November 22, 2009
In a perfect world, the Doc would be given carte blanche to publicly torch the Bowl Championship Series in effigy and institute the elaborate, double-elimination battle royale of his dreams. But we live in the world we live in, so each Sunday the Doc looks at what the new BCS numbers mean for the rest of the season. Rooting interest: chaos. Always chaos.
• The more things change ... well, actually, we wouldn't know about that. We knew going into the weekend that there was infinitesimal chances of movement at the top, so to dispense with the formalities: The top seven is identical to last week's top seven, which was identical to the top seven the week before that. Florida, Alabama and Texas have occupied the top three slots in various orders in all six BCS polls this year and have no realistic expectation of relinquishing them, probably even after the Gators or Tide take a hit in the SEC Championship game. The only team that fell out of the top 10 was No. 9 LSU, which was probably overrated with no really quality wins, anyway (and remains so at No. 15 after its loss at Ole Miss, which somehow checks in 10 full spots below the Tigers, at No. 25, despite the head-to-head win, an identical record and a practically identical set of wins. But if we get into the injustices outside of the top 10 -- BYU is still in the top 20? For what? -- we'll be here all night).
The time is coming to roll out some moral outrage on behalf of undefeated TCU and Cincinnati for their pending snubs from the championship game, but by the system's logic, there's less and less point discussing their chances of crashing the Rose Bowl as the chances of any of the top three losing keep going down. (See below.)
The only relevant discussion left, then, is the jockeying for position for the last two at-large spots. TCU and the loser of the SEC Championship are pretty clearly locked into the first two spots, leaving Penn State/Iowa, Oklahoma State and Boise State in line for the last two. If there was any justice, the slots would fall to the two higher-ranked options in that quartet, Iowa and Boise State. But since the at-large process is primarily about tickets, ratings and other financial concerns, Penn State and Oklahoma State are the better bets -- if the Cowboys finish off sinking rival Oklahoma's dismal season Saturday in Norman. If the Big Ten is practically assured of filling one of those slots with the Nittany Lions or Hawkeyes, Boise's only opportunity probably lies with the Sooners knocking OSU from the running. Otherwise, the Broncos become something of a charity case, hoping against hope the Fiesta Bowl committee is more interested in their stellar record and ranking than the much less impressive track record of smaller conference teams when it comes to filling seats and pulling eyeballs.
• For chaos' sake. There are two possible scenarios for breaking up the inevitable Texas vs. SEC Champion showdown and lifting either TCU or Cincinnati into the BCS Championship game, and they're both pretty farfetched:
• Texas loses one of its final two games to Texas A&M or Nebraska.
• Alabama or Florida loses its regular season finale to Auburn or Florida State, respectively, and that surprise loser rebounds to win the SEC Championship.
In the first case, Texas doesn't quite carry the cachet with its schedule (note that the Longhorns are still ranked below Cincinnati according to the computers) to hold onto one of the top two spots with a loss; if UT falls, TCU or Cincinnati will be waiting to fill the void, depending on whether the Bearcats move up with a solid win over Pittsburgh. The best outcome for the darkhorses is still a Texas loss.
A one-loss SEC champion is a tougher scenario: Even in the extremely unlikely event 'Bama or Florida falls this week, the redemptive hype of the SEC title game is still likely to lift the winner into the BCS Championship, even with a loss. At least in that scenario, though, there would be no end of controversy over the probable snubs, which is much better than the unchanging status quo we've been dealt for the last month-and-a-half.