The college football world was waiting in shock for a few minutes this week as it looked like Alabama was going to lose to LSU. Not only would the consensus favorite to win the BCS National Championship Game have been knocked out of the running (for now), but it would have meant the potential for 3 undefeated teams fighting for the final two NCG spots. As it is now, though, Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame are all fighting for one spot against Alabama. Kansas State has a bit of an advantage in that regard, though Oregon will gain on them quickly as their computer profile rises with a backloaded schedule.
Alabama is clearly in control of their own situation right now. Their already-strong computer profile will only get stronger as they face a few more good opponents to close the season. They might not be the top computer team in the country by the end of the year, but their unassailable lead in the human polls will easily carry them through. Oregon is a strong #2 in the polls but their weak computer profile is holding them back. As long as they stay a consensus #2 in the human polls they will probably be okay. They also have a backloaded schedule so their computer profile will rise. It will be close between them and Kansas State (and Notre Dame can play spoiler if either of them wins unimpressively), and it really is too close to call at this point. It will depend on the human voters’ opinions, which means that both teams have to keep style points, as well as winning, in mind for the rest of the year.
Teams Still Eligible for BCS At-Large Consideration:
At this point in the season we have already eliminated most of the AQ teams from receiving a BCS at-large bid. Therefore, we will only list those teams that still have a chance of reaching the top 14 (earlier we listed the teams that were eliminated). In a few weeks, we will narrow that more to just those teams that have a reasonable chance of actually being selected as an at-large, even if they can reach the top 14. Some teams not on this list can still win their conferences, but that is their only available entry to the BCS.
ACC: Florida State, Clemson,
Big East: Louisville
Big Ten: Michigan, Northwestern
Big XII: Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU
Pac 12: Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford,
SEC: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU Mississippi State, Texas A&M,
Non-AQs: Louisiana Tech, Kent State, Toledo, and Northern Illinois all can still qualify for the BCS. For an in-depth discussion of the race for the non-AQ automatic bid, see below.
There is not so much that is noteworthy at the top of the polls this week. Notre Dame lost a few points while Oregon and Kansas State each gained a few, but otherwise that’s about it. The top 4 were relatively stable, which was to be expected. It is interesting, though, if you add up the numbers in the Coaches’ Poll, that Notre Dame does not have as many votes as a unanimous #4 requires. Votes of #4 across the board would be 1298 votes; Notre Dame has 1289. Thus, several voters put Notre Dame at least fifth place. That means, unless nine voters put Louisville at #1, that there were a bunch of voters who think that at least 1 1-loss team has a better resume than Notre Dame this year. Coaches’ ballots are only made public for the final poll, but I’m very interested in who voted the Irish so low. Yes, they struggled against a bad team. But all undefeated teams do that at least once. Notre Dame survived and there’s no reason to put any 1-loss team ahead of them at this point.
The other important thing to note in the human polls is Florida State’s high position. The Seminoles are #6 in both the Coaches’ and Harris polls, and hold that position pretty solidly in each (almost a full poll spot ahead of #7 Florida in each). However, it still doesn’t matter. Their computer profile is abysmal. They only have 1 big game left on the year and not even a win over Florida could make the computer profile anywhere near good enough. They are not in the national title hunt, good poll position notwithstanding.
Alabama has shot to the top of the computer rankings after their first huge game of the season. The only two computers that still don’t have Alabama at #1 are Colley and Anderson. However, the gap between Notre Dame and Alabama in each of those is tiny. Expect Alabama to move to #1 in each of those computers as well (at least for 1 week) if they beat Texas A&M this coming week. Keep in mind, though, that Alabama being #1 at this point does not mean that they have a huge lead. The gap between Alabama, Kansas State, and Notre Dame is minuscule, especially in Anderson, Sagarin, and Wolfe. Alabama should take a lead this week because they play a bigger game than either of the other two, but these teams are all so close that many factors could affect that this week. Expect these teams to shuffle a bit until the end of the year, though playing another top 5 team in the SEC Championship Game will probably push Alabama over the top.
It is interesting to note the placement of the important non-AQs in Billingsley this week. Do not be fooled by Louisiana Tech being ahead of the MAC teams. Because each MAC team in contention has only 1 loss, and because they all have relatively highly-ranked teams remaining on their schedules, expect Toledo, Kent State, and Northern Illinois to shoot up those rankings very quickly if they continue to win games.
Colley and Massey had not yet updated their websites at the time of posting.
Boise State’s loss this week meant that most of the media began assuming that no non-AQ will make a BCS bowl this year. Even some of the people whose opinions I respect about the BCS assume this. But I think they’re just wrong. Louisiana Tech will make it into the top 16 if they win out. There really is no debate about that. Too many teams in front of them play each other and they will slide up the rankings as teams lose. The only possible issue is that the voters will decide to push them down artificially in the final weeks to avoid them playing in a BCS game (their weak computer resume won’t help them if the voters do that). However, we really haven’t seen such obvious voter collusion that would be necessary for that in the BCS era (jumping Florida over Michigan in 2006 was close and it didn’t involve the clear voter collusion that something like this would).
The other issue is that even without Louisiana Tech, the non-AQs have another hope in Toledo. Yes, I have 3 MAC schools on the list. But Toledo is the only one of those with a real chance. They have the benefit of being in the top 25 in the polls already (#25 in the Coaches’ Poll and right outside at #26 in the Harris). More importantly, though, with their strong closing schedule they can come close to and maybe even reach the top 10 in the computers if they win out. Toledo could also have the benefit of facing two more ranked teams this year: Northern Illinois in 2 weeks and then the MAC Championship Game (if either Ohio or Kent State wins out) on the final weekend of the season. That could give them a necessary boost in the human polls. After the Northern Illinois game in 2 weeks we will have to see if the human voters give them enough respect to allow them to jump Louisiana Tech in the BCS.
There is one other non-AQ with a very slight possibility of making it that I left off the list. I mentioned at the beginning of the year that Boise State could possible reach the top 16 with two losses. Of course, we expected back then that both Michigan State and the MWC in general would be much better than they turned out. They are still ranked in both polls, though, and with enough mayhem in front of them they may be able to slide up and get close. It would take a miracle for them to actually reach the BCS top 16, though, because their computer profile is extremely weak. Don’t expect them to be in the top 25 of any computer again this year, with the possible exception of Billingsley. (The Mountain West has no tiebreaker, so as long as Boise State wins out they will be eligible to be selected by the BCS as a conference champion if they are ranked high enough.)
We are still working with the assumption that a non-AQ conference champion only needs to reach the top 16 to automatically qualify for the BCS. That means that the Big Ten would need its champion to be outside the top 16. Right now, Nebraska is ranked at #16. If the Cornhuskers win out, no non-AQ will qualify because they would need to reach the top 12. The only other real chance they would have in such a case would be for there to be an upset in the ACC Championship Game.
Week 11 Implications:
MACtion returns this week, with two of the MAC contenders playing mid-week games against pretty good teams. Toledo hosts Ball State on Tuesday and Ohio hosts Bowling Green on Wednesday. And even though I have Ohio out of the BCS race (even if they get total mayhem), they still very much control their own destiny in the MAC and could end the season ranked, something that would be huge for their program. This game, meanwhile, will start Toledo’s rise in the computers with a win and will give us a clearer picture of if they can reach the top 16 (though their following game, against Northern Illinois, will tell us much more).
Indiana hosts Wisconsin at noon on Saturday. Shockingly (and a bit embarrassingly for the conference), the Hoosiers control their own destiny in the Leaders Division and could be heading to the Big Ten Championship Game with a win this week and next week against Penn State. Meanwhile, Michigan hosts Northwestern in an important Legends Division game. Kent State travels to Miami (Oh), where the RedHawks have already spoiled one team’s BCS dreams this year when they upset Ohio.
In the afternoon, Oregon State and Stanford will meet in a Pac 12 North battle of ranked teams. Nebraska hosts Penn State, where a Nittany Lions’ win will probably end any chance of the Big Ten champion being ahead of Louisiana Tech (maybe Northwestern can move up, but it’s unlikely due to their lack of games remaining against top teams). Texas A&M visits Alabama. The Aggies definitely saw how LSU moved the ball against the Alabama defense and quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel will be looking for his chance to do even more.
At night, Georgia travels to Auburn where they can clinch the SEC East with a win. Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame will also play at night, though those games will not have any additional bearing on the season (other than the fact that a loss will knock them out of the title race and that an unimpressive win will hurt them in the polls, obviously).
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