College football notes, written Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011:
Two days ago, Stanford’s chances of getting to the Rose Bowl seemed to depend on Oregon winning its final two games.
Today, Stanford’s chances of getting to the Rose Bowl hinge on Oregon losing its final game.
Two days ago, Stanford was absolutely, positively out of the national championship race.
Today, the Cardinal has a shot at it.
On Oct. 8, Houston was unranked.
Today, Houston has a chance at the national championship, albeit a slim one.
Things chance in a hurry in the BCS world.
Heading into the Big Game, Stanford figured its only chance to get to the Rose Bowl was to have Oregon get to the national championship game, allowing Stanford to slip into the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12’s No. 2 team. But after Oregon’s loss to USC, the Ducks are out of the national title picture and Stanford finds itself alone in first place in the Pac-12 North, a half-game ahead of the Ducks. If Oregon loses to Oregon State on Saturday, Stanford will host the Pac-12 title game.
However, if the Ducks beat Oregon State, Oregon and Stanford would finish tied for first and Oregon would earn a berth in the Pac-12 title game based on its head-to-head win over Stanford, which would be left out of the Rose Bowl picture
Certainly Oregon will be a heavy favorite to win at home against the Beavers (3-8). But Oregon State is coming off an upset of Washington, and the events of Saturday suggest strange things can happen.
One strange thing that could happen is Stanford winding up in the national championship game. It’s still a long shot, but follow along for a moment, with a few suppositions.
–Arkansas loses on Friday at LSU
— LSU loses in the Dec. 3 SEC title game to Georgia, which has won nine straight and will be playing close to home in the Georgia Dome.
— Alabama loses on Saturday at Auburn, which is 6-0 at home.
— Oklahoma State, which just lost to a team that was 2-4 in the Big 12, loses on Dec. 3 to Oklahoma.
— Virginia Tech loses to either Virginia (8-3) or Clemson (9-2).
None of those five things seems far-fetched, and only four of those five events need to occur for Stanford, No. 6 in this week’s BCS standings, to have a decent shot at landing in the national championship game, assuming the Cardinal beats Notre Dame handily on Saturday.
But wait a second. Would those events allow Houston, which was unranked nearly midway through the season, to get into the national championship game if the Cougars win their final two games against Tulsa (8-3) and Southern Miss (9-2)?
Yes, it’s possible, but unlikely, because the Cougars, despite being No. 8 in this week’s BCS standings, rank only 12th on the BCS computers, and that will limit how far they can rise in the standings.
It’s also possible Stanford could wind up in the Fiesta Bowl. In fact, if Stanford finishes in the top four in the BCS standings, which is a pretty good bet if the Cardinal beats Notre Dame, Stanford would be guaranteed a BCS game berth based on BCS rules.
Cal’s postseason destiny: If Cal beats Arizona State on Friday, it likely will play in the Sun Bowl (where it would play an ACC team, perhaps Virginia) or the Las Vegas Bowl (where the Bears probably would face TCU). If Cal loses to ASU, it probably will go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl at AT&T Park, and its opponent there might be Northwestern.
The Pac-12 title game: Whether it’s Oregon or Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, its opponents will be an unranked team that will have at least four losses and could have a 6-6 record. UCLA (6-5), Arizona State (6-5) or Utah (7-4) are the three possible Pac-12 South Division representatives in the title game, which will be played at either Oregon or Stanford.
If UCLA beats USC Saturday, UCLA is in the Pac-12 title game.
If all three lose, UCLA is in the Pac-12 title game.
If UCLA loses, and Arizona State beats Cal and Utah beats Colorado, Arizona State is in the Pac-12 title game. (Three-way tie, UCLA would be eliminated because it would have the worst record within the division, and ASU beat Utah head-to-head).
If UCLA and Arizona State lose, and Utah wins, Utah is in the Pac-12 title game. (Utah and UCLA would tie, and Utah won head-to-head)