Ok, so the Kool-Aid I was drinking is apparently stronger than Everclear, but hear me out (and contribute any other thoughts).
- we only need to actually move into 2nd place in the BCS to go to the MNC game
- The voters will prevent any conference from having 2 teams in the MNC game
- The voters will prevent a non-BCS conference team to make it (and/or Utah, Boise State, and Ball State all lose once)
- The voters will prevent a non-conference champion to make it in (this one is very shaky, as I could still see them sending a team that loses in their conf championship game, or even a 1-loss team that got bypassed by their conf champ game)
Then in that case, we basically just have to hope for a few things to happen, that aren't completely way out there.
Scenario 1) We play the SEC champion.
Then we have to hope for:
- The Big XII South winner to lose to the Big XII North in the championship game.
- USC to lose one more (to Stanford, Notre Dame, or UCLA), or for PSU to jump ahead of them based on our win over top-15 MSU at the end of the year (and voters looking at our performance against common opponents).
The best chance of this happening would be for Oklahoma to beat Texas Tech, and then Texas losing in the Big XII title game. The biggest concern would be Oklahoma then still being selected, so hopefully Oklahoma State beats them, or they get snubbed for not winning their conference (or even division).
Alternatively, Texas Tech could beat Oklahoma, and lose in the title game, but then we'd need to hope that either Texas would get snubbed for not winning their conference (or even division), or for them to lose to Kansas or Texas A&M. (I think the first case is more likely)
Scenario 2) We play the Big XII champion
For this to happen we'd have to hope that they wouldn't pick another Big XII team (like in 2006 where Michigan got passed over for Florida). We would also need:
- Florida to lose to Florida State (or preferrably the Citadel, lol), and beat Alabama in the SEC championship game, and for Alabama to then get passed over for not winning their championship (and also having a loss that late in the season). or...
- Alabama to lose to either Mississippi State or Auburn, drop far enough down that even the win in the SEC title game doesn't get them back in. Even still, they'd probably go to the MNC game, so let's hope for option 1 here.
We would still need to pass USC (either from the win over MSU, or voters looking at common opponents, or even more convincingly a loss by USC to either Stanford, Notre Dame, or UCLA).
Scenario 3) Here we'd need both of the above situations to happen, and we'd face USC in the championship game.
So yeah, not saying the chances are great, but they're not completely out there, since the teams above us are all from the SEC and Big XII (or the Mountain West...). If things just play out a certain way, and Penn State gets enough help from voters not wanting a team that didn't win their conference (or even division!) in the title game, then the chances aren't that horrible, either. I also know that this relies on a lot of assumptions, but most of those assumptions have held true in seasons past.
So we still have that to look forward to, but even if we just get the Rose Bowl, I'll be satisfied as well (plus not looking past Indiana and MSU)
Feel free to rip apart my analysis.