But which team will be standing on the shady side of the stadium that afternoon? Much more complicated. [Editor's Note: That's what I thought when I started writing. It actually turned out to be quite simple, but I'll let you read on to find out how I got there.]
Here's what we know. Ohio State and Michigan State will play in the Big Ten Championship game, also on Saturday. If Michigan State wins, the Spartans will travel west to play in the Granddaddy for the first time in twenty-six years. Simple.
But here's where things get complicated. [Editor's Note: Again, not really.] If the undefeated and #2 ranked Buckeyes win on Saturday, there are several different possibilities, and I'll do my best to lay them out in a way that makes sense. [Editor's Note: There is really only one realistic possibility.] Please stick with me, though. I'll wrap things up in the end in a way that makes sense. Hopefully. [Editor's Note: It makes perfect sense. You'll see.]
Scenario 1: BCS = Bowl Conspiracy Scenario
Let's imagine that the Buckeyes beat Michigan State but look bad in the process. Maybe they win a sloppy game by an unattactive score like 12-10. Meanwhile, down in Atlanta, let's imagine that Auburn hammers Missouri. Maybe the score is 37-6. There are already thousands upon thousands of people -- and not all of them are Auburn fans -- who believe that the Tigers should be ranked ahead of Ohio State right now. So if Auburn beats #5 Missouri decisively while Ohio State struggles with #10 Michigan State, it wouldn't be a surprise if Auburn jumped up to #2 and into the BCS Championship game. The entire Midwest would likely erupt into flames, and accusations of an SEC conspiracy would echo from coast to coast, but the undefeated Buckeyes would still bring their 25-game winning streak out to Pasadena.
Scenario 2: Buckeyes to the Natty
Assuming that Ohio State wins on Saturday and maintains its position at #2 in the BCS standings, the Rose Bowl will need a replacement team since the Big Ten champions will be playing elsewhere. The Orange Bowl will also be shopping for a team to replace ACC champion Florida State. The process for filling those two spots is clear. You can read the entire procedure over at BCSFootball.org, but here's the pertinent passage:
If a bowl loses a host team to the NCG, then such bowl shall select a replacement team from among the automatic-qualifying teams and the at-large teams before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose host teams to the NCG, each bowl will get a replacement pick before any other selections are made. In such case, the bowl losing the No. 1 team gets the first replacement pick, and the bowl losing the No. 2 team gets the second replacement pick.
So the Orange Bowl would select first. Assuming that the favorites win on Saturday, the pool of available teams would look like this: Alabama, South Carolina, Baylor, and Clemson. There are only two teams on this list that the Orange Bowl folks would consider -- Alabama and Clemson. Bowls are often interested in preserving their conference ties, so it would make sense for the Orange Bowl to select Clemson out of the ACC. If that were to happen the Rose Bowl committee would be absolutely thrilled to take Alabama -- but here's why that will never happen. The Orange Bowl would select Alabama because they have the first pick of the second round when the remaining three BCS bowls (Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta) fill out their matchups. They would then take Clemson, securing their ACC tie-in.
Keeping all this in mind, the only way that Michigan State would not head to Pasadena would be if they weren't eligible for selection. At-large BCS teams must be in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. Thanks to some mysterious vote-switching this weekend, the Spartans are currently at #10. But if Ohio State crushes them on Saturday, they could drop out. It seems unlikely, but it's possible. If that happens, the ONLY remaining option for the Rose Bowl would be the second place team from the Big 12, which would be Oklahoma State, Baylor, or maybe even Oklahoma. (Highly-ranked SEC teams like Missouri, South Carolina, and LSU would not be eligible because only two teams from a given conference (Auburn and Alabama from the SEC) may play in BCS bowl games.)
If not, here's a quick probability table:
Michigan State -- 93%
Ohio State -- 5%
Big 12 Runner-Up -- 2%
So it really is simple after all. We don't know if it will be Stanford or Arizona State, but it's almost certain that the opponent will be the Spartans.