November 08, 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.
• Status quo. At the top, the story is the same: Florida and Alabama are now officially locked into the SEC title game, where the winner -- possibly even if the eventual winner manages to lose a game between now and Dec. 5 -- will head to Pasadena for a showdown with rolling Texas, barring a miracle upset by Baylor, Kansas, Texas A&M or the eventual Big 12 North champ over the final month; fat chance. The computers still don't like the Longhorns (see below) and still may not with UT's relatively lame schedule down the stretch, but there's no conceivable way an undefeated Texas doesn't wind up squaring off with an undefeated SEC champ.
• USC is ranked ahead of Oregon. I repeat: USC is ranked ahead of Oregon. In the human polls, anyway, and it's not even close: The Harris poll ranks USC (No. 10) four spots ahead of the Ducks (14), and the coaches have the Trojans a full six spots ahead, dropping the Ducks all the way to No. 16 following their loss at Stanford. This despite Oregon's a) Possessing an identical overall record (7-2) and a better Pac-10 record (5-1 to 4-2) than the Trojans, and still controlling their own destiny in the conference; b) Having not lost to a team with only two other wins on the season, as USC did in its still-inexplicable flop at Washington; and c) Having utterly humiliated the Trojans as no other team has in more than a decade just last week. Apparently voters were so impressed by USC's worst offensive output in more than five years in its narrow, 14-9 escape at Arizona State Saturday while remaining so utterly horrified at Oregon's lopsided loss to the Cardinal that everything preceding those results was discarded entirely. Maybe it has something to do with last week's time change.
The computers? They collectively rank the Ducks 10th and USC 11th, with five of the six (all except perpetually outlying and notably ridiculous algorithm constructed by Richard Billingsley) ranking Oregon higher -- and they don't even consider head-to-head in their formulas! The human polls' vote for USC is blind "slip 'n slide" voting at its worst and clearly illustrates either how little the pollsters are paying attention or how little they care about what they see.
• Frog up. The biggest mover this week is TCU, which hops Cincinnati into Iowa's vacated position at No. 4 thanks to a bump in the computers that moved the Horned Frogs ahead of Texas for beating ... uh, San Diego State. In fact, the Longhorns saw one of the two teams in front of them in the computer polls last week lose (Iowa), yet somehow still managed to drop two spots in the eyes of the machines, falling behind TCU and Cincinnati and losing ground on Alabama, with which the 'Horns shared the No. 3 ranking in the computer polls last week. Apparently, TCU's strength of schedule was boosted by Clemson's fourth straight win, and Texas' SOS took a beating at the hands of losses by two of it's most "valuable" victims, Oklahoma and Missouri. Hence the 'Horns drop behind computer favorite Alabama, despite carrying the human polls.
That move apparently puts TCU in the driver's seat if the unthinkable happens to derail the hard-charging Texas vs. Alabama/Florida championship blockbuster, but considering Cincinnati's route to 12-0 still runs through a pair of ranked teams, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the Bearcats remain a better bet to move up in the long run if they keep winning. The computers are already with them.
The computers are also the saving grace of LSU and Iowa, which each fell hard in the human polls in favor of big winners Ohio State and Pittsburgh, which came in at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, in both the Coaches and Harris polls while the Tigers and Hawkeyes were bounced from the top 10 altogether.
• Deep thoughts. The Big East has four teams in this week's top 25 (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, South Florida and West Virginia), tying the Pac-10 and Big Ten for the most of any conference. The SEC has three teams (tying it with the Mountain West and ACC), but all three are in the top eight, even though Alabama and Florida's only victories over another top-20 team are over LSU, and LSU has no wins over another team in the top 25. The Big 12 has two teams, Texas and Oklahoma State.
• For chaos' sake. With all of the obvious regular season tests vanquished, it's getting less and less likely that Alabama/Florida or Texas will actually lose a game, and Oregon's fall in Palo Alto effectively eliminates Boise State from any serious discussion behind the "Big Three." With Iowa also knocked from the running, the best chance to throw the system into disarray remains an upset against Texas, which would give Cincy or TCU a chance to move up if either or both remains undefeated. Either would probably be voted in ahead of the one-loss Longhorns, but if it came down to, say, TCU vs. a one-loss SEC champion for the spot opposite undefeated Texas, there would be serious rending of garments over the TCU/SEC decision either way. Ditto a decision between Cincinnati and a one-loss SEC champ.
There is still one very, very long shot for drama and catastrophe even if all of the "Big Three" run the table, and it lies with the computers. As it stands, Cincinnati is ranked ahead of Texas in four of the six computer polls, and the Bearcats' slate only gets tougher down the stretch, while Texas' remains relatively light, even including the Big 12 Championship game; Cincy should only consolidate its lead over UT in that regard the rest of the way. It's conceivable -- not likely, but conceivable -- that Cincy's lead in the computers will be enough to jump the Bearcats over Texas in the final standings on Dec. 6 if they're sitting just behind the 'Horns at No. 3 in the human polls, which would lead to riots in the streets of Austin and in every sports column outside of the greater Cincinnati metro area. That probably requires a couple big, pundit-impressing wins by Cincinnati over West Virginia and Pitt, a loss by TCU to clear the way and a close call or two by Texas to even be mathematically possible. But it's there.