The National Pulse:
This is the first week of the BCS rankings and as I could have probably predicted at the start of the year, some of the teams in the human poll do not jive with some of the teams in the BCS rankings. Florida, which has played exceptionally well to start the year is rated #2 in the initial BCS rankings and Oregon is rated #3. On the other hand, Oregon is #2 in the human polls while Florida is #3.
While I don’t want to give Alabama a free pass into the national title game, seeing as they have to win the games put in front of them just like every other team in FBS, but they are the most logical team to make it to Miami the way they have been systematically destroying teams in their path. If we assume that Alabama makes up one half of the national title game, the question becomes, who makes up the other half?
Intriguing cases can be made for teams like Oregon, Florida, Notre Dame, and Kansas State. Of these teams, the least likely to match up with Alabama would be Florida. No, I don’t have any aversion to coach Muschamp and the Gators. No, they would have just met in the SEC title game prior to the national championship. The loser of that game would more than likely be out of the race to play for the title.
If all of the teams listed were to win out, I would put them in the following order to match-up with Alabama: Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Florida. Again, I listed Florida last because a rematch with Alabama after playing in the SEC title game is not likely this year given that just such a scenario happened last year with LSU and Alabama.
The team with the best shot to square-off with the Crimson Tide would be the the Kansas State Wildcats. The Wildcats, if they were to go unbeaten the rest of the way, would have run through probably the second most difficult conference schedule in the country. Kansas State would have knocked off West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU, Iowa State, Kansas and Oklahoma State, not to mention a non-conference victory over Miami (FL). The sheer strength of the Wildcats schedule gives them a leg up over the rest of their competition. At this point, the Big 12 is a stronger conference than the PAC-12 to which Oregon belongs, or the Independent schedule that Notre Dame plays, although Notre Dame does have a tough schedule throughout.
My point from this is, the strength of your schedule is just as big a component into who plays for the national title as the eye-test would be. If you go undefeated in league play, but your conference is weak, how much does that really help you in the public’s perception? At this point, the Big Ten is facing just such a dilemma. The winner of the Big Ten title game is already considered inferior to their PAC-12 brethren. We can already assume that whoever wins the PAC-12 will be favored over the winner of the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl just by the how each of the members teams have fared both in and out of conference play.
Public perception can change with the wind. One week the team is ready to play for all the marbles, next week, they are discarded with last week’s garbage. People are fickle and change theirs minds quickly, what they can’t erase are who you beaten, lost to, and who you’ve played. When we stack them up next to each other, may the BCS get the right two teams, for the sake of college football, and fan-dom everywhere!