RALPH D. RUSSO
The debate has already started, even though it’s probably not even necessary.
With Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor and others undefeated, there has already been much discussion about which teams would play in the BCS championship game if more than two finish the season unbeaten.
This is probably a good time to remind everyone that only twice since the BCS has been in existence have there been more than two undefeated teams at the end of the regular season from an automatic-qualifying conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East/American Athletic, Pac-12 and SEC). And only six times since the BCS was implemented in 1998 has there been a title game matching unbeaten teams.
Using advanced metrics, Bill Connelly, who writes the Football Study Hall blog for SBNation and is the author of the book “Study Hall: College Football, Its Stats and Its Stories,” determined there is only about a 4 percent chance Alabama, Florida State and Oregon will all get through their remaining schedules unbeaten.
So it is far more likely that the debate will end up being which one-loss team (or teams) deserves to play for the national championship.
The quality of a loss can be as important as the quality of a team’s victories. See Oklahoma State’s overtime loss to Iowa State in 2011 that kept the Cowboys from playing for the national championship for an example.
This week the top four teams in the BCS are all hefty favorites to varying degrees.
No. 1 Alabama gets Tennessee at home. The Crimson Tide have won six straight in the rivalry. The Volunteers are coming off their first big victory under coach Butch Jones, but beating Alabama in Tuscaloosa will be far tougher than it was to take out South Carolina in Knoxville.
No. 3 Florida State, second in the BCS standings behind Alabama, gets North Carolina State at home. The Wolfpack have been a nuisance for the ‘Noles in recent years, including last season, when they rallied in the fourth quarter to win in Raleigh.
Oregon, No. 2 in the AP poll and just a shade behind FSU in the BCS, faces No. 12 UCLA. The Bruins are coming off a loss to Stanford. Playing the Ducks and Cardinal back-to-back is generally not a recipe for success, as Washington can attest.
No. 4 Ohio State is home against Penn State. While Alabama is in the BCS driver’s seat — for whatever that’s worth a week before Halloween — and Oregon and Florida State are positioned to jockey for second, the Buckeyes appear to be stuck behind all three. They can least afford a loss if they want to stay in the race.
No. 12 UCLA (plus 23) at No. 2 Oregon
Ducks hopeful De’Anthony Thomas (ankle) is healthy enough to play … OREGON 48-24.
Penn State (plus 14½) at No. 4 Ohio State
Buckeyes go for 20th straight win under Urban Meyer … OHIO STATE 31-21.
No. 8 Stanford (minus 4½) at Oregon State
Beavers making big jump in competition … STANFORD 38-28.
No. 10 Texas Tech (plus 7) at No. 17 Oklahoma
Red Raiders and Sooners have alternated wins and losses for last eight seasons … OKLAHOMA 38-24.
Vanderbilt (plus 18½) at No. 14 Texas A&M
Both teams have quarterback injuries … TEXAS A&M 48-35.
No. 18 Louisville (minus 20) at South Florida … LOUISVILLE 38-13.
No. 20 South Carolina (plus 3) at No. 5 Missouri
QB Connor Shaw not expected to start for Gamecocks, but might play … SOUTH CAROLINA 30-27.
Tennessee (plus 28½) at No. 1 Alabama … ALABAMA 35-10.
Wake Forest (plus 22½) at No. 7 Miami … MIAMI 38-14.
No. 9 Clemson (minus 14) at Maryland … CLEMSON 40-17
Duke (plus 13½) at No. 16 Virginia Tech … VIRGINIA TECH 34-17.
No. 25 Nebraska (minus 10½) at Minnesota … NEBRASKA 28-20.
No. 15 Fresno State (minus 9) at San Diego State … FRESNO STATE 45-35.
No. 19 Oklahoma State (minus 13) at Iowa State … IOWA STATE 31-28.
Volunteers and Demon Deacons coming off big wins. Letdown for Clemson? Blue Devils fourth in ACC in yards per play, but have lost 12 straight to Hokies. Gophers, Aztecs and Cyclones all get the home team’s chance for their biggest wins of the season.
NC State (plus 31) at No. 3 Florida State … FLORIDA STATE 48-14.
No. 6 Baylor (minus 34½) at Kansas … BAYLOR 58-21.
FAU (plus 24) at No. 11 Auburn … AUBURN 45-10.
Furman (no line) at No. 13 LSU … LSU 52-10.
UConn (plus 22½) at No. 21 UCF … UCF 41-10.
Eastern Michigan (plus 30) at No. 23 Northern Illinois … NORTHERN ILLINOIS 48-14.
Last week: Record straight: 12-8; vs. points 10-10.
Season: 133-25; 66-68-3.
Best bet: 4-3-1.
Upset special: 3-4.