The top 5 went 1-3 this past week (Alabama had a bye), which caused some serious shakeup in the rankings. Each of the teams ranked 3-5 lost, dropping two of them out of the top 10. Georgia and LSU are probably still in the national title chase if they get some help from teams in front of them. Actually, it’s very surprising that Georgia did not drop much farther after getting destroyed by South Carolina. Florida State, though is probably out of the race for the National Title Game. Florida State is still almost in the top 10, but they just suffered what will probably end up as a bad loss and they have no real big games left until the last week before the conference championship games against Florida, which just won’t be enough to put them ahead of a 1-loss SEC or Big XII champion. As always, anything can happen. But for now, Florida State is really out of it.
I am still going to say that three temas control their own destinies, but one of them is one very, very thin ice. If Alabama or South Carolina win out, they will be in the NCG. There is no question about that. Oregon, as a near-unanimous #2 in the polls, probably also controls their own destiny. I have to say probably because both West Virginia and Kansas State are not too far behind them and they have much tougher schedule with more big games the rest of the way. A position as solid as Oregon’s in the polls will probably hold unless they have some lackluster wins, but those Big XII teams will have better computer profiles and it could be a very close race if some voters change their minds. And Notre Dame is still hanging close. If they run the table, we can only guess how high the voters will put them.
Teams Eliminated from BCS At-Large Consideration:
Even though we’re only halfway through the season, the following teams have already played themselves out of contention for a BCS at-large bid. Some of these teams could still reach the BCS by winning their conferences, but that will be their only chance at the BCS this year.
ACC: Maryland, North Carolina*, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech
Big East: Syracuse, Temple, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, South Florida
Big Ten: Ohio State*, Penn State*, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue
Big XII: Kansas,
Pac 12: California, Colorado, Washington State, Utah, Arizona
SEC: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri
Non-AQs: Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, Western Kentucky, Ohio, Kent State, Toledo, Nevada, and Boise State all can still qualify for the BCS. For an in-depth discussion of why I still have so many 1-loss non-AQs with a chance on this list, see below where I will discuss the non-AQ situation fully.
*-Banned from postseason competition this year
For the first time this year, we have two major polls to discuss. Both the Coaches’ Poll and Harris Poll publish this week, with the first BCS rankings coming next week. In the past, the Harris has mirrored the AP Poll more than the Coaches’. Remember, the BCS only cares about the number of votes a team gets and not what place they are in. Thus, you should look for significant gaps between teams when you look at the ranking. A significant gap is one that is at least one entire poll space (59 votes in the Coaches’ Poll and 115 in the Harris). Spaces of that magnitude are worth at least .0133 in the calculated BCS standings.
There is some decent separation at the top of the Coaches’ Poll, where each of the top 5 are about 1 whole space ahead of the team directly behind them. Of course, expect there to be more bunching at the top in 2 weeks when South Carolina faces Florida and West Virginia plays Kansas State. And that’s assuming that South Carolina beats LSU next week. In fact, it would not be surprising if the Gamecocks pick up a lot of #1 votes if they can win those two games. Beating 3 top 10 teams in a row will definitely impress the voters. It’s also interesting to note that Boise State stayed ahead of Louisiana Tech by a little over a full spot and that the 1-loss teams are lining up in about the same rankings that they had before their losses.
The Harris Poll also shows a similar division between the few top teams, but it stops after #4 West Virginia. Kansas State is 21 votes behind them, which is a very small margin in a poll with 115 voters. What is big is that Boise State’s lead over Louisiana Tech is bigger in the Harris Poll than in the Coaches’, which is a bit surprising because Louisiana Tech is actually ahead of Boise in the AP. Also, Fresno State is receiving votes in the Harris Poll, which might make them more likely to stay ahead of Louisiana Tech even if the Bulldogs beat Texas A&M. Florida State is also a lot closer to being back at the top than in the Coaches’, but with their weak remaining schedule I still can’t see them getting back in the race. Also, Ohio earned a lot more votes in the Harris than in the Coaches’, but their position is the same no matter what. They need losses by both Louisiana Tech and Boise State, and maybe a few more teams after that.
Massey’s rankings are finally taking shape and are worth discussing. And no, having Oregon State at #5 is not just an early-season fluke. They have played 4 games, all of them against decent-to-good teams (well, Washington State isn’t quite decent, but they’re a better cupcake than most of the other cupcakes that teams face. Their lack of a really bad opponent (until Nicholls State the last week of the year if they don’t reach the Pac 12 CCG) will really help them in the computers. Similarly, they are towards the top of Anderson, who published their first rankings of 2012 mid-week last week, and Colley, whose rankings are finally beginning to make some sense.
Sagarin and Billingsley, as always, have the two rankings that look different than the rest. After excluding Ohio State, Sagarin has SEC teams as his top 3. And because Sagarin functions like a power ranking (and not a pure win-loss-SOS function like many of the other computers), expect SEC teams to stay near the top as long as there are no major upsets. LSU fell to #9, but that is only because they don’t have any great wins yet to push their ranking up higher. If they beat South Carolina this week, I would expect them to jump all the way to #2, right behind Florida. Billingsley had Oregon move up to #1 after Alabama’s bye week. The Ducks have a big lead and it might be one that they can keep, even though the SEC and Big XII teams behind them have more big games. Part of this is because Billinglsey’s system, which will credit Oregon with facing a top team when they meet USC in 3 weeks. If USC, Stanford, and Oregon State lose games before the Ducks meet them, though (especially if they lose those games to teams that Oregon has already beaten), then the Ducks will quickly be passed by any undefeated behind them.
Wolfe’s first ratings will be released next week along with the initial BCS Standings.
The non-AQ picture could get a lot clearer next week if Texas A&M beats Louisiana Tech. Then again, if the Bulldogs win that game, the race will be a whole lot messier. If Louisiana Tech does not pass Boise State after that win, then Boise State will definitely control their own destiny. If, as expected, Louisiana Tech passes Boise, we will have one heck of a race on our hands. Because it looks like the Big Ten champion will not be in the top 16 unless someone runs the table from here, a non-AQ will only need to be top 16, which both Boise and Louisiana Tech would reach. Even if Louisiana Tech passes Boise State next week, though, Boise will get a chance to pass them back with a big game at Nevada the final week of the year (Louisiana Tech faces San Jose State, who is also currently receiving votes, that same week though).
Louisiana Tech is ahead of Boise in the computers that are SOS-based and will probably stay behind the Broncos in the other 3 all year. There could be big differences though, so those will not necessarily wash each other out. Here is something important though. The WAC is a bad conference this year. The Mountain West is even worse. I had expected Boise to have better numbers than Louisiana Tech at the end of the year, but after the MWC’s pathetic OOC showing I don’t know if that’s true anymore. It could come down to how teams like BYU, Miami (Oh), Virginia, Illinois, and Texas A&M do in conference play to differentiate between these two teams.
But these are not the only two non-AQs in the race here. They are certainly the front-runners, but they are by no means the only teams that can make it. Ohio is in the picture if those two trip up. There are also 3 1-loss MAC teams that can be ranked if they win out, though Toledo is probably the only team that can come close to the top 16. Nevada also has a chance, if they can be ranked when they meet a 10-1 Boise State in the final week of the year (and if Louisiana Tech loses a game), then they may be able to crack the top 16 with a win over Boise on the final weekend. San Jose State is in a similar position when they can face Louisiana Tech the last week of the year. And Western Kentucky has no real big win to hang their hat on, but their only loss is to #1 Alabama so maybe voters will cut them some slack if they run the table aside from that.
Week 7 Implications:
At noon on Saturday, Kansas State travels to Iowa State, who is a pretty good team this year and fresh off a big upset of TCU. In another Big XII game, the Red River Shootout will knock a team out of the national title chase. Also, an Oklahoma win is better for West Virginia in the long run (as they’ve already beaten Texas) while a Texas win is better for Kansas State. Michigan State hosts Iowa in a game that will knock the loser out of BCS contention for the year. Also, a Michigan State loss probably guarantees that the Big Ten champion will not be ranked, meaning that a non-AQ conference champ will only need to reach the top 16 to automatically qualify for the BCS.
In the afternoon slate, Boise State hosts Fresno State in what should be the Brocnos’ only big test until their visit to Reno the last week of the year. And Notre Dame hosts Stanford. If the Irish win this game, it will be very interesting to see how much additional respect the pollsters will give them and if they will jump over any teams. The computers already love the Irish and this will help even more, but they need to get some more poll respect quickly. BYU hosts a top 10 Oregon State team in a game that will be huge for Boise State if the Cougars can win. If Oregon State wins, it will only make their already-impressive computer profile even stronger.
At night, USC travels to face a Washington team that will be reeling after a blowout loss to Oregon. And South Carolina travels to Death Valley where they will try and hold on to their first top 5 ranking in decades. LSU, meanwhile, did not fall too far and can put themselves right back in the national title picture with a win. And, of course, in one of the last games of the night Texas A&M travels to Shreveport to visit Louisiana Tech, which actually might be the biggest game in Bulldogs history. With the BCS going away in 2014 and the non-AQs no longer having automatic access to the big bowls, this year and next year will be the last chance for WAC, MAC, MWC, C-USA, and Sun Belt teams to make a BCS game. Boise State will be moving on to the Big East next year where they will have their chances. If Louisiana Tech ever wants to make a major bowl game, they need to win this week. An impressive win would probably guarantee them passing Boise State, which will give them a chance to qualify for their first-ever (and probably only-ever) BCS bowl.
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