This is my attempt at explaining the current BCS scenarios for 2009, and Iowa's chances at earning an at-large berth in a BCS game. Let me make one thing clear from the onset:
NONE OF THIS WILL MATTER IF IOWA LOSES TO MINNESOTA THIS COMING WEEKEND.
(Most of you probably know all of this stuff at the beginning - feel free to skip down below the BCS Standings table to get to the meat & potatoes of the post).
Now, to start, here are the games and their conference affiliations:
- National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl: BCS #1 vs. BCS #2
- Rose Bowl Game: Big Ten Champion vs. Pac-10 Champion
- FedEx Orange Bowl: ACC Champion vs. At-Large*
- AllState Sugar Bowl: SEC Champion vs. At-Large*
- Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 Champion vs. At-Large*
*The Big East Champion is guaranteed to receive on of these At-Large berths, as they are not contractually tied to any of the individual participating games, despite being a member of the BCS alliance.
Two other provisions affect automatic berth as well, regarding Notre Dame and teams from "Non-BCS" conferences:
- Notre Dame is entitled to an automatic berth if it finishes in the top 8 of the final BCS standings at the end of the regular season.
- One automatic berth will be awarded to a team from a Non-BCS conference if:
- The team finishes in the top 12 of the final BCS standings;
- The team finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings, and ahead of any one BCS conference champion.
Also, by rule, the games that loses their automatic conference champion affiliates to the National Championship Game get to make the first At-Large selections - #1, then #2.
Now then, here are the current BCS standings:
|4||TCU||Mountain West (Non AQ)||10-0||0.8685|
|6||Boise State||Western Athletic (Non AQ)||10-0||0.795|
|10||Ohio State||Big Ten||9-2||0.6495|
|12||Oklahoma State||Big 12||8-2||0.4708|
|14||Penn State||Big Ten||9-2||0.4127|
|21||Utah||Mountain West (Non AQ)||8-2||0.191|
|22||Brigham Young||Mountain West (Non AQ)||8-2||0.1874|
|24||Houston||Conference USA (Non AQ)||8-2||0.115|
Some truths around which I am operating:
- Florida and Alabama will meet on Dec. 5th in the SEC Championship game. Given that these teams are #1 and 2 in the BCS standings, if both come into this game undefeated the winner will play for the National Championship; the loser will not fall very far and will likely be the first to be selected for an at-large berth. 1 of 4 At-Large berths gone.
- TCU's two remaining games are against Wyoming and New Mexico, teams that have a combined record of 5-15. TCU will not lose, and will finish well within the top 12 of the final standings. 2 of 4 At-Large berths gone.
- Another BCS rule is that no more that two teams from any one conference can participate. LSU will be barred based on Florida and Alabama both being selected.
Now then, with the above considerations, just four of the ten slots are currently spoken for:
1. Florida/Alabama winner in the National Title Game
2. Florida/Alabama loser At-Large, likely the Sugar Bowl
3. Ohio State in the Rose Bowl
4. TCU At-Large
Four more spots will be spoken for, with certain caveats, to be described shortly:
5. ACC Champion
6. Big East Champion
7. Pac-10 Champion
8. Big 12 Champion
Leaving just two "true" At-Large berths for all the nation to fight over. Let's now discuss this by conference:
- Boise State - Boise State is in the precarious position of being well within the terms of receiving an automatic berth based on their #6 standing, much higher than the #12 or higher stipulated by rule; but having TCU ahead of them can keep them out - the rule says that only ONE slot is required for teams in this category. What Boise does have going for it, though, is their fabulous upset of Oklahoma in their previous BCS appearance, in 2007. Their fans traveled very well, considering the distance and the size of their school. They should finish undefeated, as their three remaining opponents are a combined 13-17, and may be an attractive team to select, particularly to repeat in the Fiesta Bowl.
Best case scenario for Iowa: Boise State gets upset in one of their three remaining games - At Utah State, home vs. Nevada, home vs. New Mexico State. Not likely to happen.
- Georgia Tech - Georgia Tech is the clear favorite to win the conference, as they have only one loss on the season, at least 2 fewer than all other ACC teams. They have already clinched their division, and will play for the ACC Championship vs. either Clemson or Boston College on Dec. 5th. However, if the Yellowjackets are upset in the ACC title game, they will still be a strong candidate for one of the two remaining At-Large BCS Berths. Their only other game remaining will be hosting 6-4 Georgia in a non-conference rivalry game.
- Clemson - Clemson has the inside track to win their division, punching their ticket to a rematch with Georgia Tech in the ACC title game if they beat 3-7 Virginia at home next weekend. The only other game remaining is a non-conference rivalry game at South Carolina.
- Boston College - Boston College needs a bit of help to overtake Clemson in the Atlantic Division race: they must defeat 7-3 North Carolina at home, and win at 2-8 Maryland, and Virginia needs to pull off a shocker at Clemson to send the Eagles to the ACC Championship Game.
Best case scenario for Iowa: Georgia Tech beats the pants off of either Clemson or Boston College in the ACC Title game on Dec. 5th.
Big 12 Teams
- Texas - Texas will clinch the Big 12 South with one more win at home over 5-5 Kansas or at 5-5 Texas A&M; or else an Oklahoma State loss. If Texas finishes undefeated, winning the South Division, and then the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 5th, they will play against the SEC Champion for the National Championship, giving the Fiesta Bowl the second At-Large selection. However, if Texas is upset in the Big 12 Championship Game or loses the South Division to Oklahoma State, they will still be a virtual lock for one of the BCS At-Large berths themselves, taking another chance away from Iowa.
- Oklahoma State - Oklahoma State has a VERY long shot at overcoming the Longhorns to win the Big 12 South: They must win both of their remaining games hosting 3-7 Colorado and at 6-4 Oklahoma, and Texas must be upset in one of their two remaining games detailed above. However, if Oklahoma State and Texas both win out, the Cowboys will be another attractive at-large candidate at 10-2. The best thing that can happen for Iowa is for Oklahoma State to lose again.
- Nebraska or Kansas State - Both of these teams would only make the BCS by upsetting the Big 12 South champion on Dec. 5th. They first play each other this next weekend, and the winner will take the North Division title. Nebraska is currently 7-3, and Kansas State is currently 6-5 and faces the strong possibility of not being selected for ANY bowl at 6-6 if they lose to Nebraska.
Best Case Scenario for Iowa: Texas pummels all of its remaining opponents and makes the National Championship game, and Oklahoma State loses one more - either to on-the-hot-seat Dan Hawkins' Buffaloes (the team theoretically could play lights out to save their coach's job); or to former Iowa player and assistant Bob Stoops' Sooners.
Big East Teams
- Cincinnati - Cincinnati is undefeated and the favorite to win the Big East for a second straight year. They have only one conference game remaining, but it's at their lone threat to lose the conference, Pittsburgh. Their only other remaining game is hosting hapless 3-7 Illannoy. If Pittsburgh upsets the Bearcats on December 5th, though, they will still be a virtual lock for an At-Large berth at 10-1, taking another chance away from Iowa.
- Pittsburgh - As stated above, Pittsburgh can win the Big East by upsetting Cincinnati on December 5th. They must first get through their big rivalry game, though, the "Backyard Brawl" at 7-3 West Virginia. Pitt ruined WVU's National Championship shot in 2007, and the Mountaineers will be more than glad to return the favor and eliminate Pitt from the Big East title before it even faces Cincy. HOWEVER, Even if Pitt loses to Cincy, they are still an at-large threat if they beat West Virginia, as this would give them a final record of 10-2, the same as Iowa.
Best Case Scenario for Iowa: Pittsburgh loses both of its remaining games to West Virginia and Cincinnati.
The Pac-10 is a jumbled mess right now, and any number of things can still happen. FOUR teams remain in contention for the Pac-10's automatic berth to face Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
- Oregon - 8-2 Oregon controls its destiny in the Pac-10 race, as they still have to face two of the other candidates head-to-head. The Ducks face Arizona in Tuscon, and then host rival Oregon State in the "Civil War".
- Arizona - 6-3 Arizona also controls its destiny as they host Oregon, then finish on the road at Arizona State and at fallen USC, both still very dangerous games.
- Oregon State - 7-3 Oregon State finishes with 2 games on the road, at Bob Barker-Neutered 1-9 Washington State and at Oregon in the aforementioned "Civil War" rivalry game.
- Stanford - 7-3 Stanford can only win the conference with a lot of help in the above teams' games - they've played all of these opponents already, and lost to both ‘Zona and the Beavers. Stanford gets both Cal and non-conference Notre Dame at home to finish.
This is the best I can summarize the Pac-10: Arizona wins the conference if they win out. Oregon wins the conference if they win out. Oregon State wins the conference if they win out and Arizona loses one. Stanford wins the conference if they beat Cal and both Arizona and Oregon State lose one. (The tiebreakers are too numerous to list).
Best Case Scenario for Iowa: Oregon wins the title. Any other team winning would put Oregon out there as a 9-3 at-large, one less win than Iowa's 10, but they are a "feel-good" story with their pasting of USC and their "overcoming adversity" after the opening loss to Boise State.
So then, to summarize, these are the conference favorites, and the teams Iowa wants to actually win each conference:
- Georgia Tech in the ACC
- Cincinnati in the Big East
- Texas in the Big 12
- Oregon in the Pac-10
Upsets leading to other champions in these conferences cause these teams to still be dangers for taking at-large spots.
The other ‘dangerous teams' for taking At-Large spots are as follows - we want these teams to LOSE BIG:
- Oklahoma State, Big 12
- Pittsburgh, Big East
- Boise State, Western Athletic (Non-BCS)
- Stanford (Finishing 9-3 at best, they are riding big-time momentum in the polls, and could be boosted ahead of Iowa with this record).
- Penn State and Wisconsin - the injustice of the polls - we beat both of these teams on the road, and they still creep dangerously close to us. Here's hoping that bowl committees have more sense than voters - I have faith that they do, though.
My prediction: Iowa vs. TCU in the Fiesta Bowl
Alabama heads off to the Sugar Bowl with the first At-Large pick. Iowa is selected second in Texas' place, owing to their rabid fan base and domination of other BCS-ranked teams Arizona, Penn State and Wisconsin. The Sugar Bowl isn't terribly keen on TCU, and instead opts for 10-2 Oklahoma State, leaving the Fiesta no choice but to take TCU, per BCS rules.