Posted 11/11/2009 at 04:13 PM
Margin of victory is proving to be a critical element in the poll voting this year and it will have a huge impact on the BCS standings. Certainly the scores impact the computer ratings that are a component of the rankings but more critical will be the position in the polls as the weight is much higher in the formula. Blaming a team for running up the score or calling out poor sportsmanship will have to be a thing of the past as if the goal of a team is to reach a BCS bowl game, scoring as much as possible has now become part of the qualification.
Texas was the preseason #2 ranked team in the USA Today and the Harris Poll but was passed by Alabama the week that Texas struggled to beat Oklahoma while Alabama beat South Carolina 20-6. Last week Texas jumped back ahead of Alabama with a convincing win over Oklahoma State while Alabama was coming off a narrow win over Tennessee, though the Tide actually were bumped down in a week they did not play. Alabama’s win over LSU kept them behind Texas again this week although the Tide are ahead in the BCS rankings for the time being. Even if Texas wins narrowly in the remaining games, if they win out and take the Big 12 championship they will have a spot in the BCS title game waiting. Alabama and Florida know their fates as well as they will face off the SEC title game with the winner advancing to the BCS championship and the loser likely still in position for a BCS bowl. Even if either team is upset in the final weeks of the regular season, that scenario may be unlikely to change.
The remaining three undefeated teams will be where the most interesting poll movements will be taking place and where point scores have and will continue to matter. Iowa made things easier last week finally being upset after weeks of ugly performances and narrow escapes. The Hawkeyes would have been a really interesting case should they have finished the season undefeated but that drama and conversation has been spared this year. Cincinnati and Boise State were both winners last week and even though they played tougher games, they were both penalized for less than dominant margins of victory. Sadly many voters do not likely actually see how games play out and do not take into account the situations teams are in or how that score came to be, so the final score is of paramount importance. TCU won with ease and passed both teams and now is in the driver’s seat to be next in line.
Jumping Boise State is extremely important as only one non-BCS conference team is likely to make a BCS bowl, even in a situation where two are very deserving. Navy saved college football from a potential ridiculous situation by beating Notre Dame last week and keeping the Irish out of the top tier of the BCS rankings as they could have stolen a bid by winning out. Should Cincinnati finish the season as the 2nd ranked undefeated team (meaning of Texas, Alabama, and Florida there are two one-loss teams), it would be very interesting and controversy driving if say a one-loss Florida or Alabama team would climb ahead of an undefeated Cincinnati team. The Bearcats have three quality games left on the schedule, including facing a Pitt team that is rising in the rankings so their profile should be enhanced should they win out. Boise State’s profile will certainly weaken with the remaining games and although TCU will get a big boost if they beat Utah this week the final two games will water down the ratings considerably playing Wyoming and winless New Mexico. It is tough to gauge exactly but TCU and Cincinnati would likely be incredibly close in the rankings by season’s end should they both win out and margin of victory could play a decisive role. If things play out as expected however, it won’t really matter, the SEC champion will play Texas for the title and Cincinnati and TCU will both be happy to play in BCS bowls as undefeated teams, though they would be unlikely to play each other, something that would certainly raise some interest among ‘plus one’ proponents. Boise State could be left in the dust, as they have been before.
There will not be a national title contender from the ACC, Pac-10, or Big Ten and the chances for any of the three leagues to get two BCS spots are slim. That said the battles for the automatic qualifiers will be intense with Ohio State and Iowa settling things in the Big Ten this week and intriguing races in the ACC Atlantic and the Pac-10 featuring teams that are not normally the prime contenders in recent years.