Last week, we pointed out that an undefeated Oregon, almost undoubtedly, will finish ahead of Florida State in the BCS rankings. This week’s “embrace debate” narrative seems to be questioning whether those two teams should reach the game ahead of Alabama. The Tide, with a back-loaded schedule, have been relatively quiet. But, no, there is no way either Florida State or Oregon would have a case to get in ahead.
Here’s a breakdown of Alabama’s schedule compared to FSU and Oregon, using Football Perspective’s SRS rankings. We threw in Ohio State and Baylor for discussion’s sake. Notions Alabama could or should be shut out of a BCS title game are absurd.
Alabama did not get the strongest SEC schedule. However, you don’t need PAWL to confirm it’s still an SEC schedule. So far, the Tide have one top-caliber win, Texas A&M. But they still play LSU (BCS No. 13), Auburn (BCS No. 9) and, as of right now, Missouri (BCS No. 8). Considering schedule strength, that would give Alabama four wins roughly on par with FSU’s win over Clemson. Said win may have been “more dominant.” But, margin of victory doesn’t factor into the computer polls. The margin was not enough to overturn Alabama’s (and Oregon’s) human advantage when it happened. Alabama has the lead in the human polls. They will end up with the strongest schedule strength, most likely. They will go to the BCS title game, undefeated and deserve to do so.
Oregon, winning out, would be the second-place team. The Ducks also have a back-loaded schedule in a strong Pac 12. They have two top 20-ish games against Stanford and (we presume) Arizona State. The other three games are against solid bowl teams. Oregon is behind FSU in schedule strength right now, as reflected by the computer polls. However, the Ducks may end up with six or seven wins roughly on par with Florida State’s second best, Miami. FSU needs to pass Oregon in the human polls. Blowout wins over Clemson and Miami made only a marginal scratch in the Ducks’ advantage.
Florida State looks like an awesome team. The problem is their schedule. The ACC is weaker than the SEC or the Pac 12 this year. The Seminoles play a weak ACC schedule within the ACC, facing six of eight games against the bottom seven. The Noles’ schedule strength advantage will erode with the next three games: Wake Forest, Syracuse and Idaho. Beating neither a six-win Florida nor Miami again will help neither their human ranking nor their computer ranking.
One could argue, position by position, the Seminoles may be the best team in college football. Next time don’t be content scheduling Nevada, Bethune-Cookman and Idaho when you play in the ACC Atlantic.
Ohio State finally discovered it needed to run up the score. But it is too late to help them. Their schedule is even worse than it looked preseason. The Buckeyes’ second-best regular season win could be a seven or eight-win Michigan team. Ohio State needs to hope for losses above them and for Wisconsin and Michigan State to win out. It stinks to go undefeated two years in a row and miss out. But, again, it was their choice to schedule Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal and an FCS team.
Baylor has not played anyone of note yet. Their best win thus far is Kansas State. The trouble is they have good, but not great games remaining in a muddled Big 12. They also don’t get the additional top-caliber opponent boost with a title game. The Bears can’t propel themselves into the Oregon/Alabama discussion. What they could do is pass Ohio State. Five wins better than Michigan should move them ahead of the Buckeyes in schedule strength. They could pass them in the human polls as well. But that seems less likely. How valuable will blowing out Texas be viewed if Ole Miss and BYU already did it?
Arguing the merits of these teams playing for the title is far less preferable to watching these teams play for it. A four-team playoff amidst the uncertainty is better. An eight-team that accounted for all big five conference champions would be best.
[Photo via USA Today Sports]