Monday, October 5, 2009

SEC Bloodbath ... Coming Soon

For the second week in a row, the top of the BCS Standings (Simulated) are dominated by SEC teams. Alabama, LSU and Florida are ranked 1-2-3 this week. This week's standings are just about as good as the real thing, with both polls (Coaches and Harris) and five of the six BCS computer ratings available. Anderson & Hester made its 2009 debut this week, leaving just Peter Wolfe, who does not publish his rankings until the first actual BCS Standings are released (this season on Oct. 18).

Since the computers are not allowed to use margin of victory (MOV) as a component, there's little surprise that LSU is so highly rated, despite two close-calls the last two weeks. The Tigers, in fact, are ranked No. 1 in all five BCS computers. Alabama's high computer ratings also help to keep the Tide at No. 1 for the third straight week.

Florida and Texas, the two teams atop the polls, are dogged by soft schedules and therefore less-than-stellar computer rankings. The Longhorns will have a three-game stretch where they'll face Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State, which starts in two weeks. The Gators will have an opportunity to fix that this week with a visit to Baton Rouge.

This series is filled with dramatic games and upsets. The last time Tim Tebow and Florida visited Death Valley, in 2007, they trotted away losers.

But the point that's been made here throughout the season still stands: Florida is in danger of falling out of the BCS title race with just one loss. After LSU, Florida has just one game left against an opponent that doesn't already have two losses (South Carolina). And besides the Tigers, the Gators don't play the three best teams in the SEC West, who are all ranked (Alabama, Ole Miss and Auburn).

With only 13 unbeaten teams remaining, it's highly unlikely that the BCS championship game will feature two undefeated teams. In fact, the team with the best chance to finish the season unbeaten is Boise State, who has only two games left against teams with winning records (Tulsa and Idaho). A number of teams with just one loss right now still have a chance to climb back into the race, including USC and Virginia Tech.

But the one-loss option might not exist for Florida. Its already-weak computer ratings are right now helped by a premium most computers assign to unbeaten teams. As long as the Gators stay unbeaten, their computer rankings will eventually migrate upward as other teams begin to lose games. A loss, however, will almost certainly drop them out of the top 10 altogether, and with no credible opponent left to reboot the computer ratings, Florida may never recover from it, as was the case with USC last season.

The Gators do have one ace in the hole that wasn't available to the Trojans: The SEC Championship Game. If Florida wins the SEC East with one loss and then beats an unbeaten or one-loss SEC West champ, the Gators still might get enough love in the polls to offset unfavorable computer ratings. But if I were Urban Meyer, it's a scenario I'd rather not entertain if I could help it.

That's why this week's game at LSU is just about a make-or-break game for the Gators. A win makes it a step closer to an unbeaten regular season and sets up a catbird seat to watch the bloodbath that's about to unfold in the SEC West, as four ranked teams set to duke it out for the pleasure of playing Florida in the SEC title game.

1 comment:

Brian said...

Again this week I computed the BCS ranking under the old formula and the top 4 remain the same: Alabama, LSU, Florida, Texas. Virginia Tech is no. 5. For the drastic change in the formula, the results are close to the same.