NCF Nation: BCS reaction 111713

The top of the BCS standings has become as predictable as Florida State pulverizing an opponent before halftime or Alabama sucking the life out of its foes. Sunday night's newest rundown looks a lot like its predecessor: Alabama at No. 1, Florida State at No. 2 and then a gulf between everyone else.

The real drama this week -- and next week, as Alabama and Florida State face Chattanooga and Idaho, respectively, on Saturday -- concerns the teams just outside the top two. Ohio State retains the No. 3 spot in the standings, but for how long? Baylor lingers just 0.0013 behind the Buckeyes in BCS average.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Dixon, Orion Stewart
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsBaylor continues to gain ground in the BCS standings and could jump to No. 3 next week with a win over No. 10 Oklahoma State.
The Buckeyes’ 25-point road win against 3-6 Illinois clearly didn’t impress as much as Baylor’s 29-point home triumph against a fast-fading Texas Tech squad. The Bears actually leapfrogged the Buckeyes in The Associated Press poll -- which is not part of the BCS standings -- and made up ground in the coaches’ and Harris polls. Baylor also has superior computer numbers, as the Bears are No. 3 in computer average while Ohio State is No. 5.

There almost certainly will be a change at No. 3 if Baylor beats No. 10 Oklahoma State on the road this weekend. Ohio State's only remaining chance for a signature win would come in the Big Ten championship against No. 13 Michigan State, which can punch its ticket to Indianapolis this week with a win over Northwestern or a Minnesota loss to Wisconsin.

And then there’s No. 5 Oregon. Remember the Ducks? They have new life after Stanford’s road loss at USC on Saturday night. Oregon now is back in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 North and host the league title game. A win in the conference championship ensures a trip to Pasadena, either on Jan. 1 or Jan. 6. The Ducks likely would need all of the top four teams to lose to reach the national title game. It’s a long shot, but crazy things tend to happen as Selection Sunday approaches.

Auburn needs even more help, but the No. 6-ranked Tigers can inflict a big blow to the standings when they host Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30. After what happened Saturday on The Plains, who knows what these Tigers can do?

Stanford, meanwhile, tumbles out of the title picture to No. 9 after its second loss to an unranked foe, albeit a rapidly improving one in USC, which enters the standings at No. 23.

The Stanford loss could help Big Ten at-large hopeful Wisconsin, which moves up to No. 19 after its fifth straight win. The Badgers still need a sizable boost to reach the top 14 and qualify for an at-large selection, but if they beat Minnesota and Penn State without having to deal with a league title game, they could rise as others undoubtedly fall.

UCF nearly saw its BCS hopes implode before rallying in the final minutes at Temple on Saturday. The No. 18-ranked Knights are two home wins (Rutgers and South Florida) and a road win (SMU) away from making one of the big bowls.

No. 16 Northern Illinois and its do-it-all quarterback, Jordan Lynch, made their BCS case on Wednesday with an impressive win against Ball State. The computers love the Huskies (12th in average) more than Fresno State (16th in average), but the human voters aren’t nearly as sold so No. 15 Fresno State retains a fairly sizable lead over NIU in the battle to bust the BCS.

The Huskies have another showcase opportunity this Wednesday at Toledo and the benefit of a MAC championship game, likely against Bowling Green or Buffalo. But NIU probably needs Fresno State to lose one of its final two games at home against New Mexico or at San Jose State.

All eyes in Week 13 will be on Baylor and whether Art Briles’ team can remain perfect as it faces its biggest test to date. If so, we’ll likely have a new No. 3 at this time next week, as the final selections will be just 14 days away.

BCS: Pac-12 tumbles

November, 17, 2013

For the first time this year, the BCS standings were released on Sunday, and it didn't really matter in the Pac-12. Barring a complete collapse from at least three of the top four teams, the Pac-12 is out of the national title hunt.

After Stanford fell to USC -- a week after handing Oregon its first defeat -- the Pac-12 is on the outside looking in, with Oregon the top conference team at No. 5.

Alabama is No. 1, Florida State is No. 2, Ohio State is No. 3 and Baylor is No. 4.

If Alabama and FSU win out, they will play for the title. It's possible -- likely? -- that the Pac-12 champion will face Ohio State, the Big Ten champion, in the Rose Bowl, which will, at least, give the Pac-12 a good bowl matchup in its only BCS game.

Yes, that's the likely reality now: For the first time since 2009, the Pac-12 will have only one BCS bowl team.

As far as the BCS standings as a whole, Stanford fell to No. 9. UCLA is No. 14 and Arizona State is No. 17. UCLA and ASU play in a big South Division matchup on Saturday. USC, now 5-1 under interim coach Ed Orgeron, broke into the rankings at No. 23 and is still a potential factor in the South.

So that's five ranked Pac-12 teams and eight Pac-12 teams already bowl eligible -- but no team with much of a chance to play for the national title.

BCS: Baylor poised to surpass Ohio State

November, 17, 2013

Baylor took one big step closer to playing for a BCS national championship this week thanks to Stanford’s loss to USC and the Bears’ 63-34 win over Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium on Saturday.

Sunday night’s updated BCS standings provide a closer look at just how much ground the Bears need to make up. Baylor (.8856) is No. 4 behind Alabama (.9914), Florida State (.9661) and Ohio State (.8869), whose lead over BU went from .0308 to .0013 following a 60-35 win at Illinois that left voters less than enthused.

Ohio State's next two games come against unranked Indiana and Michigan teams that are a combined 11-9. And Baylor gets a prime-time, national TV game on the road against No. 10 Oklahoma State this weekend, with “College GameDay” in Stillwater and a whole lot of voters watching. Win that game by a convincing margin and these numbers could look very different one week from now.

Baylor’s win and Stanford’s loss helped the Bears jump from No. 5 in the computer rankings to No. 3, and all six computer rankings now have Baylor in their top five. That should help. But nothing will get the job done better than a road victory over a top-10 opponent that comes in with a 9-1 record.

And then, of course, Baylor would set its sights on surpassing No. 2 Florida State, which has 1-9 Idaho on the slate this weekend. But for all the scoreboard watching that Bears fans find themselves doing right now, all they should worry about this week is the one at Boone Pickens Stadium. They can't surpass one OSU without beating another.

BCS: Buckeyes stuck at No. 3

November, 17, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The forward momentum might have stalled on its own for a week, but a push from behind might provide the kind of late boost Ohio State needs to sneak into the national title picture.

The November surge for Michigan State and Wisconsin could obviously come with postseason benefits for those programs as well.

The Buckeyes stayed locked in at No. 3 when the latest BCS standings were revealed Sunday night, which should come as no surprise since top-ranked Alabama and Florida State both won to stay comfortably in position to play for the national championship. And while Ohio State was again never seriously threatened in a 60-35 beating of an overmatched conference opponent at Illinois on Saturday, one Big Ten member it has already knocked off continued its climb in the polls and another it might play for the conference crown could help improve its résumé if it can stay unbeaten for a few more weeks.

Michigan State took firm control of the Legends Division with a road win over Nebraska, moving up to No. 13 in the process and setting the stage for a potential marquee matchup in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. And Wisconsin stayed undefeated since losing to Ohio State by a touchdown in September, crushing Indiana and moving up to No. 19 as it tries to keep its hopes of a BCS at-large bid alive.

And while the odds are long for Minnesota to crash the party, it made its first appearance in the standings at No. 25 to give the Big Ten a fourth team in the mix with two weeks left in the regular season.

“There are a lot of really good teams in our conference right now,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said last week. “Michigan State only has one loss … and I think Wisconsin can play in any league in America. Those are two teams I have a lot of respect for.

“I know good football teams, and there’s plenty of good teams in this conference.”

The Buckeyes have already squared off with one of them in the league and won, a victory that continues to look better every week.

And with the Spartans showing off an improved offensive attack to complement arguably the nation’s most disruptive defense, another chance for the Buckeyes to add to their body of work could be coming soon.

Of course, Michigan State might also be playing well enough to swoop in and steal a berth in the Rose Bowl, though the Buckeyes are still the most likely to earn an invitation to a BCS game even if they lost the Big Ten championship game, which would then knock Wisconsin out of the picture. But either way, the three teams are carrying the flag for a league that has seen its share of criticism this season, and their fates are all tied together at this stage.

Most notably, the team leading the pace could use a little more company at the top of the rankings as Ohio State tries to get over the hump and into one of the top-two spots in the standings. Michigan State and Wisconsin are currently doing everything they can to lend a hand, and certainly helping themselves at the same time.

BCS: Noles close gap on Alabama

November, 17, 2013

Off the field, it was a dizzying week of distractions for No. 2 Florida State, with quarterback Jameis Winston's potential role in an alleged sexual assault the topic of numerous news stories. On the field, however, Florida State’s claims to a berth in the BCS Championship Game only got stronger.

The Seminoles routed Syracuse 59-3, their second straight win over a conference foe by that identical score. No team in the country has been so emphatically dominant on both sides of the ball (at least 59 points scored and no more than three allowed) in consecutive games since 1988, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The Seminoles rank in the top eight nationally in total offense, total defense, scoring offense and scoring defense, and FSU has an average margin of victory in its 10 games of 42 points. Each win has been by at least two touchdowns.

In other words, for all the criticism of Florida State’s mediocre schedule, its performances have been nothing short of spectacular. Accordingly, FSU added two more first-place votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll and moved into a tie with Alabama atop the computer averages. Overall, Florida State closed the gap on No. 1 Alabama to a mere .0253 points.

While the Seminoles solidified their position near the top of the BCS standings, Duke crept into the bottom of the Coaches Poll with a win over Miami that has the Blue Devils poised to earn a berth in the ACC title game if they win out. Duke is now ranked for the first time since 1994, but it wasn't enough to crack the top 25 in the BCS standings. In reality, Duke would likely need a win over Florida State in the ACC championship game to have any shot at a BCS bowl, but the Blue Devils have already pulled off their share of surprises this season.

The ACC’s best shot at a second BCS bid comes from No. 7 Clemson, which continues to chug along without a hint of national spotlight. The air came out of the Tigers’ balloon with a midseason loss to FSU, but Clemson is 3-0 since that game (and 9-1 on the season), including last week’s 55-31 win over Georgia Tech. South Carolina looms in the regular-season finale, and a win at home against their in-state rivals would likely punch a ticket to a BCS game for the Tigers.

BCS: Auburn continues unlikely ascent

November, 17, 2013

Alabama was thought to be the SEC’s only hope to reach the VIZIO BCS National Championship Game, but while the Crimson Tide might have the best chance, don’t sleep on the team across the state.

Auburn moved up to No. 6 in the latest BCS standings after a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Georgia. The Tigers passed Stanford, which lost to USC on Saturday, but the bigger surprise was how close they are to No. 5 Oregon. They’re closing in on the Ducks, and a win in the Iron Bowl could solidify their spot as the best one-loss team in the nation.

Obviously, Auburn would still need some help even if Gus Malzahn’s bunch can find a way to upset Alabama, but crazier things have happened.

As for the Crimson Tide, they maintained the top spot in the BCS standings but their average dropped after a so-so performance on the road at Mississippi State. In fact, they are now tied with No. 2 Florida State in the computer rankings, though they still hold an advantage over the Seminoles in both the Harris poll and the coaches' poll.

Nick Saban shouldn’t be too concerned. His team still controls its own destiny in the BCS and is now three wins away from reaching its third consecutive national championship game.

Alabama and Auburn are joined in the top 10 by Missouri, but South Carolina dropped to No. 11 despite knocking off Florida in its final conference game. The reason for the slide was a result of Oklahoma State and its impressive performance against Texas. The Cowboys jumped two spots to No. 10, passing both South Carolina and Texas A&M along the way.

The SEC has a total of seven teams in the top 25 again this week. Georgia dropped out after the heartbreaking loss to Auburn, but the Bulldogs were replaced by an Ole Miss team that has won four straight games. The Rebels will host No. 8 Missouri on Saturday.

Ultimately, the one big thing still has to be Auburn’s turnaround this season. If Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor or Oregon falter this weekend, it could set up a top-five matchup in the Iron Bowl and give the Tigers even more to play for.