For the Stanford football team and its fans, the wait continues. Following a dominant regular season that included a school record 11 wins, offensive fireworks, three shutouts, and the return of the Axe, we're all dying to know, who's next? What poor team will be subject to the character and cruelty of Jim Harbaugh's personal wrecking crew? (While the wait hasn't exactly been excruciating--the Cardinal is more than likely going to a BCS bowl, and that's pretty darn awesome--flights to the team's TBD postseason destination aren't getting any cheaper.)
The only idle teams with more at stake during the final weekend of college football's regular season (sorry, Army-Navy, the BCS says your game next week doesn't count) are TCU and Arkansas. The Horned Frogs could jump into the BCS National Championship Game if Auburn or Oregon falters Saturday. The Razorbacks, Stanford's BCS savior, will go to the Sugar Bowl if Auburn beats South Carolina.
Here's a rundown of which teams to root for depending on where you would like to see Stanford's name called during Sunday's BCS selection show. For the two Big East games that are listed, rooting interests are based on the assumption that Stanford will not play in the Rose Bowl or BCS National Championship Game. (All times Pacific.)
BIG EAST GAME No. 1: Rutgers at West Virginia, ABC, 9 a.m,
Dust off your coonskin hat, polish your musket, and grab your gas can. There are BCS hopes on the line in Morgantown. One could argue that the most impressive game of West Virginia's season was a 20-14 loss at LSU. The Scarlet Knights, who have lost five straight, can hang their helmets on a 27-24 win against UConn. No, it's not too early for whiskey. You may need some...to pour in your eyes.
You should root for West Virginia if...
You would rather Stanford go to the Fiesta Bowl than the Orange Bowl. Of the three teams in contention for the Big East's undeserving automatic BCS bid, West Virginia is probably the most attractive team for the Orange Bowl to pair with the winner of Saturday's ACC Championship between Virginia Tech and Florida State.
To rehash the BCS selection procedures once more: TCU is locked into the Rose Bowl unless Auburn and Oregon lose and fall out of the top two spots in the standings. The Sugar Bowl, which has first dibs from among the Big East champion, Stanford, and the BCS at-large teams, will almost certainly invite Ohio State to oppose its SEC representative. That would leave the Orange Bowl to choose between the Cardinal and the Big East champ. Whichever team the Orange Bowl doesn't pick will go to the Fiesta Bowl.
Two things that Mountaineers fans do really well: burn couches and travel to support their team. West Virginia would bring more fans to Miami than Stanford. If UConn or Pittsburgh wins the Big East, the Orange Bowl would probably select Stanford instead.
West Virginia can't clinch the Big East title with a win against Rutgers, but it can put the pressure on UConn to beat South Florida later in the day. A Mountaineers win coupled with a Huskies loss sends WVU to South Beach. Pittsburgh wins the Big East with a win against Cincinnati and losses by West Virginia and UConn.)
You should root for Rutgers if...
You would rather Stanford go to the Orange Bowl than the Fiesta Bowl. A Rutgers win douses the Mountaineers' BCS hopes. Strike a match.
CIVIL WAR: Oregon at Oregon State, ABC, 12:30 p.m.
When these Pac-10 rivals met last year in Eugene, they were playing for a berth in the Rose Bowl. This year the stakes are even higher for the Ducks, who can clinch a spot in the BCS National Championship Game with a win. A loss to Oregon State would mean a return trip to Pasadena. While the Beavers have looked woefully incapable of beating a Big East team, much less a powerhouse like Oregon, in three of the last four weeks, none of that matters come Saturday.
You should root for Oregon if...
You want Stanford to potentially play in the Rose Bowl. An Oregon win coupled with an Auburn loss to South Carolina in the SEC Championship (more on that in a minute) would open the door for future Big East World Beater TCU to replace the Tigers in the BCS title game. The Rose Bowl would then be free to take Stanford, setting up a traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup with Wisconsin. If the Ducks lose, Stanford's Rose Bowl hopes go poof.
You should root for Oregon State if...
You're willing to accept that a Beavers upset could mean anything for Stanford from a trip to the Alamo Bowl to a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
An Oregon State win would devalue Stanford's loss to the Ducks, and, at the same time, make the Cardinal's shutout win against the Beavers look more impressive. What's the net effect? There's no telling how voters would respond, and how that would affect the BCS standings. There's a chance, albeit a small one, that Stanford would fall out of the top four in the BCS rankings. If you root for Oregon State, you should also root for South Carolina to upset Auburn. That would open two spots in the BCS title game, one of which would go to TCU. Would voters dare rank Stanford above Oregon and put the Cardinal in position to claim the other spot? Root for Oregon State if you're feeling lucky.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP: Auburn vs. South Carolina, CBS, 1 p.m.
Auburn can cement its spot in the title game with a win. South Carolina can clinch a berth in the Sugar Bowl with an upset. The Tigers came from behind to beat the Ol' Ball Coach's Gamecocks at home in September.
You should root for South Carolina. (There is no 'if,' unless you would rather see Stanford in the Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl than the Rose Bowl, and potentially spend your evening monitoring more Big East action.)
As mentioned above, if Oregon wins and Auburn loses, TCU would most likely slide into the BCS National Championship Game and free the Rose Bowl of its obligation to select the Horned Frogs. You should also root for South Carolina if you want Andrew Luck to win the Heisman Trophy. There have been some convincing arguments made for Luck this week, but there is no way Newton loses the Heisman if he leads Auburn to a win Saturday.
BIG EAST GAME No. 2: UConn at South Florida, ESPN3, 5 p.m.
If West Virginia or Auburn loses earlier in the day, don't bother tracking this game. Otherwise, the Skip Holtz-led Bulls could help determine Stanford's bowl destination.
You should root for South Florida if...
You would rather spend New Year's Day in Glendale, Ariz., than Jan. 3 in Miami. Again, if West Virginia beats Rutgers, a South Florida win against UConn would give the Mountaineers the Big East's automatic BCS bid. Their likely destination would be the Orange Bowl.
You should root for UConn if...
You're really looking forward to a trip to Miami. If UConn wins, the Huskies clinch the Big East's BCS bid. The Orange Bowl would probably take Stanford.
BONUS SUNDAY GAME!
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers, 10 a.m.
You should root for San Francisco if...
You can imagine a scenario where 49ers president Jed York would lure Jim Harbaugh to the NFL by promising to trade up in the draft to select Andrew Luck. The 49ers are only one game off the pace in the NFC West, which might just be a less respectable collection of teams than the Big East. York can't possibly fire Mike Singletary if San Francisco advances to the playoffs and finds a way to win a game, can he? Also, Aaron Rodgers went to Cal and, what's worse, he's probably starting against your fantasy football team this week.