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Archive for Monday, October 30, 2006

Wood: Big 12 outlook murky

October 30, 2006

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The Kansas University football team's bowl possibilities are hazy just based on what the Jayhawks need to do the next three games. But it's even more muddled considering what the rest of the Big 12 Conference is capable of.

With eight bowls contractually obligated to the Big 12 this year, the logical thing to do when determining which eight are guaranteed a slot is to count backward - find four teams in the league that won't go bowling.

In the Big 12, that's not possible yet. Colorado (1-8) is out. Iowa State (3-6) is next on the chopping block, perhaps as early as Saturday. With a 4-5 record and a murderous remaining schedule, Baylor's chances aren't good at all.

That leaves nine teams with legitimate bowl hopes.

Kansas' chances are the bleakest of the nine, needing to go 2-1 in the final three weeks - though it certainly is possible considering who the Jayhawks are playing.

Kansas State (5-4) probably needs to beat Colorado or Kansas on the road to get a berth.

The other seven teams are either eligible or have a good chance at becoming eligible as soon as Saturday.

If nine teams qualify, only eight are guaranteed slots. Since the Big 12 has just a minuscule chance of getting two BCS bowl bids, the ninth team won't get helped that way. And since the bowl pecking order - which starts with the Fiesta Bowl and finishes with the new Texas Bowl - isn't bound by anything other than what's best for each game, it probably will come down to a popularity contest.

That doesn't bode well for Kansas, especially against Kansas State and the Big 12 South schools likely making up the bottom half of the bowl lineup.

Again, this is speculation based on K-State, Kansas and seven other conference teams qualifying, which isn't hard to find feasible at all.

Are there other options for the odd team out? Yeah, but not concrete ones. The Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego has an at-large invitation it already extended to Army. But Army, at 3-6, probably won't be eligible.

There also are other conferences that may not fill all of its tie-ins. The Big East is so top-heavy it might not be able to accept all six of its guaranteed bids. Same with the Big Ten, which will have six teams guaranteed but maybe not any more than that (there are seven slots, but both Michigan and Ohio State might play in a BCS bowl, giving the league eight openings).

If those come into fruition - a big if at this point - that might throw bowls like the International Bowl in Toronto, the Birmingham Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and the Motor City Bowl in Detroit into the picture for the Big 12's potential ninth team.

That's a long way away, though. It's all speculation right now.

But the Jayhawks - and to a lesser extent, the Wildcats - have a lot of business to tend to, as do teams like Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, if this quagmire ever sorts itself out.

Still, if Kansas and eight others qualify, a surprise bowl with no Big 12 tie could be in the cards for KU.

The eight other teams that have a shot to be eligible probably have more appeal than the still-building Jayhawks.

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