Monday, October 16, 2006

Visions of BCS Bids Dancing....

It's mid-October, the first BCS poll has been released, so it's time to start thinking about possibilities for ND.

Note: All of this assumes the Fighting Irish win out this season. A loss to any of the teams remaining on the schedule will probably preclude ND from BCS inclusion, even if they beat SC. If the loss is to SC, it's possible they might stay in the top 14 and therefore be eligible for inclusion (and I can see a bowl wanting a 2-loss ND team instead of the BE, ACC, or BXII second-place finisher), but given how late the loss would be, it might be too much to overcome.

Available Teams.

There are four at-large slots available. Let's look at the conferences and find the most BCS-worthy possibilities:

Integer. The MI/tOSU loser will almost certainly be a BCS participant, particularly if both teams are undefeated going into the game. If the winner is ranked in the top two and is selected for the NC game, the Rose Bowl will be under a lot of pressure, both internally and externally, to select the loser of the game as a replacement, provided that loser only has one loss. The Integer is almost guaranteed two slots.

Pac10. If we assume ND has to go undefeated to get to the BCS, there won't be an undefeated team in this mix. However, Sagarin has the conference rated #1 right now, so that may carry some weight to counterbalance the losses. SC, Cal and Oregon seem to be the possibilities, since everyone else has at least two losses, and Cal has already given Oregon their one loss. Three straight weekends will determine how many Pac10 teams are BCS-bound -- Oregon at SC on 11/11, Cal at SC on 11/18, and ND at SC on 11/25.

Big XII. Texas is the standard-bearer here, but they already have one loss. They're also the only BigXII team in the BCS Top 15, with Nebraska (plays Texas this weekend, has to travel to A&M, would have to play the tougher South winner in the championship game) and Oklahoma (already lost to the Horns, lost AP for the season, still has to play at Mizzou & A&M) the only other BCS Top 25 entrants. Texas A&M and Missouri only sport one loss, so it's possible those teams might sneak in. But I see the Big XII as being a one-bid conference, especially if Texas is that team.

SEC. Too close to call right now. Florida is ahead in the Eastern Division, and the next team is a 2-loss Georgia that seems on its way to a meltdown. Tennessee remains a possibility if Florida stumbles again. On the other side, it's Auburn and Arkansas. While I think the SEC teams will beat up on each other enough to keep them out of the NC game, I also think their publicity machine is strong enough that they'll have a second team in the BCS this year, most likely either the NC game loser or the runner up in the winner's division.

Big East. The WVU/Louisville winner probably will have the inside track to the NC game, provided they can overcome an atrocious strength of schedule and a lack of love by the computers. But even if the loser of that game ends with one loss, they'll be hard-pressed to get into the BCS because I don't see a lot of bowls falling all over themselves to make the invitation. Granted, both schools travel well, and there are four at-large bids. But still.

ACC. Yuck. You've got GaTech, Clemson, and Wake Forest all with only one loss overall. Clemson has already defeated Wake, so they have the inside track to their conference championship. GaTech still has to go to Clemson and host Miami (and Georgia). The chances of the ACC having a second BCS team is almost zero. They're lucky they're getting one in there.

Other conferences. The only ranked non-BCS teams are Boise State at #15 and Tulsa at #25. Tulsa already has a loss, so its unlikely they can get into the top 12 and the automatic bid, but stranger things have happened. Boise still has to go to Idaho and San Jose State, but the chance exists they'll finish undefeated, which will probably be enough to rank them ahead of the ACC champ and get them in. If they lose even one, they're dead.

Summary: The way I see it, the Integer and SEC are the only conferences virtually guaranteed to get a second team in there, while the ACC is virtually guaranteed only one slot. For the other three, it will depend on how things break.

If ND finishes the season with only one loss, they're a lock to be BCS top eight and automatically eligible. If they lose to SC, they could still possibly get in if they remain in the BCS top 14 and the other also-rans in the BCS stumble and/or Boise gets hit with a loss.

Available Bowls

After the two bowls that lose their "host" team to the National Championship Game pick, the order of march is Sugar, Orange, Fiesta. Hard to tell right now how things will fall out, but let's examine the possibilities:

The Rose Bowl. While the chances are not zero here, they're probably as remote as you can get. The only way ND ends up here is if the bowl has to replace one of its host schools. It's highly unlikely the Pac10 would need a replacement if ND goes undefeated and knocks off SC. The Integer champ will probably be the MI/tOSU winner, and if that team is undefeated, it would be selected for the NC game. However, the bowl would be under a lot of pressure, both externally and internally, to select the MI/tOSU loser as the replacement, particularly if that team has only one loss. If the second-place team had two losses and the Pac10 rep was not SC, however, all bets would be off. I could see an ND/Cal game being pretty attractive to the committee in that case.

The Sugar Bowl. This is the most likely destination for ND. New Orleans is desperate for a high-profile Sugar Bowl to give tourism a boost. If they lose their SEC rep to the NC game and have two picks in the first three, there's no way they'll pass on an eligible Fighting Irish team. Even if they don't lose their rep, they pick first after the NC bowls do, and an ND/Florida game is a publicity natural. Even ND/Auburn or ND/Tennessee would grab TV sets. The conspiracy theorist in me could see the BCS working behind the scenes with the other bowls to make this happen.

The Orange Bowl. Not a likely destination. The bowl folks won't want the rematch if Georgia Tech is the ACC rep. The SEC runner-up would ensure plenty of bodies in the seats, especially if that runner-up is Florida. And the Sugar isn't going to get the Irish get by, so since the ACC rep isn't going to be anywhere near the NC game....

The Fiesta Bowl. Probably the second-most-likely destination, but only if the BigXII rep is lost to the championship game. Since they also have the NC game this year, they'll probably get short shrift on the actual bowl, but even though ND was just there last year, the bowl might want them as insurance against a snoozer matchup.

I imagine this will all be clearer the first week of November or so, but for now, it's fun to dream.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


10/16/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My two cents,

Who do you have left in the undefeated top ten column - WV and Louisville - and they play each other. WV schedule is milk toast with only Louisville as a tough team – although some might consider Pitt a challenge. Auburn and the rest of the SEC will eat each other (no one is undefeated) - maybe I am making light of all of this but here is one scenario that I believe is plausible:

If Michigan beats Ohio St. and ND goes undefeated and wipes an undefeated SC team in their house (they still have to play Oregon and Cal but in the Coliseum) then I could see the BCS looking for a big payoff with a rematch between Michigan and ND for the NC. Of course I am looking through “green” colored glasses but ND would be one of many 10-1 teams with a fresh win over a TOP team.

Carl Pio Parlatore ‘66

10/17/2006 07:10:00 AM  
Anonymous kdawg said...

You forgot Boston College in the ACC has only one loss. They still have to play Flordia State and Wake Forest. If they beat these two teams -- which is entirely possible -- then they win the ACC.

10/18/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If Michigan beats Ohio St. and ND goes undefeated and wipes an undefeated SC team in their house (they still have to play Oregon and Cal but in the Coliseum) then I could see the BCS looking for a big payoff with a rematch between Michigan and ND for the NC. Of course I am looking through “green” colored glasses but ND would be one of many 10-1 teams with a fresh win over a TOP team."

I like the way this man thinks. If USC can hold off Oregon and Cal, Notre Dame could leapfrog right up there for NC contention. Everyone talks about an undefeated WVU or Louisville being inevitable, but don't forget that both of these teams still have to play Rutgers AND Pitt.

Here's a scenario that's definitely plausible:

Louisville and WVU go into their game undefeated, and Louisville edges the Mountaineers with their home field advantage.

The very next week, an undefeated Louisville and an undefeated Rutgers square off. Rutgers is at home and pumped, Louisville is both physically and mentally drained from an emotional win against West Virginia. Rutgers wins.

Then at the end of the year, WVU beats Rutgers on their home field.

I know I'm wildly speculating, but when you're a ND fan with wild hopes for a national championship bid, what else is there to do right now?

10/20/2006 01:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If ND wins next 5, but loses at USC in the last game, they will still be a top 8 and a lock. Scenarios you listed are if ND rolls the table, and that isn't necessary. If the roll and USC hadn't stumbled prior to the ND game, ND is going to to the Fiesta!

10/20/2006 07:29:00 AM  

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