Once again we have a chaotic college football season nearing the close.
Fans seem to think each year is a unique case of problems and scenarios. The truth is every year is pretty much the same as last year, just that the dance partners change around.
There is a lot of football to play, so this is all premature and will probably change several times before the season is completed. But no-one can seem to resist picking the matchups every week.
There are whole networks and shows devoted to picking the teams that will match up in each and every bowl game, then they pick entirely different teams the next week when everything changes. At times it seems the whole reason to have college football is so fans and experts can argue about it.
For right now, here is the case for each of the top contenders for the BCS National Championship Game. The order is based on the current BCS ranking, or totally random—it's the same either way. I am not a fan of any of these teams so I have no real rooting interest and am attempting to show each team's case as positively as possible.
Pluses: Kansas State is currently ranked number one and that's always a good spot to be in.
The Wildcats are undefeated in the conference with the highest Sagarin Rating for 2012. For those that do not know, the Sagarin Rating, created by Jeff Sagarin, is a computation based on a hypothetical team and its mathematical probability of winning 50 % of its games against each team's schedule. Sagarin then combines it for all teams in a conference to rate each conference.
It's been shown to be a pretty successful rating system over the years, unless it rates your conference low, and then it stinks.
Kansas State's highest profile win has been over Oklahoma.
Kansas State has only one poor win, that being a six point victory when they traveled to Iowa State.
They will play eight teams that are likely to be in bowl games this post-season. They still have Texas left on their schedule so they can even increase their difficult strength of schedule.
Kansas State has the traits every college football team is said to need to succeed. They can run the ball (19th in the country) and they can stop the run (9th in the country).
They have a dynamic attention getting player in quarterback Collin Klein, who remains a Heisman favorite.
They are viewed as the most complete team that is still undefeated. The Wildcats' average scoring over 42 points per game and give up less than 18 points per game.
Minuses: Kansas State is not seen as a “sexy “ team. They are viewed as a solid, well coached team that knows how to get it done. They do not have Oregon's flash or Notre Dame's reputation. The higher-profile teams behind them may gain ground if Kansas State does not win impressively over their final contests.
They played teams that were in the top 10 when they played them but Kansas State does not have a win over a team currently in the top 10.
Pluses: Oregon is currently ranked number one by most human polls.
Oregon is the “IT” team: the team that makes you say 'wow' every time you see them perform.
Oregon is undefeated in the third ranked conference according to Sagarin.
Oregon's biggest win to date is over USC.
They have a truly dynamic offense that has averaged 55 points per game this season. They truly look like they can score on every play.
Watching Oregon's high-paced offense is like watching a relay race. The ball goes from Mariota to Barner to Thomas and back so quickly you think you are watching a hockey line change instead of a football huddle.
Oregon has three games remaining against ranked teams so they will have plenty of chances to impress over the coming weeks.
Oregon does not have a home uniform but rather has a totally different look each and every week it seems. I wanted to put this in the minuses but I was informed I was just an old “fuddy-duddy” and this was indeed a good thing and part of their image.
Minuses: Oregon's non-conference schedule consisted of Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-BCS division teams. As a result, the Ducks did not play a game of any real import until week nine of their season. They do not have a win over any team in the top 15 of the BCS.
The Oregon defense has given up an average of 22 points per game, but has the reputation of being suspect due to giving up more than 50 points to USC and 34 points to a Sun Belt team in week 1.
They are not viewed as being as complete a team as Kansas State.
Pluses: Notre Dame is the remaining undefeated independent team.
They are Notre Dame. They move the meter. They are one of those half the people love them and half the people hate them teams.
The Irish do not have a cupcake on their schedule. Every game is against a team from a major conference or a service academy. There is no Buffalo, or Western Kentucky, or Tennessee Tech, or Missouri State on the Notre Dame schedule.
By season's end, Notre Dame will face eight likely bowl participants. Their biggest wins to date are over Stanford and Oklahoma. They are the only undefeated team to beat multiple teams in the top 15 of the BCS.
Notre Dame has one big matchup left with USC, a traditional game with a lot of hype.
The Irish feature a top ten defense that has given up an average of only 11 points per game. They have given up 14 points or less in eight contests. The leader of the defense, Manti Te'o, is that rare defender that gets mentioned for Heisman consideration.
Minuses: While every game is against a major conference team, several of these teams ended up being the bottom feeders of their respective conferences.
Notre Dame had to struggle to gain victories over average teams like Pittsburgh, Purdue and BYU.
The Irish do not have a win over a team in the top 10 of the BCS.
The Notre Dame offense is a unit that is learning and growing. They have scored 20 points or less in five games.
Notre Dame is viewed by voters and pundits as a nice story and a team that finds a way to win, not as a complete team and they are consistently the lowest ranked of the undefeated teams.
Pluses: I put these two in one category because the winner is the only one that has a chance to get to the Championship Game.
The SEC has won the BCS Championship so many years in a row that younger college football fans think this was always the case. I can assure you younger fans that it was not so many years ago when an undefeated SEC team was shut out of the Championship Game and were viewed as not having played a tough enough schedule.
But in 2012, the SEC is the 5000 pound gorilla in the room and some will even think the conference champion should jump the undefeated teams and go to the Championship.
The SEC is the number two-rated conference according to Sagarin but is popularly viewed as the best conference—and by a wide margin. This can be seen with six teams currently in the top 10 belonging to the SEC.
The SEC Champion, whichever team it is, will be a top caliber team with multiple wins over top 10 teams. Either will have their only loss to a highly ranked team. An argument can be made that the champion from the best conference will deserve its opportunity to go to the Championship Game.
Minuses: The BCS does not currently have a playoff system attached to it. Thus, the conference championships and conference titles must be seen as elimination rounds to get to the Championship Game.
Georgia got crushed in their one loss, and in a season with multiple undefeated teams this may be enough to eliminate them.
Alabama had everything in front of them and were being hailed as a dynasty when they lost at home to a previously unheralded team.
If there is only one undefeated team remaining at the end of the year, the SEC Champion will be a shoe-in to face that team in the Championship Game. But if two or more undefeated teams remain, the SEC champ is likely to be on the outside looking in at the BCS title game.
Any teams after these five schools are in the category I would label “need help”. If the undefeated teams lose or if some weird setup where Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, but then defeats Alabama in the SEC Championship Game occurs then some other teams enter the picture. These schools include:
Florida State: If FSU can beat Florida and win their ACC Championship game, they consolidate their ranking as the number 5 team behind the three undefeated teams and the SEC Champion.
Florida: In reverse, if the Gators beat FSU then they revitalize their season and will be hanging around at number 5 if anyone falls.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are the new darlings after their win in Tuscaloosa. But their remaining schedule is poor and they will likely remain in the bottom half of the top 10 or even fade a bit lower.
Clemson: If Clemson can beat South Carolina and complete a one loss season with their only loss to another top 10 team they will cement a top ranking that leaves them looming.
Stanford: I know they have two losses but they play Oregon this week and a win there will put them in the Pac 12 Championship game instead of the Ducks.
I do not think any of the other two loss teams like Oklahoma, South Carolina, and LSU have any real claim to the title game unless a lot of other teams start to lose games.
As always, these last few weeks will tell the tale. There is no real reason to debate if Florida is better than Florida State, or if Stanford is better than Oregon, or if Clemson is better than South Carolina, and even if Alabama is better than Georgia because all these teams play each other.
The number of contenders will drop just from this attrition. The undefeated teams appear to have a significant lead over Alabama and Georgia. It would be difficult for them to jump any of the undefeated teams with only one tough game remaining for either team.
If the undefeated teams start to drop, then the field will open and a new article will need to be written. I am sure several dozen of them will be written between now and the end of the season.
College football is made to argue about after all.