October 25, 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.
• Oh, it's boring at the top. Florida, Alabama and Texas remain 1-2-3 by healthy margins, even though the computers remain wholly unpersuaded by the Longhorns. These three should be absolutely safe if they keep winning -- certainly the human polls aren't going to consider dropping any of them from the perch without a loss, and Texas should boost its popularity among the machines if it wins this weekend at Oklahoma State. Even if it doesn't, the gulfs in human-computer opinion on the next four teams in line will keep any of them from threatening any of the "Big Three" despite the digital love.
• Movin' on up. The big change is the wholesale flop right behind that "Big Three": Iowa, USC and TCU, which ranked 6-7-8 last week, move into the 4-5-6 slots thanks to solid wins by all three -- and, in the case of USC and Iowa, no change in their standing in the human polls. But the computers were suitably impressed by the Trojans and Hawkeyes' tough wins over Oregon State and Michigan State, respectively, bumping SC from a consensus No. 11 last week to No. 9 and rewarding Iowa's last-second triumph with a bump from No. 3 to ... wait for it ... No. 1 this week. Remember: As far as the computers are concerned, a win is a win, people.
Off its pantsing of BYU in Provo, TCU is the most upwardly mobile member of the top 10 this week thanks to a two-spot bump (from No. 8 to No. 6) in the Coaches' poll and a whopping four-spot advance among the computers. If they run the table in the Mountain and Iowa and Texas both drop games down the stretch, the Frogs will have their lobby, and it will probably come bearing circuitboards.
• Sayonara, Broncos. The Iowa/USC/TCU advance into the top six comes at the expense of Boise State (No. 4 last week) and Cincinnati (No. 5), which drop to Nos. 7 and 8, respectively, despite blowout wins by both on Saturday. Again, the machines are responsible for the turmoil, docking the Broncos and Bearcats three spots apiece in the computer consensus, presumably as a result of strength of schedule relative to their peers in the contending class.
I'm not sure about Cincinnati, which still has Pittsburgh and West Virginia coming up to boost its strength of schedule, but the three-position tumble almost spells the end of Boise State's already distant title dreams; I can't imagine any of the mediocrities and ne'er-do-wells remaining on the Broncos' schedule adding enough value to lift them back into the top five. In fact, the computers have already moved Oregon in front of the Broncos despite BSU's convincing win over the Ducks in the opener, and the human polls may follow if Oregon upsets USC on Saturday; if the Trojans win in Eugene, it will only solidify their standing in front of Boise. The bloodletting that would have to occur to get the Broncos moving in the right direction is beyond contemplation.
• For chaos' sake. Again, the de facto scenario is obviously a collision course between Texas and the Alabama/Florida winner in the SEC Championship game. But there could still be four other undefeated teams at year's end, and any one of Iowa, TCU and Cincinnati (sorry, Boise, the schedule is going to keep you from the discussion) could generate a bonfire of criticism by its exclusion. Better yet: If Texas should fall and the system has to choose among the Hawkeyes, Frogs and Bearcats for the second slot in the championship game when there's no agreement across the board about any of them; if it comes to that, it's even odds that the pollsters just throw up their hands and vote for one-loss USC over one of the unbeaten upstarts, in which case it gets really fun.