheer hard for Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Houston, and Clemson. At least one of them has to win, and two would be safer. If you still have any cheering power left, hope that Georgia Tech and Auburn pull it out, and that Northern Illinois and Arkansas St play to a close game. There you go.
In the final regular season poll, BYU finished #29 in the AP poll, and #26 in the USA Today/Coaches poll. Its possible that at least one or two teams beneath them will leapfrog them in the final standings, so realistically, at least 2 teams above them need to lose for the coaches poll, and maybe 4-5 for the AP poll. Here are the games for all teams ranked 20-25 and getting votes (rankings in parenthesis: AP/Coaches):
A few relevant games have already been played:
(22/21) Southern Miss already beat Nevada 24-17
(32/28) Missouri already beat North Carolina 41-24
Key Games--In order for BYU to get ranked, at least one of these teams, and probably two will have to win:
Liberty Bowl, Dec 31
(27/24) Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt. Vandy is only 6-6, so it might be a stretch to hope they win this one, but it would be big for the Cougs.
Capital One Bowl, Jan 2
(21/20) Nebraska vs (10/9) South Carolina
South Carolina. A loss to the #9 team may not make much of a dent in voters mind, so hope that Nebraska loses big.
Ticket City Bowl, Jan 2
(24/23) Penn State vs. (20/17) Houston
Houston. If Houston loses for only the second time this season, they won't fall far enough to make a difference. This one is perhaps the most likely so far.
Orange Bowl, Jan 4
West Virginia (23/22) vs. (15/14) Clemson
Clemson. West Virginia needs to lose and look bad doing it (see Capital One Bowl), as losing to a top 15 team is nothing to sneeze at.
Influential Games. These games will be relevant to the outcome. Although none are currenlty ranked ahead of BYU, a win could put them there, especially when coaches are anxious to get another school from their conference in the final rankings.
Champs Sports Bowl, Dec 29
(25/25) Florida State vs. (26/32) Notre Dame
Draw. Whichever team wins will be ranked ahead of BYU. Argument for FSU--perhaps losing a close one to the Irish would still let voters put the 'Noles ahead of the Cougs. Argument for ND--BYU plays them next year, so a strong finish this year bodes well for next year's ranking.
GoDaddy.com Bowl, Jan 8
(31/27) Northern Illinois vs. (28/30) Arkansas St
Hope for a close game. Both of these teams have 10 wins, so the winner will have 11. It will be hard to not rank them. However a BYU win over Tulsa would likely be a stronger win. Unlikely that either would leapfrog the Cougs, but a dominating win by one might be enough to launch them ahead.
Sun Bowl, Dec 31
(30/29) Georgia Tech vs. Utah
Georgia Tech. This one is a given. Hopefully, since a win over Utah this year won't be seen as a strong win, a 9-4 Yellow Jacket team would be unlikely to get enough of a bump to pass the Cougs.
Chik-fil-A Bowl, Dec 31
(33/32) Virginia vs. Auburn
Auburn. Despite a BCS rank of 25, Auburn doesn't have a single vote in the polls. A win would undoubtedly give them some votes, but not enough to get them ranked. Virginia on the other hand, could get a leap.