For the second straight week, the late-night games provide us with the most excitement and knocked off another unbeaten and potential BCS National Championship Game contender. We will discuss their potential chances (or lack thereof) of reaching the NCG in depth next week, but we will say that this past week was another good one for fans in Boise, Idaho. There are currently six undefeated teams left in the country. The top 3 control their own destiny at this point, and that number will be whittled down to two after LSU and Alabama finally meet this week. Oklahoma State is in the middle of an incredibly tough stretch and has four games remaining in the season, but they also control their own destiny if they win out.
The biggest change in the BCS among the remaining contenders this past week was that Stanford finally jumped Boise State. With their first top 25 win (in the computers’ eyes), Stanford’s computer numbers went from abysmal to decent. The computers had been holding their average down and now it is starting to even out. Expect Stanford’s computer numbers to increase a bit more over the year as well.
Rece Davis pointed out on BCS Countdown last night that the gap between Oklahoma State and Stanford is very big, which is quite true. What he failed to point out is that the gap is less that half of what is was last week. (The hosts of the show also failed to point out, in their extended segment of “Boise Bashing”, that the gap between Boise State and Oklahoma is larger.) The gap that size alone is not what indicates that Oklahoma State controls their own destiny. Oklahoma State controls their own destiny because they will be a consensus #1 in the computers if they win out. This would mean that even if Stanford could reach a consensus #2 in the computers (which it won’t because the SEC champion will be ahead of them in every computer and Boise State will be ahead of them in some) the Cardinal would need to be ahead of Oklahoma State by half a position in each poll. Based on their expected computer numbers, Stanford will need to be ahead of Oklahoma State a bit more than one spot in each human poll. So unless Stanford can get to a lead of around 80 votes in the Coaches’ Poll and 150 in the Harris Poll, which won’t happen (see later exactly why), Oklahoma State safely controls their own destiny.
Teams Still Under 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. Until now we have listed every team that could still reach the top 14 of the final BCS Standings. Starting next week, when the BCS picture is much clearer, we will only list those teams that have a realistic chance of actually getting a BCS bid. For example, all SEC teams except for Alabama and LSU will probably be eliminated. (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: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson.
Big XII: Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas.
Big East: None.
Big Ten: Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State.
Pac 12: Stanford, Oregon, Washington, Arizona State.
SEC: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn.
Non-AQs: Only Boise State, Houston, Southern Miss, and TCU can still reach a BCS Bowl.
It is beginning to look more and more likely that the Big East champion will not be in the top 16 of the BCS. Therefore a non-AQ conference champion will likely only have to reach the top 16 to automatically qualify for a BCS Bowl. Because of Southern Mississippi’s strong record and good position in the polls, it seems likely that they can reach the top 16 if they run the table, especially if that means they beat an undefeated Houston in the Conference-USA championship game.
There were few major surprises in either poll this year. Kansas State still seems to get almost no respect in the Coaches’ Poll. I have to address this because I have seen several people claim that any 1-loss Big XII champion is next in line to get to the NCG if Stanford loses. That’s just not true. Even if Kansas State wins out (and Oklahoma loses another game) they will not reach the NCG. They are just way too far behind in the polls. The Harris Poll was more forgiving of Kansas State’s blowout loss to Oklahoma and could get back to the top 5 if they win out and enough teams lose, but they are just too far behind in the Coaches’ Poll to get back near contention.
Earlier I pointed out how much of a lead Stanford would need to get in the human polls to have a chance at passing Oklahoma State. Remember, the BCS only cares about how many votes a team gets and not what place they are in. Stanford currently has a 9-vote lead over Oklahoma State in the Coaches’ Poll. This means that about 34 of the voting coaches have Stanford one spot ahead of Oklahoma State (yes, I understand that it is possible for some voters to have them more than one spot apart, but it averages out in the end so we’ll stick with the simpler explanation). For Stanford to get to their 80-vote lead, the remaining 25 coaches would have to jump Stanford over the Cowboys and then an additional 21 would need to either jump the Cardinal over a team ahead of them or drop the Cowboys behind someone behind both of them. The Harris Poll is similar. Every voter that currently has Oklahoma State ahead would need to drop them behind Stanford, and then an additional 40 or so would need to either move Stanford up another spot or drop Oklahoma State. This is why I still feel justified in saying that Oklahoma State controls their own destiny.
Cincinnati and West Virginia are both sitting towards the back of the top 25 in each poll. They both also have pretty bad computer numbers and have yet to play each other. If either one of those two win out, they will most likely remain ahead of Southern Miss even if the Golden Eagles win out. If Cincinnati and West Virginia both lose one more game then the Big East champion will not be in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings. That would mean that if TCU beats Boise State and wins the Mountain West, we could have a very close fight between TCU (currently a small margin behind Southern Miss in each poll) and Southern Miss for the automatic non-AQ spot.
The first thing to note about the computers is that Oklahoma State has a pretty large lead in all of them except Billingsley. Billingsley, because of his preseason rankings and because he only uses game-time rankings, tremendously undervalued Oklahoma State’s win over Louisiana-Lafayette (the Cowboys got credit for a win over the #107 team even though the Ragin’ Cajuns currently sit at #67) and overvalued LSU’s win over Mississippi State, who was #16 at the time of the game and now sits at #45. Those two differences alone would currently change who is #1 in the Billingsley Report.
But anyway, Oklahoma State has a large enough lead in every other ranking that they will end up #1 in the rest of them. Even though Alabama and LSU play each other this week, Oklahoma State has an overall tougher remaining SOS than each of them, mostly due to the fact that both of those teams have a cupcake left on their schedule. LSU will play Western Kentucky next week and Alabama will play Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern, an undefeated FCS team, will actually be a better opponent in the computers’ eyes than Western Kentucky. The only other computer that could possibly have Oklahoma State at #2 would be Massey, and that is probably only if LSU wins this week. His SchF (full SOS) column is very useful and shows us that Oklahoma State will end with a better SOS than either of those SEC teams. However, one of those teams will get a thirteenth game which, aside from helping the ranking, has not been calculated into that SchF column. No team from the SEC East is good enough to give the West winner a better SOS than Oklahoma State, but they might make it close enough that the bonus from playing a thirteenth game will allow them to pass Oklahoma State. This all matters because if Oklahoma State ends up #2 in two computers it would change their computer score from 1.000 to .990, which means Stanford would need to pass them on a few less ballots. Still, I think the gap between Oklahoma State and Stanford in the BCS is insurmountable.
I have to defend Sagarin here, because a lot of people are (not-incorrectly) upset that he has Arkansas at #4. Sagarin’s theory is that just because a team loses to the #1 team, that doesn’t mean that the loser couldn’t still be #2. Thus, a team’s ceiling, in a perfect world, is their worst loss. Arkansas has some good wins and their worst loss is to the #2 team, so there is nothing inherently wrong with having them at #4. Obviously, if the computer would have watched the games and seen them struggle things would be different, but that is why we have both computers and the humans. The computers provide raw achievements and the polls vote based on how good a team looks to be playing. There is not much else of note to mention from the other computers, so here they are: Anderson, Colley, and Wolfe.
Week 10 Implications:
Well, I have to start with the biggest game of the week, but the implications are so obvious that there is not much I can add. LSU visits Tuscaloosa in what is basically a national semifinal. The winner has a ticket to the NCG if they just win out. To those fans who think that a rematch of this game is possible in the NCG, that is half true. Unless we see a 2007-like armageddon, if LSU wins this game on the road they will not be forced to play Alabama again for the national title. If this game is close and Alabama pulls it out at home, then a rematch might be possible. But the voters will almost definitely (and yes, I know the folly of trying to predict what voters will do) not allow a rematch if the road team wins this game.
Tuesday and Wednesday nights will each feature a battle between the top two teams of both MAC divisions, for those who care about the MAC race or just have nothing to do on consecutive weeknights. Both games should be pretty close and feature some very talented players from the top 4 MAC teams. On Saturday, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma both will play tough Big XII games. Oklahoma probably needs Oklahoma State to be undefeated when they meet in Bedlam if the Sooners want to pass Boise State for a spot in the NCG (they also obviously need a Stanford loss), so Sooners fans should be rooting for the Pokes for the next few weeks.
Wyoming is 2-0 in MWC play and is 5-2 overall. They have a very weak computer profile and have received no recognition in the polls, so they cannot reach the top 16 and play in a BCS game even if they win out. Still, they have looked pretty good at times this year and could be a challenge for TCU in the high altitude in Laramie. In theory, a conference game can’t hurt Boise State’s SOS, but they really need TCU to win this in terms of perception in the human polls. Stanford travels to Oregon State in what could be a huge trap game as it’s coming off of an emotional, tough win on the road and before a huge game against Oregon. Unfortunately (for fans in general and other teams, but very fortunate for Stanford), Oregon State is terrible this year.
South Carolina visits Arkansas in a top 10 matchup that will be completely overlooked due to it basically being at the same time as LSU/Alabama. South Carolina controls its own destiny in the SEC East and Georgia really needs Arkansas to win this game. Oregon also travels to Washington in a game they could be potentially overlooking due to their matchup with Stanford next week. Also, keep an eye on the computers next week and where Boise State ends up. 2 of their remaining 5 games come against teams that will absolutely kill their computer score, with the first being @UNLV this week. It will be important to note just how much Boise State’s SOS drops so that we can really judge what their final SOS will be.
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