Posts Tagged ‘Big Ten Championship’
Michigan basketball fans have grown accustomed to sweating out Selection Sunday the past few years, anxiously awaiting whether the Wolverines would get a spot in the Big Dance or be left out. This weekend, Michigan football fans get their turn. While it’s not exactly the same – Michigan will still go to a good bowl regardless of what happens on Saturday – the outcome of Saturday’s conference championship games will determine whether Michigan plays in a prestigious BCS bowl or a typical New Year’s Day* bowl.
In all likelihood, only two of the following scenarios need to happen to get Michigan into the BCS (and most likely the Sugar Bowl), but why leave it up to chance? The more of these scenarios that happen, the better.
The winners of the six BCS conferences (SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, Big East, and ACC) earn automatic berths into the four BCS bowls (the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and Orange Bowl). If any of those happen to finish #1 or 2 in the final BCS standings, it will play in the BCS National Championship game, leaving a vacancy for an at-large.
An at-large selection must be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings (teams from non-BCS conferences must be ranked in the top 12 or the top 16 if ranked higher than a BCS conference champion). Michigan currently stands at 16th with no games left to play, meaning the Wolverines have to leap frog two teams currently ranked ahead of them. Below is a list of Saturday’s games ranked in order of importance of what must happen for Michigan to make that jump.
For more on what needs to happen this Saturday, check out The Michigan Review’s breakdown.
1. SEC Championship: #1 LSU v. #14 Georgia (Line: LSU by 13.5)
This one is numero uno, since LSU and Alabama likely already have their spots in the BCS National Championship game secured. A Georgia win would give the Bulldogs the SEC’s automatic BCS bid and and knock Michigan out of contention for an at-large selection. At 10-2, Georgia is just two spots ahead of Michigan in the current rankings. A loss, even to the #1 team in the nation, would give the Bulldogs a third loss and drop them lower than Michigan. There’s an outside chance that a down-to-the-wire loss could keep Georgia ahead of Michigan, so root for Les Miles to help out his alma mater with a convincing victory.
Root for: A convincing victory by LSU
2. Big Ten Championship: #13 Michigan State v. #15 Wisconsin (Line: Wisconsin by 9.5)
This one is number two priority since regardless of who wins, one is bound to drop below Michigan. Wisconsin is #15 in the BCS and Michigan State is #13. The loser of this game would have a third loss and, therefore, likely drop below Michigan. MSU fans will argue that since they beat Michigan during the season, they deserve the BCS bid, but the reality is, they lost to Notre Dame and Nebraska and wouldn’t finish in the top 14 with a third loss. Wisconsin is just two hail marry’s away from a perfect season, but one was to 6-6 Ohio State. That, combined with a third loss, would pull the Badgers below 14th.
Like the LSU-Georgia game, an outside chance remains that an overtime game or a down-to-the-wire finish could keep the loser ahead of Michigan, so a lopsided win either way should be the goal.
Root for: A convincing win by one or the other. It really doesn’t matter who wins, but since we’re Michigan fans, keeping the Spartans from a Big Ten championship and a BCS bid would be ideal. Wisconsin convincingly.
3. Conference USA Championship: #6 Houston v. #24 Southern Miss (Line: Houston by 14)
The team everyone is forecasting Michigan to face in the Sugar Bowl, Houston, has turned in an impressive season. The Cougars have one of the most prolific offenses in the country led by senior quarterback Case Keenum. Had the Cougars compiled the type of season they did against BCS competition, they would be a shoe-in for the BCS National Championship game. However, the only team from a BCS conference that they played was the season-opener against UCLA (who finished 6-6) and Houston barely pulled out a 38-34 win.
A loss to Southern Miss would send the Cougars plummeting down the rankings, undoubtedly below Michigan, and freeing up a spot for the Wolverines in the BCS.
Root for: Southern Miss to pull off the upset, but it may also be a good game to watch to scout who could be Michigan’s Sugar Bowl opponent.
4a. #17 Baylor v. #22 Texas (Line: Baylor by 3)
The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game since it is down to 10 teams and no divisions, but it will factor heavily into who plays in the BCS. This game and the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game could be interchangeable in terms of importance, but I see this one as slightly higher in importance. It won’t get Michigan into the BCS, but it could keep another team from jumping them.
Both teams are currently lower than Michigan, but Baylor is right on Michigan’s heels. Rightly or wrongly, the rankings view the Big 12 as a tougher conference than the Big 10 which explains why a three-loss Baylor squad is so close to a two-loss Michigan team. The fear here is another win over a Top 25 team would propel the Bears ahead of the stagnant Wolverines when the final rankings are released. The voters like the Bears with the Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Robert Griffin III and if he turns in a captivating performance in a big win, it could be enough to leapfrog the Bears over Michigan.
Texas, at 7-4 and 22nd in the BCS standings, has no chance of surpassing Michigan, so a Longhorn win would keep Baylor from moving up. With Mack Brown’s rumored retirement on Saturday (to which Burnt Orange Nation says not so fast), Texas could play inspired ball.
Root for: A Texas win.
4b. #3 Oklahoma State v. #10 Oklahoma (Line: Oklahoma State by 3.5)
I ranked this with a slightly lower priority as the Baylor-Texas game because I think the probability of Baylor jumping Michigan with a big win is greater than Oklahoma falling below Michigan with a loss. The Sooners started the season ranked #1 in the nation and despite losses to Texas Tech and Baylor, have fallen only to 10th. The loss of top receiver Ryan Broyles a month ago really hurt the Sooners in their loss to Baylor.
An Oklahoma win would obviously keep the Sooners above Michigan in the rankings and Oklahoma State probably wouldn’t even drop out of the top 10, so that wouldn’t help. Really the only way this game could help Michigan is an Oklahoma State blowout.
Root for: An Oklahoma State blowout [Edit: this is assuming Oklahoma State does not jump Alabama for the #2 spot. I don't see it happening, but there may be enough voters out there who don't want a rematch that in this scenario, they will intentionally drop Alabama to try to secure Oklahoma State a spot in the BCS National Championship. Since this is an 8pm game, hopefully by this point in the night, Kansas State (and/or Baylor/Houston) and Georgia will have lost and then we can root for Oklahoma to avoid any chance of Oklahoma State passing Alabama]
5. Iowa State v. #11 Kansas State (Line: Kansas State by 11)
This game is unlikely, but still has a rooting interest. At 9-2, Kansas State is 11th in the current BCS rankings. The only losses for the Wildcats were in back-to-back weeks a 58-17 route to then-#9 Oklahoma and #3 Oklahoma State. In addition, the last two weeks have weeks have been near upsets. K State beat Texas A&M 53-50 in four overtimes and then beat Texas 17-13 two weeks ago. A loss to Iowa State would certainly drop the Wildcats below Michigan, and it’s not out of the question. Kansas State has played a number of close games this season: the two mentioned above, a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky, 28-24 over Miami, 36-35 over Baylor, and beat Missouri and Texas Tech by a touchdown each. This isn’t a team that has blown opponents away.
Iowa State isn’t good at 6-5, but the Cyclones did pull off a shocking double-overtime upset of then-#2 Oklahoma State two weeks ago, and also beat Iowa at the beginning of the season.
Root for: Iowa State to pull off the upset
6. ACC Championship: #5 Virginia Tech v. #20 Clemson (Line: Virginia Tech by 7)
This game is probably the least likely to factor into Michigan’s BCS hopes. Win or lose, Virginia Tech is solidly ahead of Michigan and Clemson is unlikely to jump the Wolverines. After climbing as high as #5 in the BCS standings a little over a month ago, the Tigers are reeling with three losses in their last four games. Even with a win tomorrow, against a Hokie team Clemson already beat, it will be a longshot for the Tigers to move all the way to 14th.
Root for: Virginia Tech or anything but a Clemson blowout.
Fresno State v. San Diego State (Line: San Diego State by 8)
This game has no official bearing on the BCS rankings, but since Michigan beat San Diego State, a win by the Aztecs may help give Michigan a few more percentage points. At this point, every point helps.
Root for: A San Diego State win.
Obviously, not all of these things are going to happen, but at least a couple of them need to. LSU beating Georgia is a must. From there, at least one of the others (two to be safe) would be great and we can look forward to watching Brady Hoke take Team 132 into Michigan’s first BCS bowl since the 2006 season.
*Since New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the NFL takes center stage, pushing the usual New Year’s Day bowl games to Monday, January 2.