This is as simple as it gets. There are five teams that have a legitimate chance of going to the BCS Championship game on January 8th. Only five.
We can pick the five teams by process of elimination.
First and foremost, a team will have to win its conference to move on. While the BCS has not made this a requirement - and we are still wondering why they haven't done so - it's a forgone conclusion that the coaches and sportswriters will not vote for a team that didn't win their conference. Luckily for us, past history has taught them well.
For simplicity's sake, we are going to assume that a non-BCS conference team will not be dancing in the title game (sorry BYU, Utah and Fresno State), but they could go to another BCS Bowl. This leaves us six BCS conferences to choose from, or six BCS conference champions.
On to the elimination rounds. First up, the ACC.
Sorry, but no team from the ACC will have one or less loss, and thus, will not be considered for the BCS title game.
Miami? No. Florida State? No. Boston College? No. North Carolina? Close, but no cigar. Clemson? Maybe, but they play two FCS teams and only one of those wins count, so unless they smoke Alabama and South Carolina they won't get the votes or love from the BCS computers. They don't play Va. Tech or Miami (their schedule is soft), so they don't get the nod even though they may win the ACC.
On to the Big East.
It's going to be a two-way race between South Florida and West Virginia. Pat White isn't winning any popularity votes lately and they have to play Auburn and at Colorado in non-conference action.
South Florida has a shot, but they have a few obstacles to overcome; namely, Kansas, Cincy, and a final road trip at West Virginia. Even if they manage to squeak out a one loss season, their SOS is too low to be considered a legit BCS contender.
Now for the four conferences that will produce the BCS title game contenders: Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and the SEC.
Up first, the Pac-10. There should not be any debate on who is the leading candidate to represent the Pac-10. It's USC. Unless Arizona State beats both Georgia and USC, no one else will challenge the Trojans. Oregon looks good, but there's no DD this year. That's a huge loss. USC wins the Pac-10.
Next is the Big Ten. Again, there shouldn't be much debate here. Ohio State will win their conference. If they beat USC on September 13th, they could really jump in the standings, but if they lose to the Trojans, they can go 11-1 and still not go BCS title bowling.
The last two years took the luster off the Big Ten and voters will be wary voting for a Big Ten team that lost to USC, but beat a rebuilding Michigan team, an under-achieving Wisconsin team and a Penn State team that has suffered numerous losses due to injury (Sean Lee) and off-the-field issues. Illinois has no Mendenhall, so they are out of the race.
The Big 12 promises to be a horse race. This is where it gets really interesting. The projected winners of the two divisions are Oklahoma and Missouri. The problem is predicting which one will win the conference, and this is why the Big 12 gets two legit candidates for the BCS title game.
Look, Kansas has to play a much more difficult schedule this year, and I don't see them beating both Oklahoma and Texas, much less a pass-happy Texas Tech. Somewhere in there is two losses, so they are out.
Tech could throw a wrench into the whole mess, but their D is too questionable and D wins championships. Make no mistake, they will beat one of the Big Boys, but that's it. Which leads to Mizzou and Oklahoma.
The Tigers' two bumps in the road are at Nebraska and at Texas. There is a possible one loss in there, but I don't see two. Oklahoma faces a pretty nice schedule: their only road games are Washington, Baylor, K-State, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State plus the neutral site for the Red River Shoot-out. Throw one possible loss in there (take your pick) and they will be facing Mizzou for the conference championship.
So it's a toss-up at this point for Mizzou and Oklahoma.
On to the SEC. It's really simple- Florida or Georgia. (Hold your breath SEC fans)
Florida and Georgia are the only real legit contenders for the SEC. First up Georgia.
The Dawgs travel to Arizona State, LSU, Auburn and a neutral site for the World's Largest Outdoor Coctail Party against Florida. There's a loss in there somewhere. Trust me. This team will NOT go undefeated, and that's simply due to the brutal schedule. Since Georgia and Florida are in the same division, only one can represent the SEC East and go on to the conference championship, so the only issue here is picking which one will go.
Florida, on the other hand, has road trips at Tennessee, Vandy, Arkansas and Florida State plus the neutral site for the "Cocktail Party." The Gators will win their road trips, but it's too close to call on the date with Georgia. However, since Georgia will most likely have one loss in there before they face Florida and don't have Superman on their team, the Gators should face the SEC West champ Auburn.
Done deal. The Gators beat the Tigers and represent the SEC.
So there you have it: Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma, Mizzou and Florida. Those are the big five and only two will make it to the Big Dance.
Which ones will go?
USC and Florida would be a ratings bonanza for television, garnering both the west and east coast markets. It would also pit two "fast" teams against each other. The voters want to see speed vs. speed.
While Oklahoma looks very strong this year, their past four of five BCS bowls have been duds, and may scare off some voters. Ohio State has gone to the title game two years in a row and has disappointed college football fans with their inability to overcome speed, so they may lose some votes as well. Mizzou is somewhat of a media darling, and if they won the Big 12, could get some sympathy votes.
Depending on the outcome of the Mizzou-Oklahoma conference championship, the final rankings should like this:
4. Ohio State
Prediction: Florida versus USC in Miami, January 8th, 2009 for all the marbles.
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