We are still yet to have a major shakeup at the top and as the top 3 approach the midway points of their seasons, all continue on their course towards the BCS National Championship Game. As has been true this entire season, Oklahoma, Alabama, and LSU control their own destinies. Barring any surprises, the November 5th meeting between LSU and Alabama still looks to be a de-facto national semifinal and is now just four weeks away. We have 13 undefeated teams remaining, but I cannot see Houston making the NCG unless almost everyone relevant has at least two losses.
I received a very good debate last week that Oklahoma State also controls their own destiny. I was of the opinion that they don’t and I still will follow that. They would have an advantage over an undefeated Stanford and Wisconsin in the computers, but the pollsters seem very impressed with the Badgers. In fact, they were so impressed with Wisconsin that the Badgers gained 13 votes on Stanford while on a bye and while Stanford beat Colorado 38-7. I do not think that Oklahoma State, at this point, is absolutely guaranteed a berth in the title game if they win out, so we will not yet say that they control their own destiny. I will, however, most likely add them to that category if both Stanford and Wisconsin lose a game.
Eliminated from BCS At-large Consideration:
This column is not here to predict results, just to tell you the facts. So we will pretend like every team is still capable of winning out. That being said, there are some teams who will not get a BCS at-large bid no matter what they do the rest of the year. Some of these teams could still qualify automatically if they win their conferences. For the non-AQ section, we will list the teams that still have a chance at at-large or automatic qualification. (This section has been very intricately thought out. If anyone has questions why a particular team is or isn’t on this list please feel free to ask and I will explain my thought process.)
ACC: Maryland, N.C. State, Boston College, Duke, Virginia, Florida State, Miami.
Big XII: Kansas, Missouri, Iowa State
Big East: Rutgers, Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut.
Big Ten: Minnesota, Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa.
Pac 12: Oregon State, Colorado, Arizona, Washington State, UCLA, Utah, USC (bowl ban).
SEC: Kentucky, Mississippi.
Non-AQs: Only Boise State, Houston, and TCU can still reach a BCS Bowl.
For the first time this year we have two polls to look at. Remember, the BCS does not care what position each team is in the polls, only how many votes they get. Thus, for the purposes of the BCS, Oklahoma State and Boise State are practically tied. Speaking of Boise State, we are finally seeing the slide we all knew would be coming. They lost ground again this week in the Coaches’ Poll and will most likely be passed by Oklahoma State next week if the Cowboys beat Texas.
I was actually a little surprised by Wisconsin jumping and pulling away from Stanford in the poll this week. Stanford blew out Colorado so it’s not like there was anything to be unimpressed about. And Wisconsin didn’t play so it’s not like those that weren’t impressed enough with last week’s blowout of Nebraska had any reason to suddenly change their minds. What is interesting to note about the poll is that the votes are spread around to pretty-much every 1-loss AQ team. That means that they are all on the radar and could move into position for an at-large bid if they keep up how they are doing so far.
One factor to watch out for in the Coaches’ Poll will be Michigan. I’m sure voters are wary of a team that has started fast then unimpressed each of the past few years, but Michigan under Brady Hoke just seems different. Pollsters love being able to vote for the traditional powers. The Wolverines play at Michigan State this week. If they win that game and finally seem legitimate, I would not at all be shocked if voters started jumping them over other, top-level undefeated AQ teams like Clemson, Oklahoma State, or maybe even Stanford very quickly. An undefeated Michigan late in the year right now really feels like a team that can throw a wrench into just about anything.
The first Harris Poll of the season had no real shocks. It continued its trend of being much closer to the AP than the Coaches’ Poll, with the top 3 in the same order as the AP Poll. Boise State seems to be getting more respect here and for some reason the media voters are not as high on Stanford as the coaches. There are no real major discrepancies between the two to note.
The computers, at least, seem to have a consensus. They absolutely love Alabama early. Now, a lot of that has to do with a pretty front-loaded schedule as they currently have played 3 teams (half of their games so far) whose only losses have come to Bama or another undefeated team. That will probably go down a bit if Penn State, Arkansas, Florida, and even Vandy start losing more games. Still, the computers are telling us the same thing we know from the polls-Alabama, LSU, and Oklahoma are in a very good position.
Billingsley has finally become mostly stable, though early-season developments will probably end up hurting Boise State hugely. A few teams are still over-ranked and most likely will remain so all season. Houston could very well run the table and still end up outside the top 30 actually. His system from now on will feel very much like a poll, with teams holding stable unless they get huge wins and sliding up when teams in front of them lose. Sagarin has some rankings that feel very strange based on his own SOS this week, but this is the weirdest week for his system. This is the final week in which his preseason bias is used but there is also a lot of information from the season so far, so some of that is a bit contradictory. We should see a decent shift for some teams next week and from there his rankings will remain consistent with themselves.
Massey gives us no real surprises this week. Michigan is a little lower than last week would have expected, but their “quality win” over San Diego State did just drop down a notch. Once again, Massey’s rankings are incredibly useful because the “SchF” column tells us the final SOS based on the current records and rankings of all of the teams that each team will play during the season. The important thing to see here, as I noted last week, is that the Big XII will dominate the top of the SOS standings thanks to their amazing showing OOC this year.
The Colley Matrix has finally seen enough games to actually make sense. The rankings will still be quite volatile for another week or two but they are really starting to stabilize. Colley only takes into account wins and losses, and nothing else. No home/away bonuses and not other factors. It’s straight up who you played, who you beat, and who those teams played and beat. He publishes his formula on his site if anyone is mathematically inclined to read it. (He actually does a very good job explaining it out in words for the average person and not math, but to understand the details you need a decent knowledge of higher math.) Two big points to take from him are how low he has Wisconsin and how high he has Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s BCS quest is not quite dead for this year and Wisconsin’s schedule will probably not do them any favors at all in the computers.
Anderson&Hester published its first rankings of the year last week, but waited until Tuesday to do it. I don’t feel like waiting possibly two days to publish this so I won’t discuss their rankings in particular this week. What is important to note about the Anderson rankings is that it uses a unique SOS formula which takes conference affiliation specifically into account. The conferences are mostly stable at this point so the rankings from last week are still worth looking at to see how that portion of the SOS will shape up.
Well, this was a bad week for the Mountain West. Boise is probably in the same boat as always in regards to the NCG, but the conference looked like it would help their case much more a few short weeks ago. Boise’s extrapolated full SOS in Massey’s rankings dropped over 10 spots this week due to the MWC’s poor showing in most of its teams’ final OOC games. San Diego State also dropped a chance to be a top quality opponent for Boise after not being able to execute (anything, really) properly in their loss to TCU. Wyoming, who until now had looked decent, got embarrassed, as did UNLV (who had not looked decent until now). At least it was New Mexico’s best week of the season. Boise fans really need to hope for Georgia, Toledo, Tulsa, Nevada, and Fresno State to run the table in their conferences, as right now that is the only thing left that can shore up Boise’s SOS (though it could still end up higher than Wisconsin’s).
Week 7 Implications:
Week 7 once again offers some big-time games and some good under-the-radar ones. The obvious big one to start is Michigan @Michigan State. As we mentioned above, Michigan has the name value and is a power program, so teams ahead of them should be worried about what the pollsters will do if Michigan shows that they will not collapse like the past two years. Oklahoma State @Texas is another big one because it is the Pokes’ first big road test. It is also their first game against a big-name opponent so it will give us a good insight into how the pollsters will treat this team when they win their big games (if they win, obviously).
Virginia Tech travels to Wake Forest in what can only be described as a shocking matchup of 1-loss teams. It will not matter so much in the ACC races as it is cross-divisional, but Virginia Tech really can’t afford a second conference loss at this point. Also, the loser will have a very tough, if not almost impossible, time getting themselves back into position to be eligible for an at-large BCS bid (not that Wake Forest’s chances of getting one if they are eligible are that high to begin with). Florida @Auburn should be a battle of top 30 teams and the loser can say goodbye to any small remaining BCS at-large dreams. A third conference loss would also really hurt Florida in the SEC East race.
In the final big game of the week, Oregon hosts Arizona State. Not only is this game between two ranked teams, but it could have huge implications late in the season. Stanford does not play Arizona State this year, so if Stanford needs a quality opponent in the Pac 12 Championship Game, Arizona State could fit the bill. An 11-1 Arizona State team would probably be looked at as an almost-equal-quality opponent if Stanford is fighting for the #2 spot with an undefeated Wisconsin and/or Oklahoma State on the last week of the year.
Also, keep an eye on Louisiana-Lafayette. Even if they run the table, an 11-1 Sun Belt team will not make a BCS game and might not even be ranked, but their only loss so far was to Oklahoma State. An 11-1 opponent, regardless of conference, looks very good in the computers’ eye. ULL may end up being a surprise quality opponent that could benefit Oklahoma State late in the season.
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