College Football – Only 8 Teams Now Vie for BCS Title Game, Sagarin Reveals a New View of the Rivals

Following college football's 12th weekend of play, eight teams now becomes harder to ignore-Louisiana Tech, Kansas, West Virginia, Missouri, Ohio State, Arizona State, Hawaii and Boise State. All have only 1 loss except Kansas and Hawaii remain unbeaten.

Sunday night's (11-18-07) new AP Top 25 Poll shown LSU ranked 1st, Kansas 2nd, Missouri 3rd, West Virginia 4th, Ohio State 5th, Arizona State 7th, Hawaii 14th and Boise State 17th.

Monday's (11-19-07) new BCS Standings shown LSU 1st, Kansas 2nd, West Virginia 3rd, Missouri 4th, Ohio State 5th, Arizona State 6th, Hawaii 15th and Boise State 19th.

The AP Poll by sports writers and broadcasters has no affect on who will play in the national championship game.

The BCS standings determine the participants based upon a complicated formula from 3 components: the USA Today coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, and an average of 6 computer rankings, including the Sagarin Ratings. Each component counts as one-third of a team's overall BCS score in the BCS Standings.

All of that sounds pretty boring and it is, but do not underestimate the importance of the BCS Standings because millions of dollars are at stake. It is not just the BCS National Championship Game in New Orleans on Jan. 8, 2008 that generates huge payouts to the teams and conferences involved.

It is also 4 other official BCS Bowl Games as well: the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008, the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008, the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 2008 and the Orange Bowl on Jan. 3, 2008.

The total payout from the 5 BCS games this year will be $ 85 million and the total economic impact on the 5 hosting cities is estimated at more than $ 1.2 billion.

The bottom line is that at least 10 teams in the top BCS Standings will play in these games. The champions of the 6 major NCAA conferences-the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pacific 10 (Pac 10) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) -are guaranteed a spot in 1 of the 5 BCS games. The other slots are up for grabs under a complicated set of qualifications.

One of those qualifications is that a team outside of the 6 major conferences that finishes in the Top 12 of the final BCS Standings automatically qualifies.

Knowing this salient fact you can better understand why Hawaii (at 15th place) and Boise State (at 19th place) are so upset about their current BCS Standings-though is in the Top 12 despite Hawaii's 10-0 record and Boise State's 10-1 record.

Western Athletic Conference Commissioner Karl Benson spent most of the rest of his weekend trying to convince "everyone and his dog Spot" about the great win Hawaii had against Nevada, currently rated 97th by Sagarin amongst 119 Division 1A schools. Hawaii finally won 28-26 on a 45-yard field goal with 11 seconds left.

Given the polls and the BCS Standings no one was listening or believing a word Benson had said.

Given the 8 teams left in the hunt for a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, Hawaii and Boise State are bit players with no real chance at all. Thankfully, the two collide this weekend when Boise State travels to Hawaii for a showdown.

After the game, one team will rise in the BCS Standings and the other is likely to take an even greater drop out of sight and out of mind.

Both Hawaii and Boise State are great teams with great records and they both will get more attention when they start playing some decent competition. Sagarin rates Hawaii's strength of schedule (the quality of its opponents) at 153rd and Boise State's at 122nd.

Considering there are only 119 Division 1A teams you better believe these two teams have feasted on inferior talent at best and deserve what they get.

Of the 6 remaining teams, who along with Hawaii and Boise State are either unbeaten of have only 1 loss, at least 5 of the 6 have played considering better competition in their quest to be in the national title game.

Arizona State (ranked 6th by the BCS at 9-1) has the best Sagarin strength of schedule rating at 26th. LSU (ranked 1st by the BCS at 10-1) is 27th, West Virginia (ranked 3rd by the BCS at 9-1) is 42nd, Missouri (ranked 4th by the BCS at 10-1) is 47th, Ohio State (ranked 5th by the BCS at 11-1) is 53rd, and bringing up the rear is Kansas (ranked 2nd by the BCS at 11-0) at 101st amongst the 119 Division 1A schools.

Has Kansas been playing a weak schedule to put together 11 straight wins? Yes. Kansas may end up playing the BCS National Championship Game and winning, but there is no mistake that Kansas has played an inferior schedule compared to its BCS competition.

Should Hawaii and Boise State be ranked where they are in the BCS? Probably not, given the level of their competition. Is Kansas overrated? Probably so. All three can make me more of a believer should they continue to win against better competition.

So I guess I am begging the question: Who has played the toughest schedule so far this season? Try the Washington Huskies, who are 3-7 on the year.

I seriously doubted that Kansas, Hawaii or Boise State would have the records that they if they had all played Ohio State, UCLA, Southern California, Arizona State and Oregon-all in their prime-as Washington has done.

That is why Washington is No. 1 in strength of schedule nationally and Kansas is 101st, Boise State 122nd and Hawaii 153rd.

Kansas faces Missouri this Saturday in a Big 12 North Division showdown. The winner will likely play Oklahoma or Texas from the South Division for the Big 12 title and a BCS berth to somewhere.

Copyright © 2007 Ed Bagley

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