Thursday, October 14, 2010

'Tis the BCS Season

CFRT Editor

Say what you want about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), but it has - for the most part - consistently done what no other method of crowning a national champion in Division I (FBS) football has ever done, and that's match the two highest ranked teams in a winner take all scenario.
For a unique perspective, go back and read Dan Jenkins' "Saturday's America."
The iconic book about college football was published in 1970, long before the BCS or Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition, and undoubtedly long before the top-two teams faced each other at the end of the season, no matter how you sliced it.
Back then, there were up to a half-dozen polls - all independent of one another - and more often than not, who you played in a bowl game had more to do with what conference you belonged to rather than your ranking.
In fact, often times, the eventual national champion would end up playing someone ranked much lower for an anticlimactic end to the season.
If you think about it, the BCS is one of the reasons why the sport has become such a hot topic, and definitely one of the reasons why "busters" like Boise State, TCU, Utah and others like them are even in the discussion at all.
Of course, there are certainly scenarios each year that would/could spell complete and utter disaster for the "system," but regardless of what side of the argument you're on, you have to admit that this "system" has been the most reliable so far.
The first set of BCS Standings will be released this Sunday, and though there will be plenty of time for arguing and gnashing of teeth as the season goes on, let's take a look at the legitimate players in this year's BCS Championship race.
First, let's establish a few ground rules.
I am not taking possible future injuries or suspensions into consideration because they are simply impossible to predict.
And, since I have to start somewhere, I am only going to break down the chances of the current Top-10 of the Coaches Poll since the AP Poll is not a determining factor in the BCS.

No.1 Ohio State Buckeyes
Why they might win it all: The Buckeyes resemble 2005 BCS champ Texas in many ways, including a stellar defense and a former underachieving quarterback that is coming off a spectacular Rose Bowl win in which that QB (Terrelle Pryor) finally played beyond his potential. Plus, in a scheduling quirk this season in the Big Ten, Ohio State does not have to play the only other currently undefeated team in the conference, Michigan State.
Why they might not even make it there: Despite avoiding the Spartans, the Buckeyes still have to play at No.18 Wisconsin and at No.15 Iowa, teams they have struggled with in the recent past, not to mention the annual season-ending war with Michigan.

No.2 Oregon Ducks
Why they might win it all: The Ducks are likely the hottest team in the country right now, scoring over 54 points a game, while only allowing just over 16.They've been dominant so far in 2010, including a 52-31 whooping of then No.9 Stanford, and they should be favored in the rest of their games.
Why they might not even make it there: Yes, I said I wouldn't take into account future injuries, but last week is not the future, and starting QB Darron Thomas and second-leading rusher Kenjon Barner each had to leave the game against Washington State with injuries. Plus, Oregon finishes with a tough three-game stretch at Cal, vs. No.17 Arizona and at No.24 Oregon State in the Civil War.

No.3 Boise State Broncos
Why they might win it all: In reality, the meat of the Broncos' schedule (Virginia Tech and Oregon State) is already in the rear-view mirror, and the only team with a pulse on the horizon is a Nov. 26 appointment at No.19 Nevada. Boise State is fourth in the nation - scoring 47-plus points per game - and they're only yielding just over 14 points on defense. And, they're benefiting from the return of 20 out of 22 starters from last year's 13-0 team.
Why they might not even make it there: Plain and simple, history. No team outside of the "big six" or major conferences has ever been invited to play in the BCS Championship game, much less won it all. Despite dominating their last two opponents by a score of 116-14, they've lost ground in the Coaches Poll (at least in voter points).

No.4 Nebraska Cornhuskers
Why they might win it all: With freshman QB sensation Taylor Martinez, Nebraska sports the second-best rushing offense in the nation, chewing up 337-plus yards a game. And, their defense is just as solid, giving up a meager 12 points a game. The Cornhuskers have shown they can play well at home or on the road, averaging over 41 points a game.
Why they might not even make it there: Because their cupcake schedule is coming to an end. Nebraska has jumped out to a 5-0 record, feasting on the weak (Western Kentucky, Idaho, Washington, South Dakota State and Kansas State). Their next three games: at Texas (who is coming off a bye week), at No.20 and undefeated Oklahoma State and No.21 and undefeated Missouri. Plus, even if they can navigate that schedule, they still have to win the Big XII title game - likely against No.6 Oklahoma.

No.5 TCU Horned Frogs
Why they might win it all: If you're of the mindset that Boise State plays a weak schedule, say hello to the Frogs' slate - currently rated 56th by the Sagarin Ratings. TCU hasn't scored less than 27 points in any game so far (averaging 41-plus) this season, but their defense is the story, giving up only 10 points a game, including shutouts in their last two outings.
Why they might not even make it there: Like Boise State, the Frogs are fighting the history books as a non-automatic BCS qualifier. And, even though their schedule has been Charmin-Soft up to this point, TCU still has to play No.23 Air Force and at No.11 and undefeated Utah.

No.6 Oklahoma Sooners
Why they might win it all: The last time the Sooners came off an 8-5 year like they had in 2009, was in 2000...the year Oklahoma won the BCS Championship. The Sooners have shown they can turn up the wick when they've needed it the most this season, squashing Florida State (47-17) and beating Texas (28-20).
Why they might not even make it there: Take the FSU game out and Oklahoma has won their other four games only by a combined 19 points - and eight of those were against the Longhorns. The Sooners not only play four out of their final seven games on the road, two of them are at ranked and undefeated (21) Missouri and (20) Oklahoma State.

No.7 Auburn Tigers
Why they might win it all: Cameron Newton. Rarely does a single player infuse so much spark in a team than Newton has done for Auburn. Newton's 1,810 yards of total offense is better than 30 Division I offenses. Not only are they 6-0, they have already beaten the team (South Carolina) that beat THE team (Alabama) nobody thought could be beaten.
Why they might not even make it there: Three out of the final six games the Tigers play is against Top-12 ranked teams, including the next two in a row - No.12 Arkansas and No.9 LSU - and at No.8 Alabama in the season finale Iron Bowl.

No.8 Alabama Crimson Tide
Why they might win it all: It's hard to pick against the Tide, really, no matter what happened last week at South Carolina. 'Bama has won 19 out their last 20 regular season games AND are the reigning national champions AND are the reigning SEC champions (the conference that has won the past four national championships) AND have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram). AND, one loss hasn't hindered an SEC champ lately.
Why they might not even make it there: History, and not the type working against Boise State and TCU either. No team has repeated as national champ in the BCS era - not Florida, not USC, not Texas, none, notta. Replacing nine starters on defense appeared to finally catch up to the Tide last week, and now there is no air of invincibility in the minds of their opponents. Plus, the team's best receiver (Julio Jones) suffered a broken hand last week.

No.9 LSU Tigers
Why they might win it all: Pure luck. But seriously, rarely does a team win it all without getting lucky at some point, and luck seems to definitely be riding on LSU's sideline. Plus, the Tigers are one of the few teams in the land who have knocked off six BCS conference teams to start 6-0. And, if what they say is true - defense wins championships - LSU is in pretty good shape, giving up a mere 15.2 points per game.
Why they might not even make it there: Luck runs out. The Tigers were lucky to get North Carolina when they were missing half their defense due to a freak suspension, lucky Tennessee had 13 players on the field and lucky that Florida fell for a fake field goal when 90,000 in the stands saw it coming. Also, luck runs out when you have to play at No.7 Auburn, vs. No.8 Alabama and at No.12 Arkansas in three of the next six games.

No.10 Utah Utes
Why they might win it all: The only game in which Utah hasn't won by at least 28 points this season was their 27-24 OT win over preseason No.15 Pitt. Since then, the Utes have posted 38-10, 56-14, 56-3 and 68-27 victories. And, they're giving up less than 16 points per game on defense.
Why they might not even make it there: Hmm, I think we mentioned history at some point earlier, didn't we? Same unfortunately goes for Utah. And yes, the Utes have been explosive, but against teams like UNLV, New Mexico and San Jose State. Plus, they still have road games at Notre Dame and No.23 Air Force, not to mention a showdown with No.4 TCU.

BCS Games Projections

For the remainder of the season, I will give my ongoing BCS game projections in this spot.

BCS Championship Game
Alabama vs. Nebraska

Rose Bowl
Oregon vs. Ohio State

Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs.Oklahoma

Orange Bowl
Ohio State vs. Florida State

Sugar Bowl
South Carolina vs. TCU

CFRT's Pick-6

South Florida at No.25 West Virginia
The Bulls are 3-2, with those three wins coming against Stony Brook, Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic, who are a combined 3-12. West Virginia's only loss - a 20-14 defeat - came on the road at No.9 LSU. That's pretty much all you need to know. 'Neers, 31-17.

Texas at No.5 Nebraska
This game should be closer than the experts think - for a little while anyway - because the Cornhuskers truly haven't played anyone and Texas has had an extra week to prepare. One thing sticks out in my mind on this one. In order to keep Nebraska's high-octane offense off the field, the 'Horns would have to control the clock, but are 82nd in the nation in rushing. And, the Cornhuskers are No.2 in the country against the run. Nebraska, 41-28.

No.12 Arkansas at No.7 Auburn
Which team shows up for Auburn? The one that crushed Kentucky in the first half, or the one that barely escaped Kentucky with a last-second field goal in the second half? Which team shows up for Arkansas? The one that dominated Alabama in the first half, or the one that turned the ball over twice to lose to the Tide in the second half? This one is probably a toss up. Arkansas, 33-31.

No.15 Iowa at Michigan
Just when it looked like Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez was sneaking off the hot seat, the seat started growing Velcro. The Wolverines and their Heisman candidate Denard Robinson had success moving the ball last week against Michigan State, but had trouble scoring in the red zone. The real trouble now is that Iowa's defense is better than the Spartans'. Hawkeyes, 33-17.

No.1 Ohio State at No.18 Wisconsin
Let's see, Gameday's in town and it's the No.1 team (Ohio State) playing a ranked opponent (Wisconsin) on the road. Hmm, this scenario didn't end well for Alabama last week, did it? Despite beating the Badgers last year, Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor didn't play well (completing only 5 of 13 for 87 yards, one TD and one INT), and Ohio State needed two pick sixes and a kickoff return for a TD to beat Wisconsin. Badgers, 20-17.

No.10 South Carolina at Kentucky
On paper, this is a mismatch. On bluegrass, however, it's a recipe for disaster for a South Carolina team coming off its greatest win in school history (against Alabama) going on the road for a night game in the SEC. Just ask Auburn, who barely got out of Lexington with a win last week. If the Gamecocks let the hangover linger too long, it could be a long night for the Head Ball Coach. South Carolina, 28-27.

Last Week: 3-3
Season: 26-10

Your Saturday "Couch Schedule"

"Early Game"
Illinois at No.13 Michigan State at Noon on The Big Ten Network

"Afternoon Remote Control Roulette Games"
No.12 Arkansas at No.7 Auburn at 3:30 p.m. on CBS
Texas at No.5 Nebraska at 3:30 p.m. on ABC

"Late Game"
No.1 Ohio State at No.18 Wisconsin at 7 p.m. on ESPN

1 comment:

  1. Correct me if I'm wrong Mike, by the way great article. I'll probably think of some other points. But what just jumped out to me and would be a good addition to Alabama's "Why they might not even makeit there" history lesson. Florida looks like it will not make it to the SEC championship game in Atlanta. And if history holds true and Florida does not make it, that means Alabama may not make it either. Florida is the only team Alabama has faced in the SEC championship game, not such a good omen for the Crimson Tide. You have South Carolina in the Sugar Bowl assuming they win the East. You may just have the wrong team from the State of Alabama facing Nebraska for the BCS Championship.