Man Up! Seven Steps For The Big Ten To Get Into The Big Game
What a surprise: The first BCS rankings are out and they're a complete tragesty (that's a tragedy and a travesty combined, it's like a jackalope).
Oklahoma mysteriously leaped from a consensus No. 6 in Week Seven to the top team in the land and it seems as if it happened just so that Boise State would not lead the BCS list.
I understand how impressive it is to beat Iowa State 52-0, but, oh wait--that's right--it's not. So it must've been Oklahoma's other wins, like beating Air Force by...three...or perhaps when they torched perennial juggernaut Utah State by...two.
All right, enough griping. As terrible it is that the computers gave the top spot to the Sooners, if we've learned nothing from the 2010 season so far it's that you don't want the No. 1 ranking, at least not before December.
Initial top seed Alabama lost in stunning fashion to South Carolina, and the usurpers, Ohio State, were whupped by John Clay and Wisconsin. It's only a matter of time until Oklahoma falls, and that opens up a Pandora's Box of evil possibilities.
Sure, Boise State could sneak their way in, but realistically, it won't happen. The Cartel, I mean the BCS, is too powerful. Some really crazy stuff would need to go down for a non-BCS-conference team to go to Pasadena.
However, last time I checked the Big Ten is a BCS conference, so teams like Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and heck, maybe even Iowa, have a legitimate shot to play for the crystal football.
Here's how it could happen.
Step One: Oklahoma Must Lose
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
This is an obvious necessity, and what's best is...it's not impossible.
If the Sooners win out, the computers and the old-guard coaches will ensure they play for the title, deserving or not. So somewhere along the line they need to be upset.
The first test is this Saturday at Missouri. The Tigers are always a high scoring team with some talented defensive players. Oklahoma hasn't scored fewer than 27 points in a game, but they've also allowed at least 17 in all but one contest. The Sooners are definitely susceptible to a shootout, and maybe Mizzou has that upset bug.
If the boys from Norman sneak by Missouri, they face tough tests at Texas A&M and against Texas Tech, two and three weeks later, respectively. Both of the "lesser" Texas teams are upset specialists in the Big Twelve and if the Sooners let down their guard, they could find themselves out of the championship picture.
After those two battles, Oklahoma finishes out the season against Oklahoma State, and if Boomer Sooner is still untainted at that point, the Cowboys would love nothing more than to send their in-state rivals away sulking at their missed opportunity.
Finally, if somehow Bob Stoops and Co. survive all these tests, there's always the Big 12 championship game against either Missouri, Kansas State or Nebraska. Oklahoma won't play K-State this year (unless it's in that game) but if it's against either of the other two it will be a rematch.
The Huskers or Tigers will be playing with a huge chip on their shoulder and for a shot at the Fiesta Bowl. And we all know how tough it is to beat a team twice in the same season.
Step Two: Oregon Loses
Steve Dykes/Getty Images
So let's say for simplicity's sake that the Sooners lose this weekend and somehow, every other top-15 wins (except LSU, who loses to Auburn, and Iowa, who loses to Wisconsin). Judging by how Alabama was treated, OU would drop to about No. 9, and Missouri would catapult to No. 7 or 8. The rest of the top 11 would go something like this:
1) Oregon; 2) Auburn; 3) Boise St. (they're seriously going to kill someone at this point); 4) TCU; 5) Michigan St; 6) Alabama; 7) Mizzou; 8) Okla; 9) Utah; 10) Ohio State; 11) Wisconsin.
Now it's the Ducks turn to lose. It isn't as much of a must-have as Oklahoma losing, but it also might be less likely.
Oregon scores points. It's what they do. They do it at an alarming rate and there really isn't anyone who can stop them. So the idea of them losing a shootout is pretty much out the window. They would need to run into a team with a very strong defense who can muster up just enough points to get by.
That leaves USC and Arizona, and frankly, I think Arizona has the only real shot. They're allowing just 13.3 PPG, good for seventh in the country, and have already proven they can beat a good team when they ran Iowa out of town.
Unfortunately, that matchup doesn't happen until the end of November.
Step Three: Auburn Must Lose
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
I don't know who Cam Newton thinks he is, but he needs to stop. Seriously. No one wants to see Auburn in the championship game except Bo Jackson. The reality is, if Auburn stays undefeated in the SEC, there's no possible way they don't play for the title.
With each conference win, they gain more support and they will eventually leap frog every team they need in order to get to Pasadena. So they need to lose, the question is to whom?
Up first is LSU, but no matter the outcome of that game, the result is the same: One SEC team launches themselves into the title picture.
So again, for simplicity's sake, we'll say Auburn beats LSU. This means LSU likely drops out of the top-10 and Auburn likely jumps to No. 2. After that is Ole Miss, Chattanooga, Georgia and Alabama.
The first three look like easy wins. Game Four looks nearly impossible. But again, this matchup doesn't happen until late November. We'll have to wait to assess the damage.
Step Four: Nevada And Utah Lose
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
You might say, "Wait, Nevada and Utah? Why not Boise St. and TCU lose?"
Well, simply, because it probably won't happen.
So you need to demean their wins. Nevada is Boise's only quality game left, and Utah is TCU's. If Nevada is upset by Utah State (who buggered Oklahoma), Idaho, Fresno State or New Mexico State before they play the Broncos, Boise loses some ammunition.
If Utah loses to Colorado State, Air Force (who buggered Oklahoma), Notre Dame, San Diego State or BYU, TCU loses some ammo.
And with the way the computers seem to work, they don't need much more reason to deny these teams they break they deserve.
Step Five: Iowa Needs To Beat Wisconsin
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The Big Ten's title hopes rest in Michigan State and Wisconsin. Ohio State won't have enough on their resume to pass the likes of Alabama, TCU or Boise St.
Iowa would need way too many upsets and wild weekend's to have a chance. That doesn't mean the Hawkeyes don't play a vital role in advancing one of the other two teams to Pasadena.
In back-to-back weeks, Iowa plays the Badgers and then the Spartans. If Iowa travels to the Wisconsin and loses, or worse, gets blown out, they might fall out of the top 25. That means that, most likely, Michigan State doesn't play another ranked team all season.
To give the Spartans the boost they need to skip past Boise State and TCU (or potentially Auburn, Oklahoma and Oregon) they need a big win against a ranked Iowa team.
For argument's sake, we'll say it happens.
Step Six: Michigan State Must Win Out
Leon Halip/Getty Images
We can safely assume Michigan State will beat Northwestern this week. That means on Oct. 29, if everything goes according to plan, they will be 8-0 and sitting in fifth place behind TCU (8-0), Boise (7-0), Auburn (8-0) and Oregon (7-0).
Once Iowa beats Wisconsin, the Hawkeyes jump to, I don't know, No. 12. When Michigan State beats them, the computers push the Spartans past TCU.
The Spartans go on to beat Minnesota and Purdue and on November 26th, they are 11-0, sitting in fourth and watching Oregon and Auburn play crucial Friday night games.
They know they just have to take care of business against Penn State the next day and Pasadena is a real possibility.
Step Seven: Nov. 26 And 27 Must Be Electrifying
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
On Nov. 25, the BCS standings will go as follows:
1) Oregon (10-0); 2) Auburn (11-0); 3) Boise State (10-0); 4) Michigan State (11-0); 5) Alabama (10-1)
On Nov. 26, Auburn will travel to Tuscaloosa to combat the Crimson Tide, Oregon calls on Arizona and Boise State goes to Nevada.
If either Auburn or Oregon is upset (if you can ever call losing to Alabama an upset) or two of the three top-three teams lose, the Spartans could wake up just needing to beat a depleted Penn State team to become No. 2 in the BCS standings.
If somehow all three teams lose, Michigan State is practically assured a chance at the title.
With no Big Ten championship (yet), there will be no worry for Michigan State to lose so late in the season and ruin their chances.
If Baker and Bell run like they have, and certain things fall into place, the Spartans will travel to Pasadena looking to take home a crystal football instead of a bouquet of roses.
What Could Go Wrong (Even If Everything Else Goes Right)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Everything is working out great: Michigan State is undefeated, Oklahoma lost, Oregon lost, Auburn lost, Nevada and Utah lost, and Iowa beat Wisconsin.
Except this time Auburn loses in overtime to LSU, Oregon loses on a last second field goal to USC, and Oklahoma lost to Mizzou by a touchdown in a close game. Each team went on to win their following handful of games in blowout fashion
Now it's Nov. 25 and the BCS standings look like this:
1) Boise State (10-0); 2) Michigan State (11-0); 3) Alabama (10-1); 4) Oklahoma (10-1); 5) Oregon (9-1)
On Nov. 26, Boise State destroys Nevada, Alabama beats No. 8 Auburn, and Oregon blows out No. 15 Arizona.
On the 27th, Michigan State beats Penn State modestly, say by 10. Oklahoma beats No. 10 Oklahoma State by 17.
Michigan State wakes up that Monday to find the BCS standings haven't changed, but their season is over. They have no control over the final outcome. The next week Oregon smokes No. 22 Oregon State and Boise State, Oklahoma and Alabama win again.
Then Alabama slams South Carolina in the SEC championship and Oklahoma slams a one-loss Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. Both teams finish 12-1.
There is virtually no chance that at least one of those teams (if not both) leapfrog into the BCS title game. And while Spartan fans will have it the worst, we will all spend another offseason complaining and begging for playoffs.