Who Has The Toughest Path to the BCS Championship Game?

The quest for the crystal football heats up this week as the top five unbeaten sides look to book their spot in the BCS championship game. But who faces the toughest challenge?

With the bulk of the schedule behind us, unbeaten schools now look forward to their remaining schedule with hopes of a place in the BCS Championship Game firmly resting on how each fare over the next five weeks.

With five teams still unbeaten at the top of the BCS rankings, a perilous battle remains ahead. Just one defeat could throw a spanner in the works for any team – including Alabama. This is especially true with the likes of Mississippi State, Louisville, Rutgers and Ohio looking to go unbeaten also. Add to this those teams with one solitary loss (LSU, USC, Oklahoma, Florida State, Georgia, etc.) and we could be looking at one hell of a race to the finish.

Here then is a look at the paths the top five teams face on their journey to remain unbeaten, starting with the easiest* schedule.

*Don’t be fooled: the easiest schedule is by no means easy

 

#3 Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12)

Ranked Wins: 2 (Oklahoma, West Virginia)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #14 Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Nov 3: Vs. Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1 Big 12)

Nov 10: @ TCU (5-2, 2-2 Big 12)

Nov 17: @ Baylor (3-3, 0-3 Big 12)

Dec 1: Vs. #23 Texas (5-2, 2-2 Big 12)

Strength of Opposition: 23-10 (.699)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: Vs. Texas – The Longhorns might not have had the best of seasons, but they’re still a tough out.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Texas Tech – The Wildcats’ defense should be enough to beat the Red Raiders, but then again, this is a team that put an unthinkable hurting on West Virginia.

Verdict: On paper, Kansas State faces a tough challenge, with its remaining opponents tallying a 23-10 winning record this season. This is testament more to the depth of the Big 12 as a whole than anything else. In reality, the Wildcats have already done the hard work (beating Oklahoma) and look more than capable of knocking off the two remaining ranked opponents. Simply taking care of business will see the side finish 12-0.

 

#2 Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC)

Ranked Wins: 3 (Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #10 Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC)

Nov 3: Vs. Missouri (3-4, 0-4 SEC)

Nov 10: Vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (4-3, 2-2 Sun Belt)

Nov 17: Vs. Jacksonville State (4-3, 3-2 OVC)

Nov 24: @ #12 Florida State (7-1, 4-1 ACC)

Strength of Opposition: 24-12 (.667)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: @ Florida State – The rivalry is a bigger factor than the Seminoles’ ability. Arguably Georgia is a tougher game on paper, but this one will be heated. Plus it has the pressure of being the last game of the season.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Georgia – Getting past the Bulldogs with a win this weekend is possible and probable, but peeking forward would be a mistake.

Verdict: Like Kansas State, the Gators have a tough run-in on paper in terms of opponent’s winning percentages. But two FBS games rip that theory to shreds. Florida’s schedule certainly works in its favor. Most of the conference games – and the tough games in general – are history. After Georgia, it’s a clear run until Florida State.

 

#1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC)

Ranked Wins: 1 (Michigan)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. #11 Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0 SEC)

Nov 3: @ #6 LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC)

Nov 10: Vs. #20 Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC)

Nov 17: Vs. Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6 Southern)

Nov 24: Vs. Auburn (1-6, 0-5 SEC)

Strength of Opposition: 21-16 (.568)

Ranked Opponents: 3

Toughest Game: @ LSU – It might not be a battle of the unbeaten, but this National Championship rematch has been circled on both schools’ calendars since January.

Potential Slip Up: Vs. Auburn – On paper it’s a whitewash but Auburn’s terrible season would be made by an upset victory.

Verdict: Unlike Florida, Alabama still has to play all of its tough games, with the three toughest coming back-to-back. Add to that a fierce rivalry game with Auburn and you have the ingredients for an upset somewhere along the road. The strength of opposition (.568) might seem enticing but take out Western Carolina and things look a little less simplistic. Yes, Alabama can win out, but the potential pitfalls come thick and fast.

 

#5 Notre Dame (7-0)

Ranked Wins: 3 (Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: @ #8 Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12)

Nov 3: Vs. Pittsburgh (3-4, 0-3 Big East)

Nov 10: @ Boston College (1-6, 0-4 ACC)

Nov 17: Vs. Wake Forest (4-4, 2-4 ACC)

Nov 24: @ #9 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

Strength of Opposition: 19-16 (.543)

Ranked Opponents: 2

Toughest Game: @ USC – A visit to the Coliseum on the last day of the season will be a tough ask for the Irish, but must-see TV if Notre Dame gets past Oklahoma this week.

Potential Slip Up: @ Oklahoma – This is Notre Dame’s toughest game of the season so far, and one that will determine whether the Irish have a shot at the championship. Slipping up here puts all that hard work to waste.

Verdict: Visits to Oklahoma and USC would be tough for any side, and with both potentially still in the hunt for the BCS title, it’s not going to be easy for a Notre Dame side that has already knocked off tough opposition this year. One thing’s for sure: with the Irish’s schedule this year, unbeaten pretty much guarantees a spot in the big game.

 

#4 Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

Ranked Wins: 2 (Arizona, Washington)

Remaining Schedule

Oct 27: Vs. Colorado (1-6, 1-3 Pac-12)

Nov 3: @ #9 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

Nov 10: @ California (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12)

Nov 17: Vs. #17 Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Nov 24: @ #7 Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

Strength of Opposition: 21-14 (.600)

Ranked Opponents: 3

Toughest Game: @ USC – This one’s been earmarked as a potential Pac-12 Championship Game preview since the preseason.

Potential Slip Up: @ Oregon State – The Beavers have surprised all this season and come the last day of the season, an upset win over the Ducks could be on the agenda.

Verdict: The two biggest knocks against Oregon this season have been its defense and its schedule. Up to this point it’s been plain sailing for the Ducks but with USC, Stanford and Oregon State still on the schedule, it’s going to be tough for Chip Kelly’s side to navigate the Pac-12 waters. That triumvirate of encounters makes this the toughest schedule of the five.

 

Whilst we can find enjoyment in looking ahead, the teams themselves cannot. Each has to remain clearly focused on the job at hand, and that’s winning this week. A loss at any point in the next five weeks could seriously affect the National Championship landscape, and that is exactly why we’ll be watching with baited breath.

Week 9 College Football Tips

A win for Landry Jones and the Sooners could potentially put Oklahoma back in the race for the National Championship, whilst putting a serious dent in Notre Dame's chances.

With five games left on the schedule for most schools, it’s time to get down to business. At present there appears to be five contenders (Alabama, Florida, Kansas State, Oregon, and Notre Dame) for the BCS Championship Game, which means three teams need to be whittled away.

Whittling could begin this weekend as four of the top five sides facing ranked opposition on Saturday. A loss for any of those sides could be paramount to elimination from the title picture.

To help you navigate this veritable minefield of BCS implications, here are our picks for this week’s big games.

 

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma

They might not have met in 13 years, and Oklahoma (5-1, 3-1 Big 12) might not have hosted Notre Dame (7-0, 2-0 road) in 46 years, but this has big-time rivalry written all over it. The stakes are simple: whoever loses can wave goodbye to title hopes.

Oklahoma has been on a tear recently, averaging better than 50 points per game over the past three outings, but Notre Dame has made a season out of shutting down teams. The defense still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this year.

Odds: Oklahoma opened as 10-point favorites, a number that has stretched to 12. The over/under is 47½.

Take: Notre Dame – Oklahoma has been formidable of late but every time the Irish has come up against a team it shouldn’t beat’, it’s done exactly that. Yes, the Sooners have a potent offense but Notre Dame’s defense is so rock-solid, it’s hard to imagine Bob Stoop’s side getting a mass of points. There’s a big payout looming if the underdog Irish wins as well. Take the under.

 

#2 Florida Vs. #10 Georgia (Jacksonville, FL)

A win this week for Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) will all but send the Gators to the SEC Championship Game. They’ve already beaten LSU and South Carolina in consecutive weeks, and a win over Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) – a team that lost to South Carolina – will leave just #12 Florida State as a potential pitfall on the schedule, and Florida is certainly better than the Seminoles.

A win for Georgia would set the cat amongst the pigeons, leaving the Bulldogs, Gators and Gamecocks tied up, having beaten each other. From that mess you can ascertain that whilst one of those teams will head to the SEC title game, nobody is likely to head to the National Championship game.

Odds: Florida is favored with the spread shifting from 3½ at opening to 7-points today. The over/under is 48.

Take: Florida – There’s no doubt that few expected Florida to ring up this sort of record, but the Gators have looked sharp for much of the season, and when they haven’t looked sharp, they’ve found ways to win. Georgia almost rolled over to the Gamecocks, putting little faith in the mind on any bettor that they’ll fare any better against Florida. Take the over; both of these sides will be able to put points on the board.

 

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama

The SEC West’s ‘Battle of the Unbeaten’ was supposed to take place next week when the Tide travels to LSU. Nobody told Mississippi State (7-0, 3-0 SEC).

The Bulldogs head to Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) on Saturday looking to pull-off one of the biggest, and most important, upsets of the year. A victory over the Crimson Tide would really shake up the BCS standings and polls that have almost unanimously had Alabama inked into the BCS Championship Game.

Of course, a win over Alabama is much easier said than done. The Tide has looked tougher than ever over the last few weeks, dispatching of the likes of Tennessee and Mizzou without stopping for breath. Nick Saban’s side has the best defense in the country, something that could give Mississippi State – yet to play against ranked opposition – a rude awakening.

Odds: Alabama is favorites by 24-points. As large a difference as that is, Alabama has had no trouble winning by huge margins. That being said, they’re only 4-3 ATS this season. The over/under is 47½.

Take: Alabama – The only way Mississippi State could conceivably win the game is if Alabama is caught looking ahead to next week’s clash with LSU. Can you imagine a Nick Saban side doing that? Exactly. Take the over and Bama to beat the spread.

 

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State

We mentioned in last week’s College Football Tips how Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) had very quietly gone about its business. Now ranked #3, it’ll be tough for the Wildcats to do anything quietly.

Texas Tech (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) has had an excellent season, making the top ten in passing yards (10th) and points scored (4th) on the way to some big wins. A loss to Oklahoma is the only blemish on the team’s resume. A trip to Bill Snyder Stadium may change that.

Odds: Kansas State is favored by 7½-points with the over/under at 62½.

Take: Kansas State – There’s no denying that the Red Raiders’ prolific offense has been great to watch this season – especially that drubbing of West Virginia – but it’s time to wave goodbye to Texas Tech and its high ranking. The Wildcats really are one of the toughest teams in football, and a top ten defense is likely to ground the Raiders. Take the Wildcats to beat the spread and take the under on the total.

 

BCS Top 25 (Week 9 Fixtures)

#18 Clemson 42, Wake Forest 13 (Thursday)

Cincinnati @ #16 Louisville (Friday)

 

#11 Mississippi State @ #1 Alabama

#2 Florida @ #10 Georgia

#14 Texas Tech @ #3 Kansas State

Colorado @ #4 Oregon

#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma

#7 Oregon State @ Washington

#9 USC @ Arizona

Duke @ #12 Florida State

Tennessee @ #13 South Carolina

Kent State @ #15 Rutgers

Washington State @ #17 Stanford

#20 Texas A&M @ Auburn

#21 Boise State @ Wyoming

#22 Michigan @ Nebraska

#23 Texas @ Kansas

#24 Ohio @ Miami (OH)

Michigan State @ #25 Wisconsin

#6 LSU (Bye)

#19 West Virginia (Bye)

Pac-12 Not Doing Itself Any Favors

The Huskies' win over Stanford has cast some serious shadows over the Pac-12's National Championship hopes.

Thursday night’s 17-13 loss to Washington has cast a cloud over not only #8 Stanford and its chances of being selected to play in the BCS National Championship Game, but also the Pac-12’s chances as a conference.

For a conference that was considered the only viable competition to the dominant SEC ahead of the season, things are looking less than clear now.

Decoding the Pac-12

Just two weeks ago, the Cardinal upset USC, denting the Trojans’ own chances of going to the Championship Game. In the process, Stanford staked a claim to be the team that would head to Miami Gardens in January. Admittedly, it was a loose claim. Stanford after all struggled to beat San Jose State in Week 1.

Ahead of Week 4, UCLA looked to be putting their names forward for consideration, but a loss to Oregon State suggested that it’s a little too early to consider the Bruins as serious contenders.

Oregon State meanwhile has gone 2-0 with two wins over ranked opposition. Not a bad start. But can the Beavers keep that pace up? Probably not, although oddsmakers have slashed odds of a BCS championship from 500/1 in the preseason to 75/1 this week.

So that leaves Oregon. Having been considered second fiddle to USC during all of the preseason, the Ducks are now considered the Pac-12’s best chance for a national title. Preseason odds of 10/1 have steadily shortened to 13/2 heading into this week’s action.

The Ducks have looked solid so far this season, averaging close to 53 points per game. But critics could argue that Oregon has yet to play anybody of merit. Sure, they defeated Arizona 49-0 last week, but Arizona’s inclusion on the AP poll was less than solidified. Had the likes of Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska played better this season, it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats appearing on that list.

For Oregon, the big challenge comes on November 3, with a visit to USC. That is of course if the Ducks can get by Washington next week. A loss to the Cougars would effectively write off National Championship hopes this year.

Week 5 Pac-12 Schedule

After Washington’s upset win over Stanford, here’s what else is on tap this Saturday. Both USC and Utah are on a bye week.

Arizona State (3-1, 0-1 road, 1-0 Pac-12) @ California (1-3, 1-1 home, 0-1 Pac-12)

4:00 PM ET / 1:00 PM PT

The Sun Devils will be looking to continue their strong start to the season with a win over a struggling Golden Bears team. Arizona State currently leads the South division by way of USC’s loss to Stanford and Arizona’s loss to Oregon. Still, the team opened as underdogs in this one, before odds flipped in their favor. The Sun Devils are currently narrow favorites (-1) with the over/under set at 58. There’s certainly money to be made on this game.

UCLA (3-1, 1-0 road, 0-1 Pac-12) @ Colorado (1-3, 0-2 home, 1-0 Pac-12)

6:00 PM ET / 3:00 PM PT

A loss to Oregon State last week saw UCLA’s two week tenure in the AP Polls come to an end. A win against Colorado this week could, but probably won’t, see the Bruins return to the rankings. UCLA enters the game as favorites (-21) and are expected to make easy work of a Colorado team that has looked poor this season. Only a 35-34 win over Washington State last week prevented the Buffaloes from starting the season 0-4. The over/under is 60, with UCLA expecting to accumulate most of those points.

#18 Oregon State (2-0, 1-0 road, 1-0 Pac-12) @ Arizona (3-1, 3-0 home, 0-1 Pac-12)

10:00 PM ET / 7:00 PM PT

Arizona enjoyed two weeks in the AP Poll before losing big to Oregon last week. Oregon State may have only played two, but the Beavers have knocked off two ranked teams (Wisconsin, UCLA) and is sitting pretty heading into this game.

Oddsmakers have the Wildcats as favorites (-3) heading into this one, so they’ve yet to be bowled over by the Beavers’ performances. This games figures to be a close one. The over/under is 61. A win for Arizona will see the Wildcats flirting with the AP poll once again. A win for Oregon State will cement the team’s AP approved credentials.

#2 Oregon (4-0, 0-0 road, 1-0 Pac-12) @ Washington State (2-2, 1-1 home, 0-1 Pac-12)

10:30 PM ET / 7:30 PM PT

Whether Oregon remains the Pac-12’s last remaining hope against the dominance of the SEC remains to be seen. This week the Ducks head out on the road for the first time. Despite the travel north, Oregon are big favorites (-32) over the Cougars. The over/under is 74. Oddsmakers are expecting this to be a high-scoring one-sided affair, just like Oregon’s previous four.