BCS Championship Game Contenders
by Trevor Whenham - 10/29/2008
It's almost November, so, incredibly, it isn't too soon to start looking forward to the BCS Championship Game. As is the case every year at the end of October, we can't really know which teams are going to be there - there are too many possibilities. That doesn't mean, though, that we can't speculate. Here is a look at the teams that could be playing for all the glory at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Jan. 8. The first three are more likely than the rest, but as we have seen in past years, anything can happen. They are arranged from the most likely participants in that game on down:
Penn State - The Nittany Lions are through the toughest part of their schedule. All they have left is Iowa, Indiana and Michigan State. They will be significantly favored in all three of those games, and they would have to have a very bad day to lose any one. That means that they are more than likely to wind up at 12-0. They are currently ranked No. 3 overall, and they have a much easier schedule than the two teams above them, so the only way that they will move up into the top two spots, and therefore the championship game, is if Texas or Alabama loses. We will look at that in more detail in a second, but it seems like a good bet that one of them will lose at some point. Ohio State in the last two years has shown that it is relatively easy for a Big Ten team to make the big game because of the lack of a championship game.
Texas - The Longhorns have proven that they are legitimate over the last few weeks by facing the heart of their very tough conference and, so far, emerging unscathed. They have four games plus the championship game left, but only two - the first and the last - are real challenges. Texas has to beat Texas Tech on the road this weekend, then win the championship game. Neither task will be easy, but winning both is all that stands between them and the championship game.
Alabama - The Crimson Tide are already in the second spot, so if they win then they are in. Like Texas, they have two real challenges remaining. They travel to LSU in Week 10, and then, if they make the championship game, it is likely to be against Florida or Georgia. You can't help to look back to 2005. In that year the Tide were 9-0 heading into a game against LSU. They lost then, and they could certainly lose again now. I would suggest that Alabama is more likely to lose than Texas, but either way the important thing is that it seems quite unlikely that both will succeed.
Texas Tech - The Red Raiders are a long shot, but they are the last team on this list to have their fate in their own hands. All they have to do is win out and they would get a shot. That will be much easier said than done, though. In the next three weeks they play Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. Surviving that would be a miracle, but then they would still have the Big 12 Championship Game. That's not going to happen, but the team doesn't need any help from anyone else.
USC - Like Penn State, the biggest thing the Trojans have going for them is that they don't have a conference championship game. They need a whole lot of things to fall in place for them to get a shot, though. First, they not only need to win out, but they need to crush their remaining opponents lifeless. They have five games remaining, and they need to win those five games by well over 100 points combined. Then they need Oregon State to lose one of their remaining games - if they don't then the Beavers would be conference champs and USC would have no choice. Next, they need at least two of the undefeated teams to lose. Next, they probably need a two-loss team to win the SEC, since the SEC is more respected than the Pac-10, so a one-loss SEC team would get the nod over one-loss USC.
Oklahoma - If you thought things were bleak for USC just wait until you see what Oklahoma has to overcome. They need to win out, of course, but they also need Texas to lose twice. Alabama or Penn State would have to lose, too. They would have to be particularly strong in their remaining games as well to seduce voters and get them to forget that the Sooners have been truly lousy in recent bowl games.
Florida State - The Seminoles are on this list because the possibility exists, but it's a very remote one. They need a whole lot to happen - they have to win out, and they need two undefeated teams, and probably USC and any one-loss SEC teams, to lose as well. They also need to find a way to move way up from their current No. 15 ranking in the AP poll in a hurry. It could happen, but it won't.
Other possibilities - Georgia or Florida to make it if they win out convincingly, they beat and undefeated Alabama team handily in the SEC Championship Game, and either Penn State or Texas loses. Theoretically, Utah or Boise State could make it if they won out convincingly and everyone above them self-destructed, but that's so unlikely that there is no point even worrying about it.