A couple of preliminary things. First, another reminder to get those top 25s in. I only have three in addition to my own so far. Second, check out the LSU/Ole Miss Rivalry blog.
I also wanted to mention that LSU is bowl-eligible for the 14th season in a row. This was after only qualifying for a bowl three times (the first three years of DiNardo) from 1989 to 1999. I like to recall how much better things are than they used to be, even though I think most LSU fans feel overdue for another national championship.
I’ve done preliminary calculations of the BCS ratings. Keep in mind that one of the computers (Wolfe, which usually treats the SEC fairly well) is not in operation yet. I only looked at the teams that were in the top 14 of the relevant polls. Texas Tech was #15, and I knew they weren’t high enough in the computers to move them into the top 10.
4 Fla. St.
5 Ohio St.
7 Texas A&M
Miami and Missouri were 11th and 12th, respectively. Stanford and South Carolina were far enough back that it’s possible other teams whose BCS ratings I didn’t approximate could be ahead of either or both of them.
The deck may look stacked against LSU making it as a one-loss team at first blush, but keep in mind that only one ACC team will be left standing, and for LSU to finish with one loss, they have to beat #1 Alabama anyway. I’ll elaborate more about the potential avenues to the title game for undefeateds (for non-BCS or AAC undefeateds, it’s realistically about making a BCS bowl game) and one-loss teams below. It could be awfully interesting if voters have to choose between undefeated Ohio St. and one-loss LSU at the end of the season, but chances are one of them will lose between now and then.
After the LSU/Georgia game, Lou Holtz and Mark May talked about whether we would have a one-loss team in the national championship game. Holtz seemed pretty confident that we would not, but as May rightly pointed out, people seem to have that idea at that point every year. I tend to think at least one team will have a loss, and the results of the games this week supported that idea.
Last year, we were about another month into the season when LSU played Alabama, and conventional wisdom was that SEC fans should cheer for Alabama since if Alabama lost, there would be no SEC team in the BCS title game. Not only would LSU had made the BCS title game by winning out in hindsight, Alabama actually lost in the FOLLOWING week (over a month after LSU’s first loss) and still stayed high enough and rebounded to make and win the BCS title.
Part of the reason I like waiting until this point in the season before I do computer ratings (other than them being easier to reasonably calculate) is there is a lot more to consider and be said at this point. It’s more important to have something objective to fall back on.
Another reason is what I started off with, the BCS, but of course this is the last time we have that week of anticipation before the first BCS standings.
As an aside, I hope there will be some sort of guideline given out by the new committee. There seems to be a consensus that there needs to be something to let people know the approximate places of the teams rather than blindsiding everyone in December, but the form that will take and the timing is anyone’s guess. I hope it’s something a little more helpful than the college basketball RPI. The recommendation could just be to look at the current BCS formula or a modified version (doubling the coaches’ poll, adding in the AP poll, something of that nature, since I don’t know if Harris will even exist anymore).
So here are the undefeated teams by conference, with notes on opponents left:
AAC – Houston and Louisville (play one another on 11/16). Both also still have to play UCF and Cincinnati. Houston plays BYU out of conference.
ACC – Clemson and Florida St. from the Atlantic (play one another next week); Miami from the Coastal (will play Florida St. and Virginia Tech). Also obviously, the ACC has a championship game that could provide a loss. Miami beat Florida, but Clemson and Florida St. still have their big SEC rivals yet to play.
Big XII – Texas Tech and Baylor (play one another on 11/16). Both teams also still have to play Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma St.
Big Ten – Only Ohio St. remains undefeated and is expected to be widely favored in the remaining regular-season games. If they get through that, their likely opponent in the Big Ten championship game will be the winner of Michigan St. and Nebraska.
MAC – Only Northern Illinois remains undefeated. The Huskies will play Ball St. later in the season, and possibly Bowling Green in the MAC championship game. Both Ball St. and Bowling Green are undefeated in conference so far, as is Buffalo.
MWC – Only Fresno St. remains undefeated. Their toughest remaining game may be a rematch with Boise St., whom they beat earlier by a single point, in the MWC championship game; but three other teams (Fresno St. will play all of them) are undefeated in conference.
Pac-12 – Oregon and UCLA (play one another on 10/26 and may meet again in the Pac-12 championship). Oregon also still must play Stanford and Oregon St., which are the most likely opponents for UCLA if the Bruins are undefeated going into the Pac-12 championship and the Ducks are not. UCLA also has to play Washington.
SEC – Alabama and Missouri (would not play one another until championship game). Alabama also has LSU and Auburn, who each have one loss, remaining. Missouri has Florida and South Carolina in just the next two weeks and will end the regular season against Texas A&M.
So other than Ohio St., who was known to lose to second-tier conference opponents before Meyer showed up anyway, I don’t see a second team I would characterize as likely to finish undefeated. Oregon or Alabama may finish undefeated, but I would not bet on it (at least not without something like 3:1 odds). Some have mentioned the possibility of the BCS snubbing Ohio St., but I wouldn’t bet on that either.
Fresno St., Northern Illinois, and possibly an AAC team may finish undefeated though. The AAC does have an automatic bid to a BCS bowl in (mercifully, in my opinion) the final year of the BCS contract.
Threatening one-loss teams
I’ll start with the SEC, where such a team is most likely to make the BCS championship.
In the SEC West, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn each have one loss; but the best avenue to the SEC championship is LSU’s. Texas A&M would lose a tiebreaker to Alabama; and Auburn would lose a tiebreaker to LSU, not that I would expect the two to tie for the SEC West anyway.
South Carolina only has one loss, but they would need Georgia to lose at least one more conference game to control their own destiny in the conference.
Oregon St. and Stanford control their respective destinies in the Pac-12, and the Beavers are still undefeated in conference. Stanford also has the big non-conference game against Notre Dame yet to play.
There are several ways a Big XII team could finish with one loss. There is no championship game there to complicate things. Oklahoma (or even Oklahoma St.) could win out; and as mentioned, there are many ways Baylor and Texas Tech can lose a single game apiece. Texas, which has not lost in conference yet, could be a spoiler.
Virginia Tech controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal. I don’t think Maryland is much of a threat in the Atlantic, but if they beat Clemson and Florida St. loses twice, winning the division could happen.
Michigan, the one-loss team I didn’t mention earlier from the Big Ten Legends, is unlikely to factor into any national-championship discussion, but if they run the table, possibly beating Ohio St. twice, they may have a chance. The Wolverines also will have to play Northwestern, Nebraska, and Michigan St.
I plan to write what I call “ rankings commentary” blogs like this one more often—now that the season is at this point—as kind of a supplement to my computer ratings.