BCS Rankings 2011: The Easiest Remaining Schedules for BCS Top 25 Teams
With the release of the first BCS standings comes multiple "to-do" lists from Top 25 teams.
It was no surprise to see LSU and Alabama take the top two spots, but because they play each other on Nov. 5, one team is bound to drop.
This opens the door up for other teams to slide into the loser's spot at what will likely be No. 2. No. 3 Oklahoma is seemingly in the best position to do so, but their remaining schedule is no cakewalk.
However, there are a few teams in the Top 25 that have an easier remaining schedule than others, including a few teams that are still unbeaten.
These teams have the best chance to win out their remaining schedules, but will it be enough to pass an SEC team like LSU or Alabama, or a Big 12 team like Oklahoma or Oklahoma State?
Only time will tell.
10: No. 2 Alabama (7-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): vs. LSU; @ Auburn
BCS Prediction: Top Two
Alabama comes in 10th on this list because after the LSU game on Nov. 5, the Crimson Tide should have no problem running the table.
However, the game against LSU is almost enough to keep them out of this list entirely. Luckily for Alabama, the "game of the year" will be in Tuscaloosa where the Tide are really good.
Alabama is 4-0 at home this year, and they have won 24 of the last 25 meetings hosted at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Home-field advantage definitely plays a big part in factoring games, and Alabama will take all it can get against LSU.
It will be a battle of two of the best defenses in the country. If Alabama can get a few stops and have momentum swing their way, they could theoretically be punching their ticket to the national championship with a win.
Following the LSU game, Alabama will travel to Mississippi State and host Georgia Southern before heading to Auburn for the Iron Bowl to end the season.
LSU has a great team this season, but Alabama will be a slight favorite come Nov. 5.
9: No. 6 Wisconsin (6-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): @ Michigan State; @ Ohio State
BCS Prediction: Top Three
The 6-0 Wisconsin Badgers have been virtually untested so far this season. Their hardest game came against then-ranked No. 8 Nebraska at home, and Wisconsin blew them out of the water, 48-17.
It would seem that the Badgers are men among boys in a Big 10 conference that is very much down this season, but the Michigan State Spartans will be the judge of that this weekend.
Wisconsin heads to East Lansing this weekend for what will officially be the Badgers' first road test. This game could possibly be the Badgers' toughest game of the year. If they can come out victorious, they will have a great shot at remaining unbeaten.
Michigan State is coming off a big win against rival Michigan last weekend, and they will look to carry that momentum into another upset this weekend.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson will be too much to handle and the Badgers will cover the nine-point spread easily.
Wisconsin will have to travel to Ohio State next weekend for what should be a tough test on the road, but Ohio State's depleted roster should be no match for the Badgers.
Look for Wisconsin to run the table, but to ultimately come up shy for a top spot. Wisconsin will be playing in the Rose Bowl.
8: No. 8 Stanford (6-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): vs. Washington; @ USC; vs. Oregon
BCS Prediction: Top 10
There was a fine line between Stanford and Wisconsin on this list. I gave the easier schedule edge to Stanford, but at the same time, I think Stanford's games will be more challenging.
Does that make sense? No? Let me try to explain.
Wisconsin hasn't been tested on the road yet, however, two of their biggest games are back-to-back road games at Michigan State and at Ohio State. Even though the perception is that Wisconsin is super-talented, we haven't really gotten to see them play a good road game yet.
That might be an alarming thought for Badgers fans. Stanford also hasn't been tested this year...at all. Their toughest game was on the road against a struggling Arizona team. The Cardinal's schedule is about to get rough, and we're all about to see what they're really made of.
Stanford hosts No. 25 Washington this weekend, travels to USC next weekend (which will be tough regardless of how the Trojans have looked this season), and eventually hosts No. 10 Oregon who has looked great since their season-opening loss against LSU.
Oh, and to top it off, they host unranked-but-still-talented Notre Dame to end the season. So why is this schedule easier than Wisconsin's?
The Cardinal's big games are home games. Stanford is good at home. They have won their last 10 games at home, and 15 of their last 16 in total.
Wisconsin's big games are on the road, where they haven't been tested all year. Not a good sign late in the season.
So, even though Oregon will be the best opponent that either team faces, Stanford at least gets the opportunity to host their biggest game of the year.
7: No. 16 Michigan State (5-1)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): vs. Wisconsin; @ Nebraska
BCS Prediction: Top 15
After losing to Notre Dame early in the season, Michigan State has a chance to really put themselves in a good position. That is, if they can play out of their minds for the next two weeks.
I have already talked about why this weekend's matchup with Wisconsin is a big game for the Badgers, but what about the Spartans? Would they really have any sort of chance in this game if it weren't being played at home?
I really don't think so, but because they are coming off a big win against in-state rival Michigan, they actually will have the momentum on their side, in their house, with their fans going nuts.
If Michigan State somehow pulls off the victory this weekend, then they can't stop to celebrate. Next weekend the Spartans travel to Lincoln to take on No. 13 Nebraska.
These tough games are coming at the right time for a Michigan State team that's been on a roll. If they can get past both Wisconsin and Nebraska, it should be smooth sailing until the end of the year.
Their four last games are against Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana and Northwestern. Collectively, these teams have won eight games. That's five fewer than Wisconsin and Nebraska put together.
Needless to say, the Spartans' season really depends on how well they play in their next two matchups. Even if they win both, there's no way they're going to the national championship.
However, they could steal the Big 10 championship from Wisconsin and be eligible for a BCS bowl.
6: No. 7 Clemson (7-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): @ Georgia Tech; @ South Carolina
BCS Prediction: Top 12
Has there been a more surprising team than the Clemson Tigers? Did anyone actually think they would be the favorites to win the conference this year over Florida State and Virginia Tech?
The easiest answer (and possibly only answer) to these questions is "no." However, Clemson has had their fair share of breaks this season.
They survived a Week 2 scare at home against Wofford (35-27), they caught Florida State at home while EJ Manuel was injured (35-30) and they most recently came back from an 18-point deficit to beat Maryland on the road (56-45).
There's no doubt that Clemson's offense has been great behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd and the legs of junior running back Andre Ellington, but how long can the Tigers keep it up?
This week poses a slight threat to the Tigers as unranked-but-talented North Carolina comes to town. The Tigers should come out victorious, but then they still have games at No. 22 Georgia Tech and at No. 14 South Carolina.
The game at Georgia Tech should prove to be the most difficult for the Tigers. Georgia Tech is No. 2 in the nation in rushing, averaging nearly 350 yards on the ground per game. Clemson's run defense is a bit suspect, but they are only giving up half of what Georgia Tech produces (179 per game).
That will be an interesting matchup to watch, and if the Tigers can come out on top, they'll have a great chance at a BCS berth, as well as a possible backdoor slide into national championship contention.
5: No. 10 Oregon (5-1)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): @ Washington; @ Stanford
BCS Prediction: Top 10
After a loss to LSU to open the season crushed many Oregon fans' hopes and dreams for a national championship, the Ducks are now in a position to run the table and at least earn a trip to the Rose Bowl, if not something better.
Like Stanford, Oregon's biggest remaining test will be their head-to-head matchup on Nov. 12. However, Oregon is playing at a disadvantage: on the road.
So why is Oregon's schedule, which is virtually the same as Stanford's, three spots "easier" than the Cardinal's?
The Ducks are the better team. They've been tested twice, whereas Stanford has yet to be tested. They get USC at home, whereas Stanford has to travel to USC. They don't end the season with Notre Dame.
All of these points make the Ducks owners of the easier schedule. They just have to be able to travel to Stanford and pick up a big win.
Luckily for the Ducks, star running back LaMichael James should be back and healthy by the time the Stanford game rolls around. However, even without James last weekend against Arizona State, the Ducks running attack didn't miss a beat.
4: No. 15 West Virginia (5-1)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): @ Rutgers; @ Cincinnati; @ South Florida
BCS Prediction: Top 15
West Virginia has been rather impressive offensively under new head coach Dana Holgorsen, and their lackluster Big East schedule has put them in a good position to win the conference and earn another BCS berth.
The lack of elite teams in the Big East makes West Virginia's remaining schedule hard to judge. They do play the cream of the crop (of the Big East) to end the season, and they do have to play three of those games on the road, but how hard are these games really going to be?
Like West Virginia, both Rutgers and Cincinnati are 5-1 on the year, but South Florida (4-2) actually has the best victory (over Notre Dame) of any of West Virginia's foes.
West Virginia's one loss came at home against No. 1 LSU. Coincidentally, that was the only time West Virginia has really been tested, aside from a six-point victory at Maryland that was very much a "trap game."
West Virginia is talented, but they aren't one of the Top 10 teams in the nation. My guess is that they will lose one of their three road games, likely Rutgers or South Florida, and finish the season as a solid two-loss, Top 15 team.
Even as a two-loss team, West Virginia would still have a great shot at a BCS bowl. This would not be a bad first season for Holgorsen.
3: No. 12 Virginia Tech (6-1)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): @ Georgia Tech
BCS Prediction: Top 10
Virginia Tech has arguably the easiest schedule of any Top 25 team, and I'm not just talking about what's remaining.
If it hadn't been for Clemson's surprising emergence as a Top 10 team, Virginia Tech would have had a good chance to run the table. However, Clemson went into Blacksburg and showed the world how truly overrated Virginia Tech is by upending the Hokies 23-3.
That loss is now behind the Hokies as they have to look forward to their remaining five games, and Nov. 10 at Georgia Tech is going to be the big one.
This game could have some serious implications for how the ACC folds out. The winner is likely destined to go on to the ACC title game against (likely) Clemson, and the winner of that game will earn a spot in a BCS bowl game.
Virginia Tech has little to worry about outside of the Georgia Tech game for the remainder of their schedule, but they can't be thinking forward to a possible rematch with Clemson.
Junior running back David Wilson has had a tremendous season for the Hokies, and he will need to keep up his level of play in order for the Hokies to keep winning.
2: No. 19 Houston (6-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): Vs. SMU
BCS Prediction: Top 10
Houston is another surprising undefeated team, but when you look at who is anchoring their offense, things start making more sense.
Senior quarterback Case Keenum has the Cougars in a great position to finish in the Top 10 and possibly earn an at-large BCS bid. Keenum has already thrown for 2,309 yards and 17 touchdowns, leading the nation's top passing offense, which averages 435.5 passing yards per game.
The Cougars also score in bunches. They are No. 4 in the nation in scoring with 47 points per game. Even though Keenum is great and his team is obviously talented, playing in the abysmal Conference USA is not going to do them any favors with the computers.
The Cougars have one tough opponent remaining on their schedule, Southern Methodist, who has already beat a Top 25 team this season (No. 20 TCU). SMU was blown out by Texas A&M in their season opener, but since then, SMU has yet to lose.
The winner of this game will likely decide the winner of the conference, but it holds much larger implications for Houston.
If Houston is able to run the table, they will have to get some consideration from the pollsters and computers.
1: No. 5 Boise State (6-0)
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Toughest Remaining Game(s): Vs. TCU
BCS Prediction: Top Five
It could be argued that Houston's remaining schedule is easier than Boise State's, but Boise's only remaining "test" is TCU, which Houston's remaining test (SMU) beat earlier in the season.
Not to mention, Boise State is a lot better than their competition than Houston is than theirs. Thus, Boise State will have an easier time with the remainder of the their schedule than Houston will with theirs.
Boise State is inevitably going to run the table. Their toughest matchup has already come and gone, and that was their season opener on the road at Georgia.
Boise State hasn't truly been tested all season long, and they will continue winning games by double digits for the remainder of the season.
Unless both SEC teams, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin all slip up and lose at least one game, Boise State won't have a chance at making the national championship game.
It's clear that Boise State is a talented team, and playing a non-conference game on the road at (then) No. 19 Georgia was a great decision, but their overall strength of schedule is just not good enough because they play in the Mountain West.
Until Boise State joins a BCS conference, they're going to keep getting the shaft at the end of the season.