An intriguing subplot is developing in college football this year, and it’s not SEC Referee-Gate. It’s not even the rise of Cincinnati, which this week looks to be less a result of the Bearcats being underrated as the Crimson Tide being overrated. No, it’s the very real possibility of a non-BCS school in TCU making the title game, in fourth place in the BCS standings and third in the C Ratings.
In a year of one of the largest gaps between the BCS and non-BCS conferences I’ve yet seen, TCU is in such a position that if Texas or the eventual SEC champion loses, you would normally expect them to move into the top two and the unprecedented heights of the BCS Championship Game. In the polls, that’s attributable to the Mountain West’s reputation, earned in years past, but this year BYU in particular is way overrated. It’s also attributable to the fact that the closest games they’ve played, Clemson and Air Force, were both road games. In the C Ratings, you can attribute their success to their games against Virginia and Clemson, both good ACC teams (the latter is finally ranked in the AP and Harris polls this week). Even in the BCS computers the Horned Frogs are just ahead of Texas for third, and the BCS computers don’t include margin of victory, and TCU hasn’t beaten an Oregon like Boise State.
Is TCU really that great? Or are they the beneficiary of a weak year across college football? There’s a growing consensus that Florida and Alabama are being propped up by the SEC officials. Texas has been doing their work quietly, and have been met with skepticism, especially after a lackluster effort against Colorado. Last year at this time TCU’s C Rating of 35.706 would be second behind Florida, but it wouldn’t be a five-point drop to the next team back; four teams had better C Ratings than what Cincinnati has now, and #6 Boise State’s 22.318 rating would be ninth last year.
Whatever happens, it could be an exciting end to the season. I suspect you may start seeing a growing movement to drop Florida and especially Alabama from their current perches, and to exclude them from the BCS Championship Game even if they go undefeated (and I’m a little surprised it hasn’t started already; even in the usually more trustworthy AP poll, Texas has one fewer first-place vote than Alabama). And if the Big Three start losing and TCU and Cincinnati keep winning, it’ll be exciting to watch. Either a team from a conference many see as weak will go into the national championship game, causing riots among the big boys, or a one-loss team will sneak into the national championship game, causing the Mountain West to moan “What do we have to do?!?” and the Big East to start thinking about what the BCS really means to them.
How the C Ratings are tabulated: First, A Ratings are tabulated by multiplying the total score ratio, which is expressed by (points-opponents’ points)/points, by the winning percentage. Score ratio minimizes the effect of running up the score. Next, B Points for each game are tabulated by (margin of victory)/(opponent’s A rating)+/-1 for wins, and -(margin of loss)/(1-opponent’s A Rating)+/-1 for losses. The “+/-” is + for road games and – for home ones. The total number of B Points is multiplied by the A Rating to get the B Rating. Conference Ratings are tabulated by averaging the B Ratings of all teams in the conference. (Independents are counted separately, and Army and Navy are counted as one conference.) Finally, the C Rating is tabulated by taking the difference between the team’s B Rating and his conference’s rating, taking a fraction of that equal to the fraction of Division I-A the conference makes up, and taking the result off the B Rating. The three ratings go A, B, C across. Click here to see the complete ratings.
|1 (1)||Texas (9-0)
Big 12 Leader
|.823||51.968||46.017||Only three more games to go, and Texas A&M is the only one with more than one conference win. But the Big 12 Title Game might turn out to be a trap game…|
|2 (2)||Florida (9-0)
|.823||43.618||39.055||The SEC Title Game matchup is already set. But that doesn’t make games like the Spurrier Bowl any less important. Any more bailouts and it could hurt them in the polls.|
|3 (4)||TCU (9-0)
|.816||40.925||35.706||TCU could make it into the National Championship Game without the other non-BCS teams having a clue how they did it. But with the possible exception of Clemson, no team all year will be as tough as Utah, even at home.|
|4 (3)||Cincinnati (9-0)
Big East Leader
|.776||32.418||30.107||Cincinnati’s rating had been inflated by an all-blowout slate, but the UConn win may have earned them respect – even ESPN’s CFB Live compared their credentials favorably to Texas. If only people didn’t start calling the Big East a mid-major…|
|5 (5)||Alabama (9-0)||.788||30.598||27.337||You know you’re in trouble when you beat the third-best SEC team by more than a score and your C Rating goes down. If Alabama sneaks into the SEC Championship and gets bull-rushed into the national title game there will be revolt.|
|6 (7)||Boise State (9-0)||.794||26.882||22.318||Beating a 3-6 squad by only ten points is one reason Boise State isn’t benefitting from Oregon’s success. There’s also the little niggling matter of Oregon losing a game.|
|7 (11)||Ohio State (8-2)
Big Ten Leader
|.613||20.637||17.667||Hey, look! Ohio State actually won a big game! What Purdue loss? If they can beat Iowa, might they actually have a shot at winning the Rose Bowl with USC out of the way?|
|8 (10)||Pittsburgh (8-1)||.653||18.594||17.204||Here’s a thought: If Cincinnati goes undefeated thru the Pittsburgh game and loses there, and Texas or the SEC champion lose, do Big East backers start wondering about Pitt’s case for the national title game?|
|9 (6)||Oregon (7-2)
|.520||16.367||13.542||If only Washingtonians had a chance to see at least a re-air of the Stanford game without Fox College Sports! Oregon still has the Pac-10 lead, but it’ll be in serious jeopardy against Arizona in two weeks.|
|10 (12)||Virginia Tech (6-3)
|.436||15.489||12.905||Georgia Tech keeps being overrated, and Virginia Tech keeps being underrated. And in an odd way, V-Tech fans are now Duke fans: Duke winning out is the only way the Hokies even have an outside shot at the ACC Title Game.|
|11 (9)||Iowa (9-1)||.571||13.138||10.855||The Hawkeyes lose, but Penn State’s loss ends up keeping them in second in the Big Ten. If computers factored in MoV the Buckeyes would have the BCS lead too. Now for an effective Big Ten title game.|
|12 (8)||Penn State (8-2)||.595||13.074||10.797||Despite losing to a better team, the Nittany Lions fall behind Iowa because the Hawkeyes kept it closer. Indiana and Michigan State now mean little more than keeping them warmed up for the Outback Bowl.|
|13 (14)||LSU (7-2)||.509||9.770||8.593||LSU will recover from the Alabama game by beating Louisiana Tech while scouting their likely Capitol One Bowl opponent, the loser of the Ohio State-Iowa game.|
|14 (16)||Clemson (6-3)||.447||8.439||6.560||While the Coastal division is led by a team that’s grossly overrated, Clemson is cruising to the Atlantic title – assuming they can win out. That sort of clarity is remarkably rare in the ACC these days.|
|15 (13)||Oklahoma (5-4)||.360||7.818||6.282||Oklahoma isn’t even bowl eligible yet, but the seven-point loss to Nebraska was the worst of the year, and the one game they lost to a team in negative B Points (BYU) was by a point on a neutral site. The Cotton Bowl is doubtful, though.|
|16 (15)||Georgia Tech (9-1)||.566||6.874||5.152||Anyone who propelled G-Tech even higher in the polls didn’t notice that they won by three, at home, to a team that needs to win out to become bowl eligible. I smell a road trip to Duke being a trap game that robs them of the Coastal.|
|17 (17)||Texas Tech (6-3)||.448||6.487||5.083||No change in ranking despite the week off. But Oklahoma State, which is becoming a bit of a rivalry, will definitely be a litmus test game. Not as much as the Sooners, though, even without Sam Bradford.|
|18 (18)||Nebraska (6-3)||.462||6.220||4.844||Beat Oklahoma, but by a score at home, and still not ranked in the polls, perhaps because Oklahoma wasn’t ranked either. But they can lose to Kansas and still control their own Big 12 North destiny – but still, win if you want the respect you deserve.|
|19 (26)||Oklahoma State (7-2)||.526||5.683||4.360||Beating down Iowa State returns the Cowboys to the Top 25, and the rest of the schedule is very interesting. They play a team just two spots better this week, then after Colorado comes Bedlam against a team four spots better.|
|20 (25)||Miami (FL) (7-2)||.474||3.664||2.263||Big beatdown over Virginia gives the Canes breathing room, and the Hurricanes have a clearer path to the Coastal than Virginia Tech does. The Hokies know UNC is a trap game and Duke still awaits a week later in a critical game.|
|21 (19)||USC (7-2)||.507||3.915||2.128||A single Oregon loss to Stanford won’t give USC the Pac-10, but beating the Cardinal themselves would send a big statement, and get rid of one potential Pac-10 title suitor. But the 2007 team knows how dangerous it is to play Stanford in the Coliseum…|
|22 (20)||Notre Dame (6-3)||.395||2.014||2.014||In defense of Charlie Weis, two years ago Notre Dame was the laughingstock of college football, last year they were 6-6, this year they need one more win to top that mark. But all three chances won’t be easy.|
|23 (23)||Tennessee (5-4)||.336||2.226||1.803||Had I written this earlier in the week I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to remark on some of Lane Kiffin’s players being charged for armed robbery. Tennessee is a win away from bowl eligibility and two from the Outback Bowl; will they be allowed to go?|
|24 (22)||Arizona (6-2)||.485||3.107||1.387||Oregon’s loss to Stanford doesn’t really change much of anything, at least right now; the game between the Ducks and Wildcats is still an effective Pac-10 title game with no more losses by either side, and USC still looms on Arizona’s schedule.|
|25 (21)||Utah (8-1)||.609||3.600||1.180||Beat New Mexico handily but still get penalized for the effective bye week. And if any one team in the Mountain West is the opposite of New Mexico, it’s TCU. (Why is this game on CBS College Sports?)|
29 teams total with positive C Rating (none with negative B Rating)
Off Top 25: #28 West Virginia (was #24)
2006 Boise State Title: #36 Stanford (6-3), .417, .040, -1.425
Watch List: #26 Oregon State*, #27 Fresno State, #28 West Virginia, #29 Connecticut
Other Positive B Ratings: #32 Air Force, #33 Wisconsin*, #35 Houston, #36 Stanford*, #40 Northern Illinois (*=Newly Positive)
No Longer Positive: #43 Temple
Bottom 10: #111 Miami (OH), #112 Memphis, #113 San Jose State, #114 New Mexico State, #115 Tulane, #116 New Mexico, #117 Washington State, #118 Eastern Michigan, #119 Western Kentucky, #120 Rice
Best game of week: Iowa @ Ohio State, 12:30pm PT, ABC/ESPN2
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