Playoffs versus Polls - Week Fourteen
As mentioned here last week, and articulated further by Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, the most fascinating thing heading into conference championship week is what had developed in that fourth seed area. Obviously there is no four-team playoff to be concerned with this time around but the situation made itself alarmingly evident. Georgia had really screwed themselves by making the SEC title game. In a playoff year, this is perfectly clear. A loss this weekend to Alabama would drop Georgia outside the top four in the nation while Muschamp’s crew sits idly by and gets a free berth into the playoffs. But this state of affairs has some relevance to the 2012 season as well. Florida will receive an at-large berth into a BCS bowl game without a doubt. They are fourth in the entire nation. However, the Alabama-Georgia loser will not. This is certainly a chance they both want to take this season because the winner is going to the National Championship to play Notre Dame. But the fact remains that the loser would have been much better off not making the conference title tilt in the first place.
Another season still remains between now and when the playoff will be in effect. Hopefully some folks think through the rules and credentials they wish to have in place. Does a team need to win their own division (let alone the conference) to make the playoffs? Will conference championship games continue to affect final standings when they insert unbalanced schedules into one versus one comparisons? Will Nick Saban take Coach Muschamp up on his offer and have the Crimson Tide switch places with the Gators and secure themselves a BCS bowl berth? …Alright, well we probably at least know the answer to that last one.
As for the rest of the games on tap, Stanford faces off against UCLA for the second straight week. Even with the advantage of a 13th game over the likes of LSU, Kansas State, and Oregon, it appears as though Stanford may be too far behind to reach that final top four with a win. Especially since there are so many one-loss teams that will not play again.
Kansas State is not one of those teams. Their 12th game is this Saturday, against Texas. A win guarantees them the Big 12 title and a trip to a BCS bowl. The same goes for the Nebraska-Wisconsin game which, ironically, is still being tabbed as the “Big 10 Championship Game” even though neither of the two best teams in that conference is playing in it.
One more thing to keep an eye on this weekend: the MAC title game between #17 Kent State and #21 Northern Illinois. First of all, both teams are 11-1 and 8-0 in conference. It should be a pretty exciting game. But, more importantly, because of a little known rule, the winner here could make a BCS game. If a non-automatic-qualifying team finishes in the top 16 and is ahead of one of the AQ champions (in this case, the Big East champion), they get an at-large berth in a BCS bowl, no questions asked. So since neither Louisville nor Rutgers will hop back into the 16 with a win, if Kent State was to win and finish the year ranked 16 or higher, they will make the BCS. The bowl hosts will not like this, especially for television ratings, but it should make for a great story if it happens.
Oh, and in some final news, Notre Dame won again thanks to a great goal-line stand and some shoddy coaching by Lane Kiffin. They will likely face Alabama in the National Championship in what can only mean next year is 1978.
AOTM Predicted BCS Top Two:
(1) Notre Dame vs. (2) Alabama
AOTM Predicted Playoff Top Four:
(1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Kansas State; (2) Alabama vs. (3) Florida