NCF Nation: Conference race 103013

Big Ten race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
The final month of the season has arrived, putting the division races under the spotlight and setting the stage for a frantic push for the bids to the conference title game in Indianapolis. Every Wednesday for the rest of the season, we'll sort through the contenders and pretenders to see exactly how things stand in the division races as the picture starts to become clearer.

Away we go.


Front-runner: Ohio State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten). This race is pretty straightforward, with the Buckeyes at the midway point of their league slate sitting unbeaten with a one-game lead over Wisconsin in the standings with the added benefit of a head-to-head tiebreaker in their pockets. Ohio State might not have impressed many national voters with close wins over the Badgers, Northwestern and Iowa to open league play, but it appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses and completely dominated Penn State to solidify its spot at the top of the division last weekend.

Other contenders: Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) is the only team in the division with less than two conference losses, and like Ohio State, it's been playing its best football lately as well. But the Badgers are going to need some help down the stretch if they're going to catch the Buckeyes and snag an invitation to Indianapolis, though the next three teams on the Ohio State schedule have combined for just one Big Ten win -- Indiana's victory over Penn State. That victory for the Hoosiers at least keeps them in the conversation for now since they have matchups with both the Badgers and Buckeyes coming up, but they're certainly facing a tall task taking on those teams on the road over consecutive weekends.

Out of the mix: Illinois (3-4, 0-3) had some bright spots outside of league play, but it has been ugly since then as it has dug a deep hole in the division race. Purdue (1-6, 0-3) is still looking for a conference win as well as it has fallen well behind the pace. And while it has played the Buckeyes tough over the last couple years, the Boilermakers clearly aren't catching them at a good time.


Front-runner: Michigan State (7-1, 4-0). The Spartans have played one more time than their two closest competitors, and without dropping a game yet in the league, they're seemingly halfway to a division crown. Michigan State's elite defense has given it the look of a legitimate contender in the Big Ten, and it's hard to argue with the results thus far. But the next couple weeks will determine if the Spartans are truly bound for Indianapolis, because the challengers are knocking on the door and looking for head-to-head victories that could tilt the scales dramatically.

Other contenders: Almost the entire division can continue entertaining thoughts of taking the title, with five of the six teams currently at .500 or better heading into the final month. Michigan (6-1, 2-1) and Nebraska (5-2, 2-1) are closest to the Spartans in the loss column, and those programs are about to start a three-week round-robin that will be crucial in sorting out the jumbled mess at the top of the standings. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) and Minnesota (6-2, 2-2) can't be written out of the script quite yet given surprisingly solid play from both recently, although the Hawkeyes and Gophers would each need some outside assistance to take over the top spot.

See you next year: Free-falling Northwestern (4-4, 0-4) pushed the Buckeyes to the brink, but it couldn't pull off a win with College GameDay on campus -- and hasn't been able to beat anybody else in the Big Ten either. Injuries have done the Wildcats no favors, but they'll spend November simply trying to play spoiler and searching for a way to get bowl eligible.

Big 12 race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
October is almost in the books. And the Big 12 conference race is just now beginning. Only two games have been played among the top-five teams. Meaning eight such games remain.

Let’s quickly review the Big 12 three-way tiebreakers. They’re worth knowing with so many teams still in contention:
1. The records of the three teams will be compared against each other (head-to-head competition).

2. The records of the three teams will be compared against the next-highest placed teams in the conference in order of finish (fourth, fifth and sixth).

3. The highest-ranked team in the BCS standings --– unless two of the tied teams are ranked within one spot of the other. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top-two ranked tied teams shall determine the BCS bowl representative (this stems from the 2008 OU-Texas controversy).

OK, now that’s cleared up, here’s how the conference race shapes up going into the final six weeks:

* If Baylor (7-0, 4-0) won out, it would obviously be the conference champ. Baylor could still win the league with a loss. But in that scenario, a loss to Oklahoma or Texas would pose the biggest problems. The Sooners, because of where they are in the BCS standings. The Longhorns, because they are the only other undefeated team in league play.

* Texas (5-2, 4-0) also controls its own destiny in the Big 12. If the Longhorns won out, they would be the Big 12 champs. If Texas lost, it would have issues. Because they’re still unranked, the Longhorns would not be a good bet to emerge out of any three-way scenario that fell to the BCS standings. Texas, however, might be in the best shape of any of the contenders. The Longhorns have the most favorable remaining schedule, with only one road trip to one of the contenders (at Baylor on Dec. 7). And they already have a victory over OU in the hip pocket. If Baylor handed OU, Tech and OSU their second conferences losses, Texas could still win the Big 12 by knocking off Baylor in the regular-season finale.

* Oklahoma’s title outlook would be looking good with a win at Baylor on Nov. 7. If the Sooners (7-1, 4-1) won out, the only team that could displace them would be the Longhorns, who hold a head-to-head advantage and a one-game lead in the standings. Because of where they rank in the BCS standings, the Sooners would also be formidable in any three-way scenario.

* Texas Tech (7-1, 4-1) is the only team on this list with one loss and no wins over a top-five Big 12 opponent. The Red Raiders could still take the league by winning out, but it would help if the Sooners lost, since OU holds the head-to-head advantage.

* Along with Baylor and Texas, Oklahoma State (6-1, 3-1) actually controls its own destiny in the conference race, as well. The Cowboys are the only contender with a loss to a bottom five Big 12 opponent (West Virginia). But if the Cowboys managed to win out, they would own tiebreaker advantages across the board and would secure the Big 12’s BCS bowl bid.

There's still a lot of football to be played. And with five teams still very much in the mix, this could shape up to be one of the most exciting conference races in Big 12 history.

Pac-12 race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
From now until the end of the season we’ll be doing a quick snapshot on where things stand in the divisional races every Wednesday. Here’s where we are heading into Week 10.


Oregon (8-0 overall, 5-0 Pac-12) is in the driver’s seat and leads the division with an undefeated record in conference play. Stanford (7-1, 5-1) is right behind, so obviously next week's showdown will have a massive bearing on the outcome of the division. Oregon State (6-2, 4-1) is next on the list, with its only conference loss coming to Stanford. The Beavers' best chance would be to win out, which means beating Oregon in the season finale, and for Oregon to beat Stanford next week. The Cardinal would have two conference losses and the Beavers would own the tie-breaker over Oregon. Stanford and Oregon both control their own destiny, so they just need to win out. With losses to Stanford and Oregon, Washington and Washington State are way behind in terms of tie breakers.


Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) is in control as of now -- its only conference loss was to Stanford. UCLA (5-2 overall), Arizona (5-2), and USC (5-3) are all 2-2 in league play. This means the remaining month and change is going to get messy. USC has a tie breaker over Arizona, but the Wildcats haven't yet played ASU or UCLA. The Sun Devils and the Bruins square off on Nov. 23 in the game that many feel will determine the division title. However, it probably won’t seal the deal, as both of those teams have their rivalry games in the season finale against Arizona and USC, respectively.

And because we are a full-service Pac-12 blog, we figured you’d appreciate a dusting up on the Pac-12’s tie-breaker rules.

Two-Team Tie
  1. Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams. (a.) If no game is played between the two tied teams or that game ends in a tie, the following tie-breaking procedures would be applied:
  2. Record in games played within the division.
  3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (Based on record in all games played within the conference), proceeding through the division.
  4. Record in common conference games.
  5. Highest BCS Ranking following the last weekend of regular-season games.
  6. Total number of wins in a 12-game season. The following conditions will apply to the calculation of the total number of wins: (a.) Only one win against a team from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision or lower division will be counted annually. (b.) Any games that are exempted from counting against the annual maximum number of football contests per NCAA rules (current Bylaw 17. 9.5.2) shall not be included.
Multiple-Team Ties

The following procedures will only be used to eliminate all but two teams, at which point the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.
  1. Head-to-head (Best record in games among the tied teams).
  2. Record in games played within the division.
  3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on record in all games played within the conference), proceeding through the division.
  4. Record in common conference games.
  5. Highest BCS ranking following the last weekend of regular-season games.

ACC race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
Now that we are down to the final month of the regular season, it is time to begin our weekly look at the conference race in both divisions. We are going to keep this as simple as possible, focused on the teams with the best chances today of winning their respective divisions.

Florida State is in the driver's seat. In fact, the Noles could clinch as early as Saturday. For that to happen, Florida State needs to beat Miami; Wake Forest needs to beat Syracuse; and Virginia needs to beat Clemson. If all that happens, Florida State would be guaranteed no worse than a tie with Clemson. Because of the head-to-head win, the Noles would clinch the Atlantic Division berth in the ACC championship game.

Clemson is the only team in the Atlantic with one loss, but it needs to help to get back to the ACC title game. The Tigers need to win out in league play and have Florida State lose two conference games.

Miami is the only team unbeaten in conference play in the division at 3-0, so the Hurricanes are in control. Even if Miami loses to Florida State, the Canes would make the ACC title game if they win their remaining conference games.

Virginia Tech is next, with one conference loss (3-1). The Hokies go to the ACC title game if they win out. Indeed, the Coastal might very well be decided next weekend in Miami when the Canes and Hokies play.

Georgia Tech, Duke and Pitt each have two conference losses. Of the three, Duke has the least convoluted scenario to get into the ACC title game. Duke needs to win out -- that means a victory over Miami -- and then have Virginia Tech and the Canes finish with at least two conference losses. If Duke, Miami and Virginia Tech finish in a three-way tie with two conference losses apiece, Duke goes because it has the head-to-head wins over the Canes and Hokies. Pitt already lost to Virginia Tech and has Miami to close the regular season, so the Panthers are still alive but need to win out and then get some help. Georgia Tech is at the biggest disadvantage of the three because it lost head-to-head against Miami and Virginia Tech.

SEC race update: Week 10

October, 30, 2013
With some interesting developments taking place over the weekend, the division races in the SEC continue to heat up.

No. 1 Alabama continues its stranglehold in the West but Auburn is right behind the Crimson Tide with the Iron Bowl coming in late November. And the Crimson Tide have a date with LSU before that. The East got a little more interesting over the weekend with South Carolina's win over Missouri. The Gamecocks are in the mix, though they still need some help.

Let's take a look at how the division races are shaping up with five weeks left in the regular season:

[+] EnlargeGus Malzahn
Michael Chang/Getty ImagesCoach Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers control their own destiny in the SEC West.
Western Division

• Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) continues to control its own destiny in the SEC West. If the Crimson Tide win out, they'll be the West's representative in the SEC championship game. Alabama is off this week and hosts No. 13 LSU (7-2, 3-2) next week. There are also dates remaining with Mississippi State (4-3, 1-2) and No. 11 Auburn (7-1, 3-1) in divisional play.

• Auburn also controls its own destiny. The Tigers have SEC contests left against Arkansas (3-5, 0-4), Tennessee (4-4, 1-3), Georgia (4-3, 3-2) and Alabama and if the Tigers were to win all four, they would be the division champion and head to Atlanta. The Tigers next two games, vs. the Razorbacks and Volunteers, are on the road and then Auburn returns home to close out the year against the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide.

• LSU has No. 1 Alabama, No. 12 Texas A&M and Arkansas remaining. The Tigers need to win out and need Alabama to lose twice (one of which would have to be to LSU) and Auburn to lose once. If LSU and Auburn beat Alabama and all three finish with two SEC losses, LSU would win the tiebreaker. Here is a further explanation of the SEC's rules on breaking ties within the division races.

• Texas A&M (6-2, 3-2) is pretty much out of the race for the SEC West title. The Aggies would have to win out to win the title, but they would also need Alabama to lose their last three conference games and Auburn to lose twice.

Eastern Division

• Even though it lost on Saturday to South Carolina, No. 9 Missouri (7-1, 3-1) still controls its destiny in the SEC East. If the Tigers win their remaining games, they're the SEC East champions. Their strong start is serving them well since they built a two-game cushion over the a few others, but now that lead is down to one with three teams being only a game back in the loss column. Missouri has Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Texas A&M remaining on the schedule.

• South Carolina (6-2, 4-2) is in the mix for the title after beating Missouri on Saturday but would need to win out and for Missouri to lose one more time. South Carolina has only two conference games left: home games against Mississippi State and Florida. If it's only a two-way tie at the top at the end of the year, South Carolina's head-to-head win last week would be the tiebreaker.

• Georgia (4-3, 3-2) has a head-to-head win over South Carolina, but that only becomes a factor if Georgia wins out and finds itself in a three-way tie with South Carolina and Missouri at 6-2. That would mean Georgia would have to close out the season with conference wins over Florida, Auburn and Kentucky, with the Auburn game being on the road. If that happened and Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia were tied atop the division, the tiebreaker would go to the team with the best divisional record, since all three would be 1-1 against each other. Currently, Georgia is 2-2 in SEC East play, Missouri is 3-1 in the division and South Carolina is 3-2.

• Florida (4-3, 3-2) has a loss to Missouri but has games against Georgia and South Carolina coming up, as well as a game against Vanderbilt sandwiched in between. The Gators need to win out and have Missouri lose twice, since Missouri holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Gators. That scenario also works for Georgia if Georgia wins out, because it has a loss to Missouri but has beaten South Carolina.