Alabama’s loss to Johnny Football and Texas A&M has really thrown the national title race for a loop. Alabama was the team that was considered a near-lock for most of the year and now they are definitely on the outside looking in. They are in line behind Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame for a spot in the National Championship Game. Oregon and Kansas State, meanwhile, pretty much control their own destiny at this point. If either has an ugly win then maybe Notre Dame could gain enough ground in the polls that their top computer profile will make it close, but it’s almost definitely going to be the Ducks against the Wildcats unless one of those two lose. The rest of the situation is also pretty clear, as there is just a line of SEC teams waiting for their chance in if all of the top 3 lose a game.
Conference races are also heating up this time of year, as is the race for being eligible to receive an at-large bid. There are 3 weeks left in the season and the SEC has 6 teams in the top 14. This is big because only two teams from each conference can be selected to the BCS and only teams in the top 14 are eligible. This will limit the potential number of candidates because there are 4 SEC schools in that top 14 who cannot receive an at-large. In fact, based on this week’s BCS Standings (and assuming that Nebraska wins the Big Ten and Florida State wins the ACC), there are only three teams eligible for the at-large spots after the SEC takes its two bids. Two out of Clemson, Stanford, and Oklahoma would have to be taken. The way things stand right now, that would leave Stanford going to a different bowl game because the Rose would take Notre Dame in a heartbeat. But there are still 3 weeks for that part of the picture to clear up, and Louisiana Tech could definitely play spoiler there by finishing in the top 16 and stealing a bid.
Louisiana Tech is in a much worse situation now than it was a few weeks ago. Nebraska survived its toughest games and now might finish the season ranked ahead of the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech would need either a loss from them, the Big East champion to have 2 losses, or for there to be an upset in the Pac 12 or ACC championship games. They are still in a good position with a lot of options, but they don’t control their own way to the BCS like it looked like they could have a few weeks ago.
Teams Still Eligible for BCS At-Large Consideration:
With 3 weeks left in the season, the number of at-large candidates is rapidly shrinking. We have a very good picture as to who can go and that bubble will shrink even more over the coming weeks. 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: None
Big Ten: Michigan,
Big XII: Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas,
Pac 12: Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford,
SEC: Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M,
Non-AQs: Louisiana Tech
In the Coaches’ Poll, Notre Dame is still receiving fewer votes than a #3 across the board would receive. And they are receiving 1 first-place vote and presumably several second-place votes as well. This means that there is a sizable group of voters who have 1 or more 1-loss teams ahead of the Irish. The folly of that cannot be overstated. Apparently, a decent number of voters would put a 1-loss SEC team (potentially not even the champion) ahead of an undefeated Notre Dame, who has played one of the tougher schedules in the country this year.
But whatever flaws the coaches might have in how they voted at the top, it has nothing on the Harris Poll. Apparently, one voter was so impressed by Alabama’s loss that they kept the Tide at #1. Harris voters have long been known for having odd opinions, but this is one of the worst out there. There was nothing Alabama could have done to have been bumped from the top spot, according to this guy. Just let that sink in.
Somewhere the voters did pay attention, though, was to Louisiana Tech. Both polls dropped the Bulldogs a bit after they struggled with Texas State. That is not something that Louisiana Tech can afford if they want to reach the top 16. They now have the two toughest WAC games to finish the season and really need to impress the voters. Also, their PR department should get out and let as many people as possible know (and not forget) that they lost to Texas A&M by less than Alabama did. They need to play good football to have a chance, but it really wouldn’t hurt them to play good politics too.
With 1 exception, Kansas State and Notre Dame are the top 2 teams in each computer (Florida is second in Colley). And, with 1 exception, those two teams are very close to each other (Kansas State has a sizable lead in Billingsley that no team can overcome as long as the Wildcats win out). But, other than that, the race in incredibly tight. Notre Dame almost definitely needs one of the top 2 to lose to get in, but they have no chance (without one of the top two losing) if they lose that top computer spot. And some of these races could swing on the tiniest of hinges. For example, the race in Anderson is so close that just 1 more win by an opponents’ opponent would have Notre Dame at #1 and not Kansas State.
Florida is actually an important spoiler in the computer races because they could probably still act as a buffer between the top 2 and Oregon even if the Ducks win out, so long as Florida beats Florida State. That’s not enough to make a difference, but if another SEC team can jump the Ducks as well then they could be in trouble. If Oregon was a consensus #5 and Notre Dame a consensus #1 (which is still possible even if Notre Dame finishes second in Billingsley because the lowest score is dropped), the all Notre Dame would need is a consensus #3 in the polls to finish ahead of Oregon in the final BCS.
In Massey, for example, Alabama is close enough to Oregon that a win over Georgia in the SEC championship game would make things very close. And while the Ducks are probably safe because any SEC team that could catch them still plays a very weak OOC team in November, we can’t say that for sure until we see just how much their computer profiles rise after facing Stanford and Oregon State. They are certainly far enough ahead in Wolfe to avoid being jumped, and their Sagarin profile will probably rise tremendously once they pick up their two biggest wins of the season. This is definitely a concern to watch out for, though, if their next two wins do not gain a lot of ground in the computers.
Week 12 Implications:
There’s more Wednesday MACtion this week, but those games lost all BCS meaning after last week’s upsets. Still, Northen Illinois (or maybe even Toledo) could get back to ending the year ranked, which would be huge for those schools. The same goes for Kent State, who meets a good Bowling Green squad on Saturday. Also at noon on Saturday, Rutgers visits Cincinnati in a pivotal Big East game. If Cincinnati beats Rutgers, who then in turn beats Louisville, then the Big East champion will definitely be ranked behind Louisiana Tech.
In the afternoon slot, USC and UCLA will face off for the Liberty Bell and the Pac 12 South title. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State meet in a battle of teams desperately clinging to slim BCS at-large hopes. N.C. State, who already has beaten Florida State this year, visits Clemson with more spoiler hopes in mind. Ohio State travels to Wisconsin in what should be a good game but is ultimately meaningless in BCS terms.
At night, Oklahoma to travels to West Virginia where they can keep their BCS at-large hopes alive while the Mountaineers try to snap a 4-game losing skid. Stanford travels to Oregon to start off a stretch of potentially 3 straight ranked opponents for the Ducks. And lastly, late at night, San Jose State hosts BYU in a game that Louisiana Tech would very much like if the Spartans could win. In fact, along with getting out the message about how well they did against Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech should also be telling every voter that San Jose State almost beat Stanford and that Utah State almost beat Wisconsin. When you’re trying to be the first (and probably only) 1-loss non-AQ to make the BCS, advertising every possible positive is a must.
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