Monday, November 5, 2007

The Guru's Rooting Guide

When the gun goes off at Michigan Stadium around 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 17, it will be the first game to end the 2007 regular season for both teams.

The question is: Will it really mark the start of the 2007 season?

An Ohio State victory will certainly return the Buckeyes to the BCS national championship game, leaving a mad scramble for perhaps half a dozen teams to claim the other spot. The contest will be a multi-media event, involving not only winning games on the field, but stating your case and having allies in the media to state your case for you.

But what if Ohio State loses?

It would be an upset, but hardly a historic one (we've had a few already this season, including one that kicked it off at the Big House). And a Buckeyes loss not only knocks them out of the national title picture, but leaves them out of a Rose Bowl berth as well. So now we'll have two available slots in the title game, and new battle lines will be drawn for the other eight BCS bowl spots.

To help you navigate through the finishing stretch of this turbulent season, the Guru presents the Rooting Guide. Now you will know who your friends and enemies are, and not make the mistake of rooting for the wrong team(s) at the most inopportune time.

1. Ohio State (10-0)
Losable game: Nov. 17 at Michigan (8-2)
National title scenario: Controls its own destiny -- the only team that can say so with confidence. If Ohio State wins its remaining two games (vs. Illinois this week), then it will play for the BCS title for the second straight year.
BCS bowl scenario: No matter what happens, the Buckeyes won't be playing in the Rose Bowl. Win, then it's on to the title game in New Orleans. Lose, Michigan wins the Big Ten and nudges Ohio State to an at-large berth.
Root for: No one.
Root against: No one. It's highly unlikely that Ohio State would stay in the national title game hunt if it loses to Michigan.

2. LSU (8-1)
Losable games: Nov. 23 vs. Arkansas (6-3); Dec. 1 at SEC championship
National title scenario: The Bayou Bengals have the No. 2 spot for now. But it's conceivable that they would be jumped by an undefeated Kansas or, less likely, by No. 3 Oregon. LSU can use a little bit of insurance.
BCS bowl scenario: A two-loss LSU team is assured of at least a BCS at-large berth. And if the Tigers win the SEC but don't get into the national title game, they'll head to New Orleans anyway, for the Sugar Bowl.
Root for: Georgia and Arkansas. LSU needs both of those teams to have as good a record as possible to impress both computers and human voters.
Root against: Ohio State, Oregon, Kansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The first four are fairly obvious, and the Tigers really don't want to play a 3-loss (or even maybe a 4-loss) Vols in the SEC title game.

3. Oregon (8-1)
Losable game: Dec. 1 vs. Oregon State (5-4)
National title scenario: The Ducks may be No. 3, but they're far from one LSU loss to be assured of a BCS title shot. They could jump LSU even if the Tigers win out. And they could be jumped by Kansas even if they win out. Since none of the Ducks' remaining opponents are even ranked, the most they can do is to finish strong and hope for the best.
BCS bowl scenario: The Ducks control the Pac-10 race. But one more loss can knock them out of a Rose Bowl berth if Arizona State finishes unbeaten. In that case, they may be headed for the Fiesta Bowl.
Root for: Oregon State. The Ducks need the Beavers to bring a good record to the Civil War so they can make some noise on the final day of the regular season.
Root against: Ohio State, LSU, Kansas, Oklahoma.

4. Kansas (9-0)
Losable games: Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State (5-4); Nov. 24 vs. Missouri (8-1); Dec. 1 at Big XII championship
National title scenario: Besides Ohio State, Kansas is probably the team that has the firmest control of its own destiny. A 13-0 Jayhawks team, with wins over Missouri and Oklahoma, almost certainly will jump to No. 2 in the polls and collect enough computer support to land in the BCS title game.
BCS bowl scenario: Of all the contenders, Kansas has the toughest road ahead to remain unbeaten. A loss to Missouri probably will cost the Jayhawks a spot in the Big XII title game, and with it, a BCS at-large berth. A win over the Tigers in Kansas City will probably assure KU its first-ever BCS bowl appearance.
Root for: Oklahoma. If the Jayhawks were to achieve this improbable dream, they need the big bad Sooners to be 11-1 heading into the Big XII title game.
Root against: Ohio State, LSU, Oregon, Missouri. Yes, Mizzou. If you're a Jayhawks fan, you need to hedge your bet. A Tigers loss (or two) will make things easier for KU to clinch the Big XII North and gain a BCS bowl invite.

5. Oklahoma (8-1)
Losable games: Nov. 17 at Texas Tech (7-3); Dec. 1 at Big XII championship
National title scenario: The Sooners will really rue that shocking loss to Colorado back on Sept. 29. It's going to take at least two of the top three teams losing to get them into the national championship game. But in this strange season, you never say never.
BCS bowl scenario: It's possible for OU to reach the Big XII title game but be shut out of a BCS berth altogether. Here's how: If Missouri defeats a previously unbeaten Kansas and then upsets Oklahoma in the Big XII title game, then the Tigers get the Fiesta Bowl berth and KU might steal the at-large berth with just one loss.
Root for: Kansas. That being said, OU wants the Jayhawks to come into the Big XII title game unbeaten and then puts the hurt on them. That will help things if the battle for the national title game spots gets tight.
Root against: Ohio State, LSU, Oregon, West Virginia. The Mountaineers are not really in the hunt, but just in case.

6. Missouri (8-1)
Losable games: Nov. 17 at Kansas State (5-4); Nov. 24 vs. Kansas (9-0); Dec. 1 at Big XII championship game
National title scenario: After further review, the Guru decided to put the Tigers back in the national title chase, even if their chances are slim to none. In this crazy season, if two of the top three teams lose down the stretch, Mizzou will have a shot if it wins out.
BCS bowl scenario: The Tigers do control their own destiny here. Go 3-0 the rest of the regular season, a BCS bowl berth is probably assured. Win the Big XII, a trip to the Fiesta Bowl is guaranteed.
Root for: Oklahoma. Just like in Kansas' case, Missouri wants the Sooners in the Big XII title game with an 11-1 record.
Root against: Ohio State, LSU, Oregon, West Virginia.

Later this week, the Guru will break down the chances for the rest of the BCS bowl contenders.

No comments: