Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Would You Like to Play a Game? | by Jay

(First things first: Pick Six is updated from the latest BCS standings.)

Remember in the movie WarGames when Joshua started running through all the different variants of Global Thermonuclear War? That's what the BCS landscape looks like right now: a million different options, and many of them disastrous.

Believe it or not, there are eighteen different teams that still have a shot at a BCS bowl, and sixteen different games between now and December 3rd that still have some bearing on the BCS outlook.

How many possible outcomes are we talking about? I broke out my old Finite Math 101 textbook and started doing some permutations and combinations, but it quickly got to be too much. Instead of working out all the possibilities, we simply tried to lay out each team's fortunes as best we could. Click here for the master matrix.

Take a gander. Comments and clarifications are most welcome.

Sure shots. Penn State and Southern Cal are already in. Yep, Southern Cal would win the Pac 10 -- even with a loss to the Bruins, according to the arcane Pac 10 bowl selection criteria. If UCLA beats Southern Cal, there will be a three-way tie for the Pac 10 among the Trojans, UCLA, and Oregon. UCLA would be the first team eliminated from the tiebreaker, due to a loss to Arizona (whom USC and Oregon both beat). USC would then trump Oregon with a head-to-head win, and win the Pac 10.

The Longest Shot. Did you know Iowa State still had a shot at the BCS? Neither did we, until we started looking at all the possibilities. The Cyclones can win the Big XII with a little help, and a whole lot of luck. They've got one regular game against Kansas which they must win. Couple that with a Colorado loss against Nebraska, and they'll win the Big 12 north and go to the conference championship game. Then all they have to do is beat Texas.

Keeping in mind this year's BCS bowl priority system, let's do a little forecasting.

Probable scenario. This is how we (and most of the rest of the hoi polloi, including Pat Forde) think it'll probably play out:

Most Likely:
- USC vs Texas
Fiesta - ND vs Ohio State
Orange - Penn State vs Virginia Tech
Sugar - LSU vs West Virginia
The drama here is who will get the second at-large invitation after Notre Dame, with Ohio State and Oregon being the two most touted contenders. Oregon, by the way, is going full-throttle on the PR campaign to sway Fiesta Bowl officials that they should be the second at-large pick.

Possible scenario. What if Texas were to lose a game, either to A&M or Colorado? (Don't scoff -- when's the last time Mack Brown went undefeated?) Penn State might move up to #2 and go to the Rose to play USC, with either Texas or Colorado playing in Tempe. Orange would then get the first at-large pick, and you might have something like this:
if Texas loses:
- USC vs Penn State
Orange - Virginia Tech vs Notre Dame
Fiesta - Texas (or Colorado) vs Oregon
Sugar - LSU vs West Virginia
Possible, but ridiculous scenario. Yeah, it could happen -- a slew of terrible teams still have designs on the BCS. Here's what it would look like.

Texas drops both game; Iowa State sneaks in. Florida State drops its game to Florida but still wins the ACC. Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, but wins the SEC. Pittsburgh backs into the Big East. Notre Dame loses to Stanford. The BCS doomsday scenario might look like this.
all Hell breaks loose:
- Penn State vs USC
Orange - #24 Florida State (8-4) vs Ohio State
Fiesta - unranked Iowa State (9-3) vs Oregon
Sugar - unranked Pittsburgh (6-5) vs #15 Georgia (9-3)
The only option...is not to play.