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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - OCT. 31

By Joe Nelson
Posted 11/02/2011 at 02:38 PM

The writing on the wall is there for Boise State as next week’s game with TCU won’t make enough of dent to help the cause for the Broncos with Stanford passing them in the BCS rankings even with a shaky OT win over USC. Stanford certainly has the potential to lose to Oregon next week however and Oklahoma State still has to play Oklahoma. Obviously one of the SEC powers will fall this week so the dream set-up is certainly very realistic for Boise State. The question will be where the Broncos will end up in the polls. They currently sit fifth; presumably if the three of the four teams ahead of them lose they can climb to #2, which will hold a huge weight in the BCS rankings, perhaps enough to offset the computer numbers. The best case scenario for Boise State is a blowout in the LSU/Alabama game as to give no credibility to a potential rematch game but a one-loss Oklahoma team that beats Oklahoma State handily or a one-loss Oregon team that beats Stanford will make a very compelling case. Clemson’s loss knocked them out of the picture so all things considered the chances for Boise State to get to the title game are probably the best they have ever been.

 

The Big Ten will not feature a title contender but it will be an exciting race in the first year of the two division set-up. Eight teams are still technically alive for a division title with three teams tied in the Legends division at 3-1. In the Leaders side Penn State is in control at 5-0 but the Lions will be underdogs in all three remaining games. Ohio State is just 2-2 but the path for the Buckeyes looks very promising even after the early season struggles. A likely scenario in the final week could be Ohio State facing Michigan at the end of the year with a Buckeyes win giving them the division title. If they lose the Penn State/Wisconsin winner would likely take it the title, though this scenario is being a bit presumptuous assuming Ohio State will beat Penn State in three weeks. Even with the loss last week Michigan State has the most favorable remaining schedule in the Legends division but don’t be shocked if tiebreakers come into play in at least one of the divisions.

 

In the NFL Green Bay is still considered the team to beat but don’t be surprised if San Francisco emerges as the top seed in the NFC. San Francisco still has to play Baltimore and Pittsburgh but the 49ers should be favored in every other game, including being substantial favorites in five remaining division games. The Packers have most of the toughest games still to play, facing teams with .500 or better records in eight of the last nine games, with the lone exception being an improving Minnesota team that gave the Packers its toughest test. Road games at San Diego, Detroit and New York will be challenges in the upcoming schedule. While playing at home in cold conditions has been a great advantage for the Packers historically, the current style of offense is not well suited for that type of conditions. Recall that the great playoff run last year did not feature any home games and the game in cold conditions in Chicago was a game where the Green Bay offense really struggled and the big scoring games for Green Bay came on indoor fast tracks in Atlanta and the Super Bowl in Dallas.

 

The AFC appears to feature three-team races in three of the four divisions as Buffalo and Cincinnati have emerged as surprise contenders. Both teams have very tough second half schedules so while they have been great stories the playoff hopes are probably slimmer than they currently look. Cincinnati still has to play Pittsburgh and Baltimore twice each and the Bills have two games with the Jets as well as road games at Dallas, San Diego, and New England. Tennessee may still appear to be in the AFC South race but Houston looks poised to get on a roll in the coming weeks with a favorable schedule the rest of the way. The Texans are not getting a lot of attention and injuries have weakened the squad but given the schedules ahead and the tough division games the other AFC contenders will face, Houston looks like a team that will be in position to earn a first round bye with one of the top two seeds. Best of luck, on to this week’s slate…

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