Big 12’s big three could hurt USC

Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

Bowl Championship Series commissioners recently had to mediate a conflict in their own rule book that could affect USC’s bowl plans.

BCS rules stipulate that no more than two schools from one conference can receive BCS bowl bids, yet rules also state that conference champions must receive an automatic bid and that No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings must meet in the title game.

There is a remote chance this year that Missouri could win the Big 12 title and two one-loss schools from the Big 12 South could end up No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS standings.


So what gives?

“There would be three [Big 12] teams in that case,” BCS spokesman Bill Hancock confirmed Wednesday.

In this scenario, one-loss USC could get knocked all the way to the Holiday Bowl if Oregon State earns the Rose Bowl bid.

USC, at 11-1, figured to be a lock for an at-large berth, which would earn an additional $4.5 million for the Pacific 10 Conference. But those plans could change if the Big 12 ended up with three of the 10 BCS slots.

The Big 12 would then have two of the four available at-large bids, and a non-BCS school figures to earn another with a top-12 finish. That would leave only one at-large spot left.

If Florida suffers a second loss, to Florida State, but then hands a first loss to Alabama in the SEC title game, and the Crimson Tide fell to only No. 3 in the BCS standings, USC would get locked out of a BCS bid.

The chances of all this happening are remote, but the possibility of three teams from the Big 12 being in BCS games forced commissioners to make a preemptive decision.