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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

Preparing for the B.C.S. Apocalypse

Let’s just say that Arkansas beats L.S.U. to end the regular season. And let’s say that a week later, Oklahoma derails Oklahoma State’s quest for perfection. For good measure, let’s say that Houston loses to S.M.U. on Saturday. You know what would happen if these three events do come to pass? That would be B.C.S. apocalypse, that’s what: no undefeated teams, as many as 10 one-loss teams, complete and utter disarray and, at the very least, four or five fan bases griping and grumbling all winter.

Here’s what you could have:

Virginia Tech, 12-1 The Hokies avenge an earlier loss to Clemson by getting the better of the Tigers in the A.C.C. title game.

Oklahoma State, 11-1 Perfect through 11 games, the Cowboys lose a heartbreaker to Oklahoma at home.

Oklahoma, 11-1 The Sooners’ only blemish is a foul first half against Texas Tech back in October.

Houston, 12-1 A loss to S.M.U. is followed by strong victories over Tulsa and Southern Mississippi, the latter to win the Conference USA crown.

Boise State, 11-1 Once again, only a kicking blunder stops the Broncos from a perfect regular season.

Oregon, 12-1 After dispatching of Stanford and U.S.C. in back-to-back weeks, the Ducks have little issue with the Pac-12 South winner in Eugene.

Stanford, 11-1 A win over Notre Dame is nice, but the Cardinal lost when it counted.

L.S.U., 12-1 The Tigers lose to Arkansas but still take home the SEC championship.

Alabama, 11-1 Another team stymied by kicking woes, the Crimson Tide dispatch with the remaining 11 teams on their schedule with relative ease.

Arkansas, 11-1 The Razorbacks end the regular season with a monumental upset of L.S.U. in Baton Rouge.

I’m including Houston in this mix even if it’s clear that the Cougars, even at 13-0, aren’t playing for the national title. At most, an undefeated Houston team is landing an at-large B.C.S. bid. But projecting a loss to one of the three terrific teams still ahead — S.M.U., Tulsa and Southern Mississippi — ends any push that may arise to put the lone undefeated F.B.S. team in the B.C.S. National Championship Game.

So what’s next? How many of the 10 teams have a legitimate case for playing for the national title? Let’s work backwards: Houston and Boise State don’t have a case. That leaves eight. I don’t think Virginia Tech has a case; seven. Neither does Stanford, which imploded on its biggest stage.

That leaves six teams with a legitimate case for being one of two teams meeting on Jan. 9 in New Orleans: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Oregon, L.S.U., Alabama and Arkansas. And what happens then? Which team would have the greatest case?

Oklahoma State’s case is the weakest: by the time the dust clears, the Cowboys may have only one win, Kansas State, over a nationally-ranked opponent — though the September win over Tulsa looks better and better, and there’s no debating the fact that Oklahoma State has looked as good as any team in the country through 10 games.

Oklahoma has the worst defeat: the home loss to Texas Tech was — and is — inexcusable. The head-to-head argument only works with the Cowboys; the remaining four one-loss teams can tout a stronger resume, from top to bottom. And yes, when every contender has one loss, the strength of that one loss does matter.

It would get messy between Alabama and Arkansas. Alabama beat Arkansas, but Alabama lost to L.S.U.; L.S.U. beat Alabama but lost to Arkansas. L.S.U. wins the SEC, but would Arkansas deserve to be ranked higher in the B.C.S. than Alabama? And even if neither team plays for the national title, which would deserve the SEC’s second B.C.S. bid?

What about Oregon? Blindly — and unscientifically — comparing Oregon’s resume against Alabama’s finds that each team will have beaten one great team: Stanford and Arkansas, respectively. Both would have suffered one loss to a great team. Oregon would have an additional win against a very good team, U.S.C., while Alabama would have a win against a good team, Penn State. Commence your arguments about the middle of the Pac-12 against the middle of the SEC.

I think the one clear conclusion is that L.S.U., even with a split of its final two regular season games, plays for the national title with a win over Georgia in the SEC title game. Why? Simple: the Tigers would have a loss to a contender in Arkansas, but would also have wins against Oregon and Alabama — to many, the Ducks and Tide are the teams most likely to be paired with L.S.U. in a rematch should Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State on the first Saturday of December.

Discussing the B.C.S. is like peeling back the layers on an onion. And yes, it’s O.K. to cry. In a perfect world, L.S.U. would get past Arkansas and Oklahoma State would avoid a loss against the Sooners. Three notes: Arkansas has won three of four against L.S.U.; Oklahoma State hasn’t beat Oklahoma since 2002; and Oklahoma State is 17-81-7 all-time against Oklahoma. So this B.C.S. apocalypse — 10 one-loss teams? It’s not out of the realm of possibility.

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  1. DaU!!!!! says:

    I really wanted to see Stanford/Wisconsin/Boise vs LSU or Bama in the title game. It would have been nice to see their prostyle offenses led by good quaterbacks against those great defenses. Call me skeptical but I just dont have faith in Ok/Okst high octane offense and questionable defense against LSU or Bama.

  2. Dave says:

    And what if LSU beats Arkansas convincingly, but gets stunned in the SEC title game by Georgia? Can you really have a team that didn’t win its conference play for the national title? (This same argument is at play against Arkansas, Alabama, Stanford and Ok. State in the above scenario).

    My vote is ‘no’ – you don’t have to necessarily be perfect, but you better at least win your conference if you want to proclaim yourself the best damn team in the land.

  3. BobJ says:

    Say that Baylor beats Oklahoma, Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, and Auburn beats Alabama. That puts Oregon in the title game against whoever is left after the mess in the SEC gets sorted out.

    Otherwise, it will be Oklahoma (or State) vs. the SEC survivor.

  4. Hokieshibe says:

    Dave – I agree 100%! Suppose the SEC East team (presumably Uga), and the Pac-12 South team (UCLA? – ok, maybe that one’s a bit far-fetched) pull the crazy upsets… Who goes? I imagine the Big 12 winner would be one team, but would the SEC runner-up (LSU) really get a shot? It doesn’t make sense that the national champion wasn’t even the conference champion.

  5. Will says:

    Bedlam is in Stillwater, not Norman.

    Paul: Will, I deleted your first comment (the one without the spacing). And that was a bad error on my part, no? So the above changed to “hasn’t beat Oklahoma since 2002,” not “hasn’t won in Norman since 2001.”

  6. David says:

    Playoff anyone? Please end the BcS insanity!

  7. j says:

    Question about the SEC West in your above scenario… If Arkansas pulls off the upset and takes out LSU, there’s a three way tie for first there. LSU>Alabama>Arkansas>LSU. If that’s the case, doesn’t it go to the BCS standings? If so, I’d imagine Alabama would then be in the SEC Title game.

    I’m not sure of the tiebreaker here. I’m just recalling the Big 12 from a couple years ago.

  8. It's Not Crazy. says:

    It’s not crazy to think that Georgia could upset LSU in the SECCG. Georgia has either the best or the second best offense in the conference, and is playing better defense right now than anyone outside of Alabama or LSU. In fact, Georgia’s probably playing better defense than those two schools. Georgia may not win the game, but it won’t be an easy game for LSU, either. If you think Arkansas can do it, then Georgia certainly can. The ‘Dawgs are Arkansas with a stifling defense. Most people stopped paying attention to UGA after their inept performance against Boise State, but I can tell you that team has gotten worlds better since then. Georgia would give Boise a much better game (read: they would kill them) now.

  9. Lee says:

    A plus one system would have solved all this crap. LSU, BAMA, Oregon, and the winner of OU/OK st. Assuming that the first three win out. IF not then we reach Defcon 1..prepare for Nuclear Apocalypse. Personally, this is great bc it will show the other conferences that a plus one is a nice “middle Ground” between the old bowl sytem, BCS, and a playoff. The Big Ten and Pac 12′s commish’s are on board. So, we may get a plus one and the two teams from each conference limit removed by 2014.

    A plus one is a nioce safety net for crap like this. It would solve the majority of these type issues and would not be difficult for the players to play an extra game nor the fans to travel to 1 more game.

    A nice compromise.

  10. Chip says:

    You failed to mention a scenario where Clemson wins out and has their own gripe. Commence Clemson bashing.

  11. DMK says:

    Given that there is no metric whatsoever that will separate the 5 or 6 one-loss teams, why don’t voters just vote in the team that they think is the best team?

    Just make it Bama-LSU and be done with it.

  12. gtne91 says:

    Chip, agreed about Clemson. If they win out, they will have wins over Auburn, South Carolina, Florida St and Virginia Tech twice.

    Clemson would have a much better argument than Virginia Tech.

  13. The General says:


    To answer your question about whether a conference non-champion can play for the BCS title, it happened after #15 K-State stunned Oklahoma 35-7 in the 2003 Big XII Championship. OU nevertheless held onto the #1 ranking, but LSU made sure that the Sooners didn’t sully the Crystal Pigskin by allowing a conference non-champion to hold it. The BCS formula has changed since then, so it may not be possible anymore, but my prediction is that LSU falls no farther than #2 if their only loss is to UGA in the SECCG.

    A more interesting question that no one has asked yet is if UGA wins the SEC, could this be the first year we see three teams from the same conference make it into the BCS? If OU beats Okie State, and UGA beats LSU, it is conceivable that Bama and LSU could still rematch for the MNC and Georgia would go to the Sugar.

  14. Lee says:

    I don’t think that’s possible. Only two teams from a conference are allowed into the BCS. This is a great example of why the BCS sucks. What if say…these 3 teams were the best in the land(UGA isn’t but for fun play along)…the BCS would not allow them to play in the biggest games bc of the 2 team rule. Ridiculous!!!!

  15. SixWinSeason says:

    J, to answer your question, the top two SEC West teams in the BCS standings would compete for the championship. In other words, if Alabama and LSU were the top 2, then LSU would win by on-the-field victory. If it is Arkansas and Alabama, Alabama would get it, and if it is LSU Arkansas, then, if they beat LSU, Arkansas would get the nod.

  16. Hokieshibe says:

    I’d be a fan of a plus one, but certainly not an 8-team (or more) playoff, and I’ll use my team as an example for why:

    Last year, VT lost to JMU. There was no way we should’ve gotten a shot at a national championship. Champions don’t lose to AA schools. If you had an 8-team playoff (presumably with auto-bids), then VT would’ve gotten in. Autobids into a playoff stink, because it makes OOC games irrelevant. Just win your conference.

  17. Joey5Picks says:

    There should not be an LSU-AL or LSU-OR rematch. Those teams played. LSU won both games. Neither should get a rematch. No matter how you feel about the wins (OR “beat themselves, AL missed a FG) the fact is, the games were played and we have a winner. Period. A rematch would render the regular season meaningless.

    Give someone else a shot at LSU, but it must be a conference champion (OK? Houston?).

  18. DMK says:

    Why is everyone making up rules about title game participants being conference champions?

    That’s not written anywhere.

    It’s supposed to be the two best teams (or however it’s worded).

    Dumb-dumb voters vote what they think and dispassionate (ha) machines spit out some data, and, voila!:

    Bama and LSU.

  19. The General says:


    There is an exception to the BCS rule of 2 teams max per conference.

    “No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings.


    If Georgia wins the SEC, and LSU and Bama still finish #1 and #2, then the SEC gets triple BCS money. It’s not very likely, but you can’t say it’s impossible. In such a scenario, I think Stanford is probably the one that gets left out in the cold because there would be one less at-large slot, considering it’s a foregone conclusion that there will be a non-AQ conference champion who earns an auto-bid by finishing in the top 16 and ahead of the Big East champ.

  20. Lee says:

    Nice! That’s what we in the SEC need….Mo Money. Can you imagine how pissed off the Big 10 and Pac 12 would be if that happened.

    I mean Pissedddddd!! Like give me a PLus one ASAP pissed.

  21. Doug says:

    Just wanted to clarify SixWinSeason’s comment above. The SEC’s last tiebreaker in the event of a three-way tie is as follows:

    “The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the last weekend of regular-season games shall be the divisional representative in the SEC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the SEC Championship Game.”

    So if the first- and second-placed teams are within five spots of each other, the winner of their head to head game is the division winner. I think it’s anybody’s guess as to how the polls would shake out in the event of an Arkansas upset of LSU. My best guess is that Arkansas would fail to jump either Bama or LSU, which would send LSU to the title game.

    Frankly, I hate that last tiebreaker, and I think it would be better to determine it from aggregate scores (advantage Bama with a win in a rout and a close loss) or game sites (advantage Arkansas, since both head-to-head games are away).

  22. Treasure Hunter says:

    Remember 2007? LSU plays in the National Championship with 2 overtime losses? Remember that? Well, I think if LSU were to lose to Arkie and Georgie Boy they may still have a shot at a one loss team simply because of the body of work they put up in the regular season having played 7 teams that were ranked at the time of the victory and 3 of those teams that are highly ranked today. Not to mention the fact that the SEC has to play an additional game in their Championship game. I can’t hold that against them. The only way LSU loses to Arkansas or Georgia is if they just have an off day which is easy enough to do. Maybe that slow start against Western Kentucky was their bad game for the year. I hope so. I want to see them in the big dance. They’re just fun to watch.

  23. John says:

    I honestly think OU will get in if they win out. Fair or not, that is just how I see it. The computers love the Big 12, and if they can win out (no small task with OSU in Stillwater at the end), that will only increase OU’s prowess in that third of the formula.
    In that case, there will be enough of a voter sentiment against Bama for not winning the SEC and enough of a voter sentiment against a rematch for Bama/Oregon to help OU in the human rankings. That puts OU over the top in this stupid debate/pageant/popularity vote scenario we are brought with. Playoffs, please.

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