Who'll Be No. 2 in the BCS?
27. The 14th SEC Team Should Be?.
Oct. 4. Overranked and Underranked teams
Oct. 11 Midseason Surprises and Duds
With so many games left to be played, you'd have nearly as good a shot of nailing all of the 2012 congressional races. Still, that doesn't mean that opinions aren't being formed at the conclusion of each weekend of games. Don't hold me to it or even save this response as evidence, but here's how I see the top six contenders for New Orleans with six weeks remaining in the regular season:
6. Oklahoma – Don't chuckle. The Sooners have plenty of room for upward mobility, with four remaining games against opponents currently ranked no lower than No. 28 in the BCS rankings. Then again, if they play even remotely as inept as they did Saturday night versus Texas Tech, they could lose two more times.
5. Boise State – The Broncos are in a tough spot because gaining ground on the backs of UNLV, Wyoming and New Mexico is going to be impossible. Boise State needs a ton of help for a school ranked No. 4, and will be in danger of getting jumped at some point by those one-loss programs with far meatier schedules.
4. Stanford – The Cardinal is a bit of a conundrum in terms of the national title chase. On the one hand, it has a slightly easier path to the Superdome than some of the other unbeaten teams, like Oklahoma State. On the other, it will not fare favorably versus the Cowboys, especially with the computers, in the event that more than one team has an unblemished record.
3. Clemson – For the Tigers, a spot in the BCS National Championship Game has really started to come into focus. Not only are they peaking on offense, but two potential landmine opponents, Georgia Tech and South Carolina, aren't nearly as frightening as they were a few weeks back.
2. The LSU/Alabama loser – Yeah, I'm one of the guys who feel as if a rematch is a very real possibility, provided the loser on Nov. 5 doesn't embarrass itself. A one-loss LSU or Alabama is not going to drop very far in the BCS standings, meaning the only schools that can realistically trump it will be Stanford, Clemson and Oklahoma State. And each of those teams still has some of its toughest games still left to be played.
1. Oklahoma State – Out of Clemson, Stanford and OSU, I'm thinking the Cowboys have the best chance of running the table, particularly in a year when the Big 12 Championship Game is no longer an entity. Oklahoma State is getting a lot of attaboys from the computers, and three of its four most challenging games take place in Stillwater. Plus, the Sooners appear a wee bit less ornery than they did 72 hours ago.
By Matt Zemek
The Cardinal haven't faced quality opponents. Washington isn't yet ready for the big leagues, as we all found out this past Saturday on The Farm. Stanford was also decidedly sluggish against UCLA and slow to get going against Colorado. The small sample size of a college football season makes Stanford still a mystery entering the final days of October, albeit through no fault of the Cardinal themselves. This is not a fully proven team; after all, look at what happened to Wisconsin once the Badgers played a road game in week EIGHT of the season.
Nevertheless, the Cardinal represent the best bet to face the LSU-Alabama winner. Clemson would likely lose to a transformed Virginia Tech team in the BCS National Championship Game. Oklahoma is a flawed team, but it beat Oklahoma State last year in Stillwater and could easily do the same thing this year. Boise State will get a BCS bowl at 12-0, but not a title shot. Oklahoma will beat Kansas State. Moreover, for all the clamor surrounding an LSU-Alabama rematch, the sport – while lacking a hard-and-fast rule against conference rematches in title games – would not (in all likelihood; it's not a guarantee…) allow the Tigers and the Crimson Tide to meet on January 9 of 2012.
This leaves Stanford, which has just one severe test remaining on its schedule: Oregon. Guess where that game is played? Yes, in Palo Alto, California. Stanford shouldn't be troubled by Notre Dame in the regular-season finale – that game's in the Bay Area as well – and Arizona State in a would-be Pac-12 Championship Game shouldn't be too hard to handle. Stanford has maintained its physical style of play despite the absence of Jim Harbaugh. This team has maintained its winning identity even if the level of play has dropped slightly from 2010… it hasn't been very much of a drop-off at all.
Last season, college football witnessed not only its first-ever SEC-versus-Pac-12 championship game, but its first-ever BCS bowl between the two conferences. Let's play it again, shall we?
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
If the road team LSU loses by a hair or on a controversial call, it very likely might be the Tigers in a rematch (the national ratings would be quite tempting for the powers that be – as we always say, in CFB follow the money). But absent that, and contingent to wide receiver Justin Blackmon's melon being clear the rest of the way out, it'll be the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Clemson has the easier schedule, but Boone's boys are ranked higher in the polls, are loved by the computers, are tearing up the Big 12, and get Kansas State and the Sooners in Stillwater. And this is an Oklahoma team that is very, very susceptible to a dynamic passing offense – in case you were otherwise occupied the last 72 hours.
Mike Gundy's pass offense is currently ranked second best in the nation. Its pass efficiency rating – nearly always a better gauge – is 12th best. Either way, with arguably the country's best pass/catch duo in Blackmon and quarterback Brandon Weeden, it's more than enough to take advantage of the Sooners woeful pass defense.
Just how efficient has Weeden been? The 28 year old senior from Edmond, OK, is currently ranked second best in the Big 12 in passing efficiency (behind Baylor's Robert Griffin III), and has led the Cowboys to 49 points per game – second best in college football.
If that's not enough, OSU leads the nation in Turnover Margin, thanks to steady play on offense and a disciplined, opportunistic defense. Yes, the Cowboy rushing defense has been suspect; in fact, in their only two close games (A&M and Texas), the Cowboys surrendered 393 yards on 76 carries, for 5.2 ypc, and three touchdowns. Yeah, that's not likely to play very well against either LSU or Alabama, given both have pretty solid rushing attacks, not to mention the nation's best (Bama) and fourth best (LSU) pass efficiency defenses.
But we're not worrying about that now – the point is getting to New Orleans.
Looking at the rest of OSU's schedule (Baylor, Kansas State, @ Texas Tech, @ Iowa State, and Oklahoma), only the Kitties are running the ball well (19th in the nation), and they've actually been getting better as the season has progressed. Still, they must travel to Stillwater. Staying with the schedule, Oklahoma State also gets a bye week before Oklahoma comes to town.
Finally, remember there's no Big 12 Championship Game this year to trip them up, because, well, the Big 12 isn't.
Given the above, the Cowboys position today in the polls, and how much the computers love them, it's Oklahoma State fans who have the best chance to be sipping hurricanes in the Big Easy come January 9.
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
Believe in Oklahoma State. Don't fight it, just accept it. The Cowboys will play the SEC Champion in the BCS National Championship Game.
Is that a bad thing? No. Oklahoma State deserves its No. 3 ranking in the BCS Standings, and will run the table en route to The Big Easy. When the Cowboys do, you shouldn't be shocked.
You know about the offense already. Quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon are both legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates, and the offense continues to put up video game numbers despite the loss of former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen.
It won't be the offense that will get the Cowboys to Bourbon Street, It'll be the defense - and that's a good thing.
The Cowboys have gained 15 more turnovers than they've lost, and lead the nation in turnover margin (2.14). To be a champion, you don't have to have a great defense, you just need to be opportunistic. Don't believe me? Just ask Auburn how that method worked out last season.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN.
At this point you are all too familiar with the fact that both Oklahoma and Wisconsin went down in flames last weekend. What that has done is kick the door down for a few teams to get squarely into the national title hunt. Here is a run-down of the legitimate teams--in order of BCS Ranking-- and their chance at playing the winner of LSU-Alabama in the BCS Championship:
#4- Oklahoma State- Yes the offense is unbelievable, but the defense is unremarkable. So much so that teams that have trouble moving the ball, have a grand ‘ole time running up and down the field on the Cowboys (Louisiana-Lafayette anyone). So far this year, OK State ranks 91st in rush defense and 103rd in scoring defense. When was the last time that a team with almost no defense made a NC game? That's right, keep thinking. I say OSU goes down to somebody (probably Oklahoma) because its offense will have a let down game and the D won't be able to bail the team out.
#3- Boise State- The Broncos probably have the best shot at running the table, but there is that wee little issue of strength of schedule and perception. At some point the pollsters might want to see Boise get its shot, but unless the Broncos are one of only two undefeated teams standing, they'll probably get leapfrogged by whoever is right behind them. Fair or not, folks just can't fathom Boise State in game. It's too bad because it could settle an ongoing argument one way or another. Sorry, no dice.
#2- Clemson- Yup. The Tigers have been white hot and have been able to withstand that all too common dive off of the college football cliff that normally occurs. The issue: There are some really tough games left in there, and Clemson will have to get a lot of breaks to run the rest of the ACC conference gauntlet. Not only is there the tough game at Georgia Tech this weekend, but the season ends with a game at a very good South Carolina team that always seems to show up as of late against the paw. There's a solid chance that someone catches a Clemson Tiger by the tail before its all said and done.
#1- Stanford- Now here is an interesting team. Most folks east of the Mississippi haven't gotten too many opportunities to see the Cardinal demolish team after team. Not only is there one of the best college QBs of all time running an explosive offense, but the tree also has a formidable defense (3rd in rushing, 4th in scoring, and 18th in total). A quick look at the schedule also shows some favorable things. Indeed a trip to USC won't be a walk in the park, but the Trojans are not the monster that they were three years ago. The other most difficult game figures to be against Oregon, but it's a home game where the Ducks are not nearly the same team. There are some other juicy pieces in there at Oregon State, against Cal of course, and at home against Notre Dame, but Stanford will be favored easily in those. It has all the pieces to make it unscathed the rest of the way.
There it is. The Stanford Cardinal have the best shot of the real contenders left to get to the Big Easy and face either Alabama or LSU. How interesting woud it be to see Andrew Luck and all that offense go against a very good D in the Sugar Bowl. Nothing would be sweeter.
By Terry Johnson
Clemson will face the LSU – Alabama winner in the BCS Championship game, and play for its first national championship since 1981.
Since the Tigers are currently fifth in the BCS standings, how will they make it to New Orleans?
Clemson will reach the title game because they will not lose for the rest of the season. Yes, they play a difficult opponent in Georgia Tech on the road this weekend, but the Jackets have faded in recent weeks, and will not be able to block the Tigers front seven. While the game will be close, Clemson will show the same resilience that it has shown in comeback wins against Auburn and Maryland.
Following the Tech game, the Tigers conclude their schedule with games against Wake Forest, NC State, and South Carolina, followed by a likely rematch with Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship game. None of these teams have the offensive firepower to keep up with Clemson, especially with USC RB Marcus Lattimore's season-ending knee injury.
Is an undefeated season enough to propel Dabo Swinney's team into the title game, even though Oklahoma State, Boise State, Stanford, and Kansas State are also undefeated?
No, it is not.
However, Clemson will rise to the coveted second spot in the BCS standings, because the other teams will not match the Tigers' entire body of work.
Oklahoma State will not make the title game because they will not go undefeated. The Cowboys still face some difficult contests against Kansas State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. Each of one these teams is capable of scoring points in bunches, and can take advantage of an OSU defense that ranks 103rd in the nation in total defense. Even if they survive against Kansas State and Baylor, the Sooners have dominated the Cowboys in the Bedlam Series, winning the last 8 games in the rivalry.
Despite a recent groundswell of support, Boise State will not reach the number two slot in the BCS standings either, due to their strength of schedule. The Broncos did make a favorable impression by demolishing likely SEC East champion Georgia in the first week of the season. However, Boise has never proved that they were capable of winning week in and week out against top competition. On the other hand, Clemson showed that they could beat a brutal schedule by defeating Auburn, Florida State, and Virginia Tech in consecutive weeks.
Stanford is no threat for the BCS title because of a combination of these factors. Despite their 65-21 annihilation of a good – but not great - Washington Huskies team, the Cardinal still rank ninth in the computer polls, due to their strength of schedule (or lack thereof). The strength of schedule is so bad, that even if they were to beat Oregon on November 12 – and that's a big if – the Cardinal would not overtake Clemson.
Kansas State is the only other team that could potentially bump Clemson out of the second spot in the title game behind the SEC Champion. However, the Wildcats played a creampuff non-conference schedule (as they always do) that included Eastern Kentucky and Kent State. While they have an undefeated record so far, they will be exposed in the next few weeks, and lose at least two conference games with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, and Texas still left on their schedule.
With Oklahoma State, Boise, Stanford, and Kansas State out of the picture, Clemson should cruise into the BCS title game.
Unless next week's epic showdown in Tuscaloosa proves itself worthy of a rematch.
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