Yesterday I hit you with a harsh dose of pessimism, delving into the thought that TCU could somehow be left out of the BCS all together. Well, I hate to break it to you, but that may not even be the worst of it.
A quick glance at the Pac 10 standings and you start to realize that, with all of the mediocre football being played out on the west coast and the fact that USC is banned from the postseason this year, they might not have enough bowl-eligible teams to send one to play the Frogs in Vegas. How does 12-0 TCU, ranked #3 or #4 in the country, playing a 6-6 Western Michigan three days before Christmas sound to you? If you think that's impossible, you only have to look back to 2006, when a 10-2 TCU squad was matched up against Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
Before you down that entire bottle of sleeping pills, let's look at the alternatives. The soft middle of the Pac 10 could actually work in favor of TCU, should the Frogs be left out of the BCS. If that were to happen, it would likely be because Stanford took one of the last at-large BCS spots, which would cause a further shortage of Pac 10 teams to fill Pac 10-affiliated bowls.
With the scenario where both the Ducks and Cardinal are in the BCS, the next-best option for the Alamo Bowl (which beginning this year, has the 1st choice of Pac 10 teams outside of the BCS) would be a 4-loss Arizona team (because they would've, in this hypothetical, have lost to Oregon). Would they spurn the Wildcats to bring in a highly-ranked and undefeated TCU team that would SURELY travel better to San Antonio than U of A and present a tasty regional match up with a Big 12 opponent? I can't say I know the inner-workings of the contract between the Alamo Bowl and the conference, but you'd have to think they'd entertain the thought. The same goes for the Holiday (also vs. Big 12) and Sun (vs. ACC) Bowls. The re-arranging of teams to fit into bowls they have no affiliation with is tricky and uncommon, but it is not unprecedented- you certainly all remember the jockeying done by the MWC, WAC and Poinsettia Bowl to set up the TCU-Boise State match up in 2008.
There is also the thought, put out there by Stewart Mandel of CBS Sports, that Notre Dame could fill the Pac 10's slot in the Las Vegas Bowl. Would playing a 6-6 (or 7-5) Notre Dame in Vegas make up for missing out on the BCS? Of course not. But would beating them, especially after they "exposed" Utah and sullied TCU's image, be fun? Yes, and it would be far better than the worst-case scenario.
Of course, all of this speculation could be (and hopefully is) for naught. There is a lot of football left to be played, and this is definitely the time of year when upsets happen. And in my heart of hearts, I feel like a TCU win against New Mexico on Saturday will put the Frogs in a BCS Bowl, no matter what happens in the other games. Also, as ESPN's Andrea Adelson points out, TCU is still ahead of Boise State and the Broncos passing the Frogs is not set in stone.
It's crazy to think that TCU's bowl options range from playing for the national title all the way down to essentially playing Arlington Heights at Farrington Field, but I guess that is what makes college football so exciting/completely frustrating.