The revelry on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium hadn’t even ended before various scenarios putting the SEC into the national championship game started popping up.
What would Auburn have to do to leapfrog an undefeated Ohio State? Is Missouri realistic? And is Alabama out of it ... really?
For this week, BCS order remains with the two undefeated teams in the national championship slots. For Auburn to get into the title game over an undefeated Ohio State, the voters and BCS computers would have to do something they’ve never done by leaving out an undefeated major conference champion at the expense of a one-loss team.
Did we mention there are still conference championship games to play. An Ohio State or Florida State loss would render SEC arguments moot. So would an Auburn loss to Missouri.
And after what you’ve seen at Auburn the last two weeks, are you going to doubt the possibility of Duke upsetting the whole thing on the last day of the season?
No. 3 Auburn. As expected, Auburn moved to No. 3 in the BCS and narrowed the gap with Ohio State. The Tigers checked in with a BCS average of 0.9233 with Ohio State at 0.9503. The difference is a little bigger than the Sunday afternoon chatter indicated, but it’s not insurmountable for Auburn with a game remaining against No. 5 Missouri while Ohio State faces No. 10 Michigan State. The gap of 0.027 between Auburn and Ohio State, a margin that figures to get closer if both win, would be the closest between No. 2 and No. 3 since Florida edged out Texas by 0.0181 in 2008.
No. 2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes lost the most ground in the coaches’ and Harris polls as nearly all the first-place votes that went for Alabama last week went to Florida State. The Seminoles have 97 of 105 first-place votes in the Harris poll and 58 of 62 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll (though Ohio State gained four top votes from the coaches). Ohio State is 25 points ahead of Auburn in the coaches poll and 84 behind Florida State. The Buckeyes are 66 points ahead of Auburn in the Harris poll and 129 behind Florida State.
Quick BCS Projections
BCS Championship Game: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Ohio State
Rose: No. 11 Arizona State vs. No. 10 Michigan State*
Orange: No. 4 Alabama* vs. No. 13 Clemson*
Sugar: No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 16 UCF
Fiesta: No. 6 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Northern Illinois
Key Games This Week
Auburn vs. Missouri (SEC Championship). Auburn is holding out hope to get into the BCS title game with a win in Atlanta regardless of what Ohio State does, but a loss by either of the top two teams likely vaults the SEC champion to the national title game.
Ohio State vs. Michigan State (Big Ten Championship). A rout of Michigan State, especially after the close call with Michigan, would probably help Ohio State fans rest easy no matter what happens to Auburn. But in the event of a loss, the Spartans would also like to look respectable enough to remain in the top 14 to remain eligible for an at-large bid to the Rose Bowl against the winner of Stanford-Arizona State.
Texas at Baylor. Even though they looked nothing like it the last two weeks, the Bears have the ability to get into a BCS game. An Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma and a Baylor win will earn the Bears the automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl. And given losses by Clemson and Wisconsin, the at-large field has dwindled. A one-loss Baylor ranked in the top 10 may be the best of what’s available.
Alabama is out. The fantasy of Alabama getting back to the championship game with an Auburn loss in the SEC title game and an Ohio State loss in the Big Ten title game is probably finished. Alabama checked in at No. 4, but only 0.0111 points ahead of No. 5 Missouri in BCS average. A Missouri win over Auburn would almost certainly vault Mizzou ahead of the Crimson Tide. The only plausible scenario for the Tide in the title game would require losses by Florida State and Ohio State, setting up a matchup with Missouri or an Iron Bowl rematch.
The BCS at-large picture is a mess. Prepare to complain about teams outside of the top-10 earning BCS slots. Alabama is a virtual lock for the first BCS at-large spot (the Orange, if Florida State finishes No. 1), but after that, nothing is certain. The Rose may like to pair a Big Ten team with its Pac-12 champion if Ohio State goes to the title game, but the only candidate is No. 10 Michigan State, thanks to Wisconsin's loss to Penn State. No. 13 Clemson should remain eligible for the BCS and would be more attractive that a second team from the Big 12. At No. 12, Oregon also would be a strong BCS contender, but the Ducks won’t go to the Rose Bowl to face the Pac-12 champion.
Northern Illinois is creeping closer to an automatic bid. Fresno State’s loss to San Jose State means Northern Illinois is the only team from a non-automatic qualifying conference in the mix for a BCS bid. The Huskies moved up to No. 14, but they’re behind idle Oregon and Clemson. It would take quite a bit of a shakeup for NIU, who faces Bowling Green in the MAC title game, to get into the top 12 for an automatic bid. However, Northern Illinois remains two spots ahead of No. 16 UCF, the projected champion of the American Athletic Conference. UCF finishes with 5-6 SMU.
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.