We’re about to begin week 10 of the college football season, so the time has come to start looking at all the BCS possibilities. I will begin by listing all the teams that still have a shot at making the BCS title game, from most likely to least likely.
1) Alabama – Controls its own destiny. If the Crimson Tide finish undefeated, they are guaranteed their fourth trip to the title game in five years. But they do have some big obstacles still ahead, namely LSU and Auburn in their remaining regular season schedule, and likely Missouri in the SEC championship game. If they get there, they will have definitely earned their way.
2) Oregon – Like Alabama, the Ducks control their own destiny. If they win out, they will play in their second BCS title game in four years. But also like Alabama, Oregon stills faces some major tests, including Stanford next week and Oregon State to end the regular season. Then they would need to win the Pac 12 championship game, where they would likely face UCLA again.
3) Florida State – The Seminoles will need a little help, even if they run the table the rest of the way. Their strength of schedule doesn’t quite measure up to that of Alabama or Oregon, so they will need to have at least one of those teams lose. Florida State only has two major tests remaining: Miami this week and then the ACC championship game, where they might face Miami again, or possibly Virginia Tech. The Seminoles were second in the initial BCS rankings, and could potentially leapfrog back over Oregon with a win over Miami. But that would probably be shortlived. An Oregon win over Stanford next week would put the Ducks solidly back in second place.
4) Ohio State – The Buckeyes will need a little more help than Florida State will need. They will need to have at least two of the three teams currently ranked ahead of them in the BCS standings to lose. Ohio State should then be able to hold up its end of the bargain fairly easily, it has already played the toughest part of its schedule. Their big rival Michigan poses little threat to them this year. Ditto their opponent in the Big Ten championship game.
5) Baylor – The Bears will need to have three of the above four teams to lose for them to have any chance at the BCS title game. If that happens, they should easily be able to make it by running the table the rest of the way, as their schedule is back-loaded. Their remaining schedule includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Texas. The first three are currently ranked, and Texas may be ranked as well, when they play the Longhorns the last week of the season. And unlike the four teams ahead of them, Bayor won't have to compete in a conference championship game.
6) Miami – The Hurricanes are currently the lowest ranked of all six major undefeated teams (I don’t count mid-majors Fresno State and Northern Illinois) in all the polls and in the BCS rankings. Therefore, it’s going to be tough for Miami to climb over of those five teams without the benefit of having at least four of them lose. However, the Hurricanes could impress the pollsters and the computers by beating Florida State twice, this week and in the ACC championship game. That could provide enough impetus to allow them to jump over Baylor and Ohio State. But, even then, they would still need to have either Alabama or Oregon lose.
7) Stanford – Even though the Cardinal are currently ahead of both Baylor and Miami in the BCS standings, both of those teams are still undefeated, ranked ahead of them in the major polls, and would likely jump over Stanford if they run the table, regardless of what Stanford accomplishes the rest of way, including a win over Oregon and a win in the Pac 12 championship game. Stanford just needs to keep winning and hope that five of those six undefeated teams will lose a game.
8) Auburn – The Tigers still have a shot at the BCS title game. If they run the table on the regular season, which would include a season ending win over Alabama and a win in the SEC championship game, likely against Missouri, they would be in a good position to capture a slot in the BCS championship game, assuming six of the seven teams above lose.
9) Missouri – Believe it or not, these Tigers also still have a shot at the BCS title game, despite their disappointing loss against South Carolina last week. Their chances are very similar to those of Auburn. They need to run the table on the regular season, which would include wins against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and win the SEC championship game, likely against Alabama or Auburn. Then they would need to have at least six of the top seven teams on this list lose.
10) Clemson – These Tigers still have a chance to get to the BCS title game as well, although it’s a very slim one. Their chances are dimmer than those of the other one-loss teams on this list simply because they would need Florida State to lose two regular season ACC games in order to get to the ACC championship game. That’s not likely to happen because Florida State has only one challenging ACC game remaining on its schedule – against Miami this week. Yes, Florida State still has to play Florida, but that’s a non-conference game. With Florida State just losing one ACC game, the Seminoles would win the division tie-breaker with Clemson, leaving the Tigers at home and unable to get the big win they would need in ACC championship game. If only they weren’t in the same division with Florida State! But if a miracle happened and the Seminoles did lose two, Clemson could go the BCS title game if they won out in the regular season, defeated Miami or Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game, and at least six of the top seven teams on this list lost.
Note: I have purposely not included Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Michigan, or Michigan State on this list because I do not think a one-loss team from the Big Ten or Big 12 could rank in the top two in the BCS. As mentioned above, Ohio State and Baylor, teams from those conferences, will need to help to get to the BCS title game, even if they remain undefeated.
Now let’s talk about the other BCS possibilities, those teams that have chance to play in a BCS bowl, but not the championship game.
The winner of the American Athletic Conference, formerly known as the Big East, still gets an automatic BCS bid, just like the conferences I have already touched on. There are three teams – UCF, Houston, and Louisville – still in the running for it. Currently UCF and Houston have no conference loses while Louisville has one. UCF and Houston control their own destiny, as either one could clinch a BCS berth by running the table on their conference schedule. However, although Louisville lost to UCF, it does not necessarily need to have UCF lose two conference games. The Cardinals could benefit from a three-way tie if they beat Houston, and Houston beats UCF. If that situation were to materialize, the Cardinals would likely get the BCS bid, as they would probably have the highest BCS ranking.
Other teams that still have a shot at an automatic or at-large BCS bid (not including those already mentioned) include Oklahoma, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas A&M, LSU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, Texas, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame.
Unlike most college football pundits, I do not think that Fresno State or Northern Illinois will get an at-large BCS bid, as I don’t see either of them making it as high as number 12 in the BCS rankings, the minimum requirement for a school from a non-BCS conference to get a bid. Their schedules just don’t justify such a ranking. .