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November 27, 2012

Beavers Bowl Destination Becomes Clearer

If you're hopeful Oregon State spends the week between Christmas and New Year's Day in the Lone Star State, cheer loudly and vociferously for Stanford in Friday night's Pac-12 championship game against UCLA in Palo Alto, Calif.

Because a second Cardinal victory over the Bruins in six days would likely send the Beavers to the December 29 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio (3:45 p.m. PT, ESPN).

But if the Bruins knock off the homestanding Cardinal and claim their first Pac-12 title since 1998, the Beavers should make travel plans to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl on December 27 (6:45 p.m. PT, ESPN).

Why the different destinations based on the result of one game? Blame the "two conference loss rule."

According to the conference office, all Pac-12 affiliated bowls are disallowed from selecting one team over a more deserving team if the former has two or more conference losses than the latter. Specifically, the Pac-12 office said, bowls tied in with the conference, "…can't pass a team to select a team with a two or more loss differential in regular season conference play."

Any UCLA victory Friday night at Stanford Stadium would secure a spot in the Rose Bowl for the Bruins (guaranteeing them a chance to play on their home field), while Oregon could land an automatic at-large berth in a BCS bowl (Fiesta?) if they finish fourth or higher in the final BCS standings to be revealed Sunday night.

But even if the Ducks don't move up from their current No. 5 spot (unlikely since No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia square off in the SEC championship game on Saturday afternoon, with the loser expected to fall below No. 4 Florida and Oregon), they should still garner an at-large berth.

Thus, Stanford would be ineligible for any BCS bowl should they fall to the Bruins because a maximum of two teams per conference are allowed to appear in BCS bowls.

Once the BCS bowls are finished selecting their teams, the Alamo Bowl has first (or next) selection of available Pac-12 teams, followed by the Holiday, Sun (El Paso), Las Vegas, Kraft Fight Hunger (San Francisco) and New Mexico bowls.

Stanford posted an 8-1 record in the Pac-12 this season, while Oregon State was 6-3. Three other conference teams were 5-4. Under the "two conference loss rule," the Alamo Bowl would be required to take Stanford even if they believed Oregon State or another Pac-12 program would attract more fans to San Antonio.

If that happens, the Holiday Bowl should grab the Beavers (hopefully, 9-3 after beating Division I-AA Nicholls State on Saturday) for their first ever bowl appearance in San Diego. Since Mike Riley returned to Corvallis in 2003 for his second stint as head coach of the Beavers, Oregon State has made two appearances each in the Insight, Las Vegas and Sun Bowls along with a 2007 appearance in the Emerald Bowl.

However, if Stanford defeats UCLA again, the Cardinal head to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and the Alamo Bowl must choose between the Beavers and Bruins, a pair of teams with three conference losses.

"Absolutely the Beavers are a team under consideration," Alamo Bowl president/CEO Derrick Fox told BeaverBlitz.com on Monday. "They've had a great year so far with the chance to finish up 9-3 and be a highly ranked Top 15 BCS team. They've done very well both offensively and defensively and they play an exciting brand of football. Coach Riley has done great things up there. The fans seem to be excited about this team, especially if they end being 9-3 and get back to being in a bowl."

Fox insisted Oregon State's loss in the Civil War would not deter the Alamo Bowl from deciding to invite the Beavers for the first time.

"If you can draw up an ideal game plan, you would have a season-ending game against a rival that you win and springboard into the bowl game," Fox said. "Oregon State has one more game to rebound from that loss and conclude the season with a victory to get to 9-3. That's why you wait to see how the season plays out and which teams are available. We have to wait out the Pac-12 championship game and see what that outcome is, first and foremost, because that dictates what happens from there."

Should UCLA fall again to Stanford on Friday night, the Bruins would enter bowl season with back-to-back setbacks after beating rival Southern Cal on November 17.

Another factor in Oregon State's favor if the Pac-12's Alamo Bowl bid boils down to the Beavers and Bruins: OSU won the head-to-head matchup, 27-20, between the schools on September 22 in Pasadena.

"That's one of the things you factor into it," Fox said. "Head-to-head is one consideration. But you take a look at overall records, you look at storylines and how the season has progressed, the level of enthusiasm and excitement from the fan base and the potential matchup on the field (against a Big 12 team) . It's not an exact science, but you try to pull together all the information and data you can and try to quantify as much of it as possible."

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The Alamo Bowl plans to have a representative at Saturday's final home game against Nicholls State at Reser Stadium to scout the Beavers one last time.

Riley was head coach of the San Antonio Riders of the now defunct World League of American Football (WLAF) in 1991-92.

If Stanford wins the Pac-12 championship game, Oregon ends up in a BCS bowl game and the Alamo Bowl invites UCLA instead of Oregon State, the Holiday Bowl would waste little time before snapping up the Beavers.

But Oregon State would also end up in San Diego under the second possible scenario where UCLA wins the Pac-12 championship game. In that case, Oregon goes to the BCS and Stanford to San Antonio, leaving OSU for the Holiday Bowl.

Right now, the only way Oregon State might not go to the Alamo or Holiday Bowls is the unlikely event Oregon doesn't earn an at-large berth into a BCS bowl game and goes to San Antonio instead. If that happened, the Beavers would battle the Stanford/UCLA loser for the Holiday Bowl berth.

"If Oregon State is available to us, they would pretty much be our choice," Holiday Bowl Executive Director Bruce Binkowski told BeaverBlitz.com on Monday. "But we pick after the Alamo, and they may have to do some thinking. At this point, Oregon State is definitely on our short list. They had a strong turnaround and we know their fans travel well. We know their fans would be excited about the possibility of a great matchup. Oregon State is a good story and there would be a lot of interest down here."

The Holiday Bowl has the fifth choice of Big 12 schools. Binkowski expects a seven or eight win team from that conference to make the trip to San Diego.

Sources close to the Holiday Bowl told BeaverBlitz that Oregon State was the bowl game's first choice under most realistic scenarios and was "in the drivers' seat" should they get bypassed by the Alamo Bowl.

We should learn the Beavers' bowl destination on Sunday after all conference championship games throughout the country have wrapped up late Saturday night.

NOTE: Here is how the Pac-12's bowl eligible teams currently stack up in terms of overall and conference records:

Oregon: 11-1 (8-1)
Stanford: 10-2 (8-1)
UCLA: 9-3 (6-3)
Oregon State: 8-3 (6-3)
Southern Cal: 7-5 (5-4)
Washington: 7-5 (5-4)
Arizona State: 7-5 (5-4)
Arizona: 7-5 (4-5)


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