The blogpoll roundtable has come around again!
The Nebraska blog Big Red Network is hosting this week's Roundtable with the theme of the havoc that Professor Chaos wrecked on week 5 of the college football season. With four highly ranked teams going down this weekend, we answer questions about which of those team's title game hopes are the strongest, what about those Buckeyes, and mid major hopefuls.
Q. Of the four presumed national title contenders to go down this past week -- USC, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin -- which team has the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year?
Well, of the four, the team with the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year is the winner of the Georgia vs. Florida game on November 1. That's assuming, of course, that both teams can successfully navigate a gauntlet of tough games before they face one another.
Oh, and we also forgot to mention, there's that little hurtle they'll have to overcome called the SEC Championship Game, which will likely be a rematch with either Alabama, Auburn or LSU. Whoever emerges out of the SEC West will undoubtedly be ranked in the Top 5, as the SEC is god's gift to college football.
Florida, on the other hand, has it a bit easier, but not by much. They have to navigate a schedule that includes tough games against Kentucky, at #11 Georgia, and at #19 Vanderbilt. Luckily for the Gators, they will most likely coast through the second half of November with South Carolina, The Citadel and at Florida State. The knock on Florida will be that it lost to a much weaker opponent than Georgia did last week. Still, the team that wins Georgia vs. Florida will have the easiest road to the title game given their strength of schedule as compared to other teams with 1 or 2 loss.
But as LSU showed last season, it doesn't necessarily mean that you'll be shut out of the big game if you lose a second regular season game. The thing about that though is you can't lose to one of these other title contenders, which are essentially BCS National Championship elimination games. If the Bulldogs do get tripped up a second time this season, it will have to be to a non-title game contender like Kentucky or Georgia Tech. It absolutely can't be against an LSU, Florida or Auburn. Same with Florida ... lose a little late in the season to a Kentucky or a South Carolina and still win the SEC, you might still be in. Drop a second game to Georgia or LSU and you're out.
USC will find it tough to get back into the title game picture, given that they might not play another ranked team the rest of the season. They have #23 Oregon at home this weekend, and the only other team that has a chance to play their way back into being ranked is (don't laugh) Notre Dame. Notre Dame, currently sitting at 3-1, play such BCS conference bottom feeders as Stanford, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Washington (4 more wins), have a winnable game against Navy, and a toss up game in Chapel Hill with the T.J. Yates-less Tar Heels. The Irish could quite possibly be 9-2 or 8-3 going into their regular season finale in LA.
Anyhow, back to USC ... without a Pac 10 championship game to add another win over a ranked opponent to your resume, and without the strength of schedule that Georgia or Florida have the rest of the way out, it would have to be, by my estimation, mass chaos at the top of the polls for the Trojans to play their way back into the championship game.
And Wisconsin? Be serious. Pfft.
Q. But what does this mean for Ohio State? Are they back in?
Sorry, Buckeyes. Ohio State still isn't back in it after all the upsets last week. Unless there are NO other teams that have 1 loss in the ACC, Big XII, Pac 10 or SEC, the Buckeyes aren't making it back to the Title game for the third straight year. The reason a 1 loss Big XII or SEC team gets in over Ohio State is because of the strength of schedule the conference champion faced over the course of the season will be much stronger than Ohio State's road. Jim Tressel's boys only have two more games against ranked opponents (this weekend against Wisconsin in Madison), and October 26 at home against #6 Penn State. A 1 loss Pac 10 champion gets in over the Buckeyes because of the way in which the Buckeyes lost to the Trojans in Southern California. Even a 1 loss ACC team (again, hold your laughter) might get in over Ohio State given that they will have to have won a championship game against (we hope) a ranked opponent.
In short, forecast doesn't look good for the Buckeyes.
Q. Did the week that was open the door for any of the undefeateds out of some of the non-BCS conferences like the Mountain West or the Big East? (Yup, that's a cheap shot. Thanks, Virginia Tech, for not allowing me to make it about the ACC.)
The BCS championship game appearance hopes of the Mountain West rest solely with BYU at this point, and even though I say hopes, it's really going to be a long shot. Having embarrassed the UCLA Bruins at home 59-0 and barely escaping Seattle with a win against another middling-to-terrible Pac 10 team, that's two wins against BCS competition that strengthens the Cougars title game hopes. Some would argue that you could add Utah into this mix with their win at Michigan to open the season, but Utah will have to knock off Oregon State this weekend and run the table, beating BYU in the last game of the season in the Battle of Mormon. Also Utah isn't ranked nearly as high as BYU currently, so it will be tough for Utah to gain ground in the AP and Coaches polls.
The good news for BYU and Utah is Boise State paved the way for mid majors by being the first mid major to go undefeated and win a BCS bowl two years ago. The bad? The more recent BCS crasher was last year's Hawaii team who had no business being in the Sugar Bowl, and who were quickly dispatched by Georgia.
While the Mountain West's title game hopes are slim (I'd give it only 5-10% chance of an undefeated Mountain West champion making the big game), we fully expect an undefeated (or one loss? I'm looking at you, TCU) team to make a BCS bowl.
Other mid major BCS hopefuls are Tulsa, Ball State, and Boise State. Each of those teams will certainly have to have an unblemished mark to even be considered for a BCS at-large, but chances are slim to none at this point.