UT controls destiny; TCU not so much
The formula for No. 3 Texas to play in the national title game is pretty simple, if you listen to the guy who knows more about the BCS formula than just about anyone, calculus professors included.
"They control their own destiny," said Jerry P. Palm, who runs CollegeBCS.com. "Certainly, they wouldn't get passed by a one-loss team. I just don't see Texas getting passed. It's not the kind of thing that voters do unless there was a major undefeated team playing that much better. It's Texas. It might happen to Purdue or Kansas or someone, but not Texas."
Assuming everybody keeps winning, Palm figures Texas would play the winner of the SEC championship game -- likely between Florida and Alabama -- for the national title. There's plenty of precedent for that scenario, as Texas sits solidly in third in the standings, ahead of Boise State.
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Palm said he didn't think Texas should be worried about its lack of style points, figuring the Longhorns will move up in the computer rankings as the season progresses. And while undefeated Iowa sits at No. 6, he thinks it's a long shot that the Hawkeyes could pass Texas. The Longhorns have road games at Missouri and Oklahoma State the next two weeks.
So what about TCU's hope of a BCS bowl?
"They've got some things working against them," Palm said.
The Horned Frogs debuted at No. 8 in the BCS standings -- four spots behind Boise State. That leaves TCU with some work to do to claim the top spot among non-BCS qualifiers.
You see, Palm can crunch numbers and plug in formulas and get a fairly accurate reading on what might happen each week. But trying to crawl inside of the minds of the voters is unpredictable.
"With two non-majors in the top 10, voters may not make the switch," Palm said. "Boise also has the brand-name advantage at their level. If voters give it any thought, always a big if, TCU would have won a better league and played a better schedule. They might not have as good a win as Boise's over Oregon. But we'll see."
Palm said Boise State's brand name is better because voters are more familiar with the Broncos and feel as though they have established a track record of success among teams from non-BCS conferences.
In his personal top 25, Palm has Boise just ahead of TCU. For now.
"But if TCU beats BYU on the road that changes," said Palm, who thinks TCU would be higher in the computer rankings if both teams finish undefeated. "I would like to be able to tell you that TCU will definitely pass Boise, and I think they should, but you can't trust voters. This week or the week of the Utah game would be TCU's best chances to leapfrog Boise."
TCU does have two chances to impress voters. The Horned Frogs face No. 16 BYU in Provo on Saturday and host No. 18 Utah on Nov. 14.
Palm thinks the chances of both Boise State and TCU getting selected to BCS bowl games are slim.
"I think you have to have a year like 2007, [when] LSU played for the title with two losses," Palm said. "There needs to be almost no other reasonable choice."
Palm said bowl games want as many fans as they can get in the stadium and high TV ratings. Non-BCS conference teams don't offer that. Palm said he has data that shows most of the lowest-rated BCS bowl games involved non-BCS teams.
"As cute as the stories may be, fans aren't watching those games like they are the major-conference teams," Palm said.
That makes it even more critical for TCU to get ahead of Boise State in the final standings if the Frogs want to play in a major bowl game.
The crazy world of formulas and numbers is something coaches work hard to get their players to ignore. TCU coach Gary Patterson has consistently said this season that he won't even worry about it until after the first seven games.
The seventh game, of course, is at BYU on Saturday.
Texas coach Mack Brown discussed the standings with his team briefly on Sunday, then turned the focus to this week's game at Missouri.
"We have a tough Big 12 road game, and the rest of the discussion about things that involve the end of the season is very unimportant," Brown said. "The guys understand that and are moving forward."
Of course, none of this BCS-standings chatter is likely to matter for Texas or TCU if they don't win the rest of their games.
Brown and Patterson understand that from experience. And they want to make sure that doesn't happen this season.
Richard Durrett covers colleges for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.