No one could have seen this year coming for both Kent State and Ohio State football. The Flashes, ye’ of 40 years without a conference championship, appear to be one win away from a historic BCS game. The Buckeyes, who went 6-7 a year ago, managed to go 12-0 with largely the same roster in year one under Urban Meyer.
Kent State benefitted extremely from an incredible nine losses suffered by teams ranked No. 15-25 in last week’s BCS. Thus, after I guessed they’d jump between 2-6 spaces in the standings, they moved up six spots all the way to No. 17, one place away from magic number No. 16. Meanwhile, folks in Buckeye land continue to fantasize about what could have been the BCS result of the sixth undefeated season in school history.
Let’s dig deeper inside both stories for a little Tuesday fun with numbers.
Kent State Golden Flashes
Here we are. On Sunday morning, before the new BCS rankings were released, I placed the odds of any mid-major making it to a BCS bowl game at between 25-30%. Now, with Kent State’s gigantic leap in the standings, you have to like their chances much, much more. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb: If the Flashes beat #21 Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship on Friday, I give them about a 90% chance of playing in the Orange Bowl1 after that.
Yes, there have been cases of Coaches/Harris poll voters swaying their votes to keep mid-major teams out of a BCS game. That very well could happen for the incredibly low-profile KSU football program, as I’m sure the Orange Bowl is dreading their appearance even over the Big East champion (Rutgers or Louisville).
But, of course, there exist a couple scenarios that could still harm the chances of Dri Archer and the Flashes. Let’s turn to the current BCS standings for more:
|2||Alabama||Vs. #3 Georgia||.9236|
|3||Georgia||Vs. #2 Alabama||.8911|
|6||Kansas St.||Vs. #18 Texas||.7735|
|8||Stanford||Vs. #16 UCLA||.7299|
|13||Florida St.||Vs. Georgia Tech||.4645|
|15||Oregon St.||Vs. Nicholls St.||.3790|
|16||UCLA||@ #8 Stanford||.3304|
|17||Kent St.||Vs. #21 No. Illinois||.2512|
|18||Texas||@ #6 Kansas St.||.2492|
|20||Boise St.||@ Nevada||.2030|
|21||No. Illinois||Vs. #17 Kent St.||.1936|
|23||Oklahoma St.||@ Baylor||.1646|
|25||San Jose St.||BYE||.0974|
The key teams surrounding Kent State to watch out for are #16 UCLA and #18 Texas.
On Saturday night, the Bruins lost at home in their regular season finale against the exact same #8 Stanford Cardinal team. That game wasn’t particularly close. Now, UCLA gets the distinct honor of having to travel right back to Palo Alto for the Pac-12 Championship, and they are now 8.5-point underdogs. A Bruins loss virtually opens up No. 16 for the taking.
The only other team in danger of leap-frogging the Flashes, however, is the Longhorns. Texas, who just lost at home in their regular season finale to TCU and then decided to switch quarterbacks permanently to Colt McCoy’s little brother Case, also gets to play a top-8 team on the road in Big 12 leader #6 Kansas State. Texas is 12-point underdogs too, since the Wildcats win the conference with the victory.
Overall, I do not expect the weekend fortunes of #15 Oregon State (no line for their FCS opponent), #13 Florida State (14-pt favorites over Georgia Tech), #12 Nebraska (3-pt favorites over Wisconsin) or #11 Oklahoma (6.5-pt favorites over TCU) to also impact the chances of a MAC team reaching a BCS game. All of those contests are either likely set to be blowouts or the favorite is just too high up in the standings to risk falling below the Flashes anyway.
One intriguing storyline I wanted to point out today that I haven’t mentioned before though is Ohio State’s impact on Kent State’s BCS goals. If the Buckeyes were bowl-eligible and in the BCS standings, it’s very likely that KSU would have no shot at jumping up to No. 16. OSU would clearly be somewhere in the top 5, which would push every other team a bit lower and then the No. 18 Flashes might have a chance at No. 17, but would be a long-shot to get to the necessary spot for an automatic BCS bid. Darrell Hazell2 really should be thanking his former employer’s for that unintentional gift.
Also as a final note, the odds that a mid-major besides Kent State reaches the No. 16 spot decreased substantially. Previously, Boise State was No. 22 and KSU was No. 23. But after a bye week, the Broncos only jumped up to No. 20. Their game against Nevada is unlikely to give them a large enough boost for the Orange Bowl, even in the best of circumstances. And as I said before, since the Flashes are much higher than NIU, the game likely isn’t a semifinal for the BCS.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Now, time to add more details to that tantalizing article headline. On Saturday morning before the Michigan game, I broke down the numbers behind an adjusted BCS standings to show where Ohio State might rank. In a nutshell, I was forced to use two polls that actually included OSU — the Coaches/Harris poll do not — along with going computer rating-by-computer rating because of the way the BCS reports the data.
At the time, Ohio State (0.884) was a fairly solid No. 33, below perfect Notre Dame (1.000) and one-loss Alabama (0.918) while barely skidding out SEC divisional foes Georgia (0.843) and Florida (0.817), along with Oregon (0.818).
Now let’s explicitly compare the changes in the computers and polls for those six teams before I unveil the surprise of the week. Here are the totals from last week:
And for quick side-by-side comparison, now this week:
Notably, you’ll see how Florida’s key rivalry win over then-top 10 Florida State propelled them higher in every formulation. As a reminder, the BCS Computer decimal is calculated by dropping both the best and worst ranking for each team, then doing a similar equation of 25 for No. 1, 24 for No. 2 as they do with the votes of the major polls.
Ohio State fell back ever so slightly in the computer polls since Florida leap-frogged them in two separate polls, so one counts. Also, while OSU gained 4 votes total in the AP, they lost 5 votes in the ESPN.com tally of 20 writers4. Again, this could relate to a gigantic voter bias as these pollsters have no pressure to put the Buckeyes any higher since they’re ineligible anyway. So this is what happened as a result:
|25||25||San Jose State||22||0.14||26||0.052||27||0.054||0.082|
The Buckeyes fell to No. 4 because of Florida’s gigantic gains. The Gators jumped from No. 6 in my last update to No. 3 as they moved up across the board, causing slight drops for every team included. Everywhere the Seminoles were previously, Florida moved into their place or at least gained other ground because of the win.
As a note, it’s interesting to see how OSU’s mere inclusion affects the top of the BCS standings. They’re taking points away from each team by now actually being there in the computer ratings along with the different human polls. This again adds to Florida’s benefit in these adjusted standings5.
So again, this means very little and even more so now, hardly at all reflects a true possible reality because of all of the various factors that could be different. I’d still profoundly say that if the Buckeyes were bowl-eligible, a significant number of pollsters would change their polls to have the second undefeated team in the nation also in the National Championship game. Yes, the computers can’t change, but if OSU was at all close to being the unanimous No. 2 in the human polls, that wouldn’t be as much of a factor.
Photos: Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal and Mark Duncan/AP Photo