The Contenders: Who's Fighting for the Final BCS Trophy

By Johnny Ginter on August 19, 2013 at 4:00p
Tajh Boyd and Clemson. Can they avoid a Clemsoning?Eleven Warriors 2013 Ohio State Football Preview

I'm going to go ahead and verbalize what we're all desperately pleading in our brains: someone, for the love of God, please stop the SEC's Robespierrean Reign of Terror over college football. The ideal scenario is that Johnny Manziel is eligible for just long enough to beat Alabama and then send the rest of the conference down in flames as he's busted in a cock fighting ring, but since that's not likely to happen (Manziel being busted, I mean. Cock fighting's in his blood) unfortunately it's looking increasingly likely that someone from another conference is going to have to beat them in a game.

Which no one has managed to do in seven years. Oregon came close and Texas might've pulled it off had the devil not decided to come for Colt McCoy's eternal soul at the worst possible time, but overall the rest of the college world has put up a pretty weak challenge to the SEC's dominance. Even worse is that the one time the SEC did lose, it also won, because it defeated itself. That's some crazy Nietzschean stuff right there.

But this season is the season. Alabama is the prohibitive favorite by many to threepeat, but today I'm going to tell you why I'm down on them and up on some dark horses to make some noise in 2013. It may not be enough to prove that the king has no clothes, but in the final year of the BCS it might be time for a little chaos.

Let's start with the obvious:


My impression of the Alabama program under Nick Saban is something akin to people in North Korea practicing for a musical performance in front of the Dear Leader Kim Jong-Un. Sure, you might get an extra ration of bread if you do well, but is it really worth risking three generations of punishment by being banished to the darkest recesses of Alabama if you screw up?

I dunno. On paper this team looks very good. They have a stupid stable of elite RBs who they replace every season with basically zero dropoff. They return a solid QB in McCarron and an excellent WR in Amari Cooper and have an excellent looking young TE aanndd now I'm just getting depressed.

But here's the thing: their offensive line has been gutted, along with their secondary. Of course, they replace those guys pretty easily every year, again, with little dropoff. And they have a very favorable schedule, and even if they lose to A&M, it's early enough in the year that they could win the rest of their games and still make the title game (because I really don't trust A&M to not still lose more than Bama will).

Dammit. Ignore what I said. We're doomed to an eternity of kowtowing to the Legion of Finebaum and there's nothing we can do about it.



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So here's the thing: Alabama, assuming they don't crap the bed in the regular season and the SEC title game, has the inside shot at making the national title game. But once they get there there might be several teams lurking who Nick Saban absolutely does not want to play. Oregon is one of them.

Last season Oregon looked unstoppable until Stanford stopped them in convincing fashion, but what makes them dangerous is that their secret formula works about 90% of the time. Their uptempo style of offense infuriates guys like Saban because the Ducks force opposing defenses to react and be creative rather than attack in a regimented way, which is what many SEC defenses are predicated on.

Oregon returns most of their big time offensive weapons, including Mariota, Thomas, and Huff and it will be up to the new coaching staff to make sure that they're utilized as well as they were under Chip Kelly, because the defense has taken some hits through attrition.

Texas A&M

It's been easy to overlook how good of a player Manziel is, given all the crap surrounding the dude. He accounted for almost 400 yards of offense, individually, per game last year. He makes a very good Texas A&M offense incredible, and makes a very average defense (which is losing some of their best players through attrition and suspension) look serviceable.

If he plays and TAMU beats Alabama, a favorable schedule makes a title run a possibility. If he doesn't, Sumlin starts looking for answers.


Admittedly Louisville wouldn't be on this list had they not annihilated Florida in the Sugar Bowl, but since they did and QB Teddy Bridgewater returns, they suddenly look like a very balanced team that could go undefeated in the Big East and lurk as they wait and watch for teams ahead of them to screw up.


People are going to find out very quickly if the Tigers are for real this time. Tajh Boyd is probably one of the top three QBs in college football, and they've quietly begun building a defense that might actually be worthy of a title run.

But there are some landmines in that ACC schedule. They start their season with an out of conference game against Georgia, have a midseason contest against Florida State, and then have to go on the "road" against South Carolina to finish up. In between those three games are the usual array of scum and villainy to be found in the ACC, but one good thing about their schedule is that there's no half-season long stretches for them to get complacent. Another plus is that if they can go undefeated, their strength of schedule should help propel them above the likes of even an Ohio State to the BCS title game.


I almost hesitate to put them on this short list. They are going to be very good again this season, mostly on the back of an excellent defense. But their November schedule has them playing Oregon, USC, Cal, and then Notre Dame. Two of those teams are going to be very good, one might be dangerous by the end of the season, and the last one is coached by Lane Kiffin.

Which doesn't really mean anything, I just think the inevitable 42-6 beatdown that the Cardinal gives him will be pretty funny.

Anyway, the point is that the Pac-12 is essentially going to be a tossup between Oregon and Stanford. If the winner of that game is undefeated, then it'll be extremely hard for people to not give them priority.

Ohio State

Not going to spend a ton of time on the Buckeyes here. We know that the defense will be tested, and we know that they must go undefeated to have a shot at the title game. Right now they should be fairly well positioned to get there if they run the table, but given a lack of depth at key positions and a young defense, it's going to be extremely difficult to pull off.

But! It's a possibility.

Teams I didn't include and the various reasons why

I know Clowney's great, but he can't rush the ball and I'll never trust a two QB system, sorry South Carolina. Remember when Tommy Rees was benched least year at Notre Dame? Yeah, me too. Florida has and will continue to have zero passing game. Never, ever trust Florida State. Georgia's schedule is brutal and if they can somehow get through that unscathed then we should give them the title right there.

Preseason lists of teams are kind of ridiculous because they're entirely predicated on the perception them from eight months ago built from the Belk Bowl or some junk, which is why this list is really about who's more likely to meet the arbitrary standards of the BCS. So in truth, any team that wins the SEC and has one loss or less will get into the BCS title game. Any Big Ten, ACC, or Big East team with one loss or more is totally out of the running. Here's the hierarchy I've made up in my head:

  • Undefeated SEC team
  • An acceptable Notre Dame team
  • One loss SEC team
  • Undefeated Pac-12 team
  • An acceptable Ohio State team
  • Undefeated team rising from the wreckage of the Big 12
  • Undefeated Big Ten team other than Ohio State
  • Two loss SEC team
  • Various undefeated rabble from the ACC, Big East, MAC, whoever

What's going to be really fun about this season is that there are a number of legit contenders and also a number of big game bottlenecks scattered throughout the season which should whittle them down as the fall wears on. Welcome to the thunderdome, kids.


Comments Show All Comments

gobucks96's picture

I think Florida State might be a team that can challenge here... They have a great Dline and the team has been rebuilding for a few years..

boojtastic's picture

C'mon man. Never ever trust Florida State. It's right up there and may or may not be clumsily etched in my coffee table.

Tim's picture

Phil Steele is on the Florida State bandwagon again, but a lot will depend on how well they can replace Manuel.  Winston could be really good, or it could take a while for him to get up to speed in college football.

cplunk's picture

Please, God, don't let Oregon play Bama in the title game. The Ducks lose to teams with strong, deep d-lines. Always. See: Stanford, LSU, Ohio State, Auburn, USC.
If the Ducks face Bama, we're going to hear SEC chants again. Don't let the flash and dash fool you, the Ducks have a mortal weakness. Unfortunately for them, that weakness is exactly the strength of true top teams.

thatlillefty's picture

I think Oregon is on the cusp if the new coach can maintain.

BABuckeye's picture

The lofty Oregon ranking is based in part on Chip Kelly's previous record. Now that the Chip Kelly part is gone, I think the ranking should be adjusted. The new Oregon coach does not have any HC experience, right? Seems like a "battlefield promotion" from OC to HC, like Fick from DC to HC.  The two situations are different, but I still think a new, young, untested, HC could mean a loss or two.  

thorvath22's picture

Chip Kelly was in the exact same scenario back in 2008.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

Lets not put USC in that category. They gave up 35pts and 474 yards of offense to Oregon in 2011.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

osubuck57's picture

Yeah, I might add FSU as well. For all the talent Clemson seems to get, they play great against teams that are better or on par with them, but always seem to find ways to lose games to those teams, they shouldn't. Haven't really looked at Clemson or FSU schedule, but think Jimbo might pass up those guys from Death Valley this year.


cplunk's picture

Also, I'm afraid your hierarchy is correct. If the SEC champ and the winner of Oregon/Stanford are both undefeated, there is a good chance we get jumped in the polls and miss out, even if we are undefeated.

Oyster's picture

I have said all along that if there are 3 teams with the same record at the end of the year, OSU doesn't get the invite.  The schedule and a weak B1G will be their achilles heel.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

gwin321's picture

I couldnt agree with you more. The sad part about it is our schedule would have looked a lil better if not for Vandy backing out. I know there was some conflict with their schedule but once you commit, STICK TO IT.

GregB's picture

I would normally agree. But let me suggest one real good reason (amongst many) to have Urban as our coach, is that the media respect his teams. If it were a Tressel coached team?  Yes a slam dunk that we'd be left out of three team scenario. With Urban Im not so sure.

nm_buck's picture

And miss out we should... under that scenario.  It's time we start scheduling some real opponents.  I'm sick and tired of cakewalks before league play begins... which is especially limiting to strength of schedule in an era when the league isn't as strong.  There's a reason 'bama is dominating.  Their schedule prepares them for championships.

"The future is bright at Ohio State."  - Urban Meyer 1/1/15

cplunk's picture

I agree that we need to up our schedule, but this year's schedule for Bama is arguably worse than ours.
They play two ranked teams- #7 on the road and #12 at home. Other than those two, they have only three games against teams with winning records last year: Va Tech (7-6), Miss State (8-5), Ole Miss (7-6). That's it. Va Tech has o many starters out for that first game that it is basically their B team.
We play three ranked teams- #17 on the road, #22 on the road, and #23 at home. Besides those three we play two teams with winning records: Penn State (8-4) and San Diego State (9-3). Before you dis SD State, they beat Boise State.
Is that really hugely in favor of Bama? So much so that it prepares them to win championships? 

buckeyepastor's picture

While it's horribly unfair and inaccurate, the SEC mystique has grown to the place that without even knowing Alabama's schedule, people assume that as the top team in the SEC they are playing a very tough schedule.   Bama will get high marks from everyone this year for beating Ole Miss, Miss St., Arkansas, Tennessee, and of course Auburn even though those squads have been less than stellar and far from elite.   Already dreading the fawning over Bama that will happen after they beat an Arkansas team that was a MESS last year.  

"Woody would have wanted it that way" 

Scarlet_Lutefisk's picture

Ohio State
2005 - Texas
2006 - Texas
2007 - Washington, Youngstown St
2008 - USC, Youngstown St, Troy
2009 - USC
2010 - Miami
2011 - Miami, Colorado
2012 - Cal
2013 - Cal, Florida A&M
2014 - VPI
2015 - VPI
2016 - Oklahoma
2017 - Oklahoma, North Carolina
2018 - TCU, North Carolina
2019 - TCU
2020 - Oregon, Boston College
2021 - Oregon, Boston College
2022 - Texas
2023 - Texas
2006 - Duke, Florida International, Louisiana Monroe
2007 - FSU, Western Carolina, Louisiana Monroe,
2008 - Clemson, Western Kentucky, Arkansas State
2009 - VPI, Florida International, North Texas, Chattanooga
2010 - PSU, Duke, Georgia State
2011 - PSU, Georgia Southern, North Texas
2012 - TSUN, Western Kentucky. Western Carolina
2013 - VPI, Georgia State, Chattanooga
2014 - West Virginia, Florida Atlantic, Western Carolina
2015 - Wisconsin
2016 - Sparty
2017 - Sparty
So really Ohio State should start scheduling more FCS teams in order to follow the Alabama scheduling plan to prepare for a championship.

45buckshot's picture

No PAC12 team is going undefeated. None of them have the defense, except Stanford, to do it. And Stanford doesn't have the talent level to compete with 'bama. But they'll lose before that, somewhere. 
It depends on some of the final scores; if we have to beat Purdue and Wisky in OT again, then yes, we will get jumped--and rightfully so. But if UM3 pounds some teams this year that will get noticed. 
And the pasting ND took in the title game last year also got noticed, so they're not jumping us. FSU beat the hell out of a crappy ACC for years and went to the title game; Bobby just ran the score up when he could. UM3 will do the same. If we crush a couple of deadbeats, score 70 somewhere during the season, beat UM on the road, and then win the B1g title game we'll make the MNC game. UM3 has assembled the only team talented enough to take on 'bama, and anybody who's paying attention knows it. 

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
—G.K. Chesterton

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I hate to pick the top four rates teams (too easy and predictable), but taking schedules into consideration, the best bets are Bama, Ohio State, Oregon, and Stanford.
UGA, LSU, Florida, and Clemson play brutal schedules. FSU's schedule is doable, but I don't see them going undefeated against the three good teams they do play - Clemson, Miami, and Florida.
A surprise team could come out of the B12, but I have no idea which one - Okla State, Texas, Oklahoma?

yrro's picture

I am getting sick of Alabama getting credit for their "SEC schedule" being difficult when they don't play any of those teams. Just like us, they've got essentially a 3-game playoff for the championship plus a few "remember to show up" games.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I agree, although I feel like the winner of the SEC east will be a little tougher hurdle this year. Even if Bama wins the SEC West, they're maybe only 55 percent likely to win the SEC CG.  

BIGHEC39's picture

'No Need To Fear, Urban Meyer Is Here'


BuckeyeSouth's picture

"Two of those teams are going to be very good, one might be dangerous by the end of the season, and the last one is coached by Lane Kiffin."
Pure gold, Johnny.  Pure gold.

Champions.  Undisputed.  

Larryp713's picture

It is a total crap shoot. Alabama always looks good on paper, but they have a huge target on them. Oregon and Stanford are solid, as are the Buckeyes. Clemson, SC, Georgia, Florida, other teams could catch fire.
As homer as this sounds, I really don't know who is better than the Buckeyes this year. The variety and depth on offense, led by a perennial Heisman candidate... playmakers and talent on defense. Barring signficant injury, I like the Buckeyes over everybody else. And that is not through homer vision.



USMC11917's picture

If Clemson beats Georgia, I think they have a legitimate shot at going to the game. They just can't pull a Clemson/USC Westcoast and lose one to someone they shouldn't

Dr. House's picture

Clemson is always one of the most disappointing teams year in and year out. They don't do anything and yet they are always ranked like the Domers, Texas, and Va Tech. If we are counting on Clemson to win against Georgia we might be in trouble.
the only way to make the media notice and notice in a that cannot be ignored is to WIN, but not just win Blow out every team we face. who cares if it is poor sportsmanship we have bigger goals in mind then IU, Penn state wins. the goal is to hold up that crystal ball and give a big middle finger to whoever trashed The Ohio State University.

Kurt's picture

Big question: Who's the sleeper team?  No team from the B12 was listed.  K-State was a game away from the championship bowl last year.  Does anyone believe in Oklahoma?  Okie State?

Will in Arizona's picture

Texas is the most likely bet out of the Big 12, IMO.

Maestro's picture


vacuuming sucks

thatlillefty's picture

If tOSU goes undefeated, that's two seasons in a row. Regardless of how terrible the Big Ten is right now, there is a reason we had the most BCS appearances til a couple years ago. People will want to see us in the title game, especially if it's vs an SEC squad - if for nothing else than the redemption / Urban Meyer narrative.

No way we get jumped.

Boomcat's picture

If our D-line is a dominating force, our linebackers step up, our offense is as good as advertised, and we stay healthy, then I see no reason why we don't make a trip to Pasadena on a day other than Jan 1.

Arizona_Buckeye's picture

Oregon puts up all kinds of numbers until they run into a defense that is quick, tough, well coached, and stay in their assignments and it is game over.  I don't think that will change much and will only get worse each year post coach Kelly.

The best thing about Pastafarianism? It is not only acceptable, but advisable, to be heavily sauced

WildBear Buckeye's picture

Not even mentioning Michigan? Stupid 11W mouthbreather with irrational hatred of your betters.

Will in Arizona's picture

Texas is a very talented team that I could definitely see in the BCS Title game.  No one is really talking about them as conttenders, but their talent level is definitely top five, and arguably #2 behind Alabama.

Maestro's picture

No. Defense gave up 42 td's last season.

vacuuming sucks

gumtape's picture

Finebaum was on ESPN radio and said tosu, Stanford, and Oregon all had a chance to beat the sec. Then he said it would take almost a miracle.

High and tight boo boo

ScarletNGrey01's picture

So, as distasteful as this sounds, will it be necessary for tOSU to run up scores when possible in order to make sure that IF (a big if) they are undefeated they'll get in???  You like to see the second unit get some playing time if you have a decent lead, but in a non-playoff environment piling up the points might be required.  I believe in theory it's not a part of the BCS formulation, but still makes you wonder how important the perception that your school is a scoring machine is.

The will to win is not as important as the will to prepare to win. -- Woody Hayes

chubler's picture

Personally, I think Ohio State only gets in over Louisville if there are 3 undefeated teams. The biggest problem for OSU is the computers. ND was #1 last year going into the NCG even though everyone knew what was about to happen in large part due to the computers recognizing things voters ignore like superior SOS and efficiency and really, really low numbers of points against, etc. Any undefeated team from a power conference or ND, barring a huge surprise, will likely have a huge computer advantage due mostly to SOS. So really, thanks to the B1G at large being so weak, OSU has to win out and hope everyone else loses.

thekornidentity's picture

The Big East no longer sponsors football, and even if Louisville goes undefeated can you put them in the BCSNCG over a 1-loss conference champion? I say no.

“Nothing that comes easy in this world is worth a damn.” -Woody Hayes