STANFORD, Calif. -- Now that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh has had time to study how the Bowl Championship Series works, he has some problems with what he's learned.
Harbaugh is concerned that factors other than on-field performance could determine whether his fifth-ranked Cardinal (11-1) make it to one of the top-tier bowls.
"One of the disturbing things is to hear that how Stanford travels to the game keeps coming up," Harbaugh said Wednesday. "I keep getting asked about that, keep hearing about that. Didn't notice that for any of the criteria there for the BCS rankings or what bowl you will go to."
If Stanford maintains its position in fourth place in the BCS standings, the Cardinal will be assured of an at-large spot. They lead Wisconsin by .0228 -- a seemingly comfortable margin considering both teams are done with their regular seasons.
"We're happy to be there," Harbaugh said. "If something else is at play here that's going to knock us out of that in the next couple of days or week then you might have one hot guy at next week's press conference."
If the Cardinal did somehow slip a spot without playing, they could be left out because they don't have as strong a following as other lower-ranked teams. TCU is assured one of the four at-large spots after finishing undefeated and placing third in the latest BCS standings.
Sixth-place Ohio State (11-1) with its vast following and high profile is a likely choice for the Sugar Bowl, which also is likely to select an at-large team from the SEC, such as Arkansas, if Auburn goes to the national championship game.
The fear at Stanford is that if the Orange Bowl was not obligated to take the Cardinal, the bowl could look to the Big 12 for an at-large team considering historic ties between many of those teams and the Orange Bowl and the larger followings those schools have.
That would leave Stanford on the outside of the BCS, playing in the lower-profile and less lucrative Alamo Bowl.
"If the almighty dollar is at play in determining who the best teams are on the field then count me in for a playoff," he said. "I can't say it more emphatically than that."
Harbaugh is holding out hope that the top two teams in the BCS standings -- Auburn and Oregon -- will both lose Saturday and Stanford would slip into the national championship game. That may be difficult considering Stanford lost 52-31 already to Oregon.
If that doesn't happen, he'd prefer to play in the Rose Bowl as part of a traditional Pac-10-Big Ten matchup. But if Auburn and Oregon are in the title game, the Rose Bowl will be obligated to take TCU this year under the rules of the BCS. That would leave Stanford most likely in either the Orange or Fiesta bowls.
Harbaugh also expressed disappointment in Stanford's attendance figures this season. The school averaged just 40,042 fans at the 50,000-seat Stanford Stadium, selling out only for the game against Southern California.
Harbaugh said the university needed to put one person in charge of making sure there was improvement in attendance in the future.
"You want the players to have it all," he said. "They have most all of it here at Stanford. You talk about academics, you talk about the athletic department, etc. You want to see them have big crowds too. Hopefully we're moving in that direction."
Harbaugh would not answer questions about whether lackluster attendance would play a role at all in how long he would remain at Stanford as coach.
Harbaugh has been rumored to be a candidate for jobs in the pros and at his alma mater, Michigan. He will not answer questions about other potential jobs.
He will not be attending a dinner in Michigan honoring his 1985 Wolverines team on Thursday. He has scheduled a practice for that day, and with most of his assistants on the road recruiting, he will be running practice.