The answer to the headline is, yes, Michigan can get an invite to a BCS game. And if the Wolverines beat Ohio State next Saturday, I think they will. Here's what you need to know.
There are 10 berths to the five BCS games, and six of them will be presented to the winners of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC. However, the SEC is pretty much guaranteed of getting two BCS bids, so in essence, there's only three at-large spots not spoken for.
Here's how the automatic bids could unfold:
ACC: Clemson will play for the championship, likely against Virginia Tech.
Big East: Five average to crummy teams have two league losses, so it's anyone's guess how this will shape up. The highest ranking team in last week's BCS standings was Rutgers at 29. This is a one-bid league, and there's no argument.
Big Ten: Michigan State will play the winner of Saturday's game between Penn State at Wisconsin. The winner of the championship game will go to the Rose Bowl and play the Pac 12 winner. The non-winner will probably be leapfrogged by Michigan. More on that later.
Big 12: Oklahoma State will get the bid if it can beat Oklahoma on Dec 3. Because of conference defections (Colorado and Nebraska), a title game no longer determines the league champion.
Pac 12: Oregon is a heavy favorite to win.
SEC: LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas of the West are 1-2-3 in this week's AP and Coaches Poll, but the BCS can only pick two teams per conference. One of them will sit out, and the other two will likely play in the BCS title game. Having said that, East winner Georgia could steal the automatic berth with a win in the title game. Regardless, the SEC will get two and only two BCS bids.
Houston: The Cougars from Conference USA will get an automatic berth if they can hang on in the top 12 (they're projected 10th this week) or in the top 16 as long as they're ranked higher than the Big East champion, which they should be. Houston wraps up on the road against a good Tulsa team (8-3, 7-0) on Saturday.
Provided Houston takes care of business, that leaves two at-large spots to be filled by these contenders. (A team must be in the top 18 of the BCS standings to receive an at-large):
Michigan, or the Big Ten team that doesn't go to the Rose Bowl - Penn State, Wisconsin, or Michigan State. Michigan will have one fewer losses than the non-Big Ten title game winner, thus perhaps making the Wolverines more attractice to a BCS bowl committee. Also, and this is important, Michigan, or any other team that has won nine games and is in the top 14 of the BCS, is assured of getting an at-large bid over other at-large teams in their conference not in the top 14. Michigan is expected to be about 16th in this week's BCS standings and will almost surely crack the top 14 of the final BCS standings if it can beat Ohio State. Of PSU, Wisconsin, and MSU, at least two of them are guaranteed to still lose a game. Michigan is in very good shape if it can beat the Buckeyes.
Oklahoma or Kansas State as a second team from the Big 12.
Clemson or Virginia Tech as a second team from the ACC.
Stanford as a second team from the Pac 12.
Boise State and/or TCU from the Mountain West.
Of those teams, the only one with equal or more name appeal than Michigan is Oklahoma but the Sooners will have three losses if they lose to Oklahoma State in the Bedlam rivalry. The Wolverines have an exciting team, a good story, and their fan base travels well. By not playing in a league championship game they're actually in better shape than those teams that will lose in their championship game. This is a BCS team, it appears, if they can beat Ohio State.