Sunday, November 13, 2011
B1G turns focus to at-large BCS berth
By Adam Rittenberg
It's all about the at-large berth.
The Big Ten is out of the national title picture, so the league's primary interest with every new set of BCS standings is its chance for a seventh consecutive at-large berth.
Michigan State leads the Big Ten's contingent in the latest BCS standings, rising to No. 15 after its impressive road win against Iowa. While the Spartans received a BCS standings bump, their best -- and most likely only -- path to a BCS bowl is to win the league title game Dec. 3 in Indianapolis. A third Michigan State loss, either in the regular season or in the league title game, probably takes the Spartans out of at-large contention.
Penn State and Wisconsin also are teams that most likely would only reach a BCS game by winning the Big Ten championship. The Leaders division title could come down to the Lions-Badgers matchup Nov. 26 in Madison, and both teams already have two losses. A third loss -- either in the regular season or in the Big Ten championship game -- most likely removes these teams from the at-large mix.
Penn State fell to No. 21 in the BCS standings following its loss to Nebraska, while Wisconsin moved up to No. 16 after its win at Minnesota.
The two Big Ten teams with arguably the best chance for an at-large berth are Nebraska and Michigan. Why is this? It's quite possible a 10-2 team that doesn't reach the league title game gets an at-large berth ahead of a three-loss title game loser. Either the Wolverines or Huskers will take their third loss Saturday at Michigan Stadium, but the winner has a chance to finish at 10-2. Even if Michigan State goes to the title game, a 10-2 Nebraska or a 10-2 Michigan would be in decent shape for at-large selection, as long as it finishes in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. Nebraska most certainly would finish in the top 14, and Michigan would have a good chance to do so as well.
Nebraska moved up to No. 16 in the BCS standings with its win at Penn State, while Michigan rose to No. 18 with its win at Illinois.
While all the Big Ten teams still are hurt by their computer rankings, the squads are helped by the human voters in both the coaches' and Harris polls.
The Big Ten's at-large hopes benefited from Stanford's loss to Oregon, as it's now more likely only one Pac-12 team will earn a BCS berth. Boise State's loss to TCU also helps the Big Ten, but it's still likely Boise State or undefeated Houston earns an automatic berth by finishing in the top 12.