October 17, 2010
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 playoff bracket 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 first rule of the initial BCS standings is: Don't put too much stock in the initial BCS standings. If the back-to-back pratfalls by Alabama and Ohio State have proven anything over the last two weeks, it's that a No. 1 ranking is no safety net, and that goes for both of the current No. 1s. The computer love for Oklahoma's strength of schedule may be enough to overcome the human voters' qualms with the Sooners' sketchy defense and too-close-for-comfort wins over Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati, but it's not going to shield them from another upset bid at undefeated Missouri (another computer favorite) next week. And the high-scoring human favorite, Oregon, is still staring down trips to USC, Cal and Oregon State, interspersed with visits from Arizona and Washington. The most important point at this stage, with seven more sets of rankings to come, is that anyone can go down at any time, and everyone still has a chance.
• Auburn and LSU are the only teams that control their own destiny. Of course, some chances are better than others. The dueling Tigers of the SEC West are already on the computers' good sides, coming in at No. 2 and 3 among the machines, respectively. They also have the toughest remaining schedules, featuring not only each other but also Alabama, Ole Miss, Arkansas (for LSU), the reanimated corpse of Georgia (for Auburn) and the SEC Championship Game. If either one makes it through that gauntlet undefeated, it will almost certainly be No. 1 across the board, and will definitely be playing for the BCS title in January.
That's not true for anyone else, even the two teams currently at the top, which have no chance to fend off an undefeated SEC insurgency and no clear-cut way to distinguish between one another if both Sooners and Ducks run the table. Boise State, TCU, Utah and Michigan State (which misses Ohio State in the Big Ten schedule) all need help because of their schedules and the general lack of brand recognition. Even if every single game the rest of the season were to somehow fall in line with the chalk, leaving us with six undefeated teams to sort through on the final weekend, the only one of those teams we can plug into a championship with near-total certainty right now is an undefeated SEC champion, i.e. Auburn or LSU.
The odds of Auburn or LSU actually finishing undefeated against their schedules? That's another story.
• The Boise Problem. On that front, the only team with a clear run to 12-0 is still Boise State, especially now that would-be sniper Nevada has been "exposed" by Hawaii as more or less another WAC mediocrity. Michigan State visits Iowa on Oct. 30; TCU and Utah go head-to-head a week later in Salt Lake City. Only Boise has the luxury of holding court against a steady diet of double-digit underdogs while the chaos continues to unfold around it, and though the computer polls obviously aren't going to give the Broncos a free ride, it may not matter: The Broncos are apparently only an upset away from assuming the top spot in both of the relevant human polls.
• For chaos' sake. The ideal narrative for maximum BCS anarchy remains an undefeated Boise State and/or TCU/Utah against a lineup of one-loss powerhouses, which early returns suggest could cause fistfights by Thanksgiving. There's no precedent for the decision because human polls have never given the little guys anywhere near the respect they're getting this year – really, three non-"Big Six" teams in the top ten? The arbitrary logic and inconsistent comparisons on both sides of the ledger in that scenario will make all previous debates look like a reading of the minutes.
Then, of course, there is always the ultimate horror of choosing between three or more undefeated teams at the end of the year, a guaranteed nightmare if the discussion includes a showdown of, say, 12-0 Michigan State against 12-0 Boise and/or 12-0 Utah/TCU – while the SEC partisans burn the torches at the same time for one-loss Alabama/Auburn/LSU. Right now, the combinations for chaos are almost endless, which can only mean it's going to be an interesting six weeks.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.