And Then There Were Six: The BCS Fight To The Finish
This hasn’t been the most spectacular college football season. There are no dominant teams, and we are without a clear-cut Heisman favorite. There are two undefeated teams – one plays in the WAC, and one hasn’t played a single team that received votes in the last AP Poll. The former team is hoping to sneak into a BCS bowl game, while the latter will play in the title game if they win out, but would probably enter that game a clear underdog.
The Season of the Upset claimed two more victims this week. #2 Oregon not only lost their Heisman hopeful in quarterback Dennis Dixon, but in falling to Arizona, they lost their hope of playing for a national title. They could still win the Pac-10 title and play in the Rose Bowl, but they need USC to beat Arizona State this week for that to happen. They almost certainly need a conference title to play in a BCS game, as they’re drawing power is severely diminished without a star quarterback to showcase.
#4 Oklahoma also lost their quarterback early then were upended by an unranked underdog. Unlike Oregon, the Sooners might get their quarterback back before the end of the season. They’ll need him, as they can still play for the Big 12 title if they upend Oklahoma State next week. Winning the Big 12 title game is their only path to the BCS, as they won’t hold much appeal as a 3-loss team.
One spot in the BCS is controlled by LSU, while the inside track for the other runs through the Big 12 North. Three teams sit on the outside looking in, hoping for the breaks to go their way.
Let’s take a look at the six teams that could still play for the BCS Title, and their paths to the title.
Nov 23 – They host Arkansas, who at 7-4 is no pushover but will still be a heavy underdog. If they are to win, they need a great game from Heisman caliber running back Darren McFadden, and some big plays – either on offense or special teams – from backup running back Felix Jones. They’ll probably also need LSU themselves to play a poor game. Interesting dynamic in this game for the Razorbacks as coach Houston Nutt will probably be a lame duck by this point. Will that be a motivation or a distraction?
Dec 1 – They will play in the SEC Title game. Their opponent will likely be the Tennessee Volunteers, however if the Vols lose at Kentucky next week, the Georgia Bulldogs will win the SEC East. The Dawgs project to be a tougher opponent for the Tigers.
Either way, if LSU wins out, they will play for the title. If they don’t, their hopes are done.
The Big 12 Semi-Final
#3 Kansas (undefeated)
#5 Missouri (one loss)
Kansas and Missouri play this Saturday in Kansas City, with the winner moving on to play in the Big 12 title game, and then the BCS title game if they win there. Playing the role of spoiler from the South division will most likely be Oklahoma, themselves a title contender until an upset at Texas Tech this week, or Texas, if the Sooners lose next week against Oklahoma State.
Kansas is undefeated and hasn’t played Oklahoma, while Missouri’s one loss came against the Sooners in Norman. Neither the Jayhawks nor the Tigers have played Texas. Missouri’s title hopes are done if they lose this Saturday. If Kansas wins this Saturday then loses in the Big 12 title game, they might have a chance to hold on to the #2 spot in the BCS, but would need a lot of help (i.e. West Virginia, Arizona State and LSU losses) for that to happen.
But the good news for both Kansas and Missouri is that they should be finish no worse than #2 in the BCS if they win out. If neither team does, that opens the door for one of the other contenders.
#6 West Virginia
Nov 24 – Beat UConn
Dec 1 – Beat Pitt
If they win out, they can probably hold off Ohio State, but it’s possible that Arizona State could leapfrog them if they win out.
#7 Ohio State
Nov 17 – Dec 1 – pray for the other contenders to lose, since they’re finished their regular season. They need LSU, West Virginia, and maybe even Arizona State and the Big 12 teams to trip up. Suffice to say they’re almost certainly playing in Pasadena, which is not a bad consolation prize at all.
#8 Arizona State
Nov 22 – Beat USC
Dec 1 – Beat Arizona
They might also need Oregon to hold off Oregon State to keep their quality of opposition up (especially since Cal lost today). They currently sit at #4 in the computer poll, but 8th in both the Harris and the Coaches. A convincing win over USC could catapult them over Ohio State and maybe even West Virginia, especially if Mountaineers struggle down the stretch.
The odds are long, but an upset in the SEC might be all they need. Nonetheless, the best they can probably hope for still is a Rose Bowl matchup with Ohio State.
Smart money is on the LSU Tigers advancing to the title game, but this season has been full of upsets and surprises. Of the six remaining contenders, five have at least one game left. Don’t be surprised if at least 2 or 3 of them get upended in the next two weeks.
My prediction – LSU wins out. Kansas beats Missouri then loses the Big 12 title game, and WVU and Arizona State lose this week, setting up a title game with LSU and Ohio State, who sneaks in due to attrition above them in the polls. The Buckeyes will be the heavy underdog this year after being the heavy favorite in last year’s game, but this time they will walk away with the BCS championship. Why? Because it’s been that kind of season.