There’s one week left in the season and not much left to discuss at the top. Notre Dame has punched a ticket to the National Championship Game. Their opponent will be the winner of the SEC Championship Game between Georgia and Alabama. Unless Goergia wins that game and the voters revolt and push Florida ahead (which won’t happen), we will all leave our televisions on Saturday night knowing the NCG participants.
The at-larges are also pretty much set, with one possibility for intrigue left. Florida will be selected. In fact, they will be an automatic at-large due to ending at #3 in the BCS. That’s probably good for them, because there is a chance that if Georgia wins the SEC Championship Game that the Sugar Bowl would rather take Alabama than the Gators. That won’t matter though, because Florida will be automatic and therefore taken by the Sugar Bowl as a replacement team. Oregon will finish at #4 and will not be automatic, but they will be selected by the Fiesta Bowl anyway. The last at-large will be either Oklahoma if they win this weekend or Clemson if the Sooners lose and taken by the Sugar Bowl, with the ACC vs Big East winner heading to the Orange Bowl. Or, if the incredible happens, there will only be 2 at-larges this year.
Which brings us to the oft-derided conference known as the MAC. The MAC provides some entertaining football but has been known for being full of bad teams for a long time now. They are generally the whipping boys in “bodybag” games and, as little as within the past 5 years, lost over 10 straight bowl games. But that doesn’t matter now. Because, this year, the MAC holds the fate of a BCS Bowl bid in its hands.
Kent State sits at #17 in the BCS standings this week. They need to finish next week at #16 to get an automatic bid to the BCS. And, without any upsets this coming week, they’ll make it there. They have a big lead over everyone in the BCS behind them and won’t be jumped by anyone, with the exception of Texas. The Longhorns will jump Kent State if they can upset Kansas State this week. But, that aside, Kent State is in pretty good position. They need to jump 1 team. There are no teams close enough ahead of them that a win over Northern Illinois will jump them over a team.
Now, where can they pick up that 1 spot? Well, any upset in to of the conference title games (other than the SEC and the Pac 12) would be more than enough. Nebraska would fall a few spots in the polls and their computer profile would plummet with a loss to Wisconsin. Florida State would drop more than fall enough with a loss to Georgia Tech. In fact, if that happened, Kent State would probably be favored against the Yellow Jackets in the Orange Bowl. Now, they have a few other chances. UCLA plays Stanford in the Pac 12 title game. UCLA already lost to Stanford this past week without dropping in the human polls. That won’t happen again. Oklahoma plays Texas Tech, but a Sooners loss would probably not be enough for Kent State to jump them.
Now, Boise State and Northern Illinois are pretty close to the top 16 too. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they are dead in the water. Even if Northern Illinois upsets Kent State, they will jump Boise State. Now, the question is whether Northern Illinois can jump 5 spots with a win. Their growth in the polls and computers from that win would be enough to jump them over Boise and Michigan. Kent State would obviously fall behind them. They would then need to gain two more spots. Texas losing would drop them behind the Huskies. A Florida State loss would drop them behind, as would a Nebraska loss. But those are not likely. The question is whether a second UCLA loss to Stanford would move them behind the Huskies. At this point, I’m leaning towards no (because the Huskies will still have a very, very weak computer profile and UCLA’s will still be strong), but that will really depend on the voters. Kent State is in good position. Northern Illinois, not so much. And for Boise State to get in it would take some extreme uncharacteristic voter manipulation.
If Kent State makes the BCS, they will be taken as the final pick in the Orange Bowl. This means that the Big East champion would move up to play Florida in the Sugar.
We’re going to do our in-depth looks a little differently this week. Because the MAC is all that can really affect things, we’re only going to look at where Kent State and Northern Illinois can move up or be jumped.Remember, the BCS only cares about number of votes and not poll position, so we are looking for places where the MAC champion can gain votes, not spots.
There is a massive gap in both polls between #14 Clemson and the #15 team, Boise State in the Coaches’ Poll and Oregon State in the Harris. Unless someone above that spot loses, do not expect the Golden Flashes to pick up a single vote from there, even with a top 20 win. The easiest place for Kent State to gain ground would be a loss by a team ahead of them. Oregon State will not lose to Nicholls State, one of the worst FCS teams. A UCLA loss should be enough to move them behind the Flashes. A Boise State loss probably doesn’t matter so much because Kent State will most likely jump them with a good win this week anyway. The real question is Texas. Will a win over #6 Kansas State be enough to jump the Longhorns over the MAC champion fresh off a top 20 win? The answer is probably, though it’s not definite. What is definite is that MAC fans want Texas to lose that game.
Keep in mind that all positions mentioned are after excluding Ohio State.
Massey still doesn’t like Kent State, though that will probably change with another big win. This is a place where the Flashes can gain some serious points, because every additional spot they gain in Massey will be counted. Sagarin still also doesn’t like them, and I can’t see them jumping 11 spots into the top 25 even with what will be one of their two biggest wins of the season.
Kent State would gain two spots in Billingsley with a win this week, though they would get jumped from behind by Texas if the Longhorns beat Kansas State. They would jump Nebraska with a Huskers loss, and might even jump Oklahoma with a Sooners loss. The Flashes will end next week at #13 in Colley with a win, with the possibility of gaining up to 2 more spots if Oklahoma and/or Nebraska lose. They will also gain only 2 spots to #13 in Wolfe with a win this week, barring upsets ahead of them. Anderson is the most interesting for Kent State. They are currently all the way back at #20, but could jump up as high as #15 with a win this week.
So why are these individual computer spots so important to Kent State? It allows them some leeway. If, for example, UCLA loses but only drops a few votes in the human polls, these extra computer spots could allow the Golden Flashes to jump them anyway in the BCS. Or if Oklahoma loses badly and almost drops behind Kent State in the polls, every computer spot could be huge in allowing the Flashes to move up that 1 crucial spot. It is something that Kent State has and might need that Northern Illinois and Boise State just don’t.
Week 14 Implications:
Basically every game this week affects something. Here’s how. First of all, Thursday night is a de facto Big East championship game, with the winner going to the Orange Bowl (or maybe even the Sugar). Kent State fans are rooting for Rutgers in this one, because it will be hard for the voters to deny them a BCS bid when they beat the Big East champ and have a better record.
Then, Friday night, it’s the two biggest games in MAC history. First is the MAC Championship Game, where the whole conference (and all non-AQs, really) will be rooting for Kent State. Kicking off an hour later is UCLA @Stanford in the Pac 12 Championship Game. If Kent State and Stanford win these games, the Golden Flashes can go to sleep with a decent amount of confidence that they will be booking trips to Miami.
Oklahoma State visits Baylor where they will try to end the season ranked. Also, a Cowboys loss might give Kent State an extra point or two in the computers. Oklahoma visits TCU to try and keep its Sugar Bowl bid locked up. Also, if they win and Texas upsets Kansas State they will be going to the Fiesta. In fact, if both Kent State and Stanford wins Friday night, Oklahoma might know that it’s Fiesta Bowl or bust as far as the BCS is concerned. Uconn will host Cincinnati to attempt to become bowl-eligible.
At 4 Eastern, it’s Georgia and Alabama for a spot in the NCG. Pitt visits USF with bowl eligibility on the line. And at night, it’s Florida State/Georgia Tech for the ACC title, Nebraska/Wisconsin for the Big Ten, and Texas @Kansas State with the Big XII title possibly on the line for the Wildcats. There will not be any BCS suspense on Sunday, aside from maybe wondering if the voters will artificially keep Kent State out of the BCS. Other than that, though, once the last game goes final we should know all that we need to.
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