NCF Nation: BCS Reaction 120113

The question has crept into every corner of the college football world in recent years as teams from the SEC added crystal footballs to their collection: Who will end the SEC’s streak?

If the final BCS standings came out today, the answer would be the SEC. The Pac-12 cannibalized itself Nov. 7, when Stanford beat Oregon. The Big 12 followed suit two weeks later, when Oklahoma State beat Baylor. The SEC’s quest to continue its run of seven consecutive national titles might have ended early Saturday evening on The Plains, as Auburn’s Chris Davis raced down the sideline for the most unlikely winning touchdown in recent college football history.

[+] EnlargeChris Davis
John Reed/USA TODAY SportsAuburn could make a strong case, but the Tigers -- and the SEC -- will likely need help if the conference hopes to play for its eighth straight BCS title.
Auburn’s Iron Bowl triumph over Alabama doesn’t put an ironclad lock on the SEC’s quest for an eighth straight championship. Auburn, Alabama and Missouri occupy spots three through five, respectively, in the latest BCS standings.

But the SEC likely needs some help to re-enter the top two when the final standings are revealed a week from now. Lobbying from Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs and others might not be enough.

Auburn is a healthy distance behind No. 2 Ohio State in the latest standings. The Tigers are just 25 points behind the Buckeyes in the coaches’ poll and 66 points behind in the Harris poll, gaps that could be closed with an impressive win against Missouri in the SEC championship game. But the computers also favor Ohio State, which is No. 2 in four of the six electronic rankings, No. 1 in a fifth and No. 3 in the Sagarin ratings. Auburn is No. 3 in four computer rankings and No. 1 in the Colley Matrix but No. 6 in the Sagarin.

It’s hard to envision the computer numbers changing too much if Ohio State beats No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday in the Big Ten championship. Michigan State is the highest-ranked opponent the Buckeyes will have faced this season, and a strong showing would make it hard to leave Urban Meyer’s squad out of the title game.

The folks in SEC country will do all they can to sway opinion, and it might work. They’ll point to the seven consecutive titles, the greater quality of wins by Auburn or Missouri and a weak Big Ten.

“An SEC team can't get left out of the [championship game] with one loss,” Jacobs told USA Today after the Tigers’ latest improbable win.

Jacobs referenced the 2004 Auburn team, one of three major-conference squads with perfect records that season but the only one left out of the title mix. He told reporters it “would be a disservice to the nation” if Auburn were on the outside again.

But can’t Ohio State make the same case? Meyer steered clear of lobbying Sunday, preferring to keep the focus on Michigan State and its top-rated defense. But the Buckeyes are one of two major-conference unbeatens left standing. Like the SEC folks, Ohio State also will point to the past and how it has won a team-record 24 consecutive games under Meyer.

By the way, Florida State is on top of the standings, a step away from playing for a national title for the first time since the 2001 Orange Bowl. Quarterback Jameis Winston's legal issues remain in question, but if the Seminoles can handle Duke in the ACC championship, they’ll be headed to Pasadena on Jan. 6.

Which team would they play? If Ohio State falls to Michigan State, Auburn or Missouri almost certainly would take on the Noles. Few could have seen either group of Tigers in this position before the season.

The BCS at-large race should provide some drama this week. No. 9 Baylor can help itself with a strong performance against No. 25 Texas. Clemson remains eligible for at-large selection at No. 13 despite its 14-point loss to No. 8 South Carolina, but the Tigers have no more chances to strengthen their case.

Michigan State had a very good weekend and might be a lock for the Rose Bowl no matter what happens in Indy. If Ohio State wins and goes to the title game, the Rose would take Michigan State as long as the Spartans remain in the top 14.

Northern Illinois is the only BCS-buster left, and the Huskies remain at No. 14 heading into their MAC championship matchup with Bowling Green. If NIU prevails, it will essentially lock up its second consecutive BCS berth, as American front-runner Central Florida remains a good distance behind in the standings.

One week remains until Selection Sunday, and for the first time in eight years, the SEC is in danger of being left out of the final two. Expect some noise from down South this week and a lot of folks pulling for Michigan State and Duke.

Will it be enough? We’ll soon find out.

BCS: Florida State reaches No. 1

December, 1, 2013

In Tallahassee, Fla., and Durham, N.C., Week 14 was historic.

A month ago, Florida State fans wondered whether Oregon or Alabama would win out and whether the Seminoles would be shut out of a title bid. Turns out, the Ducks and Crimson Tide have combined for three losses since then -- including Alabama's dramatic upset by Auburn on Saturday -- and for the first time since Oct. 1, 2000 (4,810 days), Florida State is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Now Duke is likely all that stands in the way of FSU giving the ACC its first chance at a national championship since that 2000 season. FSU was No. 1 in all three components of the BCS standings and has a .0715 margin over No. 3 Auburn, a sizable gap the Tigers would need to overcome in order to knock the Seminoles out of the title picture.

The Blue Devils will be decided underdogs in the ACC championship game, but it's hard to discount a team that keeps overcoming the odds.

Duke upended North Carolina for the second straight year on Saturday, adding a program-best 10th win to its résumé and securing a trip to the ACC championship game. While Stanford, Baylor and Vanderbilt have already made it trendy for the academic institutions to put together winning football programs, Duke’s story remains uniquely improbable. Ten weeks ago, the Blue Devils were buried near the bottom of the ACC. Now they’re playing for a trip to the Orange Bowl, with a No. 20 ranking in the latest BCS standings.

“I’ve told them all along, if you keep winning, the next one gets even bigger,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “And now this one is the biggest of all.”

The biggest game for Florida State, meanwhile, could still be more than a month away. But while the Seminoles’ date in the BCS championship appears ever more likely, that could clear the way for Clemson to sneak into a BCS bowl, too.

On a weekend that provided cause for celebration for Florida State and Duke, it was another bitter disappointment for Clemson, as the Tigers fell to in-state rival South Carolina for the fifth straight year. Despite the loss, Clemson is No. 13 in the latest BCS standings, leaving the Tigers a strong option for the Orange Bowl as an at-large option, assuming Florida State heads to the title game. That would mark the second time in three years the ACC sent multiple teams to BCS bowls, but it's a narrow margin for the Tigers, which must be ranked 14th or better to qualify for a BCS bowl bid. No. 14 Northern Illinois, No. 16 UCF and No. 17 Oklahoma all have games remaining this weekend.

BCS: OSU in position for BCS title game

December, 1, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The faith never wavered within the locker room that the help Ohio State needed would eventually arrive, and the Buckeyes certainly celebrated when it did.

But after spending about 15 minutes partying on the team buses on Saturday, coach Urban Meyer dramatically cut down on the amount of time spent addressing things outside of his control one day later.

The team met on Sunday afternoon, just five hours before it would officially move up to No. 2 in the BCS standings and into position to play new No. 1 Florida State for the national title. But Meyer had barely any plans to talk about that possibility, instead focusing all of his energy on surging Michigan State, which climbed up to No. 10 on Sunday evening to set the table for a marquee showdown in the Big Ten title game this weekend in Indianapolis.

“We’ll spend about six or eight seconds on that,” Meyer said. “There will be no conversation about it, no social networking about it. Our focus is on this game and that’s it.

“It would be a disservice to our players if I went and worried about it, and I’m certainly not.”

The Buckeyes may not be worrying about the polls or computer formulas, but that won’t stop the speculation about their case for playing for the national title despite finishing off a perfect regular season with a thrilling 42-41 win over rival Michigan.

Still on the highway on the way back home, the Buckeyes watched on televisions in their caravan as Auburn pulled off a miracle to upset previously top-ranked Alabama, rocking the buses when the score went final to put them in position to play for the crystal football. But even before they arrived back at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the comparisons of Ohio State’s resume to Auburn’s had already started.

There still remains a .027-point margin between the teams heading into the respective conference title games on Saturday, with Ohio State holding an edge over Auburn in both human polls and in the average computer rankings. On top of that, a one-loss team has never jumped an undefeated squad from a major conference in the history of the BCS, and another win would figure to be enough to keep the Buckeyes in the title game.

Michigan State isn’t in the mix to play for a national crown, but it solidified its candidacy as an at-large BCS selection with another dominant defensive performance in a 14-3 win over Minnesota. Of course, it can also punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl by knocking off the Buckeyes, though the Big Ten would still be in good shape to earn two spots in the BCS lineup despite Wisconsin losing to Penn State and falling to No. 21.

But before either Michigan State or Ohio State can think about where it’s headed for bowl season, there’s still some pretty significant business to take care of in Indianapolis. And clearly for Meyer, that’s the only thing he wants to talk about even after finally climbing into position to play for something bigger.

BCS: SEC no longer No. 1

December, 1, 2013
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Alabama is no longer No. 1 in the BCS standings, thanks to Saturday's heartbreaking loss on the road at Auburn. Instead, Florida State sits atop the latest standings, Ohio State trails at No. 2 and Auburn elevates to third, while Alabama takes the short, yet precipitous fall to fourth overall.

The Crimson Tide isn't completely out of the title hunt, but it's certainly on the far fringe of any championship conversation. The Buckeyes would have to lose to No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, the Seminoles would have to lose to No. 20 Duke in the ACC Championship Game and then Alabama would have to hope that the voters would allow an all-SEC title game to happen for the second time in three years.

Eastern Division champion Missouri, by virtue of its win over Texas A&M, is a solid No. 5 and the top one-loss teams in the country. Saturday's conference tilt between Missouri and Auburn -- an all-Tigers matchup -- will determine who stays in the top five and who has a shot at a trip to Pasadena, Calif., to compete in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

All told, seven SEC teams made the top 25. South Carolina, which narrowly missed out on the East crown, sits at No. 8. LSU, which rebounded nicely in the final weeks with wins over Texas A&M and Arkansas, comes in at No. 15. And finally, Georgia and Texas A&M round out the top 25 at No. 22 and No. 24, respectively.

BCS: Stanford is top two-loss team

December, 1, 2013

All the crazy hijinks this weekend weren't terribly relevant -- or helpful -- to the Pac-12.

The conference is out of the national title discussion. And its chances for getting a second BCS bowl team are extremely remote.

Stanford is the nation's top two-loss team, but it sits forgotten in the BCS standings at No. 7, tops among Pac-12 teams. Stanford will visit Arizona State on Saturday for the Pac-12 championship game. The Sun Devils are ranked 11th, loved by the computers but not rated highly by humans.

The Sun Devils are a top-six team among five computer rankings. Only one had them outside the top 10.

Oregon is 12th in the BCS standings and UCLA is 18th.

As for the national picture, Florida State moved up to No. 1 and Ohio State is No. 2.

The Pac-12 take-away there is if Ohio State beats beats No. 10 Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, the Buckeyes will play for the national title, not in the Rose Bowl. Last week, it seemed the Pac-12 would get a marquee matchup in the Rose Bowl with the Buckeyes.

So, yes, little is going right for the Pac-12, which will almost certainly have one BCS bowl team, and the Rose Bowl opponent may not be ranked in the top 10.
It was a great weekend for Baylor.

And not just because the Bears reached the 10-win mark for only the third time in school history with their 41-38 victory over TCU on Saturday.

Although the Bears remained at No. 9 in the latest BCS standings, their BCS bowl hopes got a boost with losses by Wisconsin, Clemson and Fresno State. Those teams were putting themselves in position to bump the Bears out of the conversation for an at-large BCS bid before stumbling over the weekend. Now the Sugar Bowl could choose the Bears for an at-large berth.

If the Bears can knock off No. 25 Texas to finish 11-1, the Big 12 could get a second BCS berth alongside No. 6 Oklahoma State, assuming the Cowboys win against No. 17 Oklahoma on Saturday. No. 14 Northern Illinois is playing the role of the main BCS-buster to earn an at-large bid this season and will face Bowling Green in the MAC championship game on Friday.

Oklahoma State, which moved up one spot to No. 6, watched its very slim hopes of finding its way into the BCS title game drift further away when Alabama lost to Auburn. The Crimson Tide dropped from No. 1 to No. 4, meaning it won't matter how much chaos occurs on Championship Saturday because the Pokes are pretty much out of the race to earn a BCS title game berth. Quite simply, nothing has changed for the Cowboys this week, as their loss to West Virginia, which finished 4-8, remains an anchor preventing them from climbing into the conversation of the nation's top one-loss teams.

But it was a good weekend for the Big 12 overall, and Baylor in particular, with the Bears’ at-large BCS chances looking brighter than ever. Now, it’s up to Art Briles’ crew to help make its dreams come true by winning impressively against the Longhorns.