Playoffs versus Polls - Week Ten
We here at College Sports Madness we pride ourselves on our accuracy and knowledge of the football landscape. With so much uncertainty in the world of amateur athletics, it is oftentimes hard to know what to believe, what is bound to continue and what is going to inevitably fail. For the past five editions of this column, I have had the predicted playoff foursome as Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State. Each week, with whatever has transpired, this has remained constant: an ever-changing backdrop did little to sway my predictive talents. And thus, by this first week of November, the BCS top four matches my own (albeit in a slightly different order, but more on this in a moment). I stood strong through SEC contenders; I held fast to my Big 12 pick when others seemed destined to overtake them. I even held on to those Catholics without a conference to call their own, knowing that defense wins championships.
All this is to say that, in the predictably unpredictable world of college football, for one week (and one week alone?) I nailed one! Now please allow me a moment to stretch…my arm is sore from patting myself on the back.
In more practical matters, the top four is set in a land where only one and two are relevant. When this week’s BCS standings came out and Oregon had dropped to number four, people panicked. This was bad news for the Ducks. They keep winning and keep getting passed anyway. To make matters worse, their two biggest rivals remaining on the schedule had also lost. USC went down in dramatic fashion on the same day Oregon State fell by a field goal margin. The Ducks’ chances for good wins had been tarnished beyond repair, people were saying on Sunday and Monday. However, taking a closer look, it seems pretty obvious that Oregon is still in the best position to finish second overall and gain a berth in the National Championship.
With just 11 ten-thousandths of a point currently separating Oregon from number three Notre Dame, it seems like the Ducks would jump the Irish with a win Saturday against USC, even with USC dropping a bit. The other, clearly relevant point here is that Notre Dame only has one big opponent left on their slate: those same rankings-dropping USC Trojans. There is no way an undefeated Oregon team will finish behind an undefeated Notre Dame team.
That just leaves Colin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats in the way of Oregon and the title game. Right now, KSU is up a solid margin in the standings, buoyed by their number one overall ranking according to the computers (yes, ahead of even Alabama). Kansas State’s remaining schedule has two road games and two games against ranked opponents, neither of which is ranked inside the top 20. There will be no title game since the Big 12 only has 10 teams. So the Wildcats have, relatively speaking, an easy schedule the rest of the way. Suddenly Oregon’s “tarnished strength of schedule” seems oddly imposing. After playing USC this weekend, Oregon still has games at Cal, against #14 Stanford and on the road at #11 Oregon State, followed by a likely Pac-12 title game. By leaps and bounds, Oregon’s remaining schedule is the toughest (and biggest resume builder) out of any of the top teams.
You can even throw Alabama into that mix, who probably have the worst remaining schedule of the quartet. The Crimson Tide plays no one of note after their trip to LSU this Saturday. They could conceivably finish fourth on the final computer rankings (they are already in third at the moment). If this happens, the argument will be brought up by somebody that Alabama only got into the National Championship because of their preseason ranking. The ensuing years of playoffs will hopefully destroy this argument in the future, even though the preseason rankings are oddly impactful now. Why drop a team from where they started if they keep winning?
Tangents aside, if all four teams play out their seasons successfully, based on quality of remaining opponents and conference title game opportunities, it appears as though Oregon is still perfectly in line to make the BCS title.
AOTM Predicted BCS Top Two:
(1) Alabama vs. (2) Oregon
AOTM Predicted Playoff Top Four:
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Kansas State; (2) Oregon vs. (3) Notre Dame