Where we sit
It seems awfully unlikely that OSU drops two of their remaining three games. Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are collectively 13-14 this season, and a more telling 4-11 in B1G play. And half of those B1G wins are from a Michigan team that's in free fall. I just don't see two losses for the Buckeyes in there now that they've figured out how to blow teams out.
It seems the Badgers' only hope for a fourth consecutive BCS berth will be an at large bid. With the current logjam in the BCS for teams ranked 18-22, we're actually closer to a top 14 spot than we seem. Assuming they don't somehow drop the ball this weekend against BYE, the Gophers will likely be in the top 25 when we play them next week, and they're already very computer friendly (vary between 23 and 33 in the BCS computer rankings). Indiana and PSU won't be as helpful, but a win is a win. Pair that with the murderer's row of conference championship games for teams ahead of us in the rankings and we've got a real shot at being BCS eligible by the end of the year.
Unfortunately, there are two teams out to steal BCS slots that Bucky might be eligible for, and that's a problem. So let's take a look at these two teams and what remains on their schedule.
Much to my chagrin, NIU managed to win last night and even make the score look like blowout despite the game being very much in the air with 5 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. Literally the only saving grace is that the win resulted in this crazy GIF:
NIU still has to play at Toledo and at home against Western Michigan. Could they drop one or both to effectively take NIU out of the BCS discussion? Well, that WMU game is a write off - their only win this year was a one point victory over UMass (I guess those new boat-themed traditions [a must watch video, btw] aren't working out too well, Coach Kingsbury?). However, the Toledo game holds some promise. Jeff Sagarin's ratings predict NIU to be a 2 point favorite at a neutral site. His system effectively calls the game a toss-up at Toledo. Same thing for Massey's margin-aware predictions. So that's a very losable game for NIU, especially if Toledo's run game can get clicking (7th in the nation in ypg) and keep Lynch and company off the field.
Looking further ahead, NIU has already locked up their appearance in the MAC championship game. That game looks likely to be against Bowling Green or Buffalo. NIU has played neither team this year. Similar to Toledo, Sagarin and Massey both predict either matchup to be decided by a field goal or less.
So NIU has two solid chances to drop a game. But what happens if they don't? What happens if they scrape out wins in both cases? NIU is currently ranked 15th in the BCS. They're 18th in the Harris, 21st in the Coach's, and have an average ranking of 14 in the computers. The win over Toledo and a potential win over Buffalo would look fairly good to the computers (Bowling Green not as much), and would certainly help out NIU's currently attrocious SOS - currently outside the top 100 in all of the rankings and as bad as 145th in Sagarin's. They could very well move into the top 12 and secure an automatic bid. If they somehow failed to make the top 12, they'd still have a chance to steal an automatic bid if they managed to finish above an AQ conference's champion. Assuming the favorites win out in all the conferences and nothing too crazy happens, it would come down to whether NIU could manage to stay above UCF in the BCS. With less than 0.01 separating the two schools, that wouldn't be a given. Personally, I think NIU finds their way into the top 12 if they win out and it's a moot point anyway.
In summary, we've got to be rooting for Toledo this weekend and either Bowling Green or Buffalo in the MAC CCG, all of which have a realistic chance of knocking off NIU.
Fresno State is sitting at 9-0 with a bye week this week (their Colorado matchup was postponed and then ultimately cancelled due to the flooding earlier this year). Next week they host New Mexico and then play at San Jose State in their final regular season game. Sagarin and Massey both list the Bulldogs as 3 touchdown favorites at home against the Lobos, so that's a pretty sure win. Things are tighter at San Jose State, where the Bulldogs are currently favored by 5 in each system. So there's certainly a potential upset there. Especially considering San Jose State is 13th in the nation in passing, while Fresno State is 104th in the nation in pass defense. They've given up between 335 and 360 yards passing in each of their three closest games (Rutgers in OT, Boise State, and SDSU in OT). That's close to 100 yards more than those teams average. San Jose State averages 325 ypg, so it shouldn't be a surprise if they put up over 400 yards passing against Fresno State. Unfortunately, Fresno State can put up plenty of points themselves. Should be an interesting game, and is certainly one where SJSU could steal a win and knock Fresno out of the BCS discussion.
Assuming they win their final two games however, the Bulldogs would likely be facing either Boise State or GA's former Utah State team (the teams are tied in conference standings, but Boise holds the head to head tiebreaker). Fresno State squeaked out a win against Boise State at home that went down to the wire - Fresno scored with about 2 minutes left to take the lead by one and Boise turned the ball over on downs trying to win the game. Utah State and Fresno State haven't played yet this year, but Utah State and Boise State match up pretty evenly in the statistics department - nearly equal in passing and rushing yards (both pretty balanced) with Boise holding the edge in scoring while Utah State has the better defense. Either should pose a challenge to Fresno State.
So what happens if Fresno State wins out? They're sitting one spot ahead of NIU at 14th in the BCS right now, with a decidedly better rating (0.08 better, if we're being technical). Where they really hold the advantage is with the voters. Fresno State is currently 13th in the Harris and 14th in the Coach's, and is an average of 14th in the computers. They're only .0354 out of 12th place, which would give them an automatic bid. Another win over Boise State would boost them the most and help their NIU-like ~125th ranked SOS. If they somehow failed to move into the top 12 (which seems awfully unlikely at this point if they win out), they're in a similar boat as NIU but with a better cushion ahead of UCF.
So, San Jose State and either Boise or Utah State should be a Badger fan's rooting interest. Personally, I'll be pulling hard for Utah State to make the championship game and knock off Fresno State since it would be awesome see GA's former team help us out by winning their conference championship.
So there you have it
Two teams trying to steal BCS spots. But both have tough games ahead of them, so keep your eyes on Toledo next week and Son Jose State the following week. In the meantime, consider snapping up some tickets for the Badger game at Minnesota and making the drive. We could use the win and a little extra red in the stands wouldn't hurt.