The Washington Times - November 9, 2008, 09:28AM

The proliferation of bowl games across the college football landscape has made me curious to see if something utterly ridiculous will ever happen.

That is, not having enough eligible teams to fill all the available slots (68 in all for 119 major-college teams).


I call it the Trainwreck Factor, and I’m amused to no end at the possibilities that could occur as a result.

Now, the safety net for the bowl system is the teams out of the MAC and Sun Belt that routinely are down the at-large pecking order. Three of the seven eligible teams shut out of bowl last year came from those leagues, and now there’s two extra games to consider.

It’s too early to say this scenario could unfold. But there’s a decent chance multiple BCS leagues won’t fill their allotment of bowl berths for various reasons.

Here’s a rundown of those six leagues with three-plus weeks left in the regular season:

* ACC: Nine slots, eight eligible teams. No one from the league has seven losses yet, which keeps some hope alive for filling the last spot. Virginia, which needs only one more win, seems like the most likely team to fill the final spot.

* Big East/Notre Dame: Six slots, five eligible teams. One more victory from either Louisville or Notre Dame takes care of this problem.

* Big Ten: Seven slots, six eligible teams. As of now, it would require one more win from either Illinois or Wisconsin to get to seven. But if a disaster occurs and somehow both Ohio State and Penn State wind up in the BCS (with that combo, it could happen), then both Illinois and Wisconsin would need to collect another victory.

* Big 12: Eight slots, seven eligible teams. This will probably get dicey. First, all three of the remaining programs that could become eligible face serious roadblocks. Kansas State (Nebraska, coaching change turmoil) and Texas A&M (Texas) have some rough circumstances in front of them, and Colorado has to defeat either Oklahoma State or Nebraska to salvage a 6-6 season.

Then there’s the reality that two of Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech will probably wind up in a BCS game, bumping everyone in the league up. There’s a chance the conference’s final two spots are left available as at-larges.

* Pac-10: Seven slots, five eligible teams. Neither UCLA nor Arizona State can afford another loss, and if both stumble in the coming weeks it would send the Pac-10 to a maximum of six eligible teams. Stanford, meanwhile, must beat one of Oregon, Southern Cal and California to get to six wins.

* SEC: Nine slots, six eligible teams. Might as well call it 10 slots, since the loser of the SEC title game (Alabama-Florida) has a good chance at one of the at-large BCS berths. Tennessee is already ineligible, while both Arkansas and Mississippi State must win out.

Then there’s Auburn, which must upend either Georgia or Alabama to reach the six-win plateau. And of course, everyone’s been waiting a month for Vanderbilt to punch in its sixth victory after a 5-0 start.

Overall, there’s a good chance to fall one team short, if not two.

And as demonstrated above, it doesn’t make the SEC a particularly special case this season.

—- Patrick Stevens