Others can help Illini beat the BCS odds

By Daniel Johnson

Seventy-five percent.

If you believe the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein, and college football analyst Jerry Palm, the Illini have a 75 percent chance of making one of the four non-championship BCS bowl games. Fifty percent for the Rose Bowl, 20 percent for the Fiesta Bowl and 5 percent for the Sugar Bowl. Interestingly enough, the Illini’s chances of going to the Capital One Bowl, said Greenstein, are down to 25 percent.

While I am able, but unwilling, to pay for Palmer’s Web site, I really am not in a position to question it. Due to the strange ways that the BCS operates, I think Charles Dickens has about as good of an idea of how things will shake out.

Even though I may question the system, there are a few things I can root for that will assure the Illini a trip to a bowl better than the Capital One.

The most important thing is that West Virginia or Missouri loses. While I am relishing the chance to root for Dave Wannstedt and Pittsburgh against the Mountaineers, it isn’t that likely the Panthers can pull it out. Illinois needs one of these teams to drop so our conference-mates in Columbus, Ohio, can move back into the No. 2 spot in the BCS.

Who Champaign should be rooting for is Illini tackle Akim Millington’s former school, Oklahoma.

The Tigers will be playing the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship game this weekend. Even if you don’t have a sour taste in your mouth from watching Illinois bumble away the first game of the season to the Tigers, cheer for Oklahoma because a Sooner victory means Ohio State will make their move.

If one of the top two teams loses, there is likely no chance that any team but Ohio State will take its vacated spot because the next highest team in BCS average, Georgia, is nearly a tenth of a point behind the Buckeyes.

Go, Sooners, go.

What’s next?

Illinois still technically has to make it to No. 14 in the BCS to become bowl eligible.

Unless adding another unscheduled game is in Zook’s ever-expanding repertoire of powers, the Illini will have to cheer for other teams to lose or the at-large pool to expand.

Illinois could be eligible if the BCS expand to 18 teams. Because a conference can only send two schools, the expanded pool may come into play if the BCS conferences qualify too many teams. Because one conference can only send two teams to the BCS (suck it, SEC) the 18-team pool could possibly come into play if things get chaotic.

Still with me?

The Illini really don’t need to worry about this because one of the teams in front of them will likely drop after losing its conference championship game. Assuming that this happens, the idle Illini will jump to at least the No. 14 spot.

I think this is the first time that I am glad the Big Ten doesn’t have a conference championship game.

So, in addition to the Sooners this weekend, Illinois wants Virginia Tech, LSU, Washington and Arizona to win. Any one of those victories would propel Illinois into the top 14 and BCS eligibility.

Find a reason to root for those four teams, or at least a reason to root against Hawaii, Arizona State, Tennessee and Boston College. Personally, I will be rooting for Virginia Tech because of family ties; against Tennessee because then I don’t have to support the Vols, LSU or the SEC in any way; for Washington because I want Hawaii and June Jones to shut up; and for Arizona because it would be a big upset for the Wildcats.

I suggest finding your own idiosyncratic ways for rooting for whichever team you choose. So long as either Missouri or West Virginia loses and a combination of Hawaii, ASU, Tennessee and BC loses, the Illini will likely come out of the weekend smelling likes roses.

Daniel Johnson is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]