Monday, October 10, 2011

Roses, But No Crystal Ball, for Big Ten and Pac-12

The first official BCS Standings of the 2011 season is due out next Sunday. But with both the Coaches Poll and Harris Poll, plus five of the six computer data available, we already have a pretty good picture (about 94 percent accurate) on what the BCS landscape will be like.

It will come up Roses for the Big Ten and Pac-12 winner. As in, Pasadena, instead of the BCS title game.

The BCS final battles will be settled when LSU goes to Alabama on Nov. 5 and, if applicable, when Oklahoma visits Stillwater for Bedlam on Dec. 3. Almost no other games will matter, and that includes the inaugural Big Ten and Pac-12 championships.

While each league still has an unbeaten team that has a legitimate shot at going undefeated (Wisconsin and Stanford), they'll have neither the poll support nor the computer points to overtake the survivors of the two aforementioned showdowns.

The Badgers are the odds-on favorite to win the Leaders Division of the new Big Ten, but their best-case scenario will be the Rose Bowl at this point. The Badgers have only themselves to blame for their cupcake-filled nonconference schedule that dragged down their computer rankings. In three of the five computer ratings available, Wisconsin is ranked in the mid-teens.

Stanford is likewise done in by its schedule, but its main problem will be the polls. The Cardinal have yet to play a ranked team and their only chance to demonstrate their worth for the voters will be their Nov. 12 showdown against Oregon. USC and Notre Dame remain on Stanford's schedule, but they may be of only limited utility to Andrew Luck & Co.

At the moment, it appears the winner of the LSU-Alabama game will be a lock to go unbeaten, as the winner of the weak SEC East won't be able to put up much resistance in the conference championship game. Oklahoma may be a bit more vulnerable, as it has a trip to Oklahoma State and games at Manhattan and Waco still remaining. But at least the Sooners don't need to worry about a potential trap in the now-defunct Big 12 title game.

Now, should OU falter, who's more likely to step in?

Firmly in the on-deck circle is Boise State. The Broncos already had its signature win in their season opener against Georgia, and it may be consigned to a fate of not having faced a single ranked opponent. They will be heavily-favored to run the table, but the Broncos will have no shot at the BCS title game unless OU or the SEC winner loses a game.

If the Broncos should lose a shocker (very unlikely) or slump in the BCS standings (more plausible), then here's the surprise. The winner of the ACC faceoff between Clemson and Georgia Tech on Oct. 29 in Atlanta may be a darkhorse for the BCS title game should the SEC or Big 12 leaders falter. Both teams have relatively healthy computer rankings and still have decent opponents left on the schedule to boost their profile.

There are four other unbeaten teams left (Michigan, Illinois, Kansas State, Houston), but none of them is a serious threat to remain unbeaten the rest of the season. So one week before we're even into the official BCS standings, the pecking order is pretty much set.

The Rose Bowl hates the idea of being thought of as a consolation prizes, but that's what it gets from its Faustian bargain with the BCS.


Anonymous said...

Hi Guru,

Just letting you know that I found an error in your simulated BCS rankings. Clemson's Colley Matrix rating is listed as 0 (ie, not in the top 25), when really they are 8th, giving them 18 points. This will put them at 7th, pulling ahead of Stanford and just behind Wisconsin.

The Guru said...

Thanks for the catch. I erroneously assigned Clemson's values to Oregon. It has been corrected.

Ivan Y said...

It's kind of sad to see Big 12 in such disarray despite being having been best or second-best conference for such a long time. But barring some minor miracles, it's B12 vs SEC for the trophy.

P.S. Houston has a very good chance to run the table but obviously won't make it into a championship game and, even of Boise St. loses a game, would have to have everything fall exactly right (i.e. everyone else losing a few games) to make it into top-12.

Alex said...

Georgia Tech would pretty much have to jump Boise if they go undefeated, correct? Not only would they beat a very good Clemson team, but they'd also have to beat UGA, which mostly negates that as a big win for Boise in comparison.

The Guru said...

@Alex - That's an interesting question. GT will have to make up a lot of ground on the polls and will need other unbeaten teams to lose to make up the gap.

I still don't think they'll get past Boise in the two polls, and if that's the case, they won't make up the difference from the computers.