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Gans: Kent State, NIU could bust BCS (Nov. 27)

Sam Gans | Monday, November 26, 2012

Three weeks ago, it looked like absolute chaos was about to reign in the BCS world. Four undefeated teams, two spots in the championship game.

Of course, things changed quickly and controversy was averted. Baylor destroyed Kansas State and Oregon choked against Stanford. Even Alabama couldn’t stop Johnny Football, though that loss proves meaningless now.

So we ended up with undefeated Notre Dame versus a one-loss SEC champion for all the marbles with seemingly no complaints. Everything is okay now, right?

Well, as far as only Jan. 7 in Miami is concerned, probably. But an interesting situation is brewing far down the BCS standings that could have a ripple effect in multiple BCS bowls, and due to that, other bowl matchups, as well.

BCS rules stipulate that a non-BCS conference champion that both finishes in the top 16 of the final BCS standings and finishes ahead of any BCS conference champion automatically receives a berth in a BCS game.

Currently, MAC member Kent State sits at No. 17 in the BCS standings with a record of 11-1. The Golden Flashes will face fellow 11-1 opponent No. 21 Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship on Friday.

If the season ended today, neither would qualify. However, there is one more week. Right now, UCLA sits at No. 16. The Bruins face Stanford on Friday in the Pac-12 Championship, and if the Cardinal win – which seems likely based on both Stanford’s shellacking of UCLA last week and the two teams’ seasons – a win by the Golden Flashes will almost certainly move them into the top 16, as long as No. 18 Texas also loses to Kansas State.

The road appears to be a little tougher for the Huskies. They would also need Texas and UCLA to lose, and hope their victory over the Golden Flashes would be enough to vault them over No. 19 Michigan and No. 20 Boise State. Should that happen, they would also finish in the top 16.

Of course, that’s only half the battle. As mentioned, not only does a non-BCS conference champion have to be in the top-16, it has to be ranked ahead of a BCS conference champion, as well. But it seems all but assured the MAC champion will. The Rutgers-Louisville game Thursday night is the de facto Big East championship game, and neither of those teams are in the current top 25 in the BCS.

Some people would be thrilled to have the little guy make a BCS game, especially one with a loss and one that doesn’t play on blue turf. It would also result in a nice payday for the MAC.

But if Kent State or Northern Illinois qualify for a BCS game, it would result in another non-exciting matchup.

The national championship will be Notre Dame against the Alabama-Georgia winner. The Rose will get the Big Ten and Pac-12 winners – likely Nebraska and Stanford, respectively. One of the spots in the Fiesta will go to the Big 12 champion – probably Kansas State – and one of the spots in the Orange will go to the ACC champion – probably Florida State. The Sugar would then get a pick to fill one of its slots to replace the SEC champion who made the national championship and will almost certainly take Florida of the SEC, and then the Fiesta gets the first at-large selection and will take Oregon to play Kansas State.

This leaves two spots remaining, one in the Sugar and one in the Orange, with the Sugar selecting first. Should the Golden Flashes or the Huskies not qualify for a BCS game, the choice for the Sugar to play the Gators seems easy: Oklahoma. The Orange would be forced to take the Big East champion, either Louisville or Rutgers.

This would unfortunately leave one mediocre game – Florida State versus Rutgers or Louisville in the Orange – but the other four would be at worst intriguing and potentially extremely exciting.

But if the MAC champion does make it, the Sugar would likely be Florida against the Big East champion and the Orange would be Florida State versus the MAC champion, two pathetic contests. The Sooners would be out of a BCS game, a tough break for football fans.

People may say I’m being unfair, but it is hard to be excited about either Kent State or Northern Illinois, and not just because of their names. Kent State was the only FBS opponent to lose to Kentucky all season, and by a whopping 33 points. Northern Illinois lost to 4-8 Iowa.

These are the teams that could quite possibly make a BCS game (either Rutgers or Louisville making it is also ridiculous, but that’s for a different column).

Be prepared and willing to accept it now.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.