Sunday, November 9, 2008

College Football Around the Horn Part 2

Big East

I feel a patented Bill Simmons reader letter coming on. "Dan, I put my money in the stock market, watched it crash, took my money out, saw it raise 500 points, put my money back in, and watched it fall 800 points again. Is there a sporting analogy for this?"

Yes, made-up reader, this would be called being a West Virginia fan this weekend. West Virginia was getting blown out by Cincinnati and most of the fans left. Then, after an on-side kick and 52 yard field goal, many of them returned to see their team lose again in overtime. West Virginia's record reads 6-3, but it really feels like 6-4.

You know, despite all the crazy geographies that conference re-alignments have caused, the Big East could actually be settled within a few miles. Call it the Ohio River rivalry, well except they aren't all on the Ohio River. Call it the I-70 rivalry. Except, they aren't really on I-70. Eh, West Virginia, Pittburgh, and Cincinnati, three teams that are close enough to hate each other.

All three of these teams are tied for first and Pittsburgh vs Cincinnati and Pittsburgh vs West Virginia are coming up soon.

Big 12

A few weeks ago I labeled Colt McCoy as the "aw-shucks" QB of the Big 12. Last night, I annointed Graham Harrell the "geeky band-freak" QB of the Big 12. Seriously, in his post game interview on ESPN, Harrell's voice cracked approximately 7 times.

So let's look at the scenarios. If Texas Tech beats Oklahoma in two weeks, they clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game. (Even if Texas Tech lost to Baylor, they would still hold head-to-head tiebreakers against Texas and Oklahoma.)

But if Oklahoma wins, ESPN will have adequately filled its programming for the next three weeks. We will be told the following over and over again.

There is a three way tie for first.
Texas beat Oklahoma
Texas Tech beat Texas
Oklahoma beat Texas Tech

Kirk Herbstreit's head may or may not explode.

Obviously, the easy outcome will occur if one of those teams loses one of the other games. For example, if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma St, we’ll have a two-way tie for first with the obvious tie-breaker. But if all three teams remain tied with one loss at the end of the season, then the tie-breaker is actually pretty simple: The BCS Standings.

But wait a minute? Who will the BCS standings put at the front of this group? The computers may like Oklahoma’s win against TCU and the poll-voters may like the fact that Oklahoma lost earlier than the other two. But style points could be huge here. What if Oklahoma barely beats Oklahoma St. in the finale after Texas Tech crushed Oklahoma St. Will that sway some voters? And what about the fact that Texas didn’t get a true home game against either team and lost at the last second to Texas Tech? Again, the BCS standings are the tie-breaker, but who knows how the voters are going to sort it out.

Let the debate begin.

And of course, once that is sorted out, then there will still be the question of which team is second of the three teams. Which additional team should be considered for an at-large BCS slot? And as we saw with Kansas-Missouri last year, head-to-head records may have no bearing on who is chosen to be the second best team from the conference by the committee that organizes the bowl.

But barring a loss to the North winner in the Big 12 title game, the Big 12 South should produce a participant in the BCS title game and a BCS at-large bid. We just don’t know who yet.

Speaking of the Big 12 North, you may have circled Missouri-Kansas on your calendar, but you probably shouldn’t have. If Missouri beats Iowa St this week (probably should say when, not if), and if Texas beats Kansas (also highly likely), Missouri will clinch the Big 12 North.


Alabama and Florida have clinched spots in the SEC title game, and many view it as a defacto national championship semifinal. Also of note, the loser of the Alabama/Florida game has probably locked up an at-large BCS bid. Sometimes the loser of the SEC title game gets jumped by another deserving team from the SEC, but I don’t see that happening this year. The only other SEC team with 2 losses is Georgia and it would be pretty shocking for them to jump either of those teams in the pecking order after the way Georgia lost to those teams.

Still if I’m a CBS exec trying to sell ad space over the next few weeks, I will say this: Alabama and Florida may have locked up SEC slots, but they haven’t locked up a top slot in the BCS standings. If Florida loses to former coach Steve Spurrier or rival Florida St., the SEC title game may no longer be a defacto national championship semifinal for them.


Oregon St. could actually play a crazy role in the BCS. If they win all their remaining games, they would hold the tie-breaker against USC and would play in the Rose Bowl. But given that Oregon St. finishes with California, Arizona, and Oregon (aka the other good teams in the conference), that isn’t going to happen.

USC will coast to another Rose Bowl bid, and not even a win over Notre Dame can move them up enough in the BCS standings to change that. OK, to be fair, USC has two clear paths to the national title game. 1) Missouri wins the Big 12 title game. Some poll voters have this funny requirement that a team should win its conference to play in the national title game, and this is the only way to boot a Big 12 team. 2) Alabama or Florida lose prior to the SEC title game and then win the SEC title game. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Random Note: Watch out for Arizona St. After losing an embarrassing 6 games in a row, the Sun Devils finish with Washington St. (cupcake), UCLA (struggling), and Arizona (rival), and might just get a bowl bid after all.

Big 10

Who knew? Penn St. vs Michigan St. is the game of the year?

Well, if Penn St. wins out, they go to the Rose Bowl.
If Ohio St. wins out and Penn St. loses, Ohio St. goes to the Rose Bowl.
And if Michigan St. beats Penn St. and Ohio St. loses a game, Michigan St. goes to the Rose Bowl.

The Big Ten might even get two BCS bids if two teams are tied for first, but I wouldn't count on it. Nor would I count on Penn St. getting back into the national title picture. Penn St. can get back into the national title picture, but only in the scenario I outlined for USC above.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing to watch the next two weeks is whether Michigan loses again. If the Wolverines lose one more game, they will have lost the most games in school history. Wow.


I don't have "The Mountain" or CSTV or whatever channel aired the Utah-TCU game. Chances are that you don't have that channel either. So you probably watched the same cribbed together highlights by ESPN that made Utah look like a lucky bufoon to beat TCU. So Boise St. will probably move / stay / be ahead of the Utah in the next BCS Standings. Or they won't. I don't care.

The only interesting question is whether the MWC will finish ahead of the Big East in the major polls. And with 3 Top 25 teams, and an Air Force team with only two losses and big upcoming games against BYU and TCU, can the MWC really get 4 teams in the top 25? Tune into "the Mountain" and find out. Doh.