01 November 2013

Review of NCAA Football in October of 2013

After the second month of the 2013 college football season, the early intra-conference games have filtered out the pretenders. As a result, only one conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference,  has more than one undefeated team remaining. Two possible non-automatic qualifiers remain undefeated. However, each conference has at least one team with one loss who can still win the conference crown with no help from others. In some cases, teams with two losses might manage to seize their conferences' crowns.  Plenty of drama and the possibility of upsets remain!

A potential disaster looms if teams currently without losses in the six major conferences (Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon, Baylor and either Florida State and Miami) all finish with perfect records. That scenario excludes two other possibly undefeated teams, Fresno State and Northern Illinois. Excluding multiple teams without any losses  from the national title game seems like a suitably cruel way to bring the curtain down on the BCS system. The BCS has rarely produced an undisputed match-up for the national championship. Why would anyone expect that to change in its final year of existence? 

American Athletic Conference: In the final year with an automatic bid for this tenuous collection of remnants of the Big East Conference and escapees from Conference USA, the race is wide open. Houston and Central Florida are the only members undefeated in conference play. However, four other teams here have just one loss in conference. The Cougars still have yet to pay three of those four in addition to UCF. Assuming the Knights, on their own home field following an open date, can defeat Houston,  UCF should breeze into regular season finale versus Southern Methodist with the conference championship and a BCS berth mostly likely already secured. 

Atlantic Coast Conference: At last, the ACC's two highest profile programs will face each other like they did before they were in the same conference. Both Florida State and Miami enter their annual grudge match undefeated and ranked in the top ten. Barring both of these teams being upset by any of the mediocre to horrible teams left on their conference slates, the ACC's bigwigs will finally enjoy what they expected since ten years ago: the Seminoles and Hurricanes squaring off as divisional winners with a possible shot at reaching the national title game for the winner. 

Big Twelve: In 2003, someone predicting that, ten years in the future, the Big Twelve's greatest chance of landing a team in the BCS title game rested in the hands of Baylor would have been outfitted with a straitjacket for some intensive mental health treatments. From serving as a guaranteed win for everyone else in the conference to being the sole undefeated member heading into November shows how high out of the muck the Bears have soared. Nevertheless, the Bears' shot at playing in Pasadena for the final BCS title seems very unlikely at best. They have yet to play the only other undefeated team in conference games (Texas) nor any of the one-loss conference members. We can expect to see a split conference title with plenty of grumbling about who ends up playing in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Big Ten: Ohio State is the odds-on favorite to finish the season undefeated and represent the conference as its champion in Pasadena in January. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, that appears to mean playing on New Year's Day instead of in the BCS title game. Barring losses by every member of the six automatic qualifying conference, Ohio State seems to have no chance of playing for the national championship. Their weak non-conference slate combined with the poor performance of their conference mates in September translates to a dim view by the voters and computers of their worthiness. Also, the Buckeyes face the unenviable task of beating the same team twice in as many weeks if Michigan wins the Legends Division. 

Conference USA: North Texas can remain in contention for the Western Divisional title by defeating Rice. If not, the winner of the regular season finale between the Owls and Green Wave will claim the division. In the East, the race is more competitive. Alabama-Birmingham can remain in the hunt by defeating the other three teams ahead in the standings, Middle Tennessee, Marshall and East Carolina in the next three weeks. Otherwise, the winner of the game between the Herd and the Pirates at the end of the regular season will likely determine who represents the East in the CUSA championship game. 

Mid-American Conference: Buffalo controls its own destiny to win the East. Should the Bulls lose to either Ohio or Bowling Green, either of those team could easily grab the divisional crown from Buffalo. Northern Illinois should not let dreams of a second berth in a BCS bowl distract its team from clinching the West. The Huskies' game versus Ball State will likely settle the division though Toledo could muddle the race by defeating NIU.

Mountain West: Fresno also has a realistic shot at playing in a BCS bowl. The regular season closer at San Jose State appears to be the only formidable obstacle to wrapping up the division after victories over the other 1-loss teams in the division. Fresno State faces a possible re-match in the conference championship game versus Boise State, assuming the Broncos defeat Colorado State. If not, the Aggies or Rams might emerge as the opponent after the tie-breakers are applied to a jumble of three teams in first place.

Pacific Twelve: Oregon's race toward Pasadena on the sixth of January instead of on New Year's Day depends on finishing undefeated. The Ducks' immediate goals include beating the other teams in the North with just one loss within conference games, Stanford and Oregon State. Otherwise, Oregon could drop from its number two national ranking to playing in a consolation bowl elsewhere.

Southeastern Conference: Will Alabama tempt fate once again by losing a home game in November? In the past three seasons, the Tide has done so yet still won the national championship in the past two. If Alabama remains undefeated while Auburn does not lose again, the Iron Bowl will be even more drama-filled than usual. Year-long bragging rights and the divisional crown would be at stake! Despite its first loss of the season, Missouri still controls its own fate to win the Eastern Division. However, with a possible loss at Mississippi or in hosting Texas A&M, the race could be thrown into the air with the BCS standings choosing the representative heading to Atlanta. South Carolina and the winner between Florida and Georgia would still be lingering, ready to surge over the Tigers should they lose once again. 

Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette finds itself in the driver's seat though precariously. The Cajuns still have yet to face the teams just one or a half of one game behind them, Troy and Louisiana-Monroe. Wins versus both of those will secure the championship for ULL.. A split of those two matches would increase greatly the odds of a shared title. 


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