Race for #1
LSU is still #1, but I can almost guarantee they will not be on my ratings site after next week. However, in two weeks and from then on, it should not be a problem for the Tigers if they stay undefeated, as Oklahoma St. will have a bye week on the same weekend that LSU will play Arkansas. A win should give LSU a decent lead that would probably withstand a Cowboys victory in Bedlam.
LSUís strength of schedule (which does not penalize for FCS/I-AA opponents, which are compensated for elsewhere in my formula) fell to 7th this week, and will probably fall out of the top 10 after they face Ole Miss, which has only one FBS/I-A win this season, over Memphis, and which just lost to Louisiana Tech. Okie St. plays a mediocre Iowa St. team next week, but the Cyclones rate as a much better opponent than the Rebels do.
As far as Oklahoma, if the Sooners were to win Bedlam, I believe they would pass up Alabama (and Oklahoma St.) for #2. A lot of commentators have already been dismissing the Sooners, but I donít think this is fair.
Now, Iím the last person who wants to give anyone a ďpassĒ for a loss. They lost the game to Texas Tech, thatís why theyíre #4 and not #1 or #2 (and they would be lower if everyone else in front of them in recent weeks hadnít lost), but what about the other 90% of the season thus far? Theyíve dominated two teams that, when they played Oklahoma St., came down to the last play. Those teams were Kansas St. and Texas A&M, and Kansas St. played Oklahoma at home and Oklahoma St. on the road. Oklahoma also has had one of the best schedules. The Sooners did not play an FCS/I-AA opponent and did play Florida St. and Tulsa. So I think wins over those two teams plus 8 wins over Big XII teams should be enough to put Oklahoma in the title game.
Iíve heard talk about not wanting to punish teams for having already played LSU (IF LSU is the #1 at the end of this), but what about punishing LSU? Why should the Tigers have to beat a team they already beat on the road (albeit in an extremely close game) at a neutral site? Why should they have to beat a team they already beat easily at a neutral site at yet another neutral site (probably a less-neutral one at that)? If youíre undefeated, you shouldnít have to worry about a team youíve already beaten, especially if you didnít play that team at home.
Iím not saying this because I want LSU to have an easier opponent. As Iíve said, OU will have had a formidable list of accomplishments. They will present their own unique challengesĖthey have a different kind of offense from Oregon or Alabama, for starters. Plus, along with LSU, Oklahoma would probably be the only relevant team with a win over a top-5 team when we get to the end of the year. I donít think Stanford will be in the top 5 unless Oregon loses, and I donít think Arkansas (a loser to Alabama in September) will be in the top 5 unless they beat LSU. I canít imagine that Oklahoma St. would fall out of the top 5 because of a loss to Oklahoma, unless itís a complete blowout, which certainly shouldnít hurt Oklahomaís argument.
And like LSUís win over Alabama, Bedlam would be a huge game that everyone knows is a huge game. Also, Oklahoma would be at least mildly disadvantaged by having to play the week before and having to travel to Stillwater, so that would impress me possibly more than what LSU did. I think Bedlam will be the type of game where itís going to inform us of how good of a game we would get in the BCS national championship game. I donít think the Texas Tech game would say very much about how Oklahoma would perform in the BCS national championship game.
All things being equal, losing to Texas Tech is worse than losing to LSU (and worse than losing to probably 50 other teams) of course, but all things are not equal. The remainder of Oregonís schedule would not compare at all. The strongest team in the Pac-12 South is probably USC, whoís not even playing for a championship and who struggled against teams like Minnesota, Arizona, and Utah (and lost to Arizona St.) before coming on more strongly (but if you want to consider that, we should consider that Texas Tech was playing better when they played Oklahoma), and the only real competition in the North was Stanford. Thatís not week-in, week-out like the SEC (at least the West and half of the East) and the Big XII.
Alabama of course does play in the SEC West, but hanging their hat on a win in September, regardless of the margin, is more suspect. Obviously if LSU wins out, Alabama would not have had a championship game. Also, the Tide did have an easy non-conference schedule overall. Penn St. was good, perhaps better than Florida St., but there is no respectable #2 out-of-conference opponent, and since Alabama would not be in the championship game, they would have 8 SEC games to Oklahomaís 9 Big XII games.
The top 10 SEC teams are better than the Big XII, but Alabama played the worst SEC team (Ole Miss) and will have played neither South Carolina nor Georgia, both in the top 5 of the SEC. (I had my doubts about Georgia being that high up there until Saturday.) So the Tide would be a total of 1-1 against the 5 best SEC teams, having played neither of those games on the road. By winning out, Oklahoma would be 4-0 against the 5 best Big XII teams, having played two on the road. LSU, by winning out, would be 3-0 against the top SEC teams (one home, one road, one neutral-site), with a (neutral-site) win over the likely Pac-12 champions and with a (road) win over the possible Big East champions.
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