I treat the BCS rankings like Christmas - there's no reason to even think about it until November and even then that's probably far too soon. But the first poll of November is out and, predictably, people are losing their damned minds over it. Texas Tech jumps past Penn State! USC falls to No. 7 after winning 56-0! Utah, Boise St. and TCU all in the Top 12! It's chaos!
Of course, there's still a whole month of football left to be played, so reading too much into these rankings is very dangerous. However, there are a few things I think we can safely assume based on where things stand right now:
Penn State fans need to shut up already
Yes, it's a tough break to get jumped in polls when you had a bye week. Or so the Nittany Lion fans are screaming today after Texas Tech moved ahead of them in the rankings. But keep this in mind: Penn State didn't "fall" in the rankings - they were No. 3 before the week started and No. 3 at the end of the week. The only difference is which two teams are ahead of them, with Texas Tech replacing Texas.
I don't see how you can argue with placing the Red Raiders ahead of Penn State this week. Rankings should be based on how well people have performed against the teams they have played to that point in the season. Up until last week, voters were holding off on rewarding Texas Tech for being 8-0, since they have a daunting gauntlet of games to close the season. But now that they've got through the first step and knocked off the No. 1 team in the country, you have to place them higher. They play in a better conference and they have the best win of any of the three undefeated teams at the top of the polls.
But most importantly, this is an incredibly moot point. If Texas Tech wins out, that means they will have beaten Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and either Missouri or Kansas in the Big 12 title game. And there would be no possible argument for keeping them out of the BCS title game then. If they lose once, where they are ranked today is meaningless as long as Penn State keeps winning.
If I was a Penn State fan, I'd be more ticked off at Alabama moving up to No. 1 than Texas Tech going to No. 2. Let's be honest about this: what exactly is the Crimson Tide's signature win? Georgia? The same team that got hammered by Florida this week? The Clemson team that fired their head coach midway through the season? Tennessee, who just fired their coach today? I'd argue that Penn State's win over Oregon State (more on them in a minute) is looking far more impressive by the week, while Alabama's earlier wins lose more and more of their luster.
Utah, Boise St., TCU, BYU and Ball State fans should learn to hate Ohio State as much as the rest of the college football world does
Why? Their BCS bowl chances might be directly tied to how Ohio State does in their final three games against Northwestern, Illinois and Michigan. To attempt to briefly explain: any school from a non-BCS conference that is ranked in the Top 12 of the final regular season BCS poll is guaranteed a spot in a BCS game. But if more than two teams are in the Top 12, only the highest-ranking is guaranteed a spot. Which is potentially bad news for Utah, TCU and Boise St., all in the Top 12 this week.
Only teams in the Top 16 are eligible for at-large BCS berths and - here's the big catch - no conference can send more than two teams to BCS bowl games. Right now nine of the top 16 spots in the BCS are taken by teams from two conferences: the SEC and the Big 12. And there is almost no chance that the ACC, Big East or PAC-10 will send two teams. (See next item for the one percent chance that the PAC-10 sends two schools.)
Doing the math: there are four at-large berths. Second teams from the Big 12 and SEC will get two of those four, as (almost certainly) will the highest-finishing non-BCS school. Leaving the final BCS at-large berth to go to another BCS Buster or...Ohio State.
Yes, the same cockroaches that ruined the last two championship games are all that stand in the way of the greatest season in non-BCS football history. They sit at No. 12 in the current rankings. If they win out, they'll get the final BCS at-large berth. If they slip up, that spot will almost have to go to a non-BCS team in the Top 16 (even Ball State could get the nod).
In some small way, we all should be rooting for Northwestern next week.
USC is screwed, screwed, screwed (and deservedly so)
After USC lost to Oregon State, I told anyone who would listen that the Trojans' BCS Title hopes were done. And everyone tried to convince me that USC was still alive. "Just look at the carnage last season," they said. "They win out and they'll be fine."
Looking at the first week of November, and I stand by my earlier statement. They don't just need upsets to start happening, but huge upsets with teams way outside of the BCS rankings to take down big names. Texas Tech knocking off Texas might have seemed like a break for the Trojans, for example, but it turned out to be the worst thing imaginable - not only did the Red Raiders leap over USC, but Texas didn't fall behind them.
Without getting into drawn-out rationales, here are the relevant facts:
- The Big 12 champion is making it to the BCS title game. In order for this not to happen, it would take a scenario so convoluted that M. Night Shymalayan would dismiss it as crackpot for there not to be at least one team left with one loss, and there is no way a one-loss Big 12 team is getting left out of the mix.
- Alabama goes if they run the table. The best team most likely to beat them: one-loss Florida, who would certainly go ahead of USC if they win out. They only way USC would be picked ahead of the SEC champion is if Florida loses again but beats Alabama in the SEC title game. And even then, one-loss Alabama might still go ahead of USC (sending a team that lost its conference championship is a nightmare scenario for the BCS).
- Penn State has the easiest path to going undefeated. But if they slip up, they are done. (There is no way a one-loss Big Ten team makes it, period.)