Stanford's most likely path to the Rose Bowl is finishing second in the Pac-10 with Oregon and TCU playing in the national championship game.
And try this one on for size: The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (previously the Emerald Bowl) in San Francisco could feature Boise State. And the opponent could be Cal.
Such are the subtleties of the BCS selection process.
Let's look at Stanford's situation first:
Oregon probably isn't going to lose two of its next three games (against Cal, Arizona and Oregon State), but if the Ducks lose once, the Cardinal can earn a share of the Pac-10 title by winning their next three games (against Arizona State, Cal and Oregon State).
But in that case, Oregon would not be in the national championship game and would be the Pac-10's Rose Bowl representative because of its win over Stanford. The Cardinal would be eligible for a BCS berth elsewhere, but that does not look promising.
If the Ducks win their next three games, they probably would be in the national championship game. The Rose Bowl then would have to take a non-BCS program -- TCU or Boise State -- instead of a Pac-10 team unless TCU or Boise State is playing in the national title game against Oregon. In that case, the Rose Bowl would not be required to take a non-automatic qualifier and could -- and almost certainly would -- take Stanford.
This is not a far-fetched scenario. If Alabama beats Auburn on Nov. 26, there's a decent chance Oregon and TCU would be in the national championship game and Stanford, at 11-1, would be in the Rose Bowl.
Meanwhile, Boise State would be left out to dry -- and might be looking at a game against Cal. The BCS rules are such that if TCU is in the national title game, Boise State is merely an at-large BCS possibility, even if it is ranked No. 3. And it seems as though Boise State might not get picked.
The Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl would have the first choices in this scenario. The Rose would match Stanford against the Big Ten champ, and the Sugar Bowl would match the SEC champ against an at-large team. That could be Boise State, but it easily could be a one-loss Big Ten team (Ohio State or Wisconsin).
The ACC champ goes to the Orange Bowl, which very well could take a one-loss SEC team (LSU or Auburn). The Fiesta Bowl gets the Big 12 champ and has the final at-large pick, and it would have to take the automatic qualifier from the Big East.
The Kraft bowl at AT&T Park gets the WAC champion, and if Boise State does not get picked for a BCS game, the Broncos -- even if unbeaten and ranked No. 3 or 4 -- would go to San Francisco for that Jan. 9 game.
The opponent? Hard to say. The bowl is slotted for the No. 6 Pac-10 team. With USC ineligible and Oregon and Stanford possibly in BCS games, the Pac-10 might not have enough bowl-eligible teams for its spot in the San Francisco game.
But if Auburn and Oregon are in the national championship game and TCU is in the Rose Bowl, Stanford would drop to the Alamo Bowl and the Pac-10 might have enough bowl-eligible teams for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. One of the teams in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl's range is Cal, which needs one win to be bowl-eligible and could play No. 4 Boise State at AT&T Park one day before the national championship game.