As we enter the final stages of the 2010 regular season, the debate about who belongs in the BCS Championship game is about to begin in earnest.
Do you care about strength of schedule or does running the table matter more to you?
If you value strength of schedule you are likely not troubled at all by the prospect of a one loss team passing an undefeated team. If you value running the table, your view of the teams in the field is limited to the four remaining undefeated teams.
Of course, most college football fans are somewhere in between.
In the spirit of the gray area that exists in determining which teams should play in the BCS Championship game, I humbly offer up this article setting forth what we can all agree upon in college football, how the remaining one loss and undefeated teams in college football can get to the BCS Championship game and their odds for getting to the final game.
While there is disagreement among fans about which teams should play in the BCS Championship game a couple of points are clear.
If Auburn and Oregon end the season undefeated, they will play for the BCS Championship.
There exists a slight possibility of a one loss team ending the season ahead of an undefeated Boise State or TCU.
No. 10 Michigan State—The Spartans only need eight out of the nine teams ahead of them to lose their final game as they will not jump ahead of any of the higher ranked teams with a win over Penn State in their final game. The Spartans are a 150 to 1 shot.
No. 9 Oklahoma State—The Cowboys have potentially two quality opponents left on their schedule. A win this week over No. 13 Oklahoma will subsequently send the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship game against either No. 14 Missouri or No. 15 Nebraska. The Cowboys just by taking care of their business could finish as high as No. 6 in the final BCS rankings. A poor showing by LSU could allow the Cowboys to pass the Tigers. Oklahoma State however will definitely need some upset occur among the top four teams to get to the BCS Championship game. The Cowboys are a 75 to 1 shot because beating the Sooners and winning the Big 12 Championship will be no easy task.
No. 8 Ohio State—The Buckeyes finish the season against Michigan at home. Ohio State will not pass any of the title contenders with a victory over the Wolverines thus they need to see several teams ahead of them suffer upsets in order to get to the BCS Championship game. The Buckeyes are a 100 to 1 shot.
No. 7 Wisconsin—The Badgers play Northwestern in their final game of the regular season. If Wisconsin posts a more impressive victory than Stanford this week, they could pass the Cardinal as the margin between the two teams in razor thin. Unfortunately for Wisconsin fans, their team will be unable to pass any of the other title contenders without some significant help. The Badgers are a 65 to 1 shot.
No. 6 Stanford – Stanford plays Oregon State this week to end their Pac-10 schedule. If Stanford had been able to more quickly separate themselves from Arizona State the Cardinal might be ahead of LSU. Stanford is roughly in the same spot as the Badgers that they will not be able to pass any of the other title contenders without several upsets occurring in the final two weeks. The Cardinals are a 45 to 1 shot.
No. 5 LSU—The Tigers are in the best position to help themselves this week among all the one loss teams as they play No. 12 Arkansas. LSU will unlikely pass Boise State if the Broncos remain undefeated but the Tigers passing TCU is not out of the question given that TCU has the weakest remaining schedule of all the title contenders and there is not that great of a gap between the two teams. The Tigers are a 25 to 1 shot.
No. 4 Boise State—The Broncos have two games left as they take on No. 19 Nevada and end the year against Utah State the following week. Boise State will pass TCU if both teams remain undefeated at the end of the year. The Broncos however will not pass either Oregon or Auburn if both teams remain undefeated. Boise State will need either Oregon to lose or Auburn to lose in the SEC Championship game to definitely put them into the BCS Championship game. Of course, a spanking of Nevada might push Boise State pass Auburn even if they rebound with a victory over South Carolina. The Broncos are a 12 to 1 shot.
No. 3 TCU—The Horned Frogs of all the teams contending for the BCS Championship have the least opportunity to enhance their resume as TCU only has the 1-10 New Mexico Lobos left to play. The problem for the Horned Frogs is that they will likely be passed by Boise State and arguably could get passed by LSU. If TCU is only passed by Boise State they will likely be on the outside looking in as two of the three other remaining undefeated teams will likely finish undefeated. The Horned Frogs are a 20 to 1 shot.
No. 2 Auburn—The Tigers have the toughest remaining schedule as they play No. 11 Alabama and No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC Championship. Many people believe that if the Tigers drop their game against Alabama that they will still get to the BCS Championship game provided that they beat South Carolina in the SEC Championship game. On paper, a strong case can be made for Auburn to get to the BCS Championship game under the scenario but only if Auburn plays a very good game against Alabama. Personally, Auburn only gets to the BCS Championship with a close loss to Alabama and a win over South Carolina if Boise State doesn’t beat Nevada by 30 points. Fortunately, Auburn has had a week to prepare for Alabama. The Tigers are an 8 to 1 shot to get to the BCS Championship game.
No. 1 Oregon—The Ducks have No. 21 Arizona at home this week before playing Oregon State the following week. Oregon has been very tough at home this year and it is difficult to see them losing to Arizona after a bye week. The Civil War game against the Beavers ordinarily would be a dangerous game for Oregon, but Oregon State has lost several key players such as James Rodgers. An additional benefit for Oregon is that Oregon State will be in physical game against Stanford the prior week. The Ducks are a 5 to 1 shot to remain undefeated and get to the BCS Championship game.