BCS expert Jerry Palm of collegebcs.com predicts Kansas will go to the Fiesta Bowl no matter the outcome of Saturday's Big 12 championship game. Here's Palm's guess for the BCS bowls if Oklahoma beats Missouri on Saturday in the Big 12 title game:
BCS National Championship: West Virginia vs. Ohio State
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Georgia
Rose Bowl: Southern Cal vs. Illinois
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Kansas
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Hawaii
The overwhelming perception is that Saturday's Big 12 football championship game has huge implications toward Kansas University's chances of going to a BCS bowl.
That might not be entirely accurate, according to one expert.
"I'm trying to think of how you get to four at-large teams that don't include Kansas," said Jerry Palm, who studies the BCS and runs collegebcs.com. "I haven't come up with a scenario where that happens yet."
If Palm is right, that means Kansas could end up in the Fiesta Bowl no matter what happens in Saturday's Big 12 title game between Missouri and Oklahoma.
First, a BCS crash course:
¢ The BCS consists of five major bowl games - the Fiesta, Rose, Orange and Sugar bowls and the BCS National Championship Game. The Fiesta Bowl, a Jan. 2 game in Glendale, Ariz., has ties with the Big 12.
¢ Six conference champions - Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-10, SEC and ACC - get automatic berths. The top two in the overall standings play in the BCS National Championship Game.
¢ Hawaii has a real shot at locking up a seventh berth. If the Warriors - from the non-affiliated Western Athletic Conference - finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings, they're in. They currently are No. 12 with a game against 4-8 Washington on Saturday.
¢ The remaining three BCS berths likely will go to at-large teams. The bowls essentially will get to choose among teams in the top 14 of the BCS standings from the six major conferences (or top 18 if there aren't enough candidates in the top 14). Only two teams per conference can go to BCS bowl games.
With that in mind, a Missouri victory over Oklahoma would make a Kansas BCS berth highly probable. The Tigers would play in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, and the Fiesta Bowl is expected to keep its close Big 12 ties in tact. The Jayhawks (11-1) would be the best, if not the only, choice out of the conference.
"I don't normally say always or never this time of year," Fiesta Bowl president John Junker said of having a Big 12 team. "But generally speaking, that's a pretty important thing to us."
But even if Oklahoma beats Missouri, the Jayhawks still have a shot at going to Arizona. The Sooners would go to the Fiesta Bowl as Big 12 champions, and the bowl would then have to choose an opponent for OU after the Rose Bowl and Orange Bowl makes at-large selections. Palm envisions the Fiesta having a choice among Hawaii, Arizona State, Missouri and Kansas.
Palm thinks it would be the Jayhawks, who could play the Sooners in the postseason since the two didn't meet in the regular season. Missouri would be out of the question having played Oklahoma twice already.
"It's not a great choice for the Fiesta Bowl," Palm said, "but that's probably the best choice for them."
Junker was asked Monday if there was any desire for an all-Big 12 Fiesta Bowl.
"As the Big 12's BCS bowl destination, we have tremendous respect for the conference and the quality of football," Junker said. "It certainly isn't anything we would rule out at this point."
Of course, it's no lock. For example, Missouri could get picked up by the Orange Bowl before the Fiesta gets a shot at Kansas. That would make the maximum two Big 12 teams in the BCS, shutting the door on KU.
But a Missouri loss to Oklahoma would cripple the Tigers' chances. The losers of any conference-championship game rarely have snagged an at-large BCS berth in the past - only Oklahoma in 2003 has done it.
History is on KU's side in that regard.
"I think at some point, somebody takes Kansas," Palm said. "I don't see who is more attractive to the Fiesta Bowl as a potential at-large team than Kansas."
The waiting game continues, however. The final BCS standings - and matchups for all five of the big bowl games - will be unveiled at 7 p.m. Sunday on Fox (Sunflower Broadband channel 4).
Until then, it's all educated guessing - something that KU coach Mark Mangino hasn't cramped his brain doing just yet.
"It's hard to speculate," Mangino said Sunday. "Things get really complex this time of year. It's hard to speculate with these championship games and some other games to be played.
"I'd like to say," he added, "that I'm optimistic about it."
Perhaps with good reason. But only time will tell for sure.