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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Opening Salvo for the Debut Standings

The early results are in, and they’re… yawn. There’s precious little exciting about the debut B.C.S. standings, which deviates little from either major poll. Which was to be expected, I suppose, and there’s still plenty of time for the B.C.S. standings to make the nation furious. With the opening standings come thoughts on the B.C.S. bowls themselves, so here’s an opening salvo of predictions. All scenarios to follow are hypothetical, of course.

Rose Bowl

Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. Stanford (Pac-12)

Pretty straightforward — the Big Ten’s best against the Pac-12’s best — but with a twist. Unlike in the past, a Wisconsin could run the table, winning the Big Ten’s regular season crown, before losing to a Nebraska or Penn State in the conference championship game. Likewise with Stanford, which could beat Oregon on Nov. 12 but lose in the Pac-12 championship a month later. Both teams should land in the B.C.S. either way, but those would-be losses would drastically alter the B.C.S. landscape.

Fiesta Bowl

Oklahoma State (Big 12) vs. West Virginia (Big East)

This is contingent on Oklahoma State beating every team outside of Oklahoma, which is far from a sure thing. But if the Cowboys do go 11-1, they’ll fill the Fiesta Bowl’s Big 12 spot, which typically goes to the conference champion. West Virginia would be an option in the Sugar Bowl if an Arkansas gets that bid, not L.S.U., and could very well go to the Orange to play the A.C.C. champ.

Sugar Bowl

L.S.U. (At-Large) vs. Boise State (At-Large)

L.S.U. falls here after losing to Alabama, its only setback on the season. Would the B.C.S. love to pit Boise State against an SEC foe? I’m not sure. But if West Virginia wins the Big East and Oregon, as you’ll see below, edges out a few teams to gain an at-large bid, the committee would have no option but to send Boise to New Orleans. Remember, L.S.U. has already played both the Mountaineers and the Ducks.

Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech (A.C.C.) vs. Oregon (At-Large)

What? Virginia Tech already to Clemson, right? I know, I know. But I have a feeling that should push come to shove, should both teams meet again in December, the Hokies will have the last laugh. And Oregon? This would be a two-loss team, mind you. But what other two-loss team would get a bid? I don’t think the B.C.S. would take Arkansas, a third SEC team, even if the Razorbacks’ two losses came to L.S.U. and Alabama. Two-loss Nebraska, if both came to Wisconsin?

What if Clemson is 12-1 with a loss to Virginia Tech? I’d say the Tigers get this bid; unfortunately, I think Clemson is dropping one game in the regular season and another to the Hokies — and this after bowing in front of Chad Morris yesterday morning. What if Houston runs the table? Well, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

But this final at-large bid will be hotly contested. And there will be at least one team that cries foul, I promise you. As of now, I’m saying Oregon. But there are three or four other programs with a solid case to make.

B.C.S. Championship Game

Alabama (B.C.S. No. 1) vs. Oklahoma (B.C.S. No. 2)

There’s little doubt that Oklahoma and the SEC champion will play for the national title if both run the table. If Alabama wins in Tuscaloosa, I can’t see them losing one of its last four games: Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, Auburn and the East division winner. Oklahoma still has Texas A&M and Oklahoma State on the schedule, but I can’t see the Sooners slipping up.

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  1. Monty says:


    Just a few points of clarification: 1) Oregon and Stanford can’t play each other in the Pac-12 championship, since they’re both in the north. 2) The current BCS rules prohibit more than 2 teams from a conference going to the BCS, unless something really wonky happens*, so Arkansas won’t be a matter of choice. If LSU and Alabama play as expected, Arkansas will get left out.

    * “…unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings,” as per bcsfootball.org.

  2. Papa John says:

    Looks like *not* having a Big 12 championship game will play into a 12-0 OU’s–or, less likely, OSU’s–favor this year. On the other hand, should OU and OSU lose, Stanford and Wisconsin will get a boost to their strengths-of-schedule by playing in their conferences’ inaugural championship games.

    I think the only way the *entire* nation gets furious is if the NCG pits LSU vs. Alabama or OU vs. OSU, and an undefeated team from an AQ conference gets left out. While it’s hard to see that happening, who knows with computers? Anything short of that, we will see regional fury from whichever team gets left out of the BCS bowls altogether.

  3. Rutgers Prof says:

    I would appreciate it if someone could explain something to me. Why is Boise State’s average ranking over the recent years good enough to insure that the Big East retains its AQ but not good enough to gain an AQ for whatever other conference it happens to be in? Are the BCS evaluation rules biased so that an existing AQ conference can lose its AQ status but no other conference can automatically attain AQ status regardless of how high their top teams finish?

  4. Colin says:

    The AQ status depends on more than one factor. It is, if I recall correctly, dependent on the highest ranking team, the number of ranked teams, and the average ranking of all the teams. The MWC with Boise State (but without BYU, TCU and Utah) doesn’t have much else in terms of ranked teams. And the bottom of the MWC really pulls down the average ranking. (Nevada, if it counts, was ranked once or twice. SDSU was, I think, but I don’t know if it as at the end of the season, or whether only end-of-season rankings counts.)

    The Big East’s average ranking is decent. They don’t have any really good teams, but not any really bad teams, either. And they’ve had a few more ranked teams, unlike the MWC. Their weakest point is that top team–and that’s a much easier fix than the average ranking.

  5. Andrew says:

    In this hypothetical, an undefeated Stanford featuring the Heisman winner plays an undefeated Wisconsin featuring the Heisman runner-up, in the Rose Bowl no less…and the winner has no shot at the National Championship? Would the public outcry in this scenario be enough to force some changes at the BCS? Probably not, but it is a question worth asking.

    BTW, this would be a fascinating rematch of the 2000 game.

  6. Hokieshibe says:

    @ Rutgers Prof:

    I’m pretty sure that Boise would help the Big East keep the auto-bid because the rest of the Big East is already pretty good. What I mean is that the bottom of the Big East is much higher than the bottom of the MWC (or WAC before that), so Boise isn’t the only team there doing the lifting.

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