2009 BCS Analysis & Breakdown, Week 1

Posted Oct 18, 2009

And away we go. The rankings that really matter are finally out, and as always, they're extremely interesting. Who's in the best spot to go to Pasadena for the national title if one of the big boys falls? How solid is Boise State at No. 4? Pete Fiutak breaks it all down with the analysis of the initial BCS rankings.

2009 BCS Analysis

Week 1 ... Oct. 17

- 2009 CFN Rankings
- 2009 Harris Poll
- 2009 Coaches' Poll
- 2009 AP Rankings

The Top 25
- Expanded BCS Rankings

1. Florida
2. Alabama
3. Texas
4. Boise State
5. Cincinnati
6. Iowa
7. USC
8. TCU
9. LSU
10. Miami
11. Oregon
12. Georgia Tech
13. Penn State
14. Virginia Tech
15. Oklahoma State
16. BYU
17. Houston
18. Utah
19. Ohio State
20. Pitt
21. Wisconsin
22. Arizona
23. West Virginia
24. South Carolina
25. Kansas

It's all about the humans. While the computers have their say, they're only one-third of the entire equation and were ignored when push came to shove over the last few years. Quick, who was the No. 1 team in last year's final BCS rankings according to the computers two years ago? LSU? Ohio State? Maybe Georgia? USC? Nope ... Virginia Tech.

What the humans say, goes. Three years ago the pollsters didn't want an Ohio State - Michigan rematch for the national title, after the two played a classic regular season finale, so they voted accordingly. In 2007, they didn't want a Georgia team that didn't even win its own division playing for the whole ball of wax, and the polls reflected that. So as the season goes on, whatever you see in the USA Today Poll and the Harris Poll (and remember, NOT the AP Poll), is probably what you'll see in the final analysis.

And with that in mind, the initial BCS Rankings are telling because they show that the computers really don't matter early on. With No. 3 Texas ranked sixth according to the computers, No. 7 USC ranked 11th according to the computers, and No. 7 Iowa ranked third. However, before you get too up in arms about what the button-pushers think, remember that the computers are supposed to take the entire season into account, so some of the formulas will be skewed. Once the regular season and the championship games are over, then the computers kick in. So for now, again, look at the Coaches' and Harris polls because they're the best indicator of what's to come.

The huge winner in the opening rankings is Boise State, who starts out at No. 4 overall. That means, theoretically, if Texas loses once and/or if the SEC champion has one loss, then an undefeated Boise State would be playing in your 2010 BCS Championship Game. That's never going to happen, the humans will do everything possible to vote the unbeaten Broncos low enough to keep them out, but the discussion could get interesting

As expected, though, it's all up to Florida, Alabama, and Texas. If Texas goes unbeaten, it's playing for the national championship. If the SEC champion is unbeaten, it's playing for the national championship. Boise State, Cincinnati, or Iowa can beat everyone by 50 and it won't matter if Florida and Texas are 13-0.

Other interesting notes from the rankings:

- The ACC has everyone confused. Georgia Tech beat Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech beat Miami, Miami beat Georgia Tech, and no one can quite figure out what the pecking order should be. All three teams will be favored in every game the rest of the way, and they'll all keep moving up.

- Notre Dame got no respect whatsoever for losing in the final moments to Michigan or taking USC down to the final second. Ranked 32nd, there's a ton of work to do to impress the humans while the computers have the Irish 29th. Notre Dame gets an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight, and can be picked as an at-large team if it finishes in the top 12.

- Remember, one non-BCS champion gets an automatic invite it it finishes in the top 12, or if it finishes in the top 16 and a BCS conference champion finishes lower. Boise State (4), TCU (8), BYU (16), and Houston (17) are all in range. Assume that one of the ten BCS slots is taken up by one of these four teams.

- The Big Ten got more respect from the rankings than it gets on a national scale with Iowa (6), Penn State (13), Ohio State (19), and Wisconsin (21) all in the top 21. The SEC has only three teams in the top 23, the Big 12 only has two in the top 24, and the Pac 10 has two teams in the top 21.

- Oh how the mighty have fallen. Oklahoma is No. 30, one spot behind Central Michigan.

The Big Winners: Boise State (4th), Cincinnati (5th), USC (7th)
The Big Losers:  TCU (8th), Miami (10th), Georgia Tech (12th)

1. Florida  Score: 0.9886

The almost unanimous No. 1 choice, with only two computer formulas ranking the Gators outside of the top spot (2nd in one and third in another), the close call against Arkansas didn't matter and the win at LSU held a ton of weight. Stunningly, Florida has a relatively healthy margin over Alabama, and while that doesn't matter since the winner of the SEC title game is likely in the national championship, it goes to show that who the top team really is. Can the Gators still play for the national title if they suffer a loss? Yes, but they must win the SEC Championship.
Predicted Wins: at Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt, at South Carolina, FIU, Florida State, SEC Championship
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 13-0
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Tests: Georgia, at South Carolina, Florida State

2. Alabama  Score: 0.9526

No. 2 in three of the computer polls, No. 1 in one, and third in the other two, Alabama is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 team in America. The margin between the Tide and No. 3 Texas is Grand Canyon-wide, and while it doesn't matter where the ranking is, as long as it's in the top three, the initial rankings set up the mother of all showdowns with Florida in the SEC title game. It's this simple for Alabama: win the SEC Championship, and play for the national title.
Predicted Wins: Tennessee, LSU, at Mississippi State, Chattanooga
Predicted Losses: at Auburn, SEC Championship
Predicted Final Record: 11-2
Predicted Bowl: Sugar Bowl
Toughest Remaining Tests: LSU, at Auburn

3. Texas  Score: 0.8911

Alabama and Florida will likely play each other, so being on an island at No. 3, light years ahead of No. 4 Boise State and well behind Alabama, is no big deal. Shockingly, though, the computers seems to hate the Longhorns, ranking them sixth behind Boise State and Cincinnati. Whatever. All that matters is winning. If Texas goes unbeaten and wins the Big 12 title, it'll play for the national championship no matter what. Because of what happened last year, being the odd team out of the Big 12 title picture and missing a chance to play Florida for the title, Texas will get the benefit of the doubt over almost everyone, if all things are equal, if it has one loss but still wins the Big 12 title.
Predicted Wins: at Missouri, at Oklahoma State, UCF, at Baylor, Kansas, at Texas A&M, Big 12 Championship
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 13-0
Predicted Bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Missouri, at Oklahoma State

4. Boise State  Score: 0.8083

No one apparently watched Boise State play Tulsa last Thursday night. The humans have the Broncos fifth, while the computers are in love with a team that has one nice home win, and that's it. Ranked sixth by two computers, and fourth by two others, the program is getting the respect it has so desperately craved. Now it's time to get the Oregon pom-poms out, because that's the one win that can save the team in its hunt to climb into the top two. If nothing else, a BCS spot is a lock by winning out.
Predicted Wins: at Hawaii, San Jose State, at Louisiana Tech, Idaho, at Utah State, Nevada, New Mexico State
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-0
Predicted Bowl: Fiesta
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Louisiana Tech, Nevada

5. Cincinnati  Score: 0.7870

The Bearcats are right there, and the ranking will only get higher as the season goes on with Connecticut, West Virginia, and Pitt still to play. Not all that far behind Boise State overall, the computers love UC, with a No. 4 ranking, and as long as the team keeps winning, it'll be in the thick of the national title chase. The ceiling, though, could be No. 3, and the question could be if an unbeaten Cincinnati gets into the national title over a one-loss USC or SEC champion.
Predicted Wins: Louisville, at Syracuse, Connecticut, West Virginia, Illinois
Predicted Losses: at Pitt
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Sugar
Toughest Remaining Tests:

6. Iowa  Score: 0.7869

It's all up to the humans to finally come around. The computers recognized the wins at Penn State and at Wisconsin, while the win over Arizona was sneaky good and the victory over Michigan is a plus. Ranked No. 3 by the computers, if Iowa wins out, that's not going to change too drastically with games at Michigan State and Ohio State ahead. The human polls aren't as kind with the coaches putting the Hawkeyes eighth and the Harris seventh. However, if Iowa wins out, it'll leapfrog both Cincinnati and Boise State. There's no chance an unbeaten Iowa gets passed over by an unbeaten Big East or WAC team for the national championship.
Predicted Wins: at Michigan State, Indiana, Northwestern, Minnesota
Predicted Losses: at Ohio State
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Rose
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Michigan State, at Ohio State

7. USC  Score: 0.7695

They're still hanging around. With no love from the computers whatsoever, mainly because beating Notre Dame seems to carry no weight and the victory over Ohio State was hurt by the Buckeye loss to Purdue, USC is ranked a stunning 11th. The humans are a little bit kinder, but everyone will jump on board the bandwagon if the Trojans win at Arizona State (a very, very strong defensive team) and at Oregon. If USC wins out, if everything plays out according to plan, it'll finish no lower than fourth, and possibly No. 3.
Predicted Wins: Oregon State, at Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona
Predicted Losses: at Oregon
Predicted Final Record: 10-2
Predicted Bowl: Fiesta Bowl
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Oregon, at Arizona State

8. TCU  Score: 0.7139

No one's quite sure what to make of TCU quite yet. The Horned Frogs got to beat Virginia before it turned its season around, and the win over Clemson carries some weight, but it all comes down to two things: a win over BYU this week, and a Boise State loss. The BCS isn't going to take two non-BCS teams, even if they're undefeated, and Boise State is going to stay ahead of TCU all season long.
Predicted Wins: UNLV, at San Diego State, Utah, at Wyoming, New Mexico
Predicted Losses: at BYU
Predicted Final Record: 11-1
Predicted Bowl: Poinsettia
Toughest Remaining Tests: at BYU, Utah, at Wyoming

9. LSU  Score: 0.7083

LSU is in better shape for the national title than anyone ranked fourth through eighth. The one loss came to Florida, from the East, and if the Tigers win out, that means they'll have beaten Alabama at Alabama, Ole Miss at Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas. That would also mean the West title, which would mean a rematch with Florida. If they win that, then it's on to Pasadena, and not for the Rose Bowl.
Predicted Wins: Auburn, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas
Predicted Losses: at Alabama, at Ole Miss
Predicted Final Record: 9-3
Predicted Bowl: Outback
Toughest Remaining Tests: Auburn, at Alabama, at Ole Miss, Arkansas

10. Miami  Score: 0.6273

Miami is stuck among the glut of ACC teams. There isn't anything the Canes can do the rest of the way to make too much of a splash, they'll be favored in every game up until the ACC Championship, and the ceiling might be the Orange Bowl. Miami can get close, but they'll lose out to USC, the SEC champion, and Texas, if they all finish with one loss.
Predicted Wins: Clemson, at Wake Forest, Virginia, at North Carolina, Duke, at South Florida, ACC Championship
Predicted Losses: None
Predicted Final Record: 12-1
Predicted Bowl: Orange
Toughest Remaining Tests: at Wake Forest, at North Carolina

In Range:
11. Oregon   Score: 0.5849
12. Georgia Tech   Score: 0.5702
13. Penn State   Score: 0.4982
14. Virginia Tech   Score: 0.4947
15. Oklahoma State    Score: 0.4043
16. BYU   Score: 0.2986
17. Houston   Score: 0.2660
18. Utah   Score: 0.2511
19. Ohio State   Score: 0.2216
20. Pitt   Score: 0.2012