With Stanford scaling its way to fourth in the Bowl Championship Series standings and no apparent way it could fall below that BCS-automatic qualifier level when the final version comes out Sunday, Mizzou seems narrowly boxed out of the five coveted bowls under the BCS banner.

But despite being No. 12 in this week's BCS, standings, second only to No. 9 Oklahoma among Big 12 schools, the Tigers now seem most likely to go to the Insight Bowl. Official invitations can't be made until Sunday after the final BCS standings and the selection of the title game.

Moreover, the shadow of Nebraska lurks: A Cornhuskers loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game could bump MU to the Holiday Bowl.

That's a ways from the Orange Bowl, which was plausible between the time Boise State lost Friday night and Stanford moved up Sunday, and it's not quite the Cotton Bowl, which has first dibs on Big 12 schools that don't qualify for the BCS.

Being picked third or fourth in the post-BCS order may be perceived by some as another slight of MU in a bowl process that repeatedly has frustrated fans as lesser-achieving teams have been plucked before Mizzou.

But whatever happens simply reflects business as usual, compounded by an unusual similarity of profiles — five teams were 6-2 in Big 12 play — and matchup considerations.

The Cotton Bowl, for instance, had a mutually rewarding experience with MU three years ago and clearly values Mizzou. But it has no compelling financial reason to take the Tigers over Texas A&M, despite the fact MU waffled the Aggies 30-9 in College Station.

With six straight wins since then, A&M is among the hottest teams in the nation, certain by mere proximity to generate a massive turnout in challenging economic times and represents a desirable traditional fit — most likely against Louisiana State — as the Cotton Bowl celebrates its 75th anniversary.

A&M also would seem to have an advantage over other contenders:

Oklahoma State played in last year's Cotton Bowl and is coming off a loss, as would be the loser of the Big 12 title game — not to mention that loss would be in the same stadium only a month before.

Despite Nebraska's well-deserved reputation for traveling well, in the case it were the Huskers that would mean two of the school's three losses were in Texas.

How much might that dampen the appetite of Huskers fans to go back, especially given the hostility of some toward the Big 12?

That would have to be considered by the Cotton and even the Alamo, which has next choice.

Nebraska or Oklahoma would pose challenges for the Alamo, which "under almost all scenarios" will feature Arizona as an opponent, said Rick Hill, the Alamo Bowl vice president of marketing and communications.

Nebraska not only played Arizona in last year's Holiday Bowl but it also crushed the Wildcats 33-0.

"We like to hear how that would be different if that's the matchup," Hill said.

If OU loses the title game, that creates a different issue. Arizona is coached by Mike Stoops, brother of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. The brothers prefer not to play each other and have a voice in the process.

Perhaps that could change and make for an appealing drama.

If not, it comes to OSU and Mizzou, which played only two years ago in the Alamo and sold just over 6,000 of its 11,000-seat allotment.

Hill, a St. Louis native, suggested enthusiasm was tempered because Mizzou was coming off a lopsided Big 12 title game loss to Oklahoma: The two least-attended Alamo Bowls since 1997 involved games with teams that lost the title game.

Still, OSU has plenty to offer and at least one evident advantage.

The Cowboys are third in the nation in scoring, were a 47-41 loss to Oklahoma from winning the South and haven't been to the Alamo Bowl since 2004, making for a fresher experience for its fans — likely a trump card over MU.

That leaves the Insight with the choice of Mizzou, the Big 12 title game loser or perhaps Oklahoma State.

On the premise that it was the best way to generate sales, the Insight last year took 6-6 Iowa State over 8-4 Mizzou.

According to the Ames Tribune, ISU fans bought about 8,300 tickets. By comparison, frustrated MU fans for a second year in a row bought just over 6,000 for its game, the Texas Bowl, against Navy.

While it's a bowl's prerogative to do what it considers financially prudent, it's also in its best interests to cultivate good relationships with its partners — including the conferences themselves and members.

That as well as the fact 10-2 MU almost certainly would be ranked higher than any of the other Big 12 teams left make it likely the Insight would choose MU over Oklahoma State or OU.

Depending on other variables, one opponent option would be Iowa, perhaps extra-intriguing for MU fans because of star St. Louisans Adrian Clayborn (Webster Groves) and Marvin McNutt (Hazelwood Central) with the Hawkeyes.

Hawkeyes fans may relish playing Mizzou, too, considering MU a few years ago canceled a series with Iowa.

Less clear is what the Insight would do if the Huskers somehow remained in play, especially because the Holiday doesn't figure to want them a second straight year.

If Nebraska is available to the Insight, setting up the Huskers against a Big Ten team in a mini-preview of what's to come when Nebraska joins that conference next year may prove irresistible.

And it could leave MU bound for the lower-tiered Holiday Bowl in San Diego, where at least the scenery could help make up for the system.