02 November 2008

The Big Campaign After November 4

(From BCS Guru)

After Texas' literal last-second loss to Texas Tech, the BCS standings underwent another dramatic makeover. Now, the battle lines are officially drawn between this season's two top conferences.

Somebody is going to get left out in the cold.

If as expected, Penn State wins its remaining three games, the Nittany Lions will end up in Miami playing for the BCS championship - unless both Alabama and Texas Tech stay unbeaten. If both of them lose once, then Penn State will be facing a one-loss conference champion for the title.

Which one?

Would it be one-loss Florida, or one-loss Texas or maybe a one-loss Oklahoma team that didn't even make it to the Big 12 title game? While the Big 12 looks to have the upperhand at the moment, with three teams among the top six in the latest BCS standings, Florida, at No. 5, actually is quite primed to make a quantum leap.

The Gators' best friend is Alabama. Florida needs the Crimson Tide to stay unbeaten all the way until the SEC championship game. Should the Gators knock off - or even rout - the top-ranked team in the BCS standings, there's no doubt that they would leapfrog all other one-loss teams, all the way up to at least No. 2, and the coveted spot in the BCS title game.

The Big 12, meanwhile, still has a few weeks to sort out its own business. Right now, however, only Texas Tech controls its own destiny. But with next week's game against Oklahoma State and a Nov. 22 trip to Norman still on the slate, the Red Raiders have clinched nothing yet. The Big 12's tiebreaker might need to be summoned to determine the winner of the South Division - and the BCS standings just might be the final arbiter in making that decision (which is hardly the design or purpose of the standings, but that's a topic for another day).

Should Tech lose one of its remaining games, then the SEC champion will have the inside track to the BCS title game. That's why you will see an all-out campaign by both the Big 12 and SEC - not on the football field, but in the media - to state their respective cases for the voters in the coaches poll and Harris poll. After all, the voters at the end will decide who goes to the BCS title game since the current BCS formula is heavily tilted in the direction of human votes.

The Guru will provide a more detailed "Rooting Guide" later in the week, but in the meantime, this is the BCS pecking order for the remainder of the season:

1. Alabama.

2. Texas Tech

3. Penn State - if either Alabama or Texas Tech loses, Penn State is in the championship game

4. Florida - if Texas Tech or Penn State loses, Florida is in if it defeats an unbeaten Alabama in the SEC title game.

5. Texas - needs a Tech loss to either Oklahoma State or Oklahoma and win the Big 12 South via the tiebreaker, a Penn State loss OR an Alabama loss before the SEC title game.

6. Oklahoma - needs to beat Texas Tech and a Texas loss in the Big 12 title game to Missouri, a Penn State loss OR a one-loss Alabama or two-loss Florida winning the SEC championship

7. USC - needs TWO of the following: A Penn State loss; a one-loss Alabama or two-loss Florida winning the SEC championship; Missouri winning the Big 12 title game while both Oklahoma and Texas have two losses

8. Oklahoma State - just don't see it happening so I won't waste anybody's time.

Confused? Well, that's the point, isn't it? If the BCS is so easy to decipher, how would the Guru stay in business?

Seriously, however, expect to be bombarded with the SEC-vs.-Big 12 talking points the rest of the season. CBS will shamelessly campaign for the SEC as it did so wonderfully in 2006. ESPN will try to appear somewhat neutral though it might tilt a bit in the SEC's favor as it has a bigger contract with the SEC.

The Big 12 had better find some media allies - Fox Sports Net alone won't do - and a good ad firm, quick, to get the word out and catch the voters' attention. Otherwise, it risks looking like John McCain come December 7.

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