When the initial BCS rankings were released Oct. 16, the Clemson Tigers, even with their No. 7 national ranking, were given very little chance of reaching the BCS National Championship Game.
Even if they were able to win all of their remaining games, the Tigers would need numerous things to happen in order to have any shot at moving into the top two rankings required to play for the BCS National Championship.
Fast forward only one week, and the dominoes are already beginning to fall into place. With the unlikely upset of third-ranked Oklahoma by Texas Tech and the sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers succumbing to a very talented Michigan State squad, the Tigers were able to move up two spots to a solid No. 5 ranking.
With the release of the second BCS rankings on Oct. 23, Clemson is looking up at LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Boise State. An undefeated Stanford team is not far behind at No. 6, and seventh-ranked Oregon is still within striking distance.
With as many as eight undefeated teams remaining nine weeks into the season, and seven of them having at least an outside shot at competing for the national title, do the Clemson Tigers have any realistic shot at making it to the BCS National Championship?
Let me give you a hint—yes.
The general consensus amongst both the analysts and the fans around the nation is that LSU and Alabama are head and shoulders above the competition on tier one. Tier two would consist of the teams ranked from third to sixth in the BCS—Oklahoma State, Boise State, Clemson and Stanford.
Tier three consists of Kansas State, the only other undefeated team in a difficult enough conference to have the opportunity to get enough national recognition to jump the teams ahead of them if they are able to win out.
The fourth and final tier consists of one-loss teams that would need nothing short of a miracle to have a shot at playing for the BCS National Championship—Oregon, Oklahoma and South Carolina.
First, let's take a look at tier one, the elite of the elite—Alabama and LSU. Luckily for all of us college football fans, these two teams will square off on Nov. 5, in what is being called this year's version of the "Game of the Century."
As dominant as these two teams have been, it appears likely that the winner of this game will finish the season undefeated with a ticket to the BCS National Championship Game.
LSU has remaining games against Alabama, Western Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and if they continue their winning ways, a date with the SEC Eastern division champion at the Georgia Dome—likely Georgia or South Carolina. With the exception of the Alabama game, LSU will undoubtedly be the favorite in each of these games.
Alabama's closes out the season with games against LSU, Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, Auburn and the winner of the SEC East. With the LSU game being at home in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will surely be favored in each of their remaining games.
And now to the million dollar question—who will likely be facing the winner of the Alabama-LSU game in the BCS National Championship Game?
First let's take a look at tier two, starting with Clemson's remaining schedule. The Tigers go on the road against Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and South Carolina, and they have a home game against Wake Forest.
If all goes as planned, they will be facing the winner of the ACC Coastal Division, which at this point appears to be Virginia Tech. Clemson will likely be favored in each one of these games, with their two toughest opponents—South Carolina and Virginia Tech—coming in the final two weeks of the season.
These two games against likely highly ranked opponents will boost their strength of schedule, and in turn, their reputation amongst the human voters. If they are able to win all of these games, they should easily pass the current No. 4 team Boise State based solely on superior strength of schedule.
Even if the Tigers are able to win out, they would certainly still have to contend with fourth-ranked Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have the benefit of playing in the Big 12 (or whatever they're calling it these days), which is one of the most difficult conferences in the nation. In fact, the BCS computers consider the Big 12 to be superior to the SEC this year in terms of quality teams from top to bottom.
While this has been beneficial to Okie State to this point, it also means that they have a very stout remaining schedule, with upcoming games against Baylor, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Iowa State and Oklahoma.
With three of these five opponents currently ranked and a very talented and angry Sooner squad to close out the season, the Cowboys will have their hands full. They are very likely to fall short against one of these remaining teams, opening up the door for at least a few of the teams ranked behind them to move up in the polls.
Although the Boise State Broncos are currently ranked fourth in the BCS, the consensus amongst the experts is that they have already peaked and will only fall from here on out. With remaining games against UNLV, TCU, San Diego St, Wyoming and New Mexico, their strength of schedule will only get worse as the season progresses.
None of these teams are currently ranked, and with the way they have been playing, chances are slim that any of them will make an appearance in the polls this season. As the computers drop them down the rankings due to their weak schedule, their BCS ranking is going to suffer as a result.
The other team with a very good shot at making it to the BCS championship is Stanford. Although the Cardinal are currently ranked third and fourth in the Coaches Poll and AP Poll, respectively, they are just sixth in the BCS, trailing Clemson by a very small percentage due to their weaker strength of schedule.
However, with remaining games against USC, Oregon State, Oregon, California, Notre Dame and likely Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game, their strength of schedule will likely give them the boost needed to surpass both Boise State and Clemson.
As for tier three, Kansas State, while currently undefeated, faces a very difficult schedule in order to get themselves into title contention. With games against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas and Iowa State, it is very unlikely the Wildcats will be able to run through this gauntlet unscathed.
Finally, tier four, consisting of Oregon, Oklahoma and South Carolina each have an outside shot at playing for the BCS championship, but not only would they all have to win out, they would require a plethora of teams to lose ahead of them making their chances, barring a miracle, practically impossible.
If each team were to win out (with the exception of the LSU-Alabama loser), the final BCS standing would almost certainly have Oklahoma State third, Stanford Cardinal fourth and the Clemson Tigers fifth.
However, if history is any indication, it's very unlikely that all three of these teams finish the season unscathed. Given the level of competition that each of these teams faces over the next six weeks, it appears as though the Clemson Tigers have the best chance to finish the season unbeaten.
And now for the billion dollar question, does an undefeated Clemson team get passed by a one-loss LSU or Alabama team? It all depends on the quality of their Nov. 5 showdown, but what do you guys think?
I would love to hear your comments and and opinions on which two teams will ultimately meet in New Orleans with the chance to make history.
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