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Baylor's loss removes obstacle from Ohio State's path
According to precedent the BCS championship field is more or less set.
With only one exception (2007 LSU), the BCS championship game teams were ranked in the top four at this stage of the season. That’s good news for Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Auburn.
In each of the last three seasons, the top two teams with two weeks to go held on to play for the national title. That’s not great news for Ohio State and Auburn.
Those two teams, though, were the big winners this week thanks to Baylor’s loss. The Bears’ improving schedule strength down the stretch will be a moot point after Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday. And thanks to Oklahoma State’s loss to 4-7 West Virginia, the Cowboys are not a serious threat to join the top one-loss teams in the title discussion.
No. 3 Ohio State. The Buckeyes didn’t move up after being ranked third last week, but Baylor’s loss keeps Ohio State safely at the third spot. The possibility of a one-loss Auburn or Missouri passing undefeated Ohio State isn’t implausible since both could face No. 1 Alabama in the next two weeks. But Ohio State has a 0.0961 edge in the BCS average, a major hurdle at this stage of the season. No undefeated team from an automatic-qualifying conference has ever been passed for the BCS championship game by a one-loss team.
No. 16 Fresno State. The Bulldogs slipped from No. 15 to No. 16, but Northern Illinois surprised by moving ahead of Fresno State to No. 14. Northern Illinois remains at least four spots behind Fresno State in both the coaches’ and Harris polls, but the Huskies moved from 12th in the computer rankings to No. 7. Fresno is 17th in the computer average. If NIU remains ahead of Fresno State, the Huskies would grab a BCS automatic bid. Fresno State finishes its season at San Jose State (5-6) and likely against Utah State (7-4) in the Mountain West title game. Northern Illinois finishes with Western Michigan (1-10) and either Buffalo (8-3) or Bowling Green (8-3) in the MAC Championship Game.
Quick BCS Projections
BCS Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida State
Rose: No. 8 Stanford vs. No. 3 Ohio State
Orange: No. 6 Clemson* vs. No. 15 Wisconsin*
Sugar: No. 4 Auburn* vs. No. 19 UCF
Fiesta: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois
Key Games This Week
No. 1 Alabama at No. 4 Auburn. With a loss by Baylor, one-loss Auburn remains a plausible national championship team. If the No. 4 Tigers defeat Alabama and either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn climbs into the national title picture with a loss by either Florida State or Ohio State.
No. 6 Clemson at No. 10 South Carolina. The Tigers would all but clinch a BCS at-large berth if they can defeat South Carolina, something Clemson hasn’t done since 2008.
Minnesota at No. 11 Michigan State/Penn State at No. 15 Wisconsin. Both Michigan State and Wisconsin are strong candidates for an at-large BCS bid out of the Big Ten, but they need to win in the final week of the regular season. If Michigan State losses in the Big Ten title game, a two-loss Wisconsin may still be a more attractive BCS at-large team if eligible.
• Northern Illinois. The Huskies provided one of the surprises of the latest BCS release by jumping No. 16 Fresno State to No. 14. The Huskies defeated Ball State and Toledo, who have a combined record of 16-6, in the last two weeks. The team NIU defeated for its best win, Iowa, also defeated Michigan for a boost to its non-conference schedule.
• Wisconsin is an odds-on favorite for an at-large bid, but the Badgers still haven’t cracked the top 14 to be eligible for a BCS bid. Wisconsin still has a home game against Penn State, and teams ahead of the Badgers could lose — Michigan State, South Carolina and Arizona State all have difficult games in the final weeks of the season.
• The selection of at-large bids will be interesting. Baylor remained in the top 10 despite a loss to Oklahoma State and would be a strong candidate for an at-large if the Cowboys clinch the Fiesta Bowl. Three Pac-12 teams also remain in at-large contention with Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State all the top 15. A Clemson or Wisconsin loss would be a boon to the at-large hopes in the Pac-12 and Big 12.
Notes on BCS selection
• Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The American’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.
• Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.
• A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.
• To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.
• Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Orange Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Fiesta.