Easier road to BCS?

Easier road to BCS?

Tennessee's chances of getting a BCS bid may improve a bit in the next few days.

No, the Vols aren't about to sign a junior college star who's touted as the next Peyton Manning or the next Reggie White. Tennessee's roster isn't getting any stronger … but the qualifications for BCS consideration may be getting a little weaker.

Commissioners of all Div. 1-A conferences will be meeting in Phoenix Monday through Thursday to discuss the 2007 Bowl Championship Series. No major format changes are anticipated but SEC commissioner Mike Slive, the new BCS coordinator, says two more at-large teams may be invited to the party this season.

With the BCS expanding from four bowl games to five, the requirements may have to be relaxed a little. The current standard for an at-large bid is at least nine victories and a top-12 BCS ranking. With 10 teams getting BCS bids – up from eight in years past – the bar may have to be lowered a bit. In addition to six conference champs, the BCS may offer four at-large bids, compared to two previously.

"One thing we will discuss is whether or not the pool of eligible at-large teams should be increased, given the additional two slots with the fifth bowl," Slive told the Associated Press. "I'm not saying we will or we won't. There will be discussion and I anticipate a decision will be made and recommended."

Lowering the standards could help a team like Tennessee. The Vols' schedule is so difficult that they conceivably could go 9-3 (losing to Cal, Alabama, LSU) and still win the SEC East title. A competitive loss in the league championship game could leave the Vols 9-4 but outside the top-12 nationally. That wouldn't qualify for an at-large bid under the previous BCS standards but it might under the relaxed standards.

Except for the possible lowering of the at-large qualifications, the BCS formula appears likely to remain the same for 2006 as it was for 2005.

"We anticipate that the BCS standings will again be made up of the Harris poll, the coaches' poll and the computers," Slive said.

The only change in the bowl lineup is this: One week after the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls are played, one of the Big Four cities will host the BCS title game. Tempe will be the "double-host" this season, staging the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3 or thereabouts, then hosting the BCS title game around Jan. 10.

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