The Dying Throes of BCS Chaos

vidstudent's picture
November 25, 2012 at 10:19 am

I write this early Sunday morning, which is probably a bad time because about nine hours or so would allow greater certainty of what is to come.  However, I want to look at possibilities, so allow me the room that I might put on some rose-colored glasses.  We can all laugh at me later.
At any rate, let's start with how the top 25 of last week's BCS standings fared this week, with conference affiliations:

Notre Dame Ind. WON
Alabama SEC WON
Georgia SEC WON
Florida SEC WON
Oregon PAC-12 WON
Kansas State Big XII WON
Stanford PAC-12 WON
Florida State ACC LOST
Clemson ACC LOST
South Carolina SEC WON
Oklahoma Big XII WON
Nebraska B1G WON
Oregon State PAC-12 LOST
Texas Big XII LOST
Rutgers Big East LOST
M*ch*g*n B1G LOST
Louisville Big East LOST
Oklahoma State Big XII LOST
Boise State MWC IDLE
Kent State MAC WON
Arizona PAC-12 LOST
Washington PAC-12 LOST

Wow, that's a string of losses in the bottom half.  Some are due to playing rivalry games with the top half of the BCS; others are, well, Louisville losing to UConn, which has a coach in hot water (and rightfully so, as one of his team's losses was to a MAC school that fired *its* coach).  The schools in the bottom half that didn't lose are even more important, though, as they are from non-AQ conferences, which can under certain circumstances receive automatic selection.  Specifically, if one makes it to the top twelve, or if they make it to the top sixteen and an automatic bid goes to a school ranked below them, they must be selected.  This is where the fun begins.
We have two interesting scenarios that can happen.  The first is the "Most Boring BCS Selection Show Ever."  This is admittedly a hard feat to accomplish, as they really aren't that fun to begin with and we've been through it too much already.  However, in this example we know all but one team in the BCS games, the championship matchup, and nearly all of the teams' places to boot.  For the championship matchup, that's not saying much at this point; barring an unforeseeable NCAA violation disaster, the game will pit Notre Dame against the SEC champion.  The B1G and PAC-12 champions will play each other, and, along with the other conference champions, these will be decided next week.  That would leave three games with four open slots, with the ACC champion contracted to the Orange Bowl and the Big XII champion going to the Fiesta Bowl.
Except that we would know who fills three of these slots.  The Big East champion would be one; for this scenario, it's decided by a Rutgers win next week, which puts them in first place by head-to-head tiebreaker.  Also happening here: the loser of the SEC title game falls beneath Oregon, who gleefully takes spot #4 in the BCS rankings.  Since Stanford isn't making the title game, Oregon automatically qualifies as a #3 or #4.  Also qualifying is a non-AQ school, quite likely Kent State (we'll get to why in a bit), and we're left with one slot which is likely an SEC team.  Furthermore, with that knowledge and the selection order, we can guess the rest:  the Sugar Bowl grabs the SEC team of its choice, the Fiesta Bowl grabs Oregon before they're gone, and the Sugar Bowl gets to choose between Rutgers and Kent State and shove the other to the Orange Bowl.
Interesting scenario #2 involves us not knowing the Big East champion until the show.  As many as four teams can tie for the title after next week.  If it's two, head-to-head is used; otherwise, we end up using the BCS standings to determine the champion.  Rutgers was loved slightly more than Louisville going into this week; it should remain so with a loss to Pittsburgh being slightly more palatable than a loss to UConn, but nevertheless neither one will be in the Top 25 next week. Nor is there any expectation of Syracuse or Cincinnati claiming spots in their stead, which leads to the funny part where they have to pick a school off of a points system where it is just within the realm of possibility that they all score a big fat 0.
Now, about the non-AQ chances.  Let's look at the scores from, say, 10 on down.

Name Harris USA Toay A&H RB CM KM JS PW Comp Avg.
Florida State .7760 .8129 18 16 15   22 16 .320
Clemson .6793 .6976 13 13 11 20 23 14 .440
South Carolina .5729 .5783 14 10 12 11 9 10 .610
Oklahoma .5322 .5410 9 9 14 9 11 12 .630
Nebraska .4435 .4434 11 15 9 12 15 11 .550
Oregon State .4184 .3817 8 14 13 13 10 13 .550
Texas .3784 .4020 12 12 16 14 13 17 .490
UCLA .3979 .4000 16 18 17 16 18 18 .350
Rutgers .2630 .2766 20 20 18 25   20 .190
M*ch*g*n .2000 .1959 19 22 20 17 20 15 .280
Louisville .3123 .3071 23   21       .030
Oklahoma State .1478 .1749 17 17 22 19 16   .290
Boise State .1482 .1647             .000
Kent State .0682 .0583 24 19 19     19 .160
Arizona .0073 .0034 21 23 23 15 14 21 .240
Washington .0184 .0244 25 24 - 18 17 22 .150

Assume that South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Nebraska are either holding down their spots or all moving up one together.  As for the rest, with the possible exception of Florida State, which lost to good competition and will get some help from any number of teams losing below them to teams not as good as Florida, expect more empty spaces to appear next to losing teams and numbers in front of Kent State to fill in or go up.  Boise State, while they also might benefit some, need two computers to rank them to do so; the high and low numbers are thrown out, and so far all Boise State has is low numbers.  This initial inertia, if you will, means Kent State benefits slightly more, and probably can jump Boise State given an equal increase in the poll numbers of both teams.  Boise's number comes to .1043, while Kent State is at .0955, a difference of .0088.
From there, Kent State needs to get to 16th, currently held by Texas at .4235.  Assume that's the number to shoot for, since Texas themselves lost to unranked TCU which isn't that bad but one too many losses for Texas to stay ranked.  With everyone from spot 15 down to them and the two schools below them losing, they are only going up; the question really is how much.  I don't pretend they will get all those spots; M*ch*g*n lost to a very good team that isn't ranked simply because they can't be, and while it's one loss too many in a bad B1G there's so much other carnage they are unlikely to disappear.  UCLA, in particular, lost to Stanford and that's in line with the rankings, even when it happens again *next week*, so they might stay up.  But a lot of these teams are dropping, especially in the polls, and that's where Kent State needs the help since that .0682 and .0583 represent 25th place overall in both polls.  They need an average of both polls and the computers that puts them around, say, at least .4000, and .4100 wouldn't hurt.  The computers will probably get very close to that number this week for them; the polls need to get to around 17th, which will take a couple of days from 25th even with the chaos.  Most importantly, for this to happen, Kent State has to beat Northern Illinois, or forget I said anything; if there was ever a time for a MAC team to make a BCS game, though, that time is now.
Why do we care?  Because watching the Sugar Bowl selection committee implode when, say, Cincinnati wins the Big East and Kent State makes the BCS and they have to choose between the two is simply awesome.  Alas, OSU can't be at a bowl this year, but we promise our state will show up to one of those two games!  Good luck guessing which one, and hooray for playoffs in 2014!

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