November 10, 2005

Crumbling the BCS cookie

It’s mid-to-late November so its time to start discussing the BCS bowls and who is going where. First off, lets get the presumed automatic bids out of the way. In most instances I am predicting, however the SEC is still wide open, so I am saying Alabama is the rep right now.

USC (Pac-10)
Texas (Big XII)
Alabama (SEC)
Miami, FL (ACC)
Penn State (Big Ten)
West Virginia (Big East)
Notre Dame (at-large)

Let’s discuss Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish only have to win 9 games and finish in the top 12 of the BCS to earn a bid for a BCS bowl. Right or wrong, the Irish are such a draw that they will only ever have to reach this plateau to be selected. I honestly cannot imagine a situation in which an Irish team meeting the criteria would NOT be selected. They have that much influence. Right now, they are #11 in the BCS standings and with three winnable games left, they are your first at-large.

Now lets talk about who is going where. The original order of selection this year is Orange-Sugar-Fiesta. From year to year it rotates. The problem is that each one of the conferences has an alignment with each bowl. The SEC champion will go to the Sugar Bowl. Three circumstances cause this to change:
1) If the Sugar Bowl is the title game host.
2) They aren’t the host but an SEC team is ranked #1 or #2.
3) Or if an SEC team repeats as champion, then they go elsewhere.

Below are the anchors:

Rose – Big Ten, Pacific Ten
Orange – ACC, Big East
Sugar – SEC
Fiesta – Big XII

When a team is taken away from an anchor bowl to play in the BCS title game, that bowl then automatically receives the next selection, regardless of the order. This year, Texas is being displaced from the Fiesta Bowl to play in the Rose Bowl. The Fiesta Bowl then gets first selection after the Rose Bowl sets the #1 vs. #2 match-up with the Orange and Sugar following in order. The Fiesta Bowl then puts in a preferential order, the top three teams it would like to have. They must include a conference champion in the #2 slot. It won’t matter. The Fiesta will take Notre Dame for the paragraph mentioned about the Irish above.

Rose – USC vs. Texas
Fiesta - Notre Dame vs.

Next up to select is the Orange Bowl. They will stick with their anchor in which they have a choice. They can take the ACC champion, presumably Miami or they can take the Big East champion, West Virginia. They will take the hometown Canes.

Rose – USC vs. Texas
Fiesta – Notre Dame vs.
Orange – Miami, FL vs.

Lastly, the Sugar Bowl will stick with its alliance and take the Crimson Tide.

Rose – USC vs. Texas
Fiesta – Notre Dame vs.
Orange – Miami, FL vs.
Sugar – Alabama vs.

The order then returns to the top with the Fiesta Bowl, to my best understanding. I am guessing here based upon projections I see from selected websites. There really isn’t even a clear answer on the BCS website,

The Fiesta picks next. We have Penn State as the Big Ten champions and West Virginia as the Big East champion and we still have to determine our second at-large entrant. This is the dicey part and the part of big business and politics in college football. To date, there are four teams in the BCS Top 12 that can win out and NOT earn an automatic bid: Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Oregon, and Texas Tech.

With the Fiesta picking next it is my guess they will bypass the choice of Penn State due to the Lions playing Notre Dame next September. This is just a guess. If I am wrong then the problem rotates to the Orange Bowl and the dilemma only changes slightly. For now, this is the Fiesta Bowl’s problem. Lets play devils advocate and say that the four teams mentioned above that can win out and NOT get an automatic bid do just that, win out. Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, and Oregon each play in stadiums that seat less than 70,000 while the Ohio State Buckeyes play in a 100,000-seat stadium. Whom would you select? Add into the mix that Notre Dame and Ohio State are national programs, who constantly meet on the recruiting trail and the Buckeyes bemoan that they don’t get a home and home series like Michigan does against the Irish and the choice is clear.

The other choices quickly fall into place after that…Penn State and West Virginia are on the board and is just as an obvious choice.

Rose – USC vs. Texas
Fiesta – Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Orange – Miami (FL) vs. Penn State
Sugar – Alabama vs. West Virginia

To recap, I think seven teams are set in stone in that you will have the six conference champions and Notre Dame. Sure the SEC might turn upside down as five teams could still win the title. Penn State could still lose the Big Ten championship and Miami could lose to Florida State in the ACC championship. To me, Texas and USC are rolling towards the Rose Bowl untouched.

Should Ohio State lose to Northwestern or Michigan in the coming weeks, then you have another dilemma. Does the Fiesta Bowl take Penn State and the matchup in September against Notre Dame be damned? Then, do they take Oregon due to the proximity of the Ducks? Or do they go with a better Virginia Tech team who will be cheering for Ohio State to lose?

I take Tech, personally, after Ohio State. The scenario of getting Virginia Tech to the Fiesta is very clear once Ohio State is removed. Virginia Tech playing Miami again in the Orange Bowl is to be avoided. The Fiesta and Orange would compromise, sending Tech to Tempe and Penn State would still play in the Orange.

Either way, Texas Tech and Oregon are not in good positions. They need some upsets to get themselves to the BCS party.

There it is, simple as that.

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Heavenly time period: College football season until the championship game of March Madness.