BCS Championship Games: Breaking Down Contenders at Week 6
We're already nearing the half-way point of the 2012 college football season and those initial BCS rankings are just two weeks away. So, it's time for another look at the possible BCS Championship Game match-ups.
The undefeated team across the nation still have the best opportunity to earn their way into the big game, but there has been some sloppy play that could derail any BCS opportunities before long. And we can't forget about those one-loss programs still lurking out there.
So where do we stand now? Who's sitting pretty and who needs a little help?
Let's break down the best possible BCS Championship Games after Week 6.
Where We Stand
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
There are now 19 undefeated FBS programs currently ranked in the Bleacher Report Top 25 College Football Poll, with Cincinnati and Northwestern making their first appearances of the season.
Being undefeated, at this point in the season, means you have a good deal of control over what happens next; keep winning, and keep improving your chances of playing in the BCS Championship Game. Lose, and the journey may come to an abrupt end.
Teams can often absorb an early loss, but with October upon us, dropping a game now can be fatal.
So let's take a look at those undefeated teams, as well as some one-loss teams, that need a little help before we delve into our best-possible BCS Championship Game scenarios.
The Undefeated Programs
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
No. 1 Alabama
Alabama is still the odds-on favorite to play in the BCS National Championship Game. Unless something disastrous happens to the Tide, we can probably count on seeing them in Miami this January.
No. 2 Oregon
The Pac-12 still looks like it will come down to USC and Oregon, but if Oregon emerges on top, they have an inside track to Miami.
No. 3 Florida State
A decent showing against South Florida in a potential let-down game after the epic battle against Clemson, shows that this FSU team may have what it takes in 2012.
No. 4 LSU
The Tigers slip a spot after another mistake-filled game against FCS Towson.
No. 5 Georgia
With all of the focus on the West Division, people are forgetting there's a darn good race developing in the East this season currently led by Georgia.
No. 6 South Carolina
The Gamecocks are right on the Bulldogs' heels and South Carolina moves up a spot, despite struggling early against Kentucky.
No. 7 West Virginia
West Virginia drops a position after their wild 70-63 win over Baylor. Apparently, the amazing offensive explosion from Heisman front runner Geno Smith wasn't enough to outweigh the complete lack of defense in the minds of the pollsters.
No. 8 Kansas State
Admit it: Bill Snyder is an absolute wizard. The Wildcats suddenly look like a Big-12 contender and move up a spot after an idle week.
No. 9 Notre Dame
Despite sharing an idle week with Kansas State, the Irish and Wildcats swap spots. The Irish are 4-0 for the first time in a decade and Brian Kelly has his team's sights set squarely on the BCS.
No. 10 Texas
Texas controls its own destiny with games against all of the ranked and undefeated teams in the Big-12 it could ever want.
No. 12 Florida
Are the Gators back? It's too soon to tell, but they're looking darn good so far. Next week's visit from LSU will answer a lot of questions about both teams.
No. 14 Texas Christian
No trouble yet for the new-to-the-AQers, Horned Frogs, but the big tests are yet to come.
No. 17 Louisville
Are we really ready to a see an undefeated Big East team make a case for a title game slot? The Cardinals keep edging higher and higher in the polls.
No. 18 Oregon State
Who would have guessed that the Beavers would still be undefeated at this stage in the season?
No. 21 Mississippi State
It's easy to forget about the Bulldogs, but Mississippi State started 1-0 in the SEC for the first time in well over a decade. Can they keep that momentum?
No. 22 Rutgers
Holy cow! Another undefeated Big East team in the Top 25! Is this a sign that the crazy guy with the “The End is Near” sign is right?
No. 24 Northwestern
Either the Big Ten is as bad as everyone thinks, or Northwestern has made some vast improvements while no one was looking. Either way, the Purple Cats are 5-0 on the season and 1-0 in the Big Ten heading into their October 6 game at Penn State.
No. 25 Cincinnati
What's this? A third Big East team undefeated and ranked in the Top 25? The Bearcats suddenly look legit after a back-and-forth battle against Virginia Tech ending in a thrilling, last minute victory for Cincy.
Need a Little Help and a Little Love
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images
We'll move on to those teams that need some help—and likely a little pollster love—in order to make it to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game.
Needless to say, winning out is a must.
No. 11 Southern California
First, no more losses (which is far from certain). Second, no more than two undefeated BCS conference champions (also far from certain). Third, a lot of poll love. Still, USC is the highest-ranked, one-loss team in the nation right now.
No. 15 Clemson
Clemson is still very good, but it looks as if Florida State can put it on cruise control to clinch the division now.
No. 16 Oklahoma
Kansas State is going to need to lose a couple of times for the Sooners to even have an outside shot.
No. 19 Stanford
The Cardinal's loss to Washington is a major setback after defeating USC. Suddenly, it looks as if the Pac-12 is Oregon's to lose.
No. 20 Nebraska
If UCLA wins the Pac-12 and Nebraska can blow through the Legends Division to a Big Ten title, then the Huskers in a BCS title game isn't completely out of the question. But the pollsters will have to be convinced that the Huskers deserve anything better than a Rose Bowl Game trip. Still, a solid win over Wisconsin is a good first step.
No. 23 Boise State
It's really hard to envision how a one-loss Boise State team earns a trip to Miami—even if the Broncos go undefeated from here on out and MSU wins the Big Ten. But stranger things have happened.
Time to Focus on Other Things
Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images
Finally, we come to our list of teams that have seen their hopes of a BCS title shot crumble, as recent losses—or multiple losses—have all but ended any hopes of a miracle.
The loss to Cincinnati means that Hokies fans can stop dreaming about a magical comeback season.
While the Spartans still have a decent shot to win the Big Ten in 2012, their two losses in the first five weeks means the Rose Bowl Game is the absolute best MSU can get.
As if we didn't need reminding, the loss to Nebraska only serves to prove that the Badgers have taken a big step backwards this season.
No. 13 Ohio State
Beating a good Michigan State team earned the Buckeyes a solid boost in the polls, but since they're ineligible, we've added them to the bottom of our list as, logically, having no shot.
The horrible performance in the loss to Notre Dame dropped U-M to 2-2 and validates all the nay-sayers. The Wolverines have no shot now and even a Big Ten title looks unlikely, unless some major improvements are made.
LSU vs. Alabama
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Like last week, this game is still a possibility...that no one really wants to see.
Luckily, LSU has a whole slew of problems that makes a repeat SEC Championship in 2012 look pretty unlikely.
Georgia vs. Florida State
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
The SEC-East actually looks to be more entertaining this year than the West Division.
With Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida all sporting undefeated records heading into October, we could have ourselves a real horse race.
So, from that perspective, you can replace Georgia with South Carolina and still have a viable BCS title game.
Florida and Florida State's annual meeting make a Florida-Florida State BCS title game impossible (given the time of year the game takes place), but we wouldn't mind seeing an SEC-ACC match-up this year.
Especially if the SEC-East finally makes its presence known in the BCS title game.
Oregon vs. Florida State
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
SEC fans will hate this, but it's safe to say that the rest of the nation would rejoice if the SEC was finally taken out of the national championship equation.
As unlikely as that sounds, it's at least possible that the top SEC contenders could stumble at precisely the wrong time, which would open the door to a non-SEC involved title game for the first time in umpteen years.
So how much fun would it be to see Florida State and Oregon go toe-to-toe?
Both teams are in the top five in the FBS, in terms of scoring offense. Oregon is scoring 53.0 points per game thus far, while Florida State is scoring 51.0 points per game; both enough to make Fritz Crisler proud (Crisler was the head coach of Michigan's famed “point-a-minute” teams back in the early 20th century).
With both teams undefeated and looking to be favorites in their respective conferences, isn't it at least possible we could find ourselves on selection Sunday with an undefeated Oregon, an undefeated Florida State, and no undefeated SEC teams?
LSU vs. West Virginia
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
We've already mentioned LSU, and we all know why the Tigers are one of the top-contending teams for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game—even after a less-than-impressive win over FCS Towson.
Les Miles and company will need to find the accelerator again if they hope to blow through the SEC en route to a November 3 visit from Alabama. More two point wins over teams like Auburn won't cut it.
Now that West Virginia has bolted the Big East, the Mountaineers can finally consider themselves among the BCS title challengers without most of the country snickering.
We've also seen that Geno Smith and his wide receiving targets are deadly when given the opportunity to really open it up.
Smith already has more than 1,700 yards passing in just four games. Smith's stats (141-of-169 for 1,728 yards, 20 TDs, 0 INT, 208.4 passer rating) are simply eye-popping.
If these numbers remain anywhere near their current level through the Big-12 part of West Virginia's schedule, we may be talking about both of college football's major trophies: The Heisman and the Coaches'.
LSU vs. Oregon
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Oregon is quickly closing in on its fourth-straight conference championship in the Pac-12—something no team has done since USC in the 1960s (USC's won seven titles from 2002 to 2008, including three ties).
Chip Kelly clearly has his Oregon program humming along and with USC's early loss this season, it now seems clear that the Pac-12 crown is Oregon's to lose.
Oregon had its shot at the program's first-ever national championship in 2010, but lost to Auburn on a last-second field goal. Since then, Oregon has captured its first Rose Bowl Game championship since 1917 and has emerged as a true nationally-relevant program on a year-in, year-out basis.
The last title game between these two conferences was an instant classic, so why wouldn't we want to see another installment?
Even with undefeated Oregon State still lurking around the Pac-12's North Division, we still feel that Oregon is a very heavy favorite.
Notre Dame vs. Anybody
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
We are still keeping the Irish in there after their idle week.
With a 4-0 start and big games left on the schedule—Oklahoma, Stanford, and USC—all looking vulnerable, the prediction of a BCS National Championship Game-bound Notre Dame doesn't seem so, “howl at the moon crazy” anymore.
West Virginia vs. Alabama
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
This increasingly likely BCS National Championship Game match-up would be entertaining, to say the least.
West Virginia brings to the table an explosive offense led by a Heisman Trophy front runner in, senior quarterback, Geno Smith.
Alabama brings, well, pretty much everything else to the table.
It would also give us an excellent chapter in the great rivalry between the SEC and Big-12, with an “old guard” versus “new blood” twist.
Oregon vs. Alabama
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
With the way the rankings are looking right now, it seems as if Oregon and Alabama may be one of, if not the most likely January match-up for the BCS National Championship Game.
A lot can still happen in both the SEC and Pac-12, but the potential challengers to these two powerhouse programs haven't necessarily looked sharp thus far; USC has already lost to Stanford (who has since lost to Washington) and LSU needed a safety to escape Auburn 12-10, before stumbling past an FCS opponent.
A high-octane offense against a great defense. What could be more exciting than that?
Florida State vs. Alabama
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The final game on our countdown could be all that surpasses a potential Alabama-Oregon meeting in Miami.
Before the 2012 season even got underway, the Seminoles hype machine was once again in high gear. Even though Florida State didn't exactly come through on its top-five ranking at the start of 2011, the Noles seemed to find some validation this past weekend with an impressive win over fellow top ten-er, Clemson.
Florida State now seems completely unopposed for the ACC crown and with some amazing talent and a deep roster, Jimbo Fisher's squad coud sail through the rest of the season, en route to a shot at the national title in their home state on January 7.
We know why Alabama is favored to make another appearance and we now know why Florida State looks ready to return to glory.
Florida State might also be the most SEC-like of the non-SEC programs anywhere in the nation with stellar talent and amazing depth.
Florida State versus Alabama. EJ Manuel versus AJ McCarron. The Tomahawk Chop versus Roll Tide.
It would be college football at its grandest and a reaffirmation that sometimes the best new champions are the oldest, history-laden programs.
All we need now is for the polls to align in such a way that we actually get what is sure to be a thriller between the Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide.
With both teams still undefeated and approaching the midway point of the 2012 season, it's getting more and more likely.