November 16, 2008
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.
At one point Saturday night, a paradigm-shifting stunner looked possible, if not exactly probable. Simultaneously, for a few minutes, Mississippi State led Alabama in the second quarter while Stanford was knotted with USC at the half, with Troy running roughshod over LSU for good measure (losing the Tigers as a viable strength of schedule card would be a hit to Florida and/or Alabama, although maybe not a significant one; every tenth of a point here is crucial). But no alarms in the end, no surprises: All the favorites held on, and the top nine this week is identical to last week. The only change in the top-10 is in the final spot, where Ohio State leapfrogs Georgia (insert OMG Big Ten over SEC! lament here, and blather yourself into a stupor trying to justify it).
I maintain, along with everyone else, that the mythical championship game is inevitably a collision between someone from the Big 12 South -- not necessarily the champion, if that champ should happen to fall to overlooked Missouri in the Big 12 Championship -- and the winner of the Florida-Alabama showdown in the SEC. As I said earlier this week, though, I don't think that team can be Texas under any realistic scenario. Too many chips have to fall exactly the Longhorns' way, and the voters/computers still have to buy them over strong competing arguments, as we'll see below.
Sitting pretty. Three teams are in "just win" mode: Texas Tech, which can still finish 13-0, and Florida and Alabama, which obviously need only to win their respective rivalry games (yes, I'm taking a Gator victory over The Citadel this week for granted) to set up a winner-take-all "semi-final" in the SEC Championship.
The fourth team I'd throw into that mix is Oklahoma, with this week's hyped visit from Texas Tech serving as the other "semifinal" game. The Sooners remain behind Texas for now -- as they should, given the head-to-head result in October -- but a win over the streaking Raiders Saturday would likely vault OU ahead of the Longhorns with another tough game, at Oklahoma State, to solidify that lead. Since both Oklahoma and Texas' routes to the Big 12 Championship hinge on a Tech loss to OU and a subsequent showdown in the BCS standings, the Sooners' pending advantage there -- that is, if they beat Tech and OSU -- puts them in the driver's seat.
A little help? Texas is in a bizarre situation in that its route to the Big 12 Championship is virtually impossible -- no matter what happens in Norman this weekend, the Horns' winning the South essentially requires a Baylor upset over Texas Tech in two weeks -- and its path to the national championship depends on both Oklahoma and Texas Tech losing down the stretch, one of them in the Big 12 Championship. As I see it, the only way Texas finishes in the top two in the final BCS is this:
• Oklahoma beats Texas Tech (Creates three-way tie between UT, OU and Tech)
• Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma (Eliminates Oklahoma; creates two-way tie between UT and Tech, which Tech wins on head-to-head tiebreaker)
• Baylor beats Texas Tech, sending UT to the Big 12 Championship (please), OR
• Missouri beats Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship (Texas advances to No. 2 by attrition)
If Oklahoma goes on to the Big 12 Championship and loses, leaving voters to decide between one-loss Texas and one-loss Texas Tech, they're likely to remember this:
... and vote for Texas Tech. If Texas Tech beats Oklahoma, goes on to the Big 12 Championship and loses, they're likely to remember that win, throw up their hands and vote for USC.
Basically, Texas cannot win unless it's in precisely the bullet-pointed sequence laid out above, which leaves Oklahoma and Texas Tech with two losses apiece. Though that's still better than USC's chances, especially if Oregon State keeps winning and the Trojans can't even play the "conference champion" card.
For chaos' sake. Other than crossing your fingers for long-shot upsets by Florida State, Auburn or Baylor, any scenario under which Missouri wins the Big 12 championship throws the whole system into disarray. No matter the exact permutations -- whether the Tigers beat Oklahoma or Texas Tech -- voters would be left to decide between a pair of one-loss teams (Texas and Texas Tech), neither of which won its conference championship, and USC, which has a weaker schedule and might not win its conference championship, either, depending on what happens to Oregon State. I mean, does Penn State creep back into that picture? Or, heaven forbid, computer fave Utah? There is no fair way to resolve that scenario.
So whatever happens over the next two weeks, remember: There's always Chase Daniel, maker of mischief, waiting on Dec. 6 to burn this whole thing to the ground.