According to the Vegas odds, it’s USC and Florida, both 2 to 1. Alabama’s 5-2, while Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are all 4 to 1. The collective wisdom of the oddsmakers and gambling public currently runs counter to the college football cognoscenti: both SI and ESPN figure Texas Tech wins out (and, yes, that ‘Bama falls to Florida).

But if the Red Raiders were to stumble, I can definitely see how USC might sneak by all the Big 12 South contenders.

Scenario 1: Tech, which played host to both Oklahoma State and Texas, loses at Oklahoma (who may well be a slight favorite). As we know, due to many other tiebreaks failing to resolve, a three-way Big 12 deadlock goes to the team ranked highest by the BCS.

You’d think that would be Oklahoma, vaulting over Texas on the strength of beating TTU and owning the most distant loss.

Except that loss was to the Horns, so shouldn’t Texas go?

Except, well, Texas lost to Tech, so give it to the Raiders.

Except Texas won on a neutral field, while Tech enjoyed home cooking.

Except Tech lost to Oklahoma.

It’s enough to make you think aggregate points should be the criteria. But no matter how you hash it, every voter will be second-guessing, knowing that they’re not simply ranking the three teams, but openly anointing one. The voting will be split, especially among the Big 12 region’s coaches and Harris pollsters. The Trojans (with a loss that happened even earlier than Oklahoma’s) take advantage.

Scenario 2: Tech loses to Oklahoma. Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State. Tech wins the Big 12 on the strength of head-to-head with Texas.

But which one has the higher ranking? Oklahoma’s loss would hurt both schools with the computers. Again, a tiny opening for USC, though the Raiders get another week on the campaign trail playing for the conference championship. (Myself, I’m not inclined to favor teams which run that gauntlet any more than teams which don’t; those games were invented for the same reason that the Rose Bowl clings to its tradition: money.)

Scenario 3. Tech gets to Kansas City with no problem. Except: A top 3 team has gone to the Big 12 championship ten times. Their collective record in those games is 5-5.

Four of those teams (Nebraska in 1996, Kansas State in 1998, Texas in 2001, Missouri in 2007) cost themselves a visit to the title game. In 2003, unbeaten Oklahoma lost and still got to play LSU (barely). I doubt the same consideration would be given to Texas Tech.

Of course there’s no reason to expect Tech to lose to Missouri. Or Kansas. Or Nebraska (though rematches can tricky). But there’s no reason to expect a lot of things in college football, and it will be a virtual home game for the North team, no? At that point the Red Raiders wouldn’t be any more deserving than Alabama (if they lose the SEC). Or Texas. Or USC.

Of course the Trojans still have to win some games themselves. And they probably have a better shot by *not* winning the Pac 10, as that would only make the team they lost to look a little better. It’s also odd, IMO, to see the dual meme of “the Pac 10 is weak” and “USC”s defense is awesome” proceed on parallel tracks. Yes, “USC has given up 23 points in six games since losing to Oregon State on Sept. 25.” But two of those games were against the schools from Washington.

And wait! How could the BCS take a 11-1 USC team that lost to Oregon State over an 11-1 Penn State team that blew out Oregon State? Oh, right: Ohio State.

Update: Breaking news from the Big Ten Network web site:

It looks like a second Big Ten team is headed to L.A. Coliseum to take on the talented USC Trojans, at least according to ESPN’s weekly bowl projections.

A week after having Penn State in the title game against Florida, both ESPN analysts are placing the Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl against the Trojans. 

Ohio State lost 35-3 to USC at the Coliseum on Sept. 13. 

Now granted, the Orange Bowl is not played in the Orange Bowl, and the Cotton Bowl will soon exit the Cotton Bowl. But I think the average college football fan knows that the Rose is still the Rose (and that the Pasadena stadium is UCLA’s home, not USC’s). Of course, the Big 10 has only sent one of its schools to the Rose Bowl 59 of the last 61 years, so perhaps it’s understandable the game’s specifics would elude its in-house network.