BCS Rankings Analysis - Oct. 17

Posted Oct 17, 2010

The rankings that matter are finally out, and now the fun and the debates can really begin. What do the first rankings mean? Who were the big winners and who where the big losers? It's all broken down in the Analysis of the First BCS Rankings of 2010.

2010 BCS Analysis

Week 1 ... Oct. 17

- 2010 CFN Rankings
- 2010 Harris Poll
- 2010 Coaches' Poll
- 2010 AP Rankings

BCS Top 25
- Expanded BCS Rankings

1. Oklahoma
2. Oregon
3. Boise State
4. Auburn
5. TCU
6. LSU
7. Michigan St
8. Alabama
9. Utah
10. Ohio State
11. Missouri
12. Stanford
13. Wisconsin
14. Oklahoma St
15. Iowa
16. Nebraska
17. Florida State
18. Arizona
19. Texas
20. West Virginia
21. South Carolina
22. Kansas State
23. Arkansas
24. Mississippi St
25. Virginia Tech

The Basic Rules

- The BCS games that lose their natural tie-ins to the BCS Championship get the first choices of at-large teams. For example, the SEC champion goes to the Sugar Bowl, but if that team finishes No. 1 in the final BCS rankings, then the Sugar Bowl gets its first choice of at-large teams. After those slots are filled, the pecking order goes Orange, Fiesta, Sugar in the selection process.

- Notre Dame is in the BCS if it finishes in the top eight, and it can take the Big East's slot in the Champs Sports Bowl. - Some bowls ignore the final standings as far as the seedings and pairings.

- The champion of Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt, or the WAC will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if one of the teams finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS standings or if one is in the top 16 and ranked ahead of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls. However, no more than one team gets an automatic bid, so the BCS bowls don't have to take both Boise State and TCU if they're both ranked in the top five.

- To be eligible for an at-large bid, a team has to have won at least nine regular season games and it has to finish in the top 14.

- The first time from now until 2014 that the Rose Bowl loses a team to the national championship, it has to take an eligible team from one of the non-BCS conferences.

In lieu of a reasonable playoff format, this year is why a BCS is needed.

There was no need for any sort of system last year. Everyone knew from the moment the final gun sounded on Florida's 2009 BCS Championship win over Oklahoma that the 2010 matchup was going to be between an unbeaten SEC team and an unbeaten Texas, if both were able to get through unscathed. If Texas had lost to Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship, then the BCS formula would've kicked in and there would've been a major fight between TCU and Cincinnati for the honor of losing to Alabama in Pasadena, but no one had a beef with a Longhorn-Crimson Tide national championship.

This year it's different. This year you can through about ten good teams into a hat, pick out two, and you have a decent chance of getting the right matchup for the national title.

Is Oregon better than Boise State? Will the TCU-Utah winner be more worthy of a BCS Championship slot than a one-loss SEC champion? What happens if Oklahoma, LSU, Oregon and Michigan State all get through without a loss? There's still a half a season to play and plenty of uncertainty except for one thing: this year is going to be wacky.

Three key things to keep in mind when looking at the initial BCS rankings.

1) It's all about the humans. The computers had Virginia Tech No. 1 in the final BCS rankings three years ago, and that means a fat load of jack squat. The computers count for a third of the rankings, while the humans account for the other two-thirds. In other words, if The Man doesn't want Boise State playing for the national title Boise State isn't playing for the national title.

2) However, the computers will probably matter more. In a year like this when the margin between being in the coveted No. 2 spot and being outside of the top five will be razor-thin, the computers will likely play a bigger factor than in past seasons. With that in mind, don't get into a twist over what the overall computer rankings are over the first few weeks. Many of the formulas kick into gear once the entire season is over, so the difference between the second-to-last computer rankings and the final ones could be night-and-day different.

3) The AP poll is meaningless. For some reason, many major media outlets still use the AP rankings and talk about them like they make a different, but the Coaches' Poll counts for a third, and the ever-mysterious Harris Poll counts for the other third of the human equation. Those are the ones to focus on and scrutinize.

Interesting aspects from the current rankings:

- Boise State is up at No. 3, but that might be the ceiling. Unless the human pollsters pus the Broncos into the top two at some point, there's no chance of playing for the national title considering the computers are never going to help the cause. The same goes for TCU and Utah, who's only chance is for everyone to keep losing and to keep moving up in the human polls. It's going to take a top two finish in both the Coaches' and Harris rankings to be in the hunt, and even that might not be enough considering the computers are going to be a major factor when it starts to analyze the schedules.

- Alabama is in terrific shape. As the highest ranked one-loss team at eight, as the top seven teams start to get picked off, the Tide will keep on moving up. A one-loss, SEC champion Alabama will play for the national title over an unbeaten Boise State or TCU/Utah winner.

- Two Mountain West teams are in the top nine, while no ACC team is in the top 16.

- The demise of the Big 12 might be greatly exaggerated. The respect is there with four teams in the top 16 and five in the top 20, and six in the top 22, while three SEC teams are in the top 20 as well as three from the Big Ten.

- If things hold to form, Oregon will only play two teams this year (Stanford and Arizona) currently in the BCS top 25.

The Big Winners: Oklahoma (1st), Alabama (8th), Missouri (11th)
The Big Losers: TCU (5th), Ohio State (10th), Nebraska (16th)

1. Oklahoma Score: .9215

No one has been No. 1 more in the history of the BCS than Oklahoma, and now the spotlight is on as the computers loved the out-of-conference games against Florida State and Air Force. However, the pollsters aren't quite as impressed with the Sooners at third in the Coaches' Poll and fourth in the Harris. That will change with a win over Missouri with the world watching, and if it can be an impressive blowout in Columbia, then there will be no question that Bob Stoops' club will control its own destiny. The ranking isn't going to dip with battles ahead against Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor (yes, Baylor is a battle this year) and Oklahoma State, not to mention a Big 12 Championship game. From here on, OU might be the only team that controls its own destiny.

Predicted Wins: Colorado, at Texas A&M, Texas Tech, at Oklahoma State, Big 12 Championship
Predicted Losses: at Missouri, at Baylor
Predicted Final Record: 11-2
Predicted Bowl: Fiesta
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Missouri, at Oklahoma State

2. Oregon Score: .8921

Oregon has the No. 1 spot in both the human polls, but the computers have no interest in the résumé. Only eighth, by the average of the computers, this is going to be a major issue going forward as the SEC schedules are going to get more and more respect, as will Oklahoma's slate. Don't think that Oregon controls its own destiny, as an unbeaten SEC champion will probably push out the Ducks from the No. 2 spot, and Oklahoma isn't going to fall out of the top two if it keeps on winning.

Predicted Wins: UCLA, Washington, at California, Arizona, at Oregon State
Predicted Losses: at USC
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Rose
Toughest Remaining Tests: at USC, Arizona, at Oregon State

3. Boise State Score: .8898

Welcome to the ceiling. As long as the humans don't get on board, Boise State doesn't have a chance. While it's ranked No. 2 in both polls, that will change in a huge hurry if Auburn or LSU keep on wining and if Michigan State keeps on rolling. If Alabama can win out, it'll absolutely jump the Broncos in both human polls. Just barely out of the top two in the BCS Rankings, the hope has to be that the computers eventually come around and give a little bit of respect, but that part of the equation will only get worse as the other top teams play stiffer competition. Beating Nevada and Hawaii won't get it done.

Predicted Wins: Louisiana Tech, Hawaii, at Idaho, Fresno State, at Nevada, Utah State
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-0
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Tests: Hawaii, at Nevada

4. Auburn Score: .8641

Auburn, it's this simple and this easy. Win out, and you will play for the national title. Don't worry about Oregon and don't worry about Boise State, TCU, or even Oklahoma. An undefeated SEC champion will play in the BCS Championship game without question. The computers are on board, ranking the Tigers third behind Oklahoma and LSU, and humans will quickly come around if the wins come against LSU and Alabama.

Predicted Wins: LSU, at Ole Miss, Chattanooga, Georgia
Predicted Losses: at Alabama
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Sugar
Toughest Remaining Tests: LSU, at Alabama

5. TCU Score: .8573

TCU is likely about to get seriously hosed. While the humans like the Horned Frogs, for now, that will change if the BCS leagues keep getting more out of the unbeaten teams. There's no way Oklahoma stays behind TCU in the Harris Poll with a win at Missouri next week, and TCU will almost certainly drop behind whichever SEC star (either Auburn or LSU) keeps on winning. While a game at Utah will help in the computer polls, it's going to take a ton of help to get into the top two, even by winning out.

Predicted Wins: Air Force, at UNLV, San Diego State, at New Mexico
Predicted Losses: at Utah
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: MAACO Las Vegas
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Utah, San Diego State

6. LSU Score: .8245

LSU being No. 6 overall doesn't matter. It's the same situation for the Tigers as it is for Auburn, needing just to keep on winning to move on up. There's no way that an unbeaten LSU doesn't play for the whole ball of wax, and the computers already agree with a No. 2 overall average, ranking just behind Oklahoma. The slate only gets tougher and the respect will be there in a hurry if the Tigers keep on winning.

Predicted Wins: ULM, Ole Miss, at Arkansas
Predicted Losses: at Auburn, Alabama
Predicted Final Record: 10-2
Predicted Bowl: Outback
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Auburn, Alabama, at Arkansas

7. Michigan State Score: .7628

It has taken a while for the polls to warm up to Michigan State, but the computers are on board with a No. 4 overall ranking. The good and the bad for the Spartans is that they don't face Ohio State. It's good for the Rose Bowl dream, but it's bad in the national title chase needing as many signature wins as possible for the résumé. For now, just to keep on winning will be enough, and with a win over Iowa in Iowa City, the national respect will come. If the Spartans go unbeaten, and only one other BCS league team is unbeaten, they'll play for the national title.

Predicted Wins: at Northwestern, Minnesota, Purdue, at Penn State
Predicted Losses: at Iowa
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Orange
Toughest Remaining Tests: D

8. Alabama Score: .6654

In a decent spot, Bama is the highest of all the one-loss teams and with No. 4 Auburn and No. 6 LSU still to play. While it'll take some work to get into the top two, and a ton of help needing all that other BCS unbeatens to suffer a loss, the Tide is in the thick of things. If it comes down to a choice between a 12-1 SEC champion Alabama, or an unbeaten Boise State, TCU, or Utah, the pollsters will roll with the Tide.

Predicted Wins: at Tennessee, at LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia State, Auburn, SEC Championship
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-1
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Tests: at LSU, Auburn

9. Utah  Score: .6540

There's a wait-and-see attitude with Utah because of the lousy schedule and the No. 11 ranking from the computers. The Utes will get their big chance with TCU coming up to Salt Lake City, but will that really be enough? Good enough to beat Pitt and obliterate Iowa State, the Utes are more than good enough to be 12-0, but it's going to be hard to jump too many teams unless the humans start to care. Alabama at eight is within range; Utah at nine is ten miles behind the pack.

Predicted Wins: Colorado State, at Air Force, TCU, at Notre Dame, at San Diego State, BYU
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-0
Predicted Bowl: Sugar
Toughest Remaining Tests: TCU, at Notre Dame, at San Diego State

10. Ohio State  Score: .5726

It's over. With the loss to Wisconsin, it'll take losses from just about everyone in the top nine to move into a top two spot. With only two games of note left (at Iowa and Michigan), it's going to be hard to generate too much interest from the pollsters when it comes to the national title. Oh sure, if Michigan State wins out and goes to the Rose Bowl, an 11-1 OSU will certainly grab an at-large BCS spot, but it's going to take something truly special to move within range of Glendale.

Predicted Wins: Purdue, at Minnesota, Penn State, at Iowa, Michigan
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Rose
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Iowa, Michigan

In Range:
11. Missouri   Score: 0.5491
12. Stanford   Score: 0.5374
13. Wisconsin   Score: 0.5335
14. Oklahoma State   Score: 0.5261
15. Iowa   Score: 0.4824
16. Nebraska   Score: 0.4295
17. Florida State  Score: 0.4267
18. Arizona    Score: 0.3807
19. Texas   Score: 0.22146
20. West Virginia   Score: 0.1812