November 28, 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 battle royal 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.
• Status quo. As close as it came to falling out of the picture altogether at Alabama, Auburn is your new No. 1 this week by a staggering margin of .0002. Rounded up, it's a tie, and an appropriate one: The Tigers and Ducks have been on a collision course at No. 1 and No. 2 for six weeks. You couldn't slide a piece of paper between them at this point, which is what a championship game ought to look like. If the Tigers and Ducks clear their final hurdles Saturday, they're booking their flights to Glendale, period.
• Happy trails. The on-deck circle still belongs to TCU, for the fifth week in a row now, even though pretty much everyone was convinced last week that the Horned Frogs were on their way out once Boise State notched its inevitable win over Nevada. Not so fast, my friends. With the Broncos' second half collapse in Reno and slide out of the top 10, TCU is officially the next man in if either of the top two takes a dive this weekend.
The only potential one-loss threat to that assumption: Auburn. The Horned Frogs obviously aren't going to be caught from behind by Stanford or Wisconsin, and they're close enough to Oregon in the computers that it's hard to imagine them not leapfrogging the Ducks in the wake of a stunner at Oregon State. But it's far less certain that the Frogs will move in front of Auburn in the computers if South Carolina hands the Tigers a loss in Atlanta. And if it's a close enough shave, the human polls could keep Auburn hovering near enough to TCU to hold on to one of its BCS Championship slots. It's not likely, but it's the only concern in TCU's mind if it gets the ultimate break.
• Wisconsin is going to the Rose Bowl. As expected, the first of the three-headed conference tiebreakers falls to the Badgers, who are all but guaranteed now to take the Big Ten's automatic bid to Pasadena over No. 6 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan State by virtue of a clean sweep: Both human polls and five of the six computers reward Wisconsin's latest ritual sacrifice by keeping it in front of its co-champions. The distinction isn't officially official until the final standings of the season. But if that order holds next week – and with all three teams in the clubhouse at 11-1, there's nothing happening in the meantime that might possibly change it – the Rose is the Badgers' oyster.
Their opponent there, barring an upset that shuffles the top of the order, will be TCU: If the Pac-10 champion (Oregon) is selected for the championship game, the Rose Bowl is contractually obligated this year to replace the Pac-10's traditional slot with the highest qualifying outfit from one of the non-"Big Six" conferences. Now, that's TCU.
• Oklahoma is going to the Big 12 Championship Game. The other three-way knot unfurled by the standings is in the Big 12 South, where Oklahoma's 47-41 win at Oklahoma State vaulted the Sooners ahead of OSU and the third leg of the division deadlock, Texas A&M, for the South's slot in the Big 12 Championship Game. OU will go head-to-head with longtime rival Nebraska in Dallas next weekend, after which the championship game will cease to exist until further notice. This is exactly like the 2008 tiebreaker scenario that sent the Sooners on to the Big 12 title game instead of co-champs Texas and Texas Tech, only without the national championship implications or irate Texas A&M fans hiring airplanes to fly banners with the final score of the Aggies' 33-19 win over OU on Nov. 6.
• At-large math. Stanford's move into the No. 4 slot is a big deal for the Cardinal: The No. 4 team is guaranteed a position in one of the four non-championship games, rendering moot any questions about Stanford's ability to draw crowds and eyeballs on television. In all likelihood, the Cardinal will be en route to play the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl, which heaves a huge sigh of relief that it's not stuck with the woebegone, unranked Big East champ. (As owner of the final at-large selection, the Fiesta Bowl will grin and bear the rating-sucking presence of either West Virginia or UConn.) After that, the only question is whether the Sugar Bowl's selection process goes "Arkansas-Ohio State" or "Ohio State-Arkansas."
• For chaos' sake. Only three possible scenarios remain for a championship result other than 13-0 Auburn vs. 12-0 Oregon:
a) Oregon loses at Oregon State, moving TCU into the ultimate Cinderella role opposite Auburn in the championship game;
b) Auburn loses to South Carolina, either setting up a TCU-Oregon showdown for the championship (channel your 2004 self and read that again) or snubbing the Horned Frogs anyway for a one-loss Tiger outfit that didn't win its own conference, inventing an entirely new screw job scenario for the haters to attack; or
c) Auburn and Oregon lose, setting up No. 1 TCU against one of a menagerie of one-loss candidates for No. 2. Again, because of the persistent Tiger love in the computers, the most likely to emerge from that pack would be Auburn, though the crippling fall that always accompanies a late loss in the human polls could leave the door open for Stanford. (Sorry, Wisconsin, but the Big Ten as a whole has too much baggage in the computers to make an 11th-hour leap without playing another game.)
No matter what, TCU is a lightning rod: Either the Frogs are going to be snubbed (again) with a perfect record, or they're going to be awarded a golden ticket for surviving a subpar schedule. There's enough fuel on both sides to keep the fire burning for another month.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.