BCS Countdown: Terrific finish looms

BY foxsports • November 23, 2010

By Pete Fiutak

Without any wild and crazy upsets this week, nothing much happened to change the dynamics of the BCS this week, but the stage is set for a terrific finishing kick as Auburn has to battle with Alabama, Boise State still gets to fire off its final shot with a date with Nevada, Oregon has to still face Arizona and Oregon State, LSU is going to Arkansas, and the Big Ten has the potential to be wild and crazy depending on what happens when Wisconsin hosts Northwestern, Michigan State goes to Penn State, and Ohio State faces Michigan.

The big story, if there is one considering the top seven didn't change and Ohio State and Oklahoma State moved up a spot with Nebraska losing to Texas A&M, is that Boise State still hasn't jumped TCU for the No. 3 spot. It was close last week as the Broncos were a mere 0.0332 behind the Horned Frogs, and now they're 0.014 behind, making it a virtual dead heat. Even if TCU destroys New Mexico, will that be enough to hold off Boise State if it impressively beats a 19th-ranked Nevada? Probably not.

The only other major item of note is the Big Ten pecking order. If the Badgers beat the Wildcats, and if the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines, and if the Spartans beat the Nittany Lions, then the Rose Bowl goes to the team ranked highest in the BCS rankings. Wisconsin is ranked ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State, but the gap closed significantly after Nebraska ducked out and the Buckeyes moved up. There's a chance that OSU could finish as the highest ranked Big Ten school in the BCS rankings and go to Pasadena without actually beating either of the other two options.

Interesting aspects from the current rankings:

--LSU stunk it up against a bad Ole Miss and dropped in margin, but not in ranking. The Tigers are still a firm fifth behind Boise State.

--Nebraska's loss wasn't a total disaster for the Big 12. Oklahoma State might have moved up to No. 9, but it's all but certain that the league won't have a team in the final eight of the rankings without some major upsets elsewhere. Even with the loss, right now, the league has four teams in the top 15, and with Texas A&M moving up, five teams in the top 17.

--The Big East doesn't have a team in the top 25.

--Arkansas is lurking. If Alabama loses to Auburn, and if the Hogs beat LSU, it's almost certain that Bobby Petrino's club, hanging around at 12, will be the second ranked SEC team in the BCS rankings and will likely get an an at-large bid.

--Wisconsin remains fifth in both human polls as the highest ranked one-loss team, but the computers continue to have no interest in the Big Ten. No Big Ten team is in the top seven according to the computer formulas, while Oklahoma State is seventh.

The big winners: TCU (staying No. 3), The Big 12 (five teams in the top 17), Arkansas (11th)

The big losers: Boise State (staying at No. 4), Nebraska (8th to 15th), Iowa (20th to 24th)

The Ducks keep increasing their margin a little bit each week, but it doesn't matter. Two wins means a trip to Glendale, one loss means a trip to Pasadena, two losses makes the BCS an afterthought. Unlike Auburn, Oregon can't lose and play for the national title. The respect won't be there from the human pollsters.

Predicted wins: Arizona, at Oregon State
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 12-0
Predicted bowl: BCS Championship
Toughest remaining tests: Arizona, at Oregon State

ACK!!! AUBURN DROPPED!!! Actually, the Tigers went from a score of 0.9685 to 0.9682. Of course, all that matters is beating Alabama and South Carolina, but the Tigers could still play for the national title if it loses to the Tide and comes back to beat South Carolina. The humans might drop Auburn to four, or even five, for a week, and then could rocket back up with a big win in the SEC title game. Could the Tigers beat Alabama, lose to South Carolina, and play for the title? Probably not.

Predicted wins: South Carolina (SEC Championship Game)
Predicted losses: at Alabama
Predicted final record: 12-1
Predicted bowl: BCS Championship Game
Toughest remaining tests: at Alabama, South Carolina

TCU, if you have it in you, obliterate New Mexico ... by a lot. Right now, the Horned Frogs are down 50, and they have to win by 60 to make any noise considering how bad the Lobos are. TCU could go from being deep in the national title hunt, go 12-0, and be out of the BCS entirely if it slips down to No. 4. It might not seem fair, but it's going to take a special blowout. Yeah, style points count now.

Predicted wins: at New Mexico
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 12-0
Predicted bowl: Sugar
Toughest remaining tests: None

Can't ... get ... over ... the ... hump. The humans like Boise State more than TCU, but the computers aren't as convinced. The Broncos are ranked behind LSU in the computer rankings and are two back from TCU, but beating Nevada will change that. Margin of victory doesn't matter when it comes to the computer formulas, and the humans aren't going to move TCU to third if the Broncos beat the Wolf Pack. Basically, Boise, just win, baby, and you're in the BCS..

Predicted wins: at Nevada, Utah State
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 12-0
Predicted bowl: Rose
Toughest remaining tests: at Nevada

LSU looked lousy against Ole Miss, a bad Ole Miss team, and slipped a wee bit in the score, but it didn't drop at all in the rankings because the computers are smitten. The Tigers are sixth in both human polls, behind Wisconsin, but are ranked ahead of the Badgers, Boise State, and everyone but Oregon, Auburn, and TCU according to the computer formulas. A win over Arkansas would only strengthen the position and would all but assure a spot in the Sugar Bowl if Auburn plays in the national title.

Predicted wins: None
Predicted losses: at Arkansas
Predicted final record: 10-2
Predicted bowl: Outback
Toughest remaining test: at Arkansas

Stanford is going to be hosed. Because it doesn't travel well and doesn't have the massive alumni base, it's possible for the Cardinal to not even get a BCS game if Oregon doesn't lose its final two games. Here's the situation: If Oregon plays Auburn for the national title, the Rose Bowl has to take the highest-ranked non-AQ team. That means it'll probably be Boise State vs. Wisconsin. If Oregon plays Boise State or TCU for the national title, the Rose Bowl can take anyone it wants to face the Big Ten champion, and it might still blow off Stanford for Boise State or TCU to fulfill the requirement of having to take a non-AQ team in the next four years if the game loses a Big Ten or Pac 10 champ to the BCS Championship Game.

Predicted wins: Oregon State
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 11-1
Predicted bowl: Alamo
Toughest remaining test: Oregon State

The humans still love the Badgers, putting them No. 5 in the polls as the highest ranked one-loss team. The computers don't care. When all is said and done, though, a win over Northwestern, especially a blowout, will keep Wisconsin ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State and will mean a Rose Bowl slot. At worst, the Badgers would slop behind Ohio State and would probably end up going to the Orange. Miami in January ... boo hoo. Every bowl wants Bucky and its rabid, travelling fan base.

Predicted wins: Northwestern
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 11-1
Predicted bowl: Rose
Toughest remaining test: Northwestern

Out goes Nebraska from the No. 8 spot, in steps Ohio State. If the Buckeyes obliterate Michigan, and it might take a 63-10 score to do it, there's a chance they get past Wisconsin in the BCS rankings and end up winning a three-way tie. However, don't assume that Michigan State beats Penn State. At worst, OSU will play in either the Orange or the Sugar Bowl with a win over the Wolverines, and at best, it's a second straight trip to Pasadena.

Predicted wins: Michigan
Predicted losses: None
Predicted final record: 11-1
Predicted bowl: Orange
Toughest remaining test: Michigan

Oklahoma State is a blast, scoring points in bunches with the most balanced and most dangerous offense in America. Forget about an at-large BCS bid, but the Cowboys have their shot at the Fiesta by beating Oklahoma this week and, most likely Nebraska in a rematch of an earlier season loss. No one's stopping this offense; it's just a question of whether or not OU or Nebraska can put 45 on the board to keep up.

Predicted wins: None
Predicted losses: Oklahoma
Predicted final record: 10-2
Predicted bowl: Alamo
Toughest remaining test: Oklahoma

Welcome to 2008 Texas Tech. Michigan State might have beaten Wisconsin, but it doesn't matter at this point unless Ohio State gets upset by Michigan. The Spartans need a Badgers or Buckeyes loss to get into the BCS, and they'll take any of the big games. At worst, they'll get to show off their stuff in the Capital One Bowl, and while that's not the Rose, Sugar, or Orange, it's not that bad. Both the humans and the computers are thumping MSU for the blowout loss to Iowa.

Predicted wins: None
Predicted losses: at Penn State
Predicted final record: 10-2
Predicted bowl: Capital One
Toughest remaining test: at Penn State

In range:

11. Alabama; Score: 0.6019
12. Arkansas; Score: 0.5697
13. Oklahoma; Score: 0.5041
14. Missouri; Score: 0.4564
15. Nebraska; Score: 0.4423
16. Virginia Tech; Score: 0.4213
17. Texas A&M; Score: 0.3607
18. South Carolina; Score: 0.3583
19. Nevada; Score: 0.2943
20. Utah; Score: 0.1961

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