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Week 15 Preview: BCS Title Game Not Clear Yet

Championship Week puts everything on the line

by Dave Congrove
CollegeFootballPoll.com
December 3. 2013

For the last time, before an ill-conceived and ill-advised playoff takes shape next year, the BCS Standings will be released this Sunday. By the time we see the final rankings that night, the championship may be a foregone conclusion.

For the first time all year, the Congrove Computer Rankings and BCS concur- Florida State is No. 1 and Ohio State is No. 2. And the computer also agrees that both are favorites to win their respective championship games on Saturday as it favors FSU by 21.85 over Duke (the trend line says more than 35) and Ohio State by 7.33 (the trend line says 9.45).

But part of what makes the BCS so much fun is playing the "what if" game - we know what the rankings say going into the week, and we know that the final rankings are the final say-so. Next year, the rankings won't necessarily matter as a group of 13 football politicians will sit down behind closed doors and invent their own final four with no single shred of required guidelines and absolutely no transparency.

It is obvious that Florida State will play Ohio State if both teams win. It is almost impossible for it to come out any other way without extreme manipulation by the human voters.

But if Ohio State slips and Missouri prevails, does 4th-ranked Alabama manage to stay ahead of 5th-ranked Mizzou? This is not an entirely preposterous thought given Alabama's national prestige and Missouri's lack thereof, no matter how seemingly inappropriate it may be.

The biggest stretch would be a scenario of Ohio State AND Florida State both losing, with Auburn beating Missouri. Guess what we have then? Yep, an all-SEC Alabama-Auburn replay for the national title. That's all it would take for the SEC to go from being locked out of the opportunity to play for an 8th straight title, to being locked in to winning an 8th straight title.

Lick your lips. The fun is about to begin.

The other conference games are actually expected to be more competitive than the ACC and even the Big Ten.

The computer has the SEC tilting Missouri's way by 4.72 points, and it forecasts Arizona State has a mere 0.17-point home favorite over Stanford in the PAC-12 title game. Arizona State's only PAC-12 loss was at Stanford, 42-28, way back on September 21 and this is the only rematch of a game played during the 2013 regular season.

Three non-AQ conferences will also hold championship matches and the computer likes Marshall, Fresno State and Bowling Green to win those battles. Marshall is a 4.72-point choice at Rice while Fresno State only gets a 0.81-point edge at home over Utah State.

The big surprise is the computer's pick of Bowling Green by 5.50 to kick undefeated Northern Illinois out of its virtually guaranteed BCS-buster slot.

Champions will also be crowned this week in the American, Big 12 and Sun Belt conferences.

The Big 12 has Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas all entering the final week with 7-1 conference records. The Cowboys are the team that gave both of the other schools their lone loss with OSU cruising 38-13 at Texas and routing Baylor 49-17 at home. But Oklahoma State hosts Oklahoma this Saturday in the Bedlam rivalry game while Baylor hosts Texas. The bottom line is that Oklahoma State wins the automatic BCS bid if it can hold off the Sooners, while a OSU loss would send the Baylor-Texas winner to the Fiesta Bowl.

The computer likes Oklahoma State to finish the deal, giving the Cowboys an 8.53-point edge. It also likes Baylor to subdue the Longhorns by 11.29.

UCF clinches the BCS bid in the American with a Cincinnati loss to Louisville on December 5th and the Bearcats are a 2.19-point home underdog in that game. The Golden Knights also clinch with a win on Saturday at SMU and UCF is a 9.27-point favorite in that contest. But, the Mustangs will be putting it all on the line as they need an upset win just to become bowl eligible at 6-6. Keep in mind, however, that 6-6 is far from guaranteeing a bowl bid as there is an overall surplus of teams available for the 70 bowl slots and 64 teams have at least 7 wins.

By the way, if both Cincinnati and UCF win, the Golden Knights would still trump the Bearcats by virtue of having a higher BCS ranking. The BCS scenario only comes into play because UCF and Cincinnati did not play each other during the regular season. Cincinnati's only hope lies in defeating the Cards and having UCF lose at SMU.

UCF's win this past Friday eliminated Louisville from earning the automatic BCS bid and it's highly doubtful that the Cardinals could gain an at-large entry, even with an 11-1 record, due to the relative weakness of the conference overall. Four of the conference's 10 teams have 3 wins or fewer, and 6 teams are under .500.

The Sun Belt is Louisiana-Lafayette's title to lose. The Ragin' Cajuns have already clinched a share of the crown with Arkansas State and a win at South Alabama would give them their first outright title. A loss by UL-L would mean a shared crown with Arkansas State, which has won the title outright the last two years. Both the Cajuns and Red Wolves have already accepted bowl bids with Louisiana-Lafayette headed back to the New Orleans Bowl for the third straight year where it will also seek to go 3-0 in its all-time bowl history. Arkansas State is going to the GoDaddy.com Bowl for the third straight year.

Louisiana-Lafayette is a 5.33-point pick at South Alabama, but QB Terrance Brodway is listed as doubtful. Freshman Brooks Haack was 10-of-14 for 126 yards and a TD in Saturday's loss to UL-Monroe.

South Alabama would finish 6-6 with a win, making every Sun Belt team except Georgia State bowl eligible.

Rutgers can also reach the 6-6 mark with a home win over USF. The Scarlet Knights are a 10.56-point computer pick, but are a 0.05-point underdog on the computer trend line. That means that Rutgers has been in a free-fall of late while USF has shown some late-season moxie. Rutgers has lost 3 straight, and 5 of its last 6, after starting the season 4-1. The Bulls have lost 5 straight and are just 2-9 on the year, but came close to upsetting UCF last week. As bad as USF's season has been, the defense ranks 21st nationally (the offense ranks 123rd out of 125 teams).

BCS TEAMS UNDER CONSIDERATION (As of Tuesday, 12/3):
The champions of the American Athletic, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern conferences automatically qualify for a BCS game. In addition, the highest-ranked conference champion from among Conference USA, the Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt Conferences earns automatic qualification to one of the BCS games if that champion is ranked No. 12 or better in the final BCS Standings, or No. 16 or better if it is ranked higher than any champion from the American Athletic, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 or Southeastern conferences. Notre Dame also qualifies automatically if it is ranked No. 8 or better.

At-large berths also will be available. The bowls will fill those berths from teams ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS Standings. No conference may place more than two teams in the BCS games, unless the conference has two teams in the National Championship Game, and neither team is its champion.

The final BCS Standings will be compiled Sunday, December 8. The BCS bowl pairings will be announced at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time that day, on ESPN.

The champions from the six conferences which receive automatic spots in the BCS games have not been determined. The following is a list of teams still contending for their conferences' automatic berths:
- American: Central Florida, Cincinnati
- ACC: Duke, Florida State
- Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State
- Big 12: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Texas
- Pac-12: Arizona State, Stanford
- SEC: Auburn, Missouri

In addition to those teams, the pool of teams remaining under consideration also includes (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Carolina.

UNDEFEATED AND WINLESS TEAMS:
Only 3 teams remain on the undefeated list - Florida State, Northern Illinois and Ohio State.

Georgia State and Miami (Ohio) were the only teams to end the season winless. Four teams entered last week with a goose egg in the win column before Southern Miss and Hawaii won their season finales.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS schools were a collective 95-16 (.856) in FBS-FCS matches this season and are 831-81 (.911) since 2003.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
8/29: Towson 33, Connecticut 18
8/29: Southern Utah 22, South Alabama 21
8/30: Samford 31, Georgia State 21
8/30: North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21
8/31: Northern Iowa 28, Iowa State 20
8/31: Eastern Washington 49, Oregon State 46
8/31: Eastern Illinois 40, San Diego State 18
8/31: McNeese State 53, USF 21
9/7: UT-Chattanooga 42, Georgia State 14
9/7: Maine 24, Massachusetts 14
9/7: Nicholls State 27, Western Michigan 23.
9/14: Fordham 30, Temple 29
9/14: Bethune-Cookman 34, FIU 13
9/21: Jacksonville State 32, Georgia State 26 (OT)
11/9: Old Dominion 59, Idaho 38
11/23: Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20

Eastern Washington, McNeese State and North Dakota State also had wins vs. FBS teams last year.

Originally, 106 FBS schools scheduled a total of 110 games against FCS foes this year. But Colorado later replaced a game it lost vs. Fresno State (due to flooding) with Charleston Southern. Thus, 106 FBS schools played a total of 111 games vs. FCS foes. The schedule change also made Colorado the 4th FBS team to face at least two such schools this year. The others are Clemson and Georgia Tech with 2 apiece while FBS newcomer Georgia State scheduled 3 FCS teams and lost to each of them.

STREAKS:
Ohio State - Won 24 straight overall (FBS longest). Plays Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship at Indianapolis on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 26 straight at home (FBS longest), 25 straight vs. conference foes (FBS longest), and 15 straight road games (FBS longest). Plays Bowling Green in the MAC Championship at Detroit on Friday.

LSU - Won 45 straight regular season nonconference games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Georgia State - Lost 16 straight (tied for FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Miami (Ohio) - Lost 16 straight (tied for FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Kansas - Lost 24 straight road games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.

Kentucky - Lost 16 straight conference games (FBS longest). Regular season complete.