It looks right now as if LSU has pretty much locked up a spot in the National Championship Game. It also looks like Alabama has locked up a spot. It will take a decent amount of manipulation by the voters to move Oklahoma State (or any other team, we’ll give details later) up to a position where they can take the #2 spot. It looked like the AP was working towards that when they jumped Oklahoma State up to #3 after a bye week, but the Coaches’ and Harris Polls, the only two that matter for the BCS, didn’t follow suit. They still have one week to change their mind, but that’s looking very unlikely at this point.
BCS Bowl Scenarios:
Big East: The Big East won’t get any at-larges. The conference champion will almost definitely go to the Orange Bowl. They only way I can see the Big East champ going to a different bowl would be if the Sugar Bowl found West Virginia more valuable than Houston. Still, even that seems very unlikely. In a 3-way tie, the tiebreaker would be highest-ranked in the BCS, which would probably be West Virginia. If Cincinnati loses, the Louisville wins the conference. If Cincinnati wins and West Virginia loses, then Cincinnati will win the conference for the third time in the last 4 years.
ACC: The winner of the ACC Championship Game will go to the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech might have a chance at an at-large if they lose, but they would probably not be as enticing to the Fiesta Bowl as Stanford or as enticing as Michigan to the Sugar Bowl. Also, Stanford will definitely earn automatic entry into the BCS for finishing in the top 4 if Virginia Tech loses the ACC Championship Game.
Big XII: The Big XII looks like it actually is in a bit of trouble to get 2 BCS teams. The winner of Bedlam will go to the Fiesta Bowl unless Oklahoma State can sneak into the NCG. But assuming they can’t, there really isn’t anywhere for a second Big XII team to go. The Rose Bowl is taken up, as always, and the Orange Bowl will be stuck with the ACC and Big East champions. The Sugar Bowl will have to take the non-AQ qualifier and will then have to choose between Michigan and the Bedlam loser or Kansas State for the final spot. That choice would be a no-brainer. The Sugar would take Michigan. If Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, or Kansas State wants a Sugar Bowl bid they need to hope that Michigan somehow can’t crack the top 14 next week or for Houston to lose. If Oklahoma State can sneak into the NCG, expect Oklahoma to replace them in the Fiesta Bowl if they stay in the top 14. If they fall out, expect the Fiesta to stay with their conference and take Kansas State.
Big Ten: The winner of the Big Ten Championship Game will go to the Rose Bowl. The loser will almost definitely fall out of the top 14 and not be available for an at-large. Michigan is one of those teams that I feel will never be passed up for an at-large if they are available. They are sitting at #16, with two teams right ahead of them having to play each other in the Big Ten Championship Game. Also, Georgia looks likely to lose in the SEC Championship Game, opening up a path for Michigan to reach #14. Michigan might have to fear Baylor catching them from behind, but they have enough of a lead that that shouldn’t be a concern. If Georgia wins the SEC and Stanford finishes in the top 4 it will take away the final at-large spot if we still have an Alabama vs LSU rematch in the NCG, sending Michigan to the Outback or Capital One bowl (Capital One most likely).
Pac 12: The winner of the Championship Game will go to the Rose Bowl. UCLA is in an interesting position. If they win, they’re going to Pasadena. If they lose, they won’t even be bowl-eligible and will be staying home during bowl season. Stanford will almost definitely go to the Fiesta Bowl. They have a fairly large lead at #4 in the BCS right now and I can’t see a Virginia Tech win over Clemson as being valuable enough to jump the Hokies over the Cardinal. Still, a Virginia Tech (or Oklahoma State) loss would just cement the bid for Stanford.
SEC: Alabama and LSU will be in BCS bowls, most likely the NCG. We will go into detail later about what could happen if Georgia upsets LSU, but barring that, I think the SEC situation is pretty much set.
Non-AQs: Boise State needed some sort of help last week and they didn’t get it. Unless Stanford ends up at #5 in the BCS and Andrew Luck for some reason announces this coming week that he won’t play in the bowl game, expect Boise to head to something other than a BCS Bowl (Las Vegas looks likely at the moment). Houston will get an automatic entry, probably to the Sugar Bowl, if they win the Conference-USA Championship Game. If Houston loses, it looks like Southern Miss has too far to jump to reach #16. That means that TCU will have to rise two spots to reach a BCS bowl. With the Big Ten Championship loser and Georgia right in front of them they have a decent chance, though not a great one. It’s quite possibly Houston or nothing for the non-AQs in the BCS this year.
The polls for next week will be very simple. Oklahoma State should be a consensus computer #2 next week if they win Bedlam. That means that Alabama will need to be half of one spot ahead of Oklahoma State in each of the human polls next week to guarantee their spot in the NCG. They will need to be 30 spots ahead in the Coaches’ Poll and 58 spots ahead in the Harris. That would mean that if every voter had Oklahoma State and Alabama at #2 or #3 then Alabama would need to be #2 of 75% or more of the ballots. They are #2 on far more ballots than that right now and they are helped by the fact that Oklahoma State is stuck behind Stanford and Virginia Tech in both polls. We will see if a win over top 10 Oklahoma is enough to help Oklahoma State jump those teams. We will also see if the voters will artificially push the Cowboys up a bit (or push Alabama down a bit) in order to avoid an Alabama vs LSU rematch in the NCG. The Cowboys are actually within range to jump Virginia Tech and Stanford (in terms of position, at least) after a Bedlam win without any manipulation going on, but they are far too far behind Alabama to jump them as well without some serious voter manipulation.
Yes, Alabama jumped up to #2 overall in the computers this past week. No, it doesn’t really matter. Oklahoma State will be a consensus #2 if they win Bedlam. The remained #2 in Anderson and Colley. They were barely passed by Alabama in Billingsley and Massey, both of which were only due to the fact that Alabama has played one more game at this point in the season. You can clearly see from Massey’s SchF (full SOS) column how far ahead Oklahoma State is in terms of SOS and how their SOS will still be stronger after next week. Even though Alabama actually has a decent lead in Sagarin and Wolfe, neither lead is anywhere close to large enough to protect Alabama from being jumped if Oklahoma State can beat a top 10 team.
The other team to watch for in the computers next week is TCU. Of course, TCU’s position is irrelevant if Houston beats Southern Miss. But if Houston loses, then TCU needs to reach #16 in order to get into a BCS bowl. Two teams ahead of TCU will probably lose this week, but playing UNLV will hurt TCU in the computers. Passing Georgia or the Big Ten Championship Game loser, especially if it’s Michigan State, is not a given for TCU. They need to at least stay put in the computers and will need to hope that Georgia drops quite a bit in the human polls to get to #16. I think they have a large enough lead that they don’t need to worry about being passed by Clemson if the Tigers win the ACC Championship Game, but a Virginia Tech win in that game definitely won’t hurt the Frogs.
What if Georgia Beats LSU?:
Standard thinking at this point seems to be that LSU will be in the NCG even if they don’t beat Georgia. Of course, standard thinking is no guarantee and pollsters can always punish them if they feel it’s necessary, so don’t expect LSU to be sitting starters to keep them healthy when the two teams meet this week. So would a Georgia win over LSU affect the NCG race at all?
Honestly, it could. LSU has such a strong body of work that they will probably stay #1 on most human ballots. Most voters will remember that LSU beat Alabama (on the road, no less), and keep the Tigers in front. Other voters who drop the Tigers below Alabama could possible drop them another spot or two as well. This situation will benefit Oklahoma State in the computers. The Cowboys would probably take over the #1 spot in several computers (Anderson and Colley for sure, with Sagarin and Wolfe as unlikely possibilities as well) while LSU won’t fall below #2 in any. If LSU keeps their #1 spot in the human polls then this might just widen the gap that Alabama needs in the polls to hold on to #2. Of course, the most likely case in this scenario would be that Alabama passes LSU in the human polls then this would just cement the all-SEC rematch in the NCG. What we will probably see is some confusion in the polls with lots of different voters doing very different things, making the final BCS Standings look a lot closer with all top 3 teams than they are now (though LSU vs Alabama would still be the most likely NCG by a large margin).
What a Georgia win would do would be to most likely get rid of all the at-large spots. There are usually 4 at-larges. If Georgia wins the SEC and we have an Alabama vs LSU NCG, then the SEC will have 3 bids. That leaves 2 at-large spots. Houston will most likely take up 1 as a non-AQ automatic qualifier (and odds are decent that even if they lose that TCU will end up at #16) and Stanford will also get an automatic bid as it is hard to imagine them finishing outside the top 4.
Week 14 Implications:
It’s a small schedule this coming week, but a lot of games could affect the BCS in some way. We have the conference championship games, Bedlam, the Big East games that will determine who wins that conference, as well as a few more games sprinkled in. Texas @Baylor is the only game unrelated to BCS hopefuls that could affect the BCS. I don’t think that Baylor can pass Michigan even if they win, but an upset in that game should make Michigan fans breathe a bit easier.
Check back next Saturday night as soon as the last game goes final where we’ll tell you how the BCS bowls will look when they are announced next Sunday night.
Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/yesh222TSHQ