Who Has the 'Last Game' Edge in BCS: Notre Dame, Oregon or Kansas State?
With BCS No. 1 Alabama escaping Death Valley with a win to remain atop the standings and Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame also staying perfect this weekend, it’s looking ever more likely that we could finish the season with four undefeated teams atop the BCS Standings.
The Tide have a commanding lead in the standings, so they clearly control their own destiny for a trip to Miami. If the other three also win out, who is going to end up in the No. 2 slot to challenge Alabama?
It’s going to come down to the remaining schedule of these teams, so let’s break it down one by one.
The Fighting Irish are sitting at No. 4 in both the human polls and are well behind both Kansas State and Oregon. Notre Dame needs a push in these polls, but it’s going to be hard-pressed to get it with the remaining slate of games on its schedule.
With 2-7 Wake Forest and 5-4 Boston College up next for Notre Dame, there’s not going to be much reason for the pollsters to be impressed with the Irish in the next two weeks. In fact, if Notre Dame struggles against either of these teams like it did against Pitt, the gap in the human polls may get even worse for the Irish—even with wins.
Notre Dame does finish the season at USC, but that game has lost of a lot of the luster it had coming into the season. Instead of playing a potential Top Five team, Notre Dame will be left hoping a win against a USC team with three, possibly four, losses will be enough to jump Kansas State and Oregon.
There’s no way that’s going to happen. Notre Dame needs Oregon or Kansas State, probably both, to lose if it’s going to play for a national championship.
Kansas State is obviously in a much better position, currently sitting at No. 2 in the standings. The question for the Wildcats is if their remaining schedule will be enough to keep them there.
With Baylor, TCU and Texas remaining on Kansas State’s schedule, things get interesting for the Wildcats in the final three weeks.
Baylor isn’t going to do much to boost Kansas State in the pollsters’ minds, so forget about the Bears.
However, TCU just upset a ranked West Virginia team, so a win against the Horned Frogs could give the Wildcats a little push, right? Well, there’s a problem there too. A week after TCU plays Kansas State, they head to Texas and finish with Oklahoma at home.
Unless there’s an upset in there somewhere, TCU is going to finish 6-6 and that’s not so impressive.
To complicate matters further, even if TCU does pull an upset, Kansas State can only hope it comes against Oklahoma. Obviously the Wildcats will have to beat TCU or all this is moot, and Kansas State needs Texas to beat TCU to maintain a high ranking and give the Wildcats one more shot at beating a team ranked in at least the Top 20.
No matter how this shakes out, Kansas State’s remaining schedule is subject to those teams cannibalizing themselves, and that’s not good for the Wildcats strength of schedule in the computers’ eyes.
On the other hand, Oregon has a bunch of scenarios with the way its remaining schedule could play out, and most of them bode well for the Ducks.
First of all, Oregon is already pretty much entrenched in the No. 2 spot in both the human polls as long as it keeps winning. Kansas State is nipping at its heels, but the Ducks are guaranteed games against Stanford and Oregon State, both of whom are currently ranked higher than the Wildcats’ best remaining opponent, Texas.
Now, Oregon is kind of in the same boat as Kansas State as far as the rest of its schedule beating up on each other.
Stanford and Oregon State do play each other before Oregon will get a crack at either one, so one of those rankings is going to drop. Regardless, the loser of that game will most likely stay in the Top 25 and still have some love from the computer polls.
Also, Stanford plays UCLA in the season finale, which could be troublesome for Oregon.
The worst-case scenario for the Ducks would be if Stanford beats UCLA, UCLA loses to USC and Arizona State upsets USC and wins out against Washington State and Arizona. Is your head spinning yet?
Who will be No. 2 if everyone wins out?
If all that somehow happened, it would put a four-loss ASU team in the PAC-12 Championship Game against the Ducks, which wouldn’t be nearly the boost Oregon could get from a rematch with USC or, even better, a ranked UCLA team that Oregon didn’t play in the regular season.
Couple that with Texas finishing strong, Kansas State soundly beating Texas and Oregon winning out but without style points and maybe we have an undefeated Oregon on the outside looking in at the National Championship Game.
All that being said, my money says there’s no way all that falls into place for the Wildcats. And even if it did, there’s no guarantee Oregon wouldn’t still move ahead of Kansas State.
As long as the Ducks take care of business and win out, they’re headed to Miami.
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