BCS Bowl Stock Watch for Week 14
The Week 14 BCS standings were released on Sunday night, and they included a few developments that could alter the shape of this year's postseason.
Two teams from last week's Top Five went down on Saturday, throwing a wrench into the top part of the rankings, even though Nos. 1, 2 and 3 remained the same. The national title picture looks vividly different now than it did a week ago.
Elsewhere, a big midweek win from Northern Illinois resulted in a giant boost from the computers. But was it enough to pass Fresno State for a potential spot in the BCS?
All that plus a couple of clinched division titles made Week 13 an exciting one, and the chaos in the rankings reflects that. But who came out in the best and worst shape?
Stock Up: Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State scored a signature win against Baylor on Saturday night, and that is putting it lightly. The Cowboys dismantled Art Briles' offense from start to finish and generally looked like the much stronger team.
Quarterback Clint Chelf continues to emerge as a legitimate playmaker for this offense, and he proved it by outplaying Heisman candidate Bryce Petty on a big stage. After the game, head coach Mike Gundy sang his praises to the media.
"I couldn't be more proud of what he's accomplished," Gundy said, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN). "He's been a good leader and he does it quiet. He's been humbled, and for that he's had success."
OSU is now in the driver's seat of the Big 12 conference, controlling its own fate the rest of the way. If it wins out, it will head to a BCS bowl, no questions asked.
On the heels of a down year in 2012, doing so would be an unspeakable achievement for the Pokes.
Stock Down: Texas A&M
Even with two losses, Texas A&M entered the week with a very good shot at playing in a BCS bowl. Every one of those games would happily accept Johnny Manziel (and the accompanying ratings boost) to its field.
After getting slaughtered at LSU, however, the Aggies have little to no shot at reaching a signature bowl. They now have three losses on the season, and a road trip to Missouri might very well yield a fourth.
Manziel has been spectacular his entire career, but he has now failed twice to solve John Chavis' defense against LSU. He was bottled up and contained by the Tigers on Saturday, forced into bad situations, thwarted in an unfamiliar way.
Even if they were allowed to, no BCS bowl could justify taking this team after the way it looked in Death Valley. If this season is indeed the end of Johnny Football's college career, it's likely to go out with a whimper, not a bang.
Stock Up: Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois got a huge bump from the computers this week, a reward for beating Toledo—a very good team—on the road in convincing fashion.
The result of that computer bump was very important. The Huskies jumped past Fresno State and shot all the way up to No. 14, putting them in a very good spot to crash a BCS Bowl.
If the rankings hold true to form and NIU finishes the year undefeated, it would get a second consecutive trip to the BCS. That is a huge boost for a middle-tier program, and it could potentially be the start of a dynasty (of sorts) in DeKalb.
Stock Down: Fresno State
On the other side of Northern Illinois' coin, Fresno State is among the week's biggest losers, despite playing one of its best games of the year against New Mexico.
No one could have predicted how much the computers would love NIU's win against Toledo. The way it shot up the rankings was an unforeseen development that could keep Fresno State out of a BCS bowl.
Derek Carr and the Bulldogs offense are firing on all cylinders right now. It seems unfair for them to be punished for playing their best football at the right time, but this is the system that currently exists.
Unless something strange happens, NIU is in the driver's seat and Fresno State no longer controls its own BCS fate. These two teams will be debated about ad nauseam down the stretch.
Stock Up: Wisconsin
Wisconsin didn't crush Minnesota's spirit the way some experts predicted on Saturday, but it still won handily and continued its ascent up the BCS rankings.
The Badgers made a huge jump from No. 19 to No. 15, putting them nearly high enough to be considered as a BCS at-large team. If they beat Penn State and finish with just two losses, they will have a very intriguing case.
Fair or not, missing the Big Ten Championship Game might prove to be a blessing in disguise for Wisconsin. If Michigan State loses to Ohio State, the Badgers would likely pass it in the polls, because time has proven that losing late in the season is worse than losing early.
This team is in a really good spot.
Stock Down: Oregon
The Ducks laid an egg (pun intended) at Arizona, looking out of whack in a blowout defeat. It was one of the worst performances in modern Oregon history.
As penance for that loss, the Ducks fell all the way down to No. 13 in the polls. What's worse, they also lost any shot of winning the Pac-12 North, which Stanford clinched by beating Cal in conjunction with Oregon's loss.
No division title means no conference championship game for Oregon, which would have needed that opportunity to make a BCS bowl. With so many quality teams ranked ahead of them, the Ducks now seem like a long shot to get an at-large bid.
At its best, this team can hang with anybody. But college football is about week-to-week consistency, not peak-level performance.
Mark Helfrich will need to do better in Year 2.
Stock Up: Stanford/Arizona State
Stanford and Arizona State both clinched their respective divisions on Saturday. They will play each other in the Pac-12 Championship Game, with the winner going to a BCS bowl.
That is big news for both teams, neither of which entered the week with a firm grasp on its division. Stanford didn't control its own fate, needing Oregon to lose, while Arizona State needed to win a true road game against UCLA, which is a very tough opponent.
But both of those things came to fruition in Week 13, setting up an official rematch of Stanford's 42-28 victory earlier this year. Arizona State is playing much better football now than it was then, so the Cardinal are unlikely to win with such ease.
Watching Stanford's defense go against ASU's offense (again) will be a treat.
Stock Down: Baylor*
Baylor's dream of making the BCS National Championship Game turned to dust before a national audience.
Obviously, because of that, the Bears' BCS stock is down right now. Their ceiling is much, much lower than it was a week ago, and they no longer control their own fate in the Big 12.
But still, even without an automatic bid to a BCS bowl, Baylor is not yet dead. This team has played well enough all season to warrant a mulligan, but only if it rights the ship immediately.
The Bears need to take care of TCU and Texas in the final two weeks, and they need to do it in style. If they do, BCS bowls would love to get their hands on Art Briles' offense in an at-large spot. Those ratings will definitely play.
So yes, Baylor's stock is technically down, but it's down with an asterisk. This team still has a BCS pulse; it just can't afford to hang its head after Saturday's loss.