NCAA Football

Handicapping the BCS National Championship Race

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It’s hard to believe it’s already November. With every FBS team having played at least eight games out of a 12 game schedule, we are to the point when the polls that come out every Sunday are based on a significant amount of data (which, however, does not mean they are right).

The teams at the top of those polls now know how they stand and what it’s going to take for them to move up. Many are also now aware of exactly how far fetched their chances of playing for the national championship are. In recent years, we’ve seen some late season craziness play out to pave the way for some teams to play in the title game that we did not see coming. It’s possible that such a scenario is on the horizon, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that no team outside of the current BCS top ten has a realistic chance of playing for a national championship.

With that in mind, I thought I would take a look at those ten teams, where they currently stand, what they have coming up, and what it’s going to take for them to make it to Glendale.

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Win and They’re in

#1 Oregon 9-0
Remaining Games: @ Cal, #18 Arizona, @ Oregon State

Obviously, Oregon is in control of its own destiny. There’s a chance that Auburn could knock them from the number one ranking in the BCS, but that really doesn’t matter. The thing about the Ducks though is that their schedule the rest of the way is no cakewalk. They’ve faced the Pac-10′s toughest test already against Stanford, but Arizona is a solid team. Then, the Ducks will travel to face their biggest rivals: the upset minded Oregon State Beavers.

The Beavers have pulled some major upsets over the years (just ask USC) and have been repeatedly tested by top teams all year. Just look at their schedule: by the time they host Oregon, they will have played TCU, Boise State, and Stanford, three of the top six teams in the country. Oregon State has had a disappointing season thus far, but would turn it around with a win against their rivals.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out

#2 Auburn 10-0
Remaining Games: Georgia, @ #12 Alabama, SEC Championship (#22 Florida/#23 South Carolina)

They are in the exact same boat as Oregon: a tough remaining schedule with a certain trip to the national title game on the other side of it. The toughest game is clearly the trip to Alabama. Not only will it be a rivalry game, but Alabama is also arguably the nation’s most talented team. With the loss to LSU, they are out of the title race, but they will relish the opportunity to play spoiler. To give you an idea of the challenge Auburn will face, they will likely be the underdogs in this one.

However, those other two games are not cupcakes. Georgia and Florida are playing much better football during the second half of this season and I think they will present a major challenge for Auburn. If Auburn wins out, they will have earned that national title berth.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out

The Bridesmaids

#3 TCU 10-0
Remaining Games: San Diego State, @ New Mexico

TCU has passed its toughest test already against Utah, but SDSU is the third best team in the Mountain West and could present a challenge. With it being a home game though, it would be a shocker. New Mexico, on the other hand, does not figure to be much of an obstacle. In fact, TCU would likely prefer not to play them, because it will hurt them in the computer polls.

TCU did make up some BCS ground with the Utah blowout, but not enough introduce the possibility of the Frogs overcoming either of the top two teams without any help. However, if either Oregon or Auburn drops one of those previously mentioned tough games, TCU can punch its ticket for the big game.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out and loss by Oregon/Auburn

#4 Boise State 8-0
Remaining Games: @ Idaho, Fresno State, @ #21 Nevada, Utah State

Poor Boise State. This year was all set to be the one when they would have a chance to push for that national championship, but now their fate is out of their hands and they need help. Nevada is a solid opponent, but not solid enough to overcome the deficit between them and TCU, let alone Auburn or Oregon. Their best hope is to win out, hope for a couple losses at the top, and pray that a team ranked behind them doesn’t overtake them.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by two of top three, maintain current BCS lead over one loss teams

Needing Lots of Help

#5 LSU 8-1
Remaining Games: Louisiana-Monroe, Ole Miss, @ #15 Arkansas

Of the teams ahead of them, Boise State is the only one they can even think about jumping without a loss. However, with how tough the schedules of Auburn and Oregon are, Glendale is not out of the question entirely. They would need losses from two of the top three and to hold serve in their games. However, let’s say Auburn beats UGA but loses to Alabama. Auburn would then play for the SEC title. With Auburn owning the head to head with LSU as well as an SEC title, would one loss LSU beat out one loss Auburn? I doubt it.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by Oregon and TCU, and jump Boise State in BCS

#6 Stanford 8-1
Remaining Games: @ Arizona State, @ Cal, Oregon State

The remaining schedule doesn’t offer much hope for improvement, but the fact that Stanford is just eighth and ninth in the Harris Poll and Coaches Poll does give the Cardinal a bit of a reason to pay attention down the stretch. Obviously, Stanford needs losses at the top of the polls, but losses by teams like LSU, Wisconsin, and Ohio State would be a big help.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by two of top three, improve in human polls with losses by LSU, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, jump Boise State in BCS

#7 Wisconsin 8-1
Remaining Games: IU, @ Michigan, Northwestern

Like Stanford, the Badgers remaining schedule doesn’t allow for much room for improvement. Additionally, the computer polls are not kind to Wisconsin, making the path to Glendale ever tougher. To be honest, I think Wisconsin (along with Ohio State) is the most unlikely team in the top ten to make a run at the title game.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by five of top six, maintain BCS lead over teams ranked 8-10

#8 Nebraska 8-1
Remaining Games: Kansas, @ #25 Texas A&M, Colorado, Big 12 title game

This is another case of the computers being kinder to a team than the humans. The difference with Nebraska is that they have a real chance at improving their ranking with a potential top 10 showdown in the Big 12 Championship. The problem is that they’ve already beaten one of their potential opponents: #10 Oklahoma State. Best case scenario for Nebraska would be if Oklahoma wins the South by beating Oklahoma State, moves into the top 10, then Nebraska wins impressively.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by two of top three and LSU, beat Oklahoma in Big 12 title game, jump Boise State, Stanford, and Wisconsin in BCS rankings

#9 Ohio State 8-1
Remaining Games: Penn State, @ #13 Iowa, Michigan

Now we’re getting really far fetched. The Buckeyes would need total chaos in order to make it to the title game. Ohio State, like B10 counterpart Wisconsin, is not well liked by the computers, which makes the road even tougher.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, losses by seven of top eight

#10 Oklahoma State 8-1
Remaining Games: @ Texas, @ Kansas, #16 Oklahoma, Big 12 title game

Oklahoma State’s chances are more realistic that Ohio State’s. By winning out, Oklahoma State would qualify for the Big 12 title game against the team that dealt them their only loss. A win in that game would almost certainly send Oklahoma State past Ohio State and Wisconsin, and potentially Boise State and Stanford.

Most Likely Path to Title Game: Win out, defeat one loss Nebraska for Big 12 title, jump Ohio State, Wisconsin, Stanford, and Boise State in BCS, losses by three of Oregon, Auburn, TCU, and LSU.

Jeez, my head hurts now.