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Original Issue

Burnt Orange?

After lobbying its way into a BCS berth last season, No. 2 Texas could be left out of this year's championship game

LAST SEASON Texas coach Mack Brown campaigned for his team to get a BCS bid and was rewarded (courtesy of some sympathetic poll voters) with a trip to the Rose Bowl. This year, however, he might not be able to talk his way back to Pasadena. While it's a good bet that the No. 2 Longhorns will finish the regular season undefeated for the first time in 22 years, they could fall victim to the same sort of BCS math that helped them squeeze past Cal in 2004. Here's why the Horns could be in big trouble even if they win the Big 12 title game and finish 12-0.

•The Big 12 is shaping up as the weakest BCS-affiliated conference this side of the Big East, boasting only two other ranked teams, No. 13 Texas Tech and No. 24 Colorado. The BCS computers could penalize Texas while rewarding teams from stronger conferences (Virginia Tech or Florida State in the ACC, Alabama or Georgia in the SEC) that also finish the season undefeated.

•Because Ohio State was defeated by Penn State last Saturday, Texas's 25-22 win over the Buckeyes on Sept. 10 loses some of its luster. And although the Longhorns finally beat longtime nemesis Oklahoma, that victory won't help their strength of schedule as much as it would have in past seasons because the Sooners are only 2-3. To keep its BCS ranking up, Texas has to remain a strong No. 2 in both the Harris and coaches' polls, which means the Horns can ill afford any struggles in their last seven games.

With the first BCS standings due to be released this Monday, here are SI's best guesses for the four BCS bowls.

ROSE (JAN. 4): USC vs. Texas (national championship game)

SUGAR (JAN. 2): Alabama vs. Louisville

FIESTA (JAN. 2): Penn State vs. Texas Tech

ORANGE (JAN. 3): Virginia Tech vs. Notre Dame