Sunday, October 28, 2012

Odds Are: It'll Be 'Bama vs. K-State

Nov. 6 will not be the only election day in America this fall.

The night of Dec. 1 will be the other one, with millions on pins and needles, not to check on election returns but BCS projections on which two teams will emerge to play in the national championship game. Only on this occasion, most everyone is helpless in determining the outcome other than the 174 voters in the coaches and Harris polls.

But the spinning and bloviating will come fast and furious over the next five weeks, perhaps rivaling our heated presidential and congressional elections. Media relations and PR types from various schools will try to make a case on why their program truly deserves a coveted spot in the BCS title game. They'll tell you why some scores are deceiving, some stats are meaningless and that you should never, ever believe your own lyin' eyes.

Make no mistake, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame - and to a lesser degree Alabama - will all try to spin things their way. And now believe this - all the appeals and posturing will have an impact.

For now, though, it's the teams ranked Nos. 2-4 in the latest BCS standings that need to do all the talking, on and off the field. While we provided a forecast on these teams' chances of going undefeated in our projections Sunday morning, now it's time to assess the likelihood of their landing in the BCS title game should each of these teams go undefeated:

Alabama: For the Tide, it's simple - win and in. They do not require any type of scoreboard watching and sweating of their poll or computer rankings. Alabama is the unanimous choice for No. 1 in the coaches poll and nearly so in the Harris poll. On that basis alone the Tide will comfortably slide back into their second consecutive BCS title game, as long as they win. (Probability of reaching title game by going undefeated: 100%)

Kansas State: The Wildcats are tied with Notre Dame atop the computer rankings and have made up considerable ground on Oregon in both polls. K-State will benefit from playing potentially two more ranked teams this season (Oklahoma State and Texas) and the absence of a Big 12 title game probably won't hurt too much. Ideally, the Wildcats will want the Irish to also finish undefeated, thus providing a buffer in the computer ratings to hold off Oregon. (75%)

Oregon: While the Ducks are still No. 2 in both polls, they have lost vote shares every week since the Harris poll first came out on Oct. 7. They can maybe recover some of vote hemorrhaging in the coming weeks as they get into the meat of their schedule, but the problem is the games that once looked daunting are much less so now, after USC's latest implosion and Oregon State's first loss of the season on Saturday. The Ducks' games against USC, Stanford and Oregon State will not be showdowns against top 10 teams anymore and the Pac-12 title game now may very well feature an unranked Arizona, Arizona State or UCLA team. While there's little doubt that Oregon's computer rankings will improve, it's no sure thing that they'll crack the top 2 if all the other teams remain unbeaten. (50%)

Notre Dame: As much brand power as the Irish wield, the simple math right now stand in the way of their first national championship in nearly a quarter century. While Notre Dame gained some support in the polls after an emphatic win at Oklahoma, its computer rankings are now topped out. The Irish are unlikely to impress the voters no matter how much they win their next three games by and their season finale against USC now has lost much of its allure as the Trojans may have four or five losses by that point. (25%)

As we're five weeks out from an unreal ending of the 2012 regular season, it's increasingly likely that we'll have an Alabama-Kansas State BCS championship game. Because of their strength in the computers and an imposing resume, the Wildcats just might become the first team to make to the BCS title game without finishing first or second in the polls since the formula was revised in 2004. That would be a bitter pill for Oregon as it was K-State that ostensibly backed out of a home-and-home with the Ducks that would've taken place this year, in Eugene.



Anonymous said...

KSU did not back out of game with Oregon. It was a mutual decision to cancel the game. No buyout. Oregon was offered a game against LSU that they did not want to pass up. it created a swcheduling conflict with the ksu game. KSU was moving to a 9 game conf schedule. It made since to drop the series.

Trent McBride said...

Shouldn't the percentages add up to 200%? Yours add up to 250. That would be possible if any of those teams played each other, making it impossible for them all to go undefeated.

Is there any more poetic way for the BCS in current form to go out than with 4 teams going undefeated. Too perfect.