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Sports :: Breaking Down the BCS #2
  submitted on November 20, 2009, 7:04 PM


Originally posted on The Sports Oratory

It's been a little chaotic the past couple of weeks, so it's as good a time as any to revisit the postseason landscape, see who's up, and who's down, and who will be playing where come January. First, let's take a look at the Top 14 BCS teams as of week 12:

BCS Top 14 - Week 12 (Next opponent listed in parentheses)
1. Florida 10-0 (vs. Florida International)
2. Alabama 10-0 (vs. Chattanooga)
3. Texas 10-0 (vs. Kansas)
4. TCU 10-0 (@ Wyoming)
5. Cincinnati 10-0 (vs. Illinois 11/27)
6. Boise State 10-0 (@ Utah State)
7. Georgia Tech 10-1 (vs. Georgia 11/28)
8. LSU 8-2 (@ Ole Miss)
9. Pittsburgh 9-1 (@ West Virginia 11/27)
10. Ohio State 9-2 (@ Michigan)
11. Oregon 8-2 (@ Arizona)
12. Oklahoma State 9-2 (@ Oklahoma 11/28)
13. Iowa 9-2 (vs. Minnesota)
14. Penn State 9-2 (@ Michigan State)

Other notable BCS Top 25 Matchups: #25 California @ #17 Stanford

ACC - Not much has changed in the ACC. Georgia Tech has broken into the BCS Top 10, and has locked up a spot in the ACC Championship game. In the Atlantic, Clemson (7-3) needs only to dispatch of Virginia (3-7) to secure its own place in the Championship game. The winner will move onto the Orange Bowl, which could have some ramifications on the BCS selection process, but we'll discuss that more later. Aside from Tech and Clemson, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Miami, and North Carolina have all punched their tickets to the post season with 7 wins so far. Florida State and Duke need to win one of their last two games to become bowl eligible. Meanwhile, Wake Forest, North Carolina State, Maryland, and Virginia have all been eliminated from bowl eligibility.

Big XII - Texas continues to run in cruise control atop the Big XII South. A win against Kansas (5-5) would guarantee them a spot in the Big XII Championship in two weeks. Meanwhile, Nebraska has emerged as the top contender in the Big XII North, although a showdown Saturday against second place Kansas State (6-5) will determine who will represent the North. For Kansas State, it truly is an all or nothing game, for despite their 6 wins, only 5 of them count towards bowl eligibility, so if they lose to Nebraska, not only do they lose a shot at the Big XII title, they also will fail to qualify for a bowl game. Oklahoma State is still vying for an at large spot in a BCS bowl, after a win against Colorado Thursday night, they sit one game away from finishing 10-2 and most likely in the Top 14, making them a potentially attractive team for the Fiesta Bowl, which has ties to the Big XII. Unfortunately for them, in order to finish 10-2, they have to go win at Norman against Oklahoma, which is never an easy task regardless of the overall record of the Sooners (They currently hold a 24 game home winning streak). Iowa State, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech have also qualified for the postseason, with Kansas, Texas A&M, and Baylor fighting to reach 6 wins. Colorado has already been eliminated from bowl contention.

Big East - The Big East is making a conscious effort to play games late into the season, so they are not overshadowed by conferences with championship games the last week of the season (Big XII, SEC, ACC), so their top three teams are all off this week. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are still headed for a collision in two weeks to determine the conference champion, after Cincy's win over West Virginia last weekend eliminated them from contention. Cincinnati is on the outside looking in for a shot at the National Championship, and would need a slip up from Texas to realistically have a shot. Most likely, either Pitt or the Bearcats will wind up in one of the other BCS games, with Cincinnati holding a small possibility as an at large team should Pittsburgh win the conference. West Virginia and Rutgers will join them for a bowl game, while South Florida, UConn, and Louisville will fight it out to see who can become eligible. Syracuse was eliminated with their loss last weekend.

Big Ten - Iowa's luck ran out and then some, going from 9-0 to 9-2 and hoping for an at large berth in a BCS game after getting beaten soundly by Ohio State and Northwestern in back-to-back games. Speaking of the Buckeyes, Ohio State, despite all the early criticism, has managed to once again win the Big 10 conference, and punched their ticket to Pasadena with their win over Iowa. Along with Iowa, Penn State is sitting at 9-2 and is just inside the Top 14 in the BCS standings, also hoping for an at large bid. Wisconsin looks to be the odd man out at 8-2, and would need slip ups by the previous two teams to be considered for a BCS bowl. Michigan State, Northwestern, and Minnesota will all go bowling this year, while Purdue, Illinois and Indiana will sit at home, and Michigan is stuck with the tough task of upsetting the Buckeyes this weekend to avoid sitting home for consecutive postseasons.

Pac 10 - Things were so much simpler when it was just USC winning the Pac-10 ever year. This year, with only a few weeks to play, the top 4 teams are all still in serious contention to win the conference and head to the Rose Bowl. Oregon and Arizona still control their own destiny, if they win out, they win the conference. They will play each other this weekend, and the winner will get a big step up on the competition to head to Pasadena. Oregon State still has something to say in all of this, as they still have a game with Oregon to end the season. Finally, you have the unlikely team in Stanford, who is sitting pretty at 6-2, but still has a shot at the title depending on how things play out. The conference is very much up for grabs with USC out of the picture. Speaking of USC, they, along with California, will also be heading to some kind of bowl. Washington and Washington State will be staying home, and UCLA and Arizona State have two more games to prove their worth.

SEC - Alabama and Florida are gearing up to meet in the SEC Championship game. Both have locked their spots in the game, and just have to ensure that they finish the regular season undefeated to guarantee the winner a spot in the National Championship. Florida State will try and interrupt the Gators season next weekend, while Auburn will try and ruin the Tide's season. Aside from that, Vanderbilt will not be playing in December thanks to its 0-7 conference record. Tennessee has two chances to get to six wins, while Mississippi State has a tough task needing to beat Arkansas and Ole Miss to get to a bowl game. Everyone else is in, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas.

The Rest - Notre Dame went down for the count last weekend with a loss against Navy. No BCS game for them this year. TCU overcame its largest obstacle of the season with a 55-28 beatdown of Utah last weekend, and can now coast to a bowl game with wins over Wyoming and New Mexico. Boise State is also in good shape to finish the season undefeated, with easy games against Utah State and New Mexico State, and a tough test in the form of high octane Nevada. Other than that, with Houston's loss to UCF and the afore mentioned Utah loss to TCU, there are no other potential BCS busters for the year.

BCS Projected Matchups

Let's take a quick look at how the BCS is shaping up as of this week. A few rules regarding BCS selection to keep in mind:

-#1 and #2 in the final BCS rankings play for the National Championship, no exceptions.
-BCS Bowls have the following conference champion affiliations:
Rose (Pac 10 vs. Big 10)
Sugar (SEC)
Fiesta (Big XII)
Orange (ACC)
-If a BCS bowl loses its champion to the National Championship game, they are allowed to select a replacement (The bowl that loses the #1 team selects first, the bowl that loses the #2 team selects second)
-A non-BCS team can auto-qualify for a BCS spot by finishing in the Top 14 of the BCS rankings
-Any teams that are ranked in the Top 14 but do not auto-qualify can be selected as an "at large" team
-Notre Dame can auto-qualify for a BCS spot by finishing in the Top 8
-Remaining bowl selections are made in order of the bowl closest to the National Championship game to the game furthest (by date). This year, that means the selection order is: Orange (Jan. 5), Fiesta (Jan. 4), Sugar (Jan. 1)
-No more than 2 teams from the same conference may play in a BCS bowl game

Nothing has changed in our projections for the National Championship. Barring major collapse, it will be:

Texas vs. Winner of Alabama/Florida

That means the Sugar Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl will be without host teams, so they will select replacement teams first. Let's assume that the SEC team had the #1 BCS ranking, and therefore gets to select first. They will select the loser of the Alabama/Florida game, to maintain the SEC status quo for their bowl. Now, here's where it gets interesting. The Fiesta Bowl selection really affects how everything else plays out. Here are the teams they can choose from:

Cincinnati (Big East)
TCU (AQ)
Boise State
Penn State
Pittsburgh
Oklahoma State
Iowa

Now, during a normal year, if the Big XII champion was in the NC game, you could just take the #2 team, which is most likely Oklahoma or Texas. However, with Oklahoma having a down year, Oklahoma State is (currently) the #2 team. If they manage to upset Oklahoma in Norman, they could prove to be too valuable to the Fiesta Bowl to pass up. While they are not a great draw for the rest of the country, there is some obligation there from the Fiesta Bowl to maintain its relationship with the Big XII. I think, however, the bowl will be secretly rooting for Okie State to lose, so that it be free from its Big XII obligation, and can select a Big 10 team instead, let's say Penn State. With Penn State (and the Big 10 off the table), the Orange Bowl will have to select from the remaining teams (Cincy, TCU, BSU, Pitt) to fill its slot. This is where interesting scenario #2 presents itself. Georgia Tech is the most likely team to come out of the ACC. However, should Clemson pull out the win and head to Miami, this all but eliminates TCU from Orange Bowl contention, as the two already faced each other in the regular season, and the bowl will not want to repeat that matchup. For the sake of projections, however, let's assume that Georgia Tech does in fact win the ACC. I believe that the Orange Bowl will want to shy away from an ACC/Big East matchup, because they represent the two lowest rated BCS games in history (Last year's Virginia Tech/Cincinnati game, as well as a prior Orange Bowl matchup between Louisville and Wake Forest). The only reason I can see them going with a Big East team is travel concerns with a team like TCU. But I still think at the end of the day TCU is the best option for them, making your Orange Bowl matchup:

Georgia Tech vs. TCU

The Fiesta Bowl now has to pick between Cincinnati, Boise State, and Pittsburgh as its second opponent. This is actually a tough spot for Boise State, as a Pitt/Penn State matchup provides a great in-state rivalry matchup. However, since I think Pitt's best chance to play in a BCS game is to win the Big East, and I don't think they will beat Cincinnati, I think that will eliminate them from contention. That leaves Boise State in Phoenix as an infinitely more attractive option than Cincinnati, making the Fiesta Bowl matchup:

Penn State vs. Boise State

And in the Sugar Bowl we have:

Alabama vs. Cincinnati

with Ohio State vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl. It's funny how things work out. A couple weeks ago I thought Boise was a HUGE long shot to make it to a BCS game. But then their main competition, Notre Dame, USC, and Miami, all dropped out, and now Boise's only real competition is a potential at large team in either Oklahoma State or Pittsburgh. The bowl picture is definitely becoming a lot more clearer, and we'll have to see what kind of upsets we're in store for in the last few weeks of the season and how they might affect the pecking order. That's all for this week, thanks for reading.

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