BCS: Would Running the Table Be Enough for Auburn?
If watching Auburn play Saturday night in Fayetteville with newfound swagger left you in doubt that this team had rebounded on the national stage, the media sure took notice for you. While the computers have loved us since the first month of the season, the voters have needed a little more convincing. The two saw eye-to-eye Sunday night and launched us into #9 in the BCS standings after hovering at 11 for two weeks. With the road to Atlanta and a SEC crown assured if we win out, the road to a BCS championship game appearance would be tough for a one-loss team seated where we are. We’d virtually need another 2007 scenario to play out again where 2-loss LSU got in the BCS but let’s take a look at the field.
Obviously, we’ll need some teams ahead of us to lose. Some of them have big games remaining that should take care of that–like they were a SEC team. You forget that not all conferences have built-in competition year in, year out. Auburn will play a minimum of four teams that were ranked in the top 7 at some point this season before conference play started saddling them with losses. I don’t think any team in the nation can make that claim. Three of those are in our own division.
Biggest longshot to lose a game? Ohio State (#4) has the easiest run to the BCS with no more games against ranked opponents but needs two teams ahead of it stumble. Even so, their weak schedule could still keep them out of Pasadena by having a one-loss team jump them. Half the SEC could beat Urban’s legends of the Leader’s division and the Big 10 usually sucks when faced with SEC teams in bowl games. Expect the Buckeyes to land effortlessly in a BCS Bowl regardless.
Best bet to lose? Mizzou,(#8) which under our dream scenario would be dispatched by us in Atlanta provided they didn’t lose to Texas A&M on the last day of the regular season. That loss might provide a 3-way tie in the east with Georgia and Carolina so there’s no telling who would represent the east. If you asked me who would give Auburn or Alabama the best game in Atlanta I’d say it would be Georgia. Wouldn’t a rematch with them be fun? Kudos to the third Tigers for second best improvement in the SEC this year but the road to a SEC crown will elude them for quite a while.
Best bet to keep on keeping on? Florida State ,(#2) which almost certainly will be re-jumped by Oregon this weekend if the Ducks beat Stanford, but FSU seems to have the easiest path of the top three teams. Florida shouldn’t prove to be much of a stumbling block for the Seminoles and Clemson won’t pop back up in the ACC title game because they’re in the same division. Coincidently, Miami will more than likely be the rematch in that contest but I wouldn’t expect the Canes to do anything other than to take a second half dive like they did this past weekend.
Baylor (#6) has a tough road ahead, with #10 Oklahoma, #25 Texas Tech, and #14 Oklahoma State in successive games, followed by TCU and Texas. If they ran that table, I’d look to them in Pasadena over Ohio State and any one-loss team, with the possible exception of us. While their overall schedule wouldn’t have been as tough as Auburn’s, the push of ranked opponents at the end would certainly garner enough media attention to get them votes. Very quietly the Big 12 is having a fantastic year.
Oregon (#3) and Stanford (#5) both have their season on the line this Saturday in Palo Alto. Each in the same division of the PAC12, the winner will play in the conference title game against probably Arizona State while the loser’s national title hopes will be dashed. Neither play any ranked opponents in the regular season after this game. A win by the Cardinal will make them the strongest one-loss team in the country until Auburn would beat Alabama. A win by the Ducks would make it tough for them to be unseated in the BCS championship.
In the damned no matter what you do role is #7 Clemson who might as well not even dare to dream. Prevented from playing for the ACC title by the fact that they’re in the same division as FSU, the Tiger paws still have a season finale with #12 South Carolina that could prove to be fatal. There’s simply no scenario on earth that would lead Clemson into the BCS title game because even if everyone else lost, voters would remember that meltdown against FSU and just laugh at them. They may end up being the highest ranked ACC team at the end of the year but their season has been over since October 19th.
Of course none of these scenarios mean a thing to Auburn if we don’t win out. Six conference wins in a row is impressive, especially if the last one is the #1 ranked, two-time defending national champions. Even if Auburn managed this Herculean feat, the sentiment to have two teams NOT from the SEC in Pasadena would be tremendous and an abundance of undefeated teams could leave even a one-loss SEC champ out of the picture. Auburn was the first major conference team to go undefeated get left out of the BCS title game. Wouldn’t the college football gods have to be frowning to make us the last–here on the eave of the four team playoff next season? Auburn getting shafted in 2004 paid huge dividends for subsequent SEC teams to get the nod in BCS title games. It would come full circle if we were the beneficiaries of that ourselves.