27 November 2008

Winning Games and Scoring (Style) Points

(From BCS Guru)

Vince Lombardi was wrong about this: Winning is not everything, it's not even the only thing. Winning BIG is what truly counts.

We're at a phase of the college football season where style points are equally as important as winning. Beat your opponents by a big margin, watch you rocket up the BCS standings. Barely squeaking by a weak foe, it might as well be a loss.

Two teams facing this particular predicament this weekend are Texas and Oklahoma. The two Big 12 rivals are locked in a death grip for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings - and with it, a berth in the Big 12 title game and a clearer path to the BCS title game. If both teams should win, and provided that Texas Tech as expected defeats Baylor, the BCS standings will be used to determine which team to face Missouri in the Big 12 championship game.

No. 3 Oklahoma should have the upper hand, even though at the moment the Sooners are .084 points behind No. 2 Texas. Their opponent, Oklahoma State, is 9-2 and ranked No. 12 in the BCS standings - its only losses were to Texas and Texas Tech. The Longhorns host Texas A&M, their archrival but having a horrendous season with a 4-7 record.

If Texas even struggles against the Aggies, it will make things very easy for Oklahoma - a non-controversial victory in Stillwater should be enough to move OU into No. 2. If the Longhorns blow out A&M and OU has a hard time putting away OSU, then Texas just might squeeze out enough votes to maintain its slim lead. A score comparison also is in play: Texas barely beat OSU in Austin, 28-24. The bar isn't set very high in that department for the Sooners.

The BCS did away with margin of victory in the computers in 2003, ostensibly to discourage coaches to run up scores to impress the computers. But it forgot to remove eyeballs and brain cells from the pesky poll voters, who for some reason continue to consider margin of victory when they cast their ballots. And since the standings were re-formulated in 2004 to favor the human voters, running up scores has therefore become more important than ever.

The Texas A&M-Texas Thanksgiving night (8 p.m. ET) showdown kicks off this weekend's crucial slate, bookended by Saturday night's Bedlam throwdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (also 8 p.m. ET). And there are a handful others that will have significant impact on this year's BCS bowl picture:

Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. - The 5-6 Tigers need this win just to be bowl eligible whereas the Tide, the lone remaining unbeaten BCS conference team, needs a victory to keep its national championship hopes in tact. Once again, Tommy Tubberville' seat is getting quite warm (maybe he should check the coils under the seat cushion, this seems to happen almost every year) but a seventh straight victory in the Iron Bowl will placate a lot of unhappy people.

No. 4 Florida at No. 20 Florida State, 3:30 p.m. - This, for a time, was the rivalry in college football. But with FSU seemingly freefalling and Florida's ascendancy, the gap between these Sunshine State foes have grown to be considerable. The Gators have won the last four by an average of 18.5 points and they will need to score a big victory to stay in the hunt for the top 2 spots. Don't think for a moment that Urban Meyer will take pity on the Seminoles.

Syracuse at No. 16 Cincinnati, Noon - Well, this is the BGISH for Cincinnati. A victory gives the Bearcats the Big East title and the school's first BCS bowl berth. All they have to do is handle a 3-8 Syracuse team whose coach was fired two weeks ago. But the Orangemen didn't get the memo last week in an upset at Notre Dame, so Cincy had better show up for this game.

No. 23 Oregon at No. 17 Oregon State, 7 p.m. - The resurgent Beavers are playing for the school's first Rose Bowl berth in 44 years, but they'll now have to win the Civil War without the help of star freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers. OSU holds the tiebreaker on USC, whose lone loss was in Corvallis back in September. But ironically most Trojans fans will be rooting for OSU as they'd rather not return to Pasadena so they can get a better game elsewhere, say, in the Fiesta against either Oklahoma or Texas.

Virginia at Virginia Tech (Noon); No. 21 Boston College at Maryland (3:30 p.m.) - These two games will determine the two ACC teams who'll play for the conference's wholly undeserved Orange Bowl berth. A Virginia Tech victory sends the Hokies to the ACC title game for the third time in four years, otherwise, it'll be Georgia Tech. Boston College can earn a return trip to the ACC title game, otherwise, Florida State gets to go to Tampa.

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