In light of Saturday's disappointment it is important as fans to re-evaluate what exactly is still on the table for this team. Lost, for now, is the inside track to Dallas and a spot in the final Big 12 championship game - but with 4 conference games left for each team and only 3 of those 8 at home even that outcome is far from certain just yet. Let's take a look at how things could unfold over the final month of the college football season.
Before we begin it must be thrown out there that in order for any of this to really matter it is assumed that Missouri finishes 4-0. This is by no means a guarantee and any one of the four teams on the schedule are capable of handing the Tigers a loss under the appropriate circumstances. However, for the sake of this exercise we'll assume that Mizzou is able to win four straight in which they should be heavily favored.
Missouri stands at 14 in the human polls and is projected to come out at number 12 in the next BCS standings. However this week there are a few powerhouse matchups that will help Missouri move up: TCU@Utah, Alabama@LSU, and Arizona@Stanford. All six of those teams are either in front of, or just behind Mizzou in the polls/BCS. The losers of all three of these games will most certainly fall behind Missouri, but the winner of Arizona/Stanford may jump the Tigers leaving them at 11 in the polls and the BCS both. Oklahoma goes on the road to face Texas A&M and while they should win, it is possible that they drop that game. Also worth keeping an eye on is Nebraska traveling to Ames.
Now at 11, possibly 10, Mizzou finds themselves on the fringe of the elite teams. No more than 15 teams will have one loss or less and more are guaranteed to fall as the season closes. While this week doesn't feature any head to head clashes it does feature many losable games for the 10 teams that will be ahead of Missouri. Oregon travels to California, Alabama hosts Mississippi State, Arizona has a home tilt with USC, and our good friends the San Diego State Aztecs head to Dallas to take on TCU. The two most likely of those four would be Alabama slipping up against Mississippi State and USC taking down Arizona, but one of the other two wouldn't shock me, either. Odds are though that Missouri holds steady at 10/11 with a Senior Day victory over K-State, possibly moving up a spot if Arizona beats Stanford but loses to the Trojans.
Week 12 features another decent slate of losable games for teams still in front of Missouri. Ohio State @ Iowa is the most likely game to produce a favorable outcome but Oklahoma @ Baylor, Nebraska @ Texas A&M, Utah @ San Diego State, and Stanford (if they beat Arizona in week 10) @ Cal. As a quick aside no two teams can help Missouri out more down the stretch than Texas A&M and San Diego State, who combine to play four teams that are currently ranked ahead of Mizzou. I think Missouri moves up one spot with an Ohio State loss and moves permanently ahead of Arizona/Stanford to land solidly at #9 with a win in Ames.
Thanksgiving week, being the de-facto last week of the regular season, features another heavy slate of clashes. Auburn @ Alabama is the biggest by far but Arizona @ Oregon, Boise @ Nevada, Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State, and LSU @ Arkansas all feature very losable games by teams that could still be ahead of Missouri at this point in the season. If Mizzou is able to knock off the Jayhawks (not a given no matter how bad they are) they could very conceivably move ahead of Alabama/LSU and Oklahoma. The top of the polls, assuming no terribly major upsets, would look something like this:
Potential 1-loss teams that would still be behind Missouri include Oklahoma State, Michigan State, and TCU/Utah. Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona, Stanford, and Nevada are all likely or guaranteed to have a loss by then.
In this scenario the Big 12 Championship would be Nebraska/Oklahoma State with the winner going to the Fiesta Bowl and the loser falling behind Missouri. The SEC Championship would be Auburn and whomever. The ACC Championship will be two teams who will not factor into BCS at-large selections. Without looking that closely Wisconsin would appear to win the Big 10 and Michigan State would likely be behind Missouri even at 11-1. Oregon would have the Pac 10 and a spot in the national title game both wrapped up and the Big East would go to some team with the runner up being a complete afterthought. Four at-large bids would be awarded to Boise, TCU/Utah, Missouri, and Michigan State.
It would take a lot of very big upsets for Missouri to get back into the national title hunt, but with a few minor breaks they will still be very likely to be awarded a BCS at-large bid. Even if OU runs the table I think it is fairly likely the Big 12 championship loser would fall to the Cotton Bowl a la 2007 if Missouri is sitting there at 11-1. Of course the Big 12 Championship becomes very much in play if Nebraska slips up, which is possible. If that happens then Missouri would likely still be ahead of Nebraska in the event of even a Big 12 Championship loss. The bottom line is if Mizzou can win their next 4 their biggest hurdle to the BCS would be the two team limit and not their ability (or inability) to climb high enough in the BCS rankings.