Sunday, November 12, 2006

Poll Position - Dansk Edition | by Jeff

Well, there are some advantages to being six or seven hours ahead of the rest of the BGS guys. First off, I got to tour the Carlsberg Brewery yesterday before the game (a self guided tour, but pretty interesting). Plus, the whole CSTV thing didn't bug me much, since I got to watch the game on my computer in my hotel room (please, no comments about sitting alone in a hotel room on your computer at from 10pm-2am on a Saturday night). And, although I went to bed knowing many of the scores, I got to wake up this morning to a surprise Texas loss. But finally, I get to be the first one to post about all the weekend's upsets and start playing the "What if" game. I'll leave it up to Jay or Pat to recap Air Force, I'd rather stick to the meaningless "guessing game" posts.

I have been working out scenarios on my computer, and I wish I could tell you where the Irish will end up in the BCS, but I really haven't got a clue. Certainly, Ohio State and Michigan will occupy the top two spots, but the next five spots will be filled by some combination of Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Florida, Rutgers, and Arkansas. With Florida struggling against the Gamecocks, I have to think they will lose their #3 spot, but to whom? The Irish definitely had a solid win, but 39-17 doesn't appear on paper to be as impressive a win as Southern Cal had over Oregon (35-10) or Arkansas had over Tennessee (31-14). Certainly, Rutgers and Arkansas will jump up in the polls with their wins last weekend, but how far really remains to be seen. For argument's sake, I will predict...

#1 Ohio State
#2 Michigan
#3 Southern Cal
#4 Florida
#5 Notre Dame
#6 Rutgers
#7 Arkansas
Bowled Over
The fun part of this weekend's games is predicting where the Irish will go bowling or guessing their opponent. Here are a few possibilities. As a reminder, the BCS selection order is...
1) Host bowl of the #1 BCS team (if any, currently the Rose Bowl with Ohio State)
2) Host bowl of the #2 BCS team (if any, currently Michigan would be an at large pick or Florida would get pulled from the Sugar Bowl)
3) Sugar Bowl (host: SEC)
4) Orange Bowl (host: ACC)
5) Fiesta Bowl (host: Big 12)
The Rose Bowl has two host schools (Big Ten and PAC-10), and only enters the selection process if it loses one or both of it's hosts. Where will the Irish end up?

Sugar Bowl - New Orleans
With due respect to Prince and apologies to Allstate (who actually just got me a really good quote on my car insurance), the bowl formerly known as USF&G is certainly the most common destination picked for the Irish. And why not? The Rose Bowl is likely to pick the Ohio State-Michigan loser to meet up with the PAC-10 champ (most likely Southern Cal), leaving the Sugar salivating over the possibility of bringing the Irish to New Orleans. If the National Championship ends up with the Big Ten champ facing Florida in Glendale, the Sugar would actually get two picks in a row, meaning the Irish would likely face the second highest rated SEC team (probably Arkansas, although don't count out LSU or Auburn just yet). If the SEC #2 is pretty low in the BCS rankings, I could also see an ND vs Louisville matchup as a possibility. Probability: 85%

National Championship Game - Glendale, AZ
Ah, dare to dream. Although, in reality, this scenario is not that far fetched. If the Irish win out, there is a good chance they will jump the other current one-loss teams in the BCS standings. Losses by Arkansas (to LSU or Florida), Florida (to Florida State or Arkansas), and Rutgers (to West Virginia) certainly wouldn't hurt either. The biggest issue here is whether a one-loss Big Ten team would fall below the Irish or not, especially if that team is Michigan. The best hope for the Irish is a Michigan blow out win over Ohio State, setting up an ND vs UM rematch in Glendale. Probability: 10%

Rose Bowl - Pasadena
This one is intriguing, and maybe not even that far fetched. Here's the scenario: Next weekend, Ohio State and Michigan play a close game and Southern Cal loses to Cal. ND wins out, but the Big Ten runner-up occupies the #2 spot in the BCS. If so, Michigan and Ohio State would play a rematch for the National Championship in Glendale. This leaves the door open for the Rose Bowl to use their first choice to select the Irish to match up against Cal. There can only be two teams from a single conference in the BCS, so Wisconsin would not be eligible. Probability: 5%

Orange Bowl - Miami
I can't imagine the Sugar Bowl passing on ND, even if the Irish end up 10-2. Plus, there is a good chance that Georgia Tech will end up representing the ACC in this game, and I doubt the bowls will want a rematch. Still, there is also the chance that the BCS feels they need a marquee team to bring in ratings if the ACC Champion is either Wake Forest or Maryland. And there is this clause in the BCS selection process about the BCS stepping in to create "more attractive" matchups:
...whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on Fox and the bowls.
My gut tells me that the Orange Bowl will end up pitting the champions of the ACC and Big East in a Rutgers-Wake Forest cage match. Both of the people who watch this game on TV will tell you about it the next day. Probability: a little better than my odds of hooking up with a "more attractive" matchup

Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, AZ
No way. The Fiesta Bowl has all but committed to taking Boise State, and the Broncos are a near lock to qualify for the BCS. Boise State either needs to finish in the top 12 of the BCS, or the top 16 of the BCS if they are ranked ahead of another conference's champion (it is very likely that the ACC champion will not finish with a high BCS ranking). Even if Boise State does not qualify for the BCS, I just can't believe that the other three bowls would pass on the Irish. As a side note, if Colt McCoy is out for Texas, the Big 12 race could get a little more interesting. A Texas loss to A&M after Thanksgiving would probably matchup Oklahoma and Nebraska for the Big 12 title, and even if Texas won the Big 12 South, they would still face a Nebraska squad in the Big 12 Championship that they barely beat with their star-in-the-making QB. Probability: So you're saying there's a chance?

Gator Bowl or Cotton Bowl
At this point, I think only losses to both Army and Southern Cal would keep ND out of the BCS. The Irish need a Top-14 finish to be eligible as an at-large selection, and I have to think a 10-2 ND squad wouldn't fall too far in the BCS. Probability: I'm not going to touch this one.