Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BCS Rundown | by Jeff

As the BCS continues to get messier and messier, some order appears to be slowly emanating forth from the primordial ooze of one-loss teams and unusual suspects. At this point, there are five (no, three!) real contenders for two spots in the BCS championship game: LSU, Oregon, and Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri. Let's look quickly at each of these five (no, three!) teams and their remaining schedules:

#1 LSU
Remaining Schedule: @ Ole Miss, vs Arkansas, SEC Championship (vs Tennessee or Georgia)

LSU has a tough schedule to close out the season, but certainly not impossible. After feasting on some of the worst run defenses in the country, Arkansas' Darren McFadden's production was relatively contained against Tennessee's average run defense last week. With the third best run defense in the country, LSU should beat Ole Miss and contain Arkansas to make it to the SEC Championship game without much trouble. Beating Tennessee or perhaps Georgia will be slightly more problematic, but the Tigers should be double-digit favorites in that game, and are more likely to face the Vols than the suddenly hot 'Dawgs. LSU is ranked first in both polls and by the computers, and their strength of schedule looks solid for their remaining games, so winning out means the Tigers will almost certainly be in the championship game.

#2 Oregon
Remaining Schedule: @ Arizona, @ UCLA, vs Oregon St

With by far the easiest remaining schedule among the contenders, Oregon looks poised to win out and stake their claim to a spot in the BCS championship game. However, the Ducks are ranked second in both polls and number 3 by the computers (behind Kansas). So, a strong finish by Kansas or possibly even Oklahoma could send the Ducks to Pasadena instead of the BCS championship. I won't be too surprised to see some gamesmanship again among the voters in the BCS polls to give an edge to either the Big XII champ or Oregon. However, it looks like the Big XII and PAC-10 will get two teams into the BCS regardless, so at least the financial incentives for coaches to play with their votes is minimized this time around.

#3-#5 Big XII Champion
Remaining Schedules:

Kansas: vs Iowa St, vs Mizzou, Big XII Champ (vs Oklahoma)
Oklahoma : @ Texas Tech, vs Oklahoma St, Big XII Champ (vs Kansas-Missouri winner)
Missouri: @ Kansas St, @ Kansas, Big XII Champ (vs Oklahoma)

The Big XII appears to be involved in a play-in tournament for a spot in the BCS championship game. For the first time, the Kansas v Missouri game will actually mean something, as the winner will take on Oklahoma for the Big XII title. Those tough games may be enough to jump the Big XII champ over Oregon and into the the BCS championship game, although an undefeated Kansas has perhaps the best shot at the leapfrog, followed by Oklahoma. Kansas wasn't even ranked in the top-25 until October 7th, so a place in the BCS championship game would be truly remarkable. A one-loss Missouri team will likely end up in the Fiesta Bowl.

The rest of the BCS
The rest of the BCS will be full of the usual controversy this season. It appears that the 10 BCS teams will consist of two representatives each from the Big XII, SEC, ACC, and PAC-10 and one each from Big Ten and Big East, regardless of who makes the championship game. Here's why...

The BCS rules require a team to finish in the top 14 of the BCS with at least nine wins to be eligible for an at-large bid. But this season, the BCS eligible teams are likely to be concentrated in just a few conferences, and BCS rules also limit participation to two teams from the same conference. So, based on today's standings, the BCS eligible teams are:

SEC: LSU, Georgia, Florida
PAC-10: Oregon, Arizona State, Southern Cal
Big XII: Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas
Big East: West Virginia
Big Ten: Ohio State
ACC: Virginia Tech, Virginia

The only way to fill the ten spots from these fourteen teams is to take two teams from every conference that has more than one team eligible. This means currently-fourteenth Virginia would get a BCS bid over Florida, the ASU/Southern Cal loser, Texas, and the odd man out of KU/OU/Mizzou.

While there is still plenty of football to be played, most of the jockeying around the BCS cutoff will be among ACC teams. The ACC holds the 10th, 14th, 15th, and 17th positions, with two pairs of those teams playing each other before the end of the season and the two winners facing off in the ACC championship.

The past three national champions occupy the 11 to 13 spots, and if they win out (Texas over Texas A&M, Florida over Florida Atlantic and Florida State, and Southern Cal over ASU and UCLA) they'll almost certainly be BCS eligible by the end of the year. However, only Southern Cal has a good shot at the BCS, as Texas is behind three Big XII teams and Florida trails two SEC teams. Look for Georgia to possibly claim a spot in the BCS despite not winning their division, and possibly Texas as well (especially if Oklahoma beats Missouri to win the Big XII).

Hawaii has a shot to join the big boys with a top-12 BCS finish or a top-16 finish if UConn wins the Big East, but with a possible injury to Colt Brennan and a relatively tough schedule to finish out the season, it doesn't look like the Rainbows will make it this year.

Defying logic
I'm rooting for Tennessee to win out and claim a spot in the top twelve of the BCS and above both the Hawaii vs Boise State winner and the ACC runner-up. This will make the Top 14 teams:

Big XII: Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas
PAC-10: Oregon, Southern Cal, ASU
SEC: Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Florida
ACC: Virginia Tech
Big Ten: Ohio State
Big East: West Virginia

Go ahead, try to fill the five BCS bowls with those teams without taking more than two teams from one conference. It can't be done. I don't know what the BCS backup plans are, but I am very curious to see what would happen in this scenario.

Now all we need are about three or four upsets to make this year a real mess. Anyone up for a West Virginia vs Missouri national championship game?