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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

The 2011 B.C.S., Take Three

They’re dropping like flies. Two weeks ago, Oklahoma and Wisconsin came off the board. This past Saturday, it was Clemson and Kansas State — and nearly Stanford, who staved off U.S.C.’s quest for an upset in triple overtime. So a list that included 13 teams mere weeks ago has been trimmed down to six: Alabama, L.S.U., Stanford, Boise State, Oklahoma State and Houston. In case you hadn’t heard, at least one of those six will have a loss come Sunday morning. Let’s take a peek at the projected slate of B.C.S. bowls, keeping in mind that any and all scenarios to follow are completely hypothetical.

Rose Bowl

Nebraska (Big Ten) vs. Oregon (At-Large)

Nebraska clearly has a problem with Wisconsin. Good news: the Cornhuskers may not need to deal with the Badgers a second time in the Big Ten title game. Instead, Nebraska may get Penn State, a team it plays in two weeks, and that’s great news in Lincoln. As for Oregon, the Rose Bowl becomes its landing spot if Stanford — as I’m projecting below — meets the SEC winner in the B.C.S. championship game. In a slight twist of fate, Nebraska spent much of its spring and summer implementing a fast-paced offense modeled on Oregon’s. The Ducks are just a little bit farther along on that side of the ball.

Fiesta Bowl

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

Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State in the season finale to take the Big 12 championship. That ensures a Fiesta Bowl berth, even if that’s of little consolation to a team and program dreaming of a perfect regular season. The Fiesta Bowl, which has the first selection of teams not locked into a B.C.S. bowl, then chooses West Virginia. Boise State is an option, of course, and could very well be the pick if the Mountaineers end up gaining access to the Big 12 in 2012, not 2014. One thing the Fiesta wouldn’t do is pit the Sooners against the Cowboys in a rematch.

Sugar Bowl

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

This is where the Cowboys land, in the Sugar Bowl against L.S.U. in a battle of defensive nastiness versus offensive potency. It’s an intriguing matchup, to put it lightly. The Tigers get here simply: lose only to Alabama. If L.S.U. loses on Saturday then again against Arkansas in the season finale, it’ll be the Razorbacks making a repeat trip to the Sugar Bowl, not the Tigers. Likewise for Oklahoma State, which would likely be left out of the B.C.S. pictures if it loses twice in November.

Orange Bowl

Virginia Tech (A.C.C.) vs. Boise State (At-Large)

This is where the scenarios get a little more hypothetical. Boise State is here; if not here, the Broncos are in the Fiesta or the Sugar. But Virginia Tech? This scenario involves the Hokies getting the better of Clemson in an A.C.C. title game rematch, which now seems a bit more likely than it did a week ago. So it’s not a huge hypothetical. But based on how things currently stand and how things seem likely to play out, the A.C.C. representative in the Orange Bowl is the most unpredictable B.C.S. bowl slot.

B.C.S. Championship Game

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

Well, this one — or at least half of this one — will be settled by the end of Saturday night. Either it’ll be L.S.U. here or Alabama here; I’m leaning toward the Crimson Tide, in part because of the Tuscaloosa advantage and in part thanks to the fact that, believe it or not, I think Alabama’s the better team. Come Sunday night, you’ll see Oklahoma State in the B.C.S. driver’s seat as the second-ranked team in the country. But I think the Cowboys lose, which might push Boise State into that spot for a week. That would be great. Unfortunately, it won’t last. If Stanford goes 13-0, you’ll see the Cardinal meet the SEC champion in the B.C.S. National Championship Game.

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  1. jjncaa says:

    How can you forget this? “According to the BCS rules, if the Rose Bowl loses a team to the National Championship Game and a team from the non-automatic qualifying group is an automatic qualifier, that team will play in the Rose Bowl”

  2. Dave says:

    What would be the bigger spread – OU over WV in the Fiesta, or Boise over Va. Tech in the Orange? Both would be fairly dull, esp. given that the latter is a rematch from last year’s opening game.

    Those Rose and Sugar scenarios would be awesome, though. But why do you think Nebraska would be so happy to get Penn State? Can see that game being won 7-3.

    I like Stanford, but far as I’m concerned, jury’s still out on them until they play Oregon. IF they win, it will provide a useful comparison with LSU.

  3. Mendenhall4Pres says:

    @jjnca – That rule only can be invoked once in the current BCS contract. Since TCU played the Rose Bowl last year they won’t have to take a non-AQ team again until 2014 at the earliest.

  4. Mendenhall4Pres says:

    I think even an 11-1 Oklahoma State might get squeezed out of the BCS picture if either Penn State or Clemson ends up at 10-2. Let’s assume Paul’s conference champs are correct, that the Rose picks Oregon to replace Stanford and the Sugar picks LSU to replace Alabama, and that Boise earns an at-large bid (which I think are reasonable assumptions). That leaves the Fiesta with first pick of the remaining teams and I think they’d jump on a 10-2 Penn State possibly playing JoePa’s last game over West Virginia or Boise State. And as much fun as it would be to get a Boise-Oklahoma re-match, Clemson’s fan base will sell more tickets and hotel rooms than Boise’s. That leaves the Sugar with the next pick and they would likely take Boise over West Virginia since Boise will have a much higher ranking. That forces the Orange into another ACC-Big East match-up with VT and WVU.

    Of course there is a lot of football to be played between now and then, but I don’t see anyway that the Fiesta uses it’s first pick between Boise, WVU, and the rest of the at-large field to a two-loss WVU.

  5. Papa John says:

    Of course, an undefeated SEC champ will be in the NCG. But if Oklahoma State and Stanford finish undefeated, do you think a one-loss SEC champ would be ranked ahead of either (or both)?

    Since 2002, the SEC champ has gone undefeated only in 2004 (Auburn, no NCG), 2009 (Alabama) and 2010 (Auburn). It’s by no means a lock that the winner of Saturday’s LSU vs. Alabama game will win out.

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