Buying or Selling Every Top 10 Team as a BCS Championship Contender
Investments are a tricky business. Do I consolidate, diversify, hedge my bets or bail out? College football is the same way, and the further you are from the end of the season, the murkier it is.
Here at the halfway point, teams are still dropping like flies. On Oct. 12 alone, Michigan, Stanford and Oklahoma traded their undefeated status against unranked teams. The herd is thinning, and it's time to make some predictions.
Heading into Week 8, there is easily enough information to make reputable buy-sell calls on each team in the Top 10. Accuracy will be judged at a later date, but surely the calls themselves will be judged in the comment section.
The next 10 pages contain the final verdict for each of the Top 10 teams. Where should you put your metaphorical money?
10. Miami Hurricanes
Miami has earned its spot in the rankings by winning, winning and winning some more. The Hurricanes boast a 5-0 record with major wins wins over Florida and Georgia Tech.
The Hurricanes are on track to win the ACC Coastal Division outright. Clearly, their stock is worth something. However, this is about specialty shares solely for the BCS title game.
Is Miami good enough to get there? No. Quarterback Stephen Morris is solid, but he's just not great yet. He's gone 58-of-94 for 950 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. For a guy with one of the greatest deep balls in the country, he's not showing it on the field.
Should you buy stock in Miami? Of course, the Hurricanes are on their way back to the top. Should you buy BCS stock, though?
Final Verdict: Sell. Miami is not yet ready for the BCS championship game.
9. UCLA Bruins
UCLA has ripped through everyone on its schedule, including ranked Nebraska and a Utah squad that took down the mighty Stanford Cardinal. The Bruins are more than just on their way up the conference, they're already the team to beat in the Pac-12 South.
Clearly, they are a worthwhile investment, but are they championship material? Back-to-back games against Stanford and Oregon say they aren't. The Cardinal are coming off a terribly emotional loss to the Utah Utes, and they'll be looking for revenge against the Bruins.
Should UCLA manage to win that brutal battle, they'll be distracted from the Oregon game. UCLA is in the same situation as Alabama was in 2012. The Tide needed a last-second drive to beat the LSU Tigers, and the Texas A&M Aggies hit them in the mouth the next week.
A&M jumped out to a 20-0 lead over the Tide and held onto the lead for the rest of the game. Oregon's offense is definitely as potent as Alabama's, and UCLA will not be able to fend off the Ducks.
BCS bowl? Maybe. Championship? Not hardly.
Final Verdict: Sell. UCLA is great, but not that great...yet.
8. Louisville Cardinals
You could make a lot of good bets on Louisville. The Cardinals are likely to go undefeated, win the American Athletic Conference and go to a BCS bowl. However, there is one major flaw in their game.
They are not nearly dominant enough to compete with a top-tier team. So far, they've clobbered the Ohio Bobcats, Eastern Kentucky Colonels and the Florida International Golden Panthers. They have failed to embarrass Kentucky, Temple and Rutgers.
In Louisville's defense, Rutgers is a good team. However, if the Cardinals want a piece of the championship action, they have to decimate their weak schedule, especially in the few marquee games. The two strongest opponents left are UCF and Houston.
Margin of victory isn't going to matter in any other games (unless it's small). The Cardinals must beat UCF by 21 or more points and Houston by at least 28. Without those two performances, there's no way Louisville is going to get the respect it needs to climb into the BCS picture.
Each of the other Top 10 teams might suffer two losses, but that's what we call an inside-straight draw.
Final Verdict: Sell. Undefeated or not, Louisville won't be one of the top two teams in January.
7. Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M is in an odd predicament. A one-loss SEC team clearly has a shot at the national title, as Alabama has proven in consecutive seasons. That looks good superficially, but A&M faces incredibly long odds.
Texas A&M's best shot at the national title is a rematch with the Crimson Tide. If both teams run the table, that's possible. However, the LSU-Alabama rematch did not make many people happy (7,290 out of 11,750 voters were against it in that SI poll).
Are the voters willing to put a one-loss SEC squad in the national championship? Of course. They've done it for two straight years. Are they going to put Johnny Manziel in there? Not with the country's 96th-ranked defense in points allowed backing him up.
A one-loss Oregon would be a better choice, and Baylor isn't looking bad, either.
Final Verdict: Sell. It's not the end of the season for A&M, but don't bet on an SEC vs. SEC rematch.
6. LSU Tigers
After LSU's 17-6 performance against Florida, the upcoming Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M games don't look good. Yes, the Tigers defense performed admirably against the Gators, but that offense is nothing compared to LSU's gauntlet. Here are their national rankings to help illustrate that:
LSU has to make it through that stretch undefeated, just to play a rivalry game against Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas doesn't look like a threatening team at the moment, but nobody knows what the Hogs will look like at the end of the year.
Will LSU make it out with just one loss on its record? That's what you're betting on when you take the Tigers.
Final Verdict: Sell. LSU's defense is getting more and more impressive, but it won't stand up against two top-five offenses.
5. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State looks great so far this season. Jameis Winston is 90-of-123 on the season for 1,441 yards, 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. That's not bad for any level of quarterback, but Winston is a freshman.
He's led the No. 3 scoring offense in 2013, and he's backed by the No. 3 defense. The only questionable game so far was the 48-34 win over Boston College. The Eagles are a meager 3-3, and that two-possession win was less than impressive.
Aside from that one game, though, the Seminoles have not allowed more than 13 points in any game. Their most impressive win was the 63-point blanking of then-No. 25 Maryland.
Florida State looks better and better in each game it plays (again, aside from Boston College). The Seminoles are on track to be one of the two best teams in the country by January. They may need a little help from the few teams in front of them, but they are talented enough to make it.
Final Verdict: Buy. A win over Clemson on Oct. 19 could push them above Oregon in the first BCS standings.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State's biggest advantage and disadvantage is its strength of schedule. Everyone else on this list plays some serious national competitors, where Ohio State just has relatively weak opponents.
So, you should sell, right? Not so fast. The Buckeyes were the only undefeated team in the country last season, and they have Urban Meyer at the helm. Meyer proved himself in the SEC, specifically against Nick Saban in 2008.
Reputation isn't everything, but if Ohio State is undefeated, you can bet it will spoil an all-SEC title game. If Oregon goes down to Stanford or UCLA, the Buckeyes will gladly miss the Rose Bowl for the national title game.
The Buckeyes have taken down two ranked teams so far this season, and that is easily good enough to get them into the heavyweight bout as undefeated power-conference champions. If there are two other undefeated teams, they'll probably get left out, but there haven't been two eligible undefeated teams since 2010.
It's not guaranteed money, but Ohio State is a relatively safe bet.
Final Verdict: Buy. Do you think there will be more than two undefeated teams at the end of the season? If your answer is no, buy, buy, buy!
3. Clemson Tigers
Clemson started the season off with a narrow win over then-SEC East favorite Georgia. The Bulldogs were healthy, and the win put the Tigers where they are today, at No. 3 in the AP Poll.
Fast-forward to Week 8, and the Tigers ave narrowly escaped NC State (3-3) and Boston College (also 3-3). They had home-field advantage against BC.
Normally, that would be okay for an ACC team, but the 2013 version of the conference is vastly different from last season. This year, Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State all look like potential champions.
Can Clemson survive the Florida State Seminoles? If it does, then it will be a title hunter. However, Florida State looks better on offense, on defense and at quarterback (which is saying a lot).
Final Verdict: Sell. You aren't going to get nearly as much money for your shares after the Tigers lose to Florida State on Oct. 19.
2. Oregon Ducks
Oregon is the front-runner for the Pac-12, but its journey just got tougher. UCLA still looks like a complete team that will give Oregon absolute hell, but Stanford has just been kicked in the teeth.
There's only one thing worse than a national contender: a national contender with a chip on its shoulder. Luckily, Oregon doesn't play Stanford until Nov. 7. The Cardinal will unload the majority of their frustration on the UCLA Bruins in Week 8.
That will leave Oregon free to out-Utah Stanford for a solid win. Even if UCLA does win the Stanford game, Oregon would just get to out-gun the Bruins, who would be ranked in the Top 10 at that point.
Oregon looks nearly unstoppable, and even a one-loss Ducks squad would have a good shot at the national title game. Voters would pit the Ducks in just to see if Nick Saban could stop their "unsafe offense."
Final Verdict: Buy. Alabama's No. 1 because it's defending back-to-back titles. The Ducks might pass the Tide before the season's over, and a bet on a top-two finish is money in the bank.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
In the last four years, Alabama has won three national titles. That hasn't happened since Nebraska's pre-BCS run of the mid-90s. Prior to Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, no BCS-era team had even won back-to-back titles.
Alabama had a rough start to 2013, with terrible offense against Virginia Tech. (Nobody knew the Hokies would be a Week 8 one-loss team at the time.) The Tide followed that up with a 49-42 win over Texas A&M, which called their defense into question.
Since that day against A&M, Alabama has outscored its opponents 118-10. The problem? The opponents were Ole Miss, Georgia State and Kentucky. There is still no reliable data with which to predict an outcome for the Tennessee, LSU or Auburn games, much less the SEC championship.
However, at this point, you're risking your money on a Saban-led team in January. His winter prowess is so legendary that he's been called invincible by the guys over at CBS.
He isn't invincible, as the good men at Utah will gladly remind you, but he's as close to a lock as you can get. With Alabama's defense coming together nicely, it's a safe bet that the Tide will be rolling into the 2014 BCS National Championship Game.
Whether they'll win or not is a whole other article.
Final Verdict: Buy. Seriously, three out of four and Saban's still the coach.