When the final BCS rankings release in a couple weeks, we may have to ask ourselves the dreaded question next year’s four-team playoff system is hoping avoid — Who is college football’s best one-loss team?
The SEC could have a dog in the fight, perhaps two if Auburn beats Alabama in the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30 then wins the following week in Atlanta. There’s Mizzou as well who is quietly sitting at 9-1 with a team strong enough on both sides of the football to also win out.
Hypothetically speaking, if Auburn — currently 6th in the BCS — finishes its season with wins over top-ranked Alabama and a possible Top 6 Mizzou, it would be the nation’s most attractive one-loss team. The computers, which make up one-third of the BCS formula, love Auburn. The Tigers are ranked third in 3-of-6 computer polls. They aren’t nearly as fond of Mizzou, currently as low as 11th by one of the computers (Billingsley).
Mizzou would catapult itself up the rankings with three consecutive wins over Top 25s (Ole Miss, A&M and Alabama/Auburn) to end the season, but it’s unlikely that would be enough to unseat other one-loss teams ahead of the Tigers should they win out.
In this scenario, a 12-win Auburn could cause a BCS meltdown in Columbus should the Tigers finish percentage points higher than say, an unbeaten Ohio State. Jumping over BCS newcomer Baylor would be more difficult since the Bears will likely move in front of the Buckeyes this weekend if they take care of business at 10th-ranked Oklahoma State.
It all remains a bit fuzzy, but that’s what makes games in late November so much fun in a sport where the regular season really does matter.
Here’s a projected look at what would happen if Auburn or Mizzou wins out and Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor all remain unbeaten:
Auburn: 12-1 (late-season wins over No. 1 Alabama + Top 10-ranked South Carolina OR Mizzou) = At best, it appears the Tigers could finish third in the final BCS rankings, ahead of Ohio State but behind Florida State and Baylor. Though Auburn’s in a similar predicament that Mizzou’s in behind one-loss Oregon, the Tigers wouldn’t have to make up near as much ground to pass the Ducks and they’d have two wins over ranked teams to boot.
Mizzou: 12-1 (late-season wins over No. 24 Ole Miss, No. 12 Texas A&M + Top 10-ranked Alabama OR Auburn) = Though this team’s final-month charge with three quality wins would be impressive, the Tigers would need South Carolina to beat Clemson on Nov. 30 to take those Tigers’ spot in the polls and hope Oregon looks less than impressive over its final two contests and in the conference title game. In Mizzou’s case, it would be more beneficial to beat a No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta instead of a No. 4 or 5 Auburn.
To avoid title game hysteria, the BCS wants two deserving unbeatens in the final game and at this point, Alabama and Florida State appear to be college football’s two best teams. The picture becomes cloudy after the Crimson Tide and Seminoles however with as many as six teams good enough to be in those Nos. 3 through 5 spots.