Monday, December 2, 2013

Week 14 Under Review: BCS Chaos

If you wanted a near complete collapse in the BCS selection process, you pretty much got your wish over the holiday weekend, with a simple loss by Alabama. Of course, even after losing in one of the most memorable finishes to a game that I've ever seen, there are still the SEC/Alabama apologists who wish to keep Alabama in the national title game, despite the Tide not winning their division title, which in turn keeps them out of the SEC title game, a fundamental must for me if a team wishes to play for a national title in the current system. All logic was tossed out of the window before when Alabama played LSU in the title game, even with LSU losing out to Bama and finding themselves not playing the extra game in the schedule.
Let's look at a few scenarios that could make sense heading into next week:

Florida State Wins ACC, Ohio State Wins Big 10
The most likely scenario is this one. FSU is not going to lose to Duke. I admire Duke and all they have done this season. The last six weeks in Durham have been magic, and Duke has their first ever 10 win season. It's a great accomplishment. That said, there's no way they beat Florida State in the ACC title game.
Ohio State is a much murkier team. The Buckeyes have scored plenty this season, but their defense has been sloppy most if the season, even in blowout wins. The Buckeyes are taking on Michigan State, a team, like Auburn, that has been underrated and sneaky. MSU could very well beat the Buckeyes, and spin more chaos into the final BCS standings and selections.

Florida State Wins ACC, Ohio State Loses Big 10
This creates a mess of sorts, because it makes the SEC a major focus point moving forward. The reality is that if Ohio State loses to Michigan State, then the winner of the SEC title game should get in. Repeat, SHOULD GET IN!
If Auburn or Missouri win the SEC title game, either team should leap over Alabama to get into the SEC title game. Auburn is already ahead of Alabama this week, and in any event, Missouri should have been, but the Tigers come in 5th, with Oklahoma State 6th. In my book, Bama should have come in 6th after their loss, with Mizzou at 4 and OK. State at 5. They're all one loss teams at that point, and Mizzou and the Cowboys have a shot to win their conferences, something the Tide no longer possesses. Alabama could still sneak in if the Buckeyes lose, and that would be criminal in my book, because it would mean that Auburn has lost to Missouri, and Mizzou would fail to leapfrog Alabama. I also have a problem with the Tigers not moving ahead of Alabama should they beat Auburn.

Florida State Loses, Ohio State Loses, Auburn Loses
This is highly unlikely, and nearly impossible to conceive, but nothing is absolutely impossible. If this doomsday scenario takes hold, you could see the vile choice of two SEC teams playing in the title game, and this situation would exist because everyone left the door wide open.
I don't see this nuclear option happening, and even if it did, I never support a title game in a non-playoff environment where two teams from one conference play for a title.

Here are my notes from around the FBS this week:

UCF is still large and in charge in the conference race, but has one final road block in the form of Cincinnati this weekend. UCF closes out against SMU this week, and while the Knights will be heavily favored, SMU could still pull an upset, allowing Cincinnati a shot at claiming a share of the conference. UCF and Cincinnati never played each other, so the conference rep in the BCS would be left open to a host of other tie breakers, something that would create yet more chaos.

The divisions were claimed by Florida State and Duke, setting up for what should be a rather lopsided Seminole conference title. Duke should be congratulated, as they have completed their first ever 10 win season, but they haven't claimed even a share of the ACC since 1962, and they don't have the horses to run with FSU. The Seminoles should win this outright, unless the Earth crashes into the sun or some such thing.
The confusion that's left is who will represent the conference in the Orange Bowl? The projection that everyone shows is Clemson heading there, but did Clemson not just toss a grenade into that projection by falling rather miserably to South Carolina?
My take is that Duke, as the eventual conference title game runner up, and not Clemson, the third place team from the ACC despite rankings, should be the Orange Bowl participant.
One note that does not involve bowls or BCS projections, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe resigned today. More on that in our Dead Pool and Carousel pieces later in the week.

Big 10
Ohio State almost joined Alabama in a choke of the week special. With under a minute to play, the Buckeyes (16 point favorites, mind you) gave up a TD to Michigan to make it 42-41 Buckeyes. In a move that still befuddles the mind, Brady Hoke had a discussion with his seniors as to whether or not to go for 2 and a win rather than play out the game in OT with a standard PAT. Yeah, that's coaching greatness there...
Instead of playing momentum and going to OT, Michigan went for the two, and failed as Devin Gardner tossed a pick. OSU recovered the onside kick, and there went the chance of an upset.
Michigan State played an uninspired game against Minnesota at home, and stumbled to a 14-3 win over the Gophers.
What we end up with, was what we had to begin with in an Ohio State-Michigan State Big 10 title tilt, in which MSU could very well pull off an upset and become the first team in more than two seasons to beat Ohio State. If Sparty fails to pull the upset, Ohio State would likely get into the BCS title game, and, again, in my opinion, the Spartans should head to the Rose Bowl as the Big 10 replacement, especially with Wisconsin falling flat in a loss against Penn State.
One more flat tire came when Nebraska fell completely apart in a home loss to Iowa. The Huskers ended with a thud, and Bo Pelini all but challenged the administration to fire him, but they withheld from the temptation to do just that, and held off from paying a $7 million buyout.

Big 12
There is a three way tie at the top of the conference heading into the final weekend of the regular season. Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas are all knotted up, and Oklahoma State has to get by Oklahoma this weekend, as Bedlam is likely to be the staging ground for where the Big 12 title will be won or lost. The Cowboys have already taken down the Bears and Longhorns, so all they have to do is get by their biggest rival on the planet, and all is well in Stillwater.
Baylor and Texas play each other, so one of the teams tied for the top spot could still take the conference crown should the Cowboys falter. My money is on the Bears from Waco, but I am also leaning heavily on OSU to take out OU as well. If Oklahoma State falls, and Baylor wins, the Bears are headed to a likely date with the Fiesta Bowl. If the Cowboys win, they head to the Fiesta. Oklahoma is purely in a spoiler role now.

Conference USA
This was one of the more interesting conference races heading into last weekend, with as many as 6 teams still alive in various scenarios. What came out of the mess was a CUSA title game that nobody saw coming in Marshall vs. Rice.
Marshall took out East Carolina to lock down the east, while Rice survived a charge from Tulane to hold off to win the west. This is an interesting finale, as either team could pull out the win. Marshall does get the edge, but anything can happen here.
Congrats to UTSA for being eligible for their first bowl ever. Congrats also go out to North Texas and Tulane, who both saw massive turnarounds this season. It has been a wild ride in CUSA this season, and it will only get better in 2014.

BYU finished strong to a point, but largely played a sloppy game against Nevada to finish the season. They head to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco later this month against a PAC-12 foe that could be either Washington or USC.
Notre Dame finished as a huge disappointment coming off of their 12-1 season of 2012. There were many factors behind the finish, but nobody is happy in South Bend after an 8-4 finish that came to a thud against Stanford.
Navy is bowl bound once again, but Army is not. Navy will be heavily favored to beat Army this weekend, as Army is trending downward heading into a third straight season. Army fell flat at Hawaii, giving the Rainbows their only win of 2013.

Mountain West
Boise State will not play for the MWC title this season after suffering their first down year under Chris Petersen. Utah State and Fresno State will play in the title game instead. USU was up and down this season, especially after losing Chuckie Keeton at QB earlier in the season, but held on just enough to take the Mountain.
Fresno State was cruising to a BCS appearance before a complete meltdown at San Jose State last weekend saw the Bulldogs blow their chance in a 62-52 loss. Now the Bulldogs are playing for a birth in the Las Vegas Bowl instead. That can't be what they were shooting for, and so despite what happens in the conference title game, this season will end with what should have beens surrounding the program.

Northern Illinois has always been a lock to head to the MAC title game, as nobody in the conference is anywhere near their equal right now, including Ball State. The Huskies are a dominant force, and are the best non-AQ team in the country by far.
Bowling Green held off Buffalo to win the East, and will take on NIU in the MAC title game. BGSU is tough on defense, and can control the ball on the ground, but I don't believe they have the horses to beat the Huskies this season.

Stanford and Arizona State locked in the conference title match last week, so there was little left to worry about this week. That being said, ASU positively sent a message with a crushing win over Arizona to wrap up conference play, and I believe that this rematch will be much more interesting this time around.
USC fell short in their quest to keep Ed Orgeron as coach, falling to UCLA 35-14. Orgeron's only two losses were to Notre Dame and UCLA after taking over from Lane Kiffin. That was enough for Pat Haden to make a terrible decision and let Orgeron go for Washington's Steve Sarkisian, who was coming off of an Apple Cup win over Washington State. Again, there will be more about that in our Coarousel and Dead Pool pieces later in the week.
Even with the loss in the Apple Cup, Washington State is bowl eligible. That's something in and of itself.

Disaster struck in the shape of a 109 yard missed FG return, and Auburn dethroned Alabama in the SEC West.
Auburn will now play Missouri, who held off Texas A&M to lock down the SEC East. Nobody could have ever seen Missouri winning the SEC East this season, and Gary Pinkel will be playing his surprising equal in Gus Malzahn. Malzahn has turned Auburn from winless in the SEC to East champs in one season, while Pinkel has turned a miracle in Columbia.
There is still much on the line in the SEC title game, with Alabama still lokking for a back door into the BCS title game.

Sun Belt
UL-Lafayette should be locking up the SBC title this weekend with a game against South Alabama on the schedule. It's the only game on the slate in the SBC this weekend, but even if the Cajuns fall, the best Arkansas State could do is share the conference title, as they have already been beaten by ULL 23-7. The Cajuns will be headed to New Orleans once again.

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