The top 2 teams in the BCS lost for the first time since 2007. 2007, of course, was the most mayhem-filled year we’ve had in BCS history. Now, Notre Dame and Alabama are the top 2 teams for the first time in over 40 years. Notre Dame can guarantee itself a spot in the National Championship Game by beating USC this week. Alabama and Georgia can each guarantee themselves a spot if they win out. If both Alabama and Georgia win this week, the SEC championship game will be a de facto play-in game for the NCG.
If both Alabama and Georgia end up with 2 losses, things will be very interesting. Right now, Florida is ahead of Oregon in the BCS. However, Florida cannot move up in the computers at all. Their computer score is locked in at .96, and it won’t go lower if both Alabama and Georgia lose another game. Oregon, however, would gain quite a lot of ground in the computers were that scenario to pass. It would be more than enough to move Oregon ahead of Florida. Thus, unless the voters interfere, Oregon will be in the NCG if Both Alabama and Georgia lose a game. Ducks fans, you’re rooting for Auburn and Georgia Tech this weekend (and you really don’t want Notre Dame to lose).
And if we see 2007-esque mayhem with Alabama, Georgia, Oregon, and Florida all losing another game, the voters will probably manipulate their ballots to put a specific team (possibly even Texas A&M) in the NCG. But it’s too early to speculate about that. Right now, Notre Dame, Alabama, and Georgia control their own destinies. And if the SEC slips up, Oregon looks to be in a pretty good position.
What happens if Notre Dame loses to USC? The Irish will still have a very strong computer position, but will probably fall too far in the polls to remain in the NCG. They will play a good spoiler in the computers, however, and will not allow Oregon to jump Florida. Thus, if Notre Dame and either Alabama or Georgia (but not both of those) lose another game, then it will be the Alabama/Georgia winner against Florida for the NCG. Voters might not like making a Florida/Georgia NCG rematch, but they would have no reason whatsoever to manipulate the polls against having Florida/Alabama, as that is not even a rematch this year.
With only 2 weeks left in the regular season, we can now look at each and every team with a chance and see what they need to get into the BCS.
ACC: Florida State controls its own destiny in-conference, but it will be hard-pressed to get an at-large because their poor computer profile might knock them out of the top 14 with a second loss. And even without that, they are not such a tempting at-large candidate to any of the bowls, certainly not with the other possibilities out there. Clemson is in an interesting boat. They are mildly valuable as an at-large but if they finish 11-1 and in the top 6-10, they might be good enough to not pass up, depending on who else is in the at-large pool. One thing is for sure, though. Clemson fans very much want Oklahoma, Texas, and Michigan to lose again.
Big XII: The Big XII at-large situation is actually far more simple than it seems. Both Oklahoma and Texas control their own BCS destiny. If either (or both) of those 2 win out, they will be competing in BCS bowls. Kansas State controls their own destiny in-conference but if they lose another game it will be tough for them to get an at-large (if they don’t win the conference). Oklahoma State is not out of the picture yet, but I find it hard to believe that they would be a tempting candidate to any East-coast BCS bowl at 9-3 and barely in the top 14. They will need a few more losses by valuable at-large candidates for them to remain in the picture. That means that Cowboys fans want western teams like Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, and Nebraska (as Big Ten champion) all to end up in the top 14. And, of course, for Oklahoma, Texas, and Michigan to not end up that high.
Big East: There will be a good fight for their automatic bid, but this league is not getting an at-large.
Big Ten: Nebraska and Wisconsin will play in the conference championship game, but neither can receive an at-large. Don’t let Nebraska’s high ranking fool you. They will not end up in the top 14 with another loss. No, the only Big Ten team that can receive an at-large is Michigan. The Wolverines will most likely jump into the top 14 if they upset Ohio State. And Michigan is one of the few schools that will never, ever be passed up for an at-large. Mayhem would help Michigan, but it’s pretty close to win and be in for them, which would throw a serious wrench in a lot of teams’ BCS hopes. The only way Michigan can lose that at-large is if they win and Nebraska loses, putting the Wolverines into the Big Ten championship game. A win would mean the Rose Bowl, but a loss would send them outside the top 14.
Pac 12: The Pac 12 has one chance at an at-large, and it looks like a fairly likely possibility. If Oregon does not play in the conference championship game, they will almost definitely end up in the BCS top 4 (assuming they beat Oregon State) and be given an automatic bid. In fact, the only way the Pac 12 does not get an at-large is if the Ducks win the CCG, and even then Stanford might still have a chance if the Fiesta has no better options, but that’s very unlikely. Oregon gets into the CCG if they beat Oregon State and if UCLA upsets Stanford. But if Stanford beats UCLA, Oregon has guaranteed themselves an at-large as long as they win their rivalry game.
SEC: The SEC is getting an at-large, and 1 of 6 teams could actually get it. The most likely right now is probably Florida, but we’ll revisit this conference next week and see if it’s any clearer.
Non-AQs: Kent State might have a shred of a chance (honestly, I’d put it at 2-5%) if mayhem occurs in front of them, but it’s barely worth mentioning now. If they can move into the top 18-20 next week (and be facing a ranked Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game), we’ll look again at how likely their chances actually are.
There’s a bit of strange voting at the top of the Coaches’ Poll. Notre Dame received all but 3 of the first-place votes. However, they have 6 points fewer than a perfect score. That means that all three coaches who didn’t put them at #1 actually put them at #3, not #2 (or they received a 4th-place vote if they did get one 2nd-place). And the ballots are not public until the final voting of the season, but I think I can guess which conference the coaches that put Notre Dame that low were from.
Once again, it’s important to note Florida State’s high position in each of the human polls. It still doesn’t matter, because their terrible computer profile will keep them out of the NCG. An upset win over Florida would improve their computer profile drastically, but it will be far from enough to move them into the discussion.
The Harris Poll also had up to 4 voters who put Notre Dame below #2, which is still baffling. Then again, after looking at some individual Harris ballots, nothing that poll ever does should baffle us. The important thing to note is the back of the Harris Poll. If the MAC wants to cap a dream season with a miracle BCS run, it basically needs every team ranked from 15-23 to lose this week. Of course, Boise State is also siting up there ahead of those MAC schools in the polls. It won’t come down to this because it won’t be close enough anyway, but how ironic would it be if Boise State was the reason that no non-AQ made the BCS this year?
Stanford has an incredibly strong computer profile, highlighted by being #4 in Sagarin. If an absolute mayhem scenario comes to pass and we don’t see any voter collusion, they will definitely be a team near the top to keep an eye on. If we reach a position where we need to put a 2-loss team in the NCG, the Cardinal may very find themselves at the front of the line.
There really is not so much intrigue in most of the computers, aside from Florida State’s abysmal ranking across the board. Massey even has them outside the top 25. But the interesting thing to note about the computers is that this week shows what each computer values, and we see that by looking at Kansas State’s ranking. Anderson and Colley, who seem to only care about performance against a schedule and not precisely who the losses came to, each have Kansas State at #3. Colley, who publishes his formula, tells us that that is precisely his theory while it is pretty easy to figure out that that is Anderson’s basic theory as well Billingsley, who uses a completely unique system, also has Kansas State at #3. He does care about precisely who the wins and losses were against, though there are more factors than just that (you can check out here where I explained how his system works and a potential problem with it).
Sagarin and Wolfe, and to a lesser extent Massey, function basically as a power ranking. This was very evident when Sagarin and Wolfe had Alabama ahead of Oklahoma State to end last year, but it shows clearly again today. Even though Kansas State clearly has a stronger overall profile than some other teams, because they have a worse loss those teams jumped the Wildcats. You can see this explicitly in Sagarin, where Kansas State has an identical record and better SOS than Alabama, but is still ranked lower.
Week 13 Implications:
It’s crunch time this week, starting with TCU @Texas on Thanksgiving day. Texas is playing to stay in the BCS at-large picture and can still win the Big XII. The MAC is also watching, hoping for a Texas loss to make their BCS hopes slightly less impossible. On Friday at noon, Kent State hosts a reeling Ohio team to try where they will try to become the first MAC team to win a game while ranked in the BCS this year. Nebraska travels to Iowa where they can lock up the Big Ten Legends Division.
And when Saturday hits, there are big games everywhere. At noon, Georgia Tech will play to wreck Georgia’s national title hopes. Louisville hosts Uconn to try and retain control of their own destiny in the Big East. Michigan visits Ohio State for Urban’s first time coaching “The Game”. Pitt hosts Rutgers to keep their bowl hopes alive, while Virginia Tech will play for bowl eligibility against Virginia. Purdue will try to do the same against Indiana, as will SMU against Tulsa.
In the afternoon, it’s Oregon against Oregon State in the Civil War, where the Ducks can guarantee themselves either a BCS at-large or a spot in the Pac 12 Championship Game (if UCLA beats Stanford). Florida State hosts Florida in the first incarnation of that rivalry with two top 10 teams in a long time. Michigan State travels to Minnesota where a win will earn them bowl-eligibility; Minnesota is already bowl-eligible (whoever thought that would happen?). It’s Bedlam in Norman where both teams still have a chance at BCS at-larges and winning the Big XII. Alabama hosts Auburn where they can lock up a SEC Championship Game spot.
And things just get better at night. Stanford visits UCLA, with a Cardinal win meaning a rematch 6 days later for a spot in the Rose Bowl. If UCLA wins, they face Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship Game. (Why shouldn’t UCLA tank this game, by the way? I’m sure they’d much rather face Stanford than Oregon.) Clemson hosts South Carolina, where both teams want to keep slim at-large hopes alive (Clemson’s chances are much better than South Carolina’s, admittedly). Ole Miss can gain bowl eligibility with a win over visiting Mississippi State, while Missouri can do the same by upsetting Texas A&M on the road. And at 8 PM Eastern, to cap it all off, Notre Dame visits USC for a spot in the NCG. This is late November, and this is what college football is all about.
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