The season's first BCS rankings have been released, and I figure if TheKeyPlay.com has any chance to become a dominant force in the college football blogosphere it's about time for us to start talking about bowl games and who's going to square off in the BCS Championship Game. Let's face it: it's mid-October, we're halfway through the college football season, and the Hokies are bowl-eligible for their 19th straight year. We're late to the game! ESPN.com has had their bowl projections going since ... well, I think they've had them since January.
Seriously, though, I think there's alot of confusion among the casual football fans (and even among some of the serious college football fans) about how teams are selected by the BCS Bowls. I'm actually writing this post so my Hokie brethren will enjoy a leg-up during the second half of the season when they're talking with their uninformed friends about who's going to which BCS bowl. I hope this post sheds some light on the "rules" that determine who's eligible for a BCS bid at the end of the season.
Everyone knows that the top 2 teams ranked by the BCS will face off in the BCS Championship game - this year it's hosted in New Orleans on January 9th. Most people also know that the Big Ten & Pac-12 champs are slotted in the Rose Bowl, the Big 12 champ goes to the Fiesta Bowl, and the ACC champ slides into the Orange Bowl. What many people don't understand are the nuances of the qualification process for teams that aren't champions of those conferences. For the full details of what I'm about to go through, you can read the BCS Selection procedures at BCSFootball.org.
What I'm going to do is go through the selection process as if the season ended today using the freshly released BCS standings.
First off, a reminder of the BCS formula: the rankings are based the equally-weighted average of (1) the USA Today Coaches Poll, (2) the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, and (2) a computer average consisting of 7 computer rankings. Most of you already know this, and I won't dwell on how the BCS rankings are calculated, so let's take a look at this week's rankings:
LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma are clearly in a class of their own and are in the driver's seat to play for the BCS Championship. LSU and Alabama are both in the SEC West and face each other in a division game on November 5th. Should they both continue to play at the level they have been thus far, that matchup will likely be the defacto SEC championship game.
Now that we have the rankings, let's pretend the season ended today and figure out who would be going to what BCS bowls.
NOTE: For the purposes of this exercise I'm going to have make an assumption about the Alabama/LSU game, as it will be virtually impossible for them to meet the BCS Champaionship Game. Since they're in a virtual tie for first, I'm going to assume that Alabama beats LSU because the game is in Tuscaloosa, and that the top of the standings will look like:
- Oklahoma State
- Boise State
If the game was in Baton Rouge, I'd assume the Tigers would be the victor in this situation.
With that in mind, let's move onto the qualification process.
According to the rules, there are six ways teams can automatically qualify for a BCS bowl:
The top two teams in the final BCS Standings shall play in the National Championship Game.
In this hypothetical, that would be Alabama and Oklahoma, who we'll assume to have won the SEC and Big 12, respectively.
The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern conferences will have automatic berths in one of the participating bowls through the 2013 regular season
Taking the highest ranked teams from those conferences, you end up with Clemson, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Stanford, and Alabama.
The highest ranked champion of Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, or WAC if that champion is (a) ranked in the top 12 or (b) ranked in the top 16 and is ranked higher than a champion of one of the 6 auto-bid conferences mentioned in rule 2.
In this case, Boise State is ranked 5th, and thus would automatically qualify for a bid.
Notre Dame will have an automatic berth if it is in the top eight of the final BCS Standings.
I just scanned the BCS standings twice, I see neither the word Notre nor do I see the word Dame in the top 25, let alone the top 8. Let's move on.
If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier.
We still have 3 open slots, and LSU is (hypothetically) ranked 3rd. They are an automatic qualifier.
If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier.
EDIT: This rule doesn't apply, because LSU automatically qualified under rule 5.
At this point, we have 9 8 teams automatically qualifying for a BCS bid:
|Oklahoma||Big 12||Ranked 2nd**|
|Clemson||ACC||BCS Conference Champ|
|West Virginia||Big East||BCS Conference Champ|
|Wisconsin||Big Ten||BCS Conference Champ|
|Stanford||Pac-12||BCS Conference Champ|
|Boise State||Mtn West||Highest ranked non-AQ in top 12|
|LSU||SEC||BCS Conf team ranked 3rd**|
** NOTE: If you're confused by this, re-read my assumptions listed above.
There are two spots available for an at-large team in this situation. The short version of the rules for the pool of teams a bowl may choose, should they choose an at-large team:
- Team must have 9 or more wins.
- Is ranked in the top 14.
- Must not be the 3rd team from a conference. (eg: The SEC has 2 automatic qualifiers, so none of their other teams are eligible for at-large selection.)
Assuming they'd meet the first requirement, our eligible at-large pool includes: Oklahoma State, Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Nebraska.
At this point, we have our available teams and the BCS bowls can begin selecting from them after the following automatic assignments:
- Alabama and Oklahoma to the BCS Championship Game.
- Clemson to the Orange Bowl
- Wisconsin & Stanford to the Rose Bowl.
Because the Sugar Bowl lost the SEC champion (Alabama) to the Champsionship Game, they get to select a replacement team first. Let's assume they take LSU, as it's the obvious choice.
Likewise, because the Fiesta Bowl lost the Big 12 champion (Oklahoma) to the Championship game, they get to select a replacement team. Given the available teams (West Virginia, Boise State, and someone from the at-large pool listed above), I think the Fiesta would take Oklahoma State, Boise State, or Nebraska. The more obvious selection is Oklahoma State, although I think they'd seriously consider Nebraska or even Boise. Let's assume they take the Cowboys so that they have a Big 12 team coming to Glendale, Arizona.
At this point, we have 7 of the 10 slots filled through automatic berths and BCS Championship Game replacements. The Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta Bowls each all have one open slot, and that is the order they'll fill their open slots this year.
Given the draw of Husker Nation, and the fact that LSU & Oregon already played this season, I would surmise that the Sugar Bowl would select Nebraska from the at-large pool to play LSU. (Remember, Nebraska is a Big Ten school this year.) Could you imagine the ratings for a Nebraska/LSU match-up in the Sugar Bowl? That would be one of the most compelling bowl match-ups outside of the BCS Championship Game.
Since the Sugar went to the at-large pool, the Orange and Fiesta Bowls must choose between West Virginia and Boise State, as they're both automatic qualifiers and there are only two open slots left.
While West Virginia would bring more people than Boise to Miami, the Orange already has a great travelling fan base in Clemson. I bet they'd go for TV ratings and take Boise State, leaving the Fiesta Bowl with West Virginia. (Note: Let's say a smaller fanbase wins the ACC, say Georgia Tech or Wake Forest, though both of those don't look like likely title contenders right now; the Orange would definitely grab West Virginia in that situation. I just think Boise vs Clemson would be a sexier matchup for TV.)
Projected BCS Matchups
|BCS Champ Game||Oklahoma||Alabama|
|Fiesta Bowl||Oklahoma St||West Virginia|
|Orange Bowl||Clemson||Boise State|
I hope this helps shed light on the BCS selection process, and I hope it wasn't too hard to follow. The BCS procedures are a bit convoluted, but there is a certain method to its madness. If TKP readers are interested, perhaps I'll do these projections each week after the BCS rankings come out, using the guidelines dictated by the BCS folks.
EDIT: Thanks to pianobadger on reddit to pointing out my mistake on the 6th auto-qualification rule. I have made edits to the post to correct this. I originally had Oklahoma State as an automatic qualifier at #4. Any redditors who read this should throw some karma pianobadger's way.