July 29, 2014

BCS Update: Kent State smelling Orange Bowl, ineligible Ohio State falls

No one could have seen this year coming for both Kent State and Ohio State football. The Flashes, ye’ of 40 years without a conference championship, appear to be one win away from a historic BCS game. The Buckeyes, who went 6-7 a year ago, managed to go 12-0 with largely the same roster in year one under Urban Meyer.

Just this last weekend, I wrote first about ineligible Ohio State’s rank in an adjusted BCS and then prophetically about Kent State’s possible BCS hopes. Both topics are more timely now than ever.

Kent State benefitted extremely from an incredible nine losses suffered by teams ranked No. 15-25 in last week’s BCS. Thus, after I guessed they’d jump between 2-6 spaces in the standings, they moved up six spots all the way to No. 17, one place away from magic number No. 16. Meanwhile, folks in Buckeye land continue to fantasize about what could have been the BCS result of the sixth undefeated season in school history.

Let’s dig deeper inside both stories for a little Tuesday fun with numbers.

Kent State Golden Flashes

Here we are. On Sunday morning, before the new BCS rankings were released, I placed the odds of any mid-major making it to a BCS bowl game at between 25-30%. Now, with Kent State’s gigantic leap in the standings, you have to like their chances much, much more. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb: If the Flashes beat #21 Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship on Friday, I give them about a 90% chance of playing in the Orange Bowl1 after that.

Yes, there have been cases of Coaches/Harris poll voters swaying their votes to keep mid-major teams out of a BCS game. That very well could happen for the incredibly low-profile KSU football program, as I’m sure the Orange Bowl is dreading their appearance even over the Big East champion (Rutgers or Louisville).

But, of course, there exist a couple scenarios that could still harm the chances of Dri Archer and the Flashes. Let’s turn to the current BCS standings for more:

RK TEAM WEEK 15 BCS
1 Notre Dame BYE .9979
2 Alabama Vs. #3 Georgia .9236
3 Georgia Vs. #2 Alabama .8911
4 Florida BYE .8882
5 Oregon BYE .8626
6 Kansas St. Vs. #18 Texas .7735
7 LSU BYE .7357
8 Stanford Vs. #16 UCLA .7299
9 Texas A&M BYE .6861
10 S. Carolina BYE .6689
11 Oklahoma @ TCU .6129
12 Nebraska Vs. Wisconsin .5393
13 Florida St. Vs. Georgia Tech .4645
14 Clemson BYE .4570
15 Oregon St. Vs. Nicholls St. .3790
16 UCLA @ #8 Stanford .3304
17 Kent St. Vs. #21 No. Illinois .2512
18 Texas @ #6 Kansas St. .2492
19 Michigan BYE .2094
20 Boise St. @ Nevada .2030
21 No. Illinois Vs. #17 Kent St. .1936
22 Northwestern BYE .1865
23 Oklahoma St. @ Baylor .1646
24 Utah State BYE .1171
25 San Jose St. BYE .0974

 

The key teams surrounding Kent State to watch out for are #16 UCLA and #18 Texas.

On Saturday night, the Bruins lost at home in their regular season finale against the exact same #8 Stanford Cardinal team. That game wasn’t particularly close. Now, UCLA gets the distinct honor of having to travel right back to Palo Alto for the Pac-12 Championship, and they are now 8.5-point underdogs. A Bruins loss virtually opens up No. 16 for the taking.

The only other team in danger of leap-frogging the Flashes, however, is the Longhorns. Texas, who just lost at home in their regular season finale to TCU and then decided to switch quarterbacks permanently to Colt McCoy’s little brother Case, also gets to play a top-8 team on the road in Big 12 leader #6 Kansas State. Texas is 12-point underdogs too, since the Wildcats win the conference with the victory.

Overall, I do not expect the weekend fortunes of #15 Oregon State (no line for their FCS opponent), #13 Florida State (14-pt favorites over Georgia Tech), #12 Nebraska (3-pt favorites over Wisconsin) or #11 Oklahoma (6.5-pt favorites over TCU) to also impact the chances of a MAC team reaching a BCS game. All of those contests are either likely set to be blowouts or the favorite is just too high up in the standings to risk falling below the Flashes anyway.

One intriguing storyline I wanted to point out today that I haven’t mentioned before though is Ohio State’s impact on Kent State’s BCS goals. If the Buckeyes were bowl-eligible and in the BCS standings, it’s very likely that KSU would have no shot at jumping up to No. 16. OSU would clearly be somewhere in the top 5, which would push every other team a bit lower and then the No. 18 Flashes might have a chance at No. 17, but would be a long-shot to get to the necessary spot for an automatic BCS bid. Darrell Hazell2 really should be thanking his former employer’s for that unintentional gift.

Also as a final note, the odds that a mid-major besides Kent State reaches the No. 16 spot decreased substantially. Previously, Boise State was No. 22 and KSU was No. 23. But after a bye week, the Broncos only jumped up to No. 20. Their game against Nevada is unlikely to give them a large enough boost for the Orange Bowl, even in the best of circumstances. And as I said before, since the Flashes are much higher than NIU, the game likely isn’t a semifinal for the BCS.

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Ohio State Buckeyes

Now, time to add more details to that tantalizing article headline. On Saturday morning before the Michigan game, I broke down the numbers behind an adjusted BCS standings to show where Ohio State might rank. In a nutshell, I was forced to use two polls that actually included OSU — the Coaches/Harris poll do not — along with going computer rating-by-computer rating because of the way the BCS reports the data.

At the time, Ohio State (0.884) was a fairly solid No. 33, below perfect Notre Dame (1.000) and one-loss Alabama (0.918) while barely skidding out SEC divisional foes Georgia (0.843) and Florida (0.817), along with Oregon (0.818).

Now let’s explicitly compare the changes in the computers and polls for those six teams before I unveil the surprise of the week. Here are the totals from last week:

Team A&H RB CM KM JS PW COMP AP AP ESPN ESPN
Notre Dame 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.000 1500 1.000 500 1.000
Alabama 6 2 5 4 3 4 0.880 1399 0.933 470 0.940
Ohio State 2 5 3 3 12 2 0.910 1292 0.861 440 0.880
Georgia 5 6 8 8 6 5 0.790 1316 0.877 431 0.862
Oregon 8 4 7 7 5 9 0.770 1246 0.831 427 0.854
Florida 3 7 2 2 2 3 0.940 1171 0.781 365 0.730

 

And for quick side-by-side comparison, now this week:

Team A&H RB CM KM JS PW COMP AP AP ESPN ESPN
Notre Dame 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.000 1500 1.000 500 1.000
Alabama 6 3 6 4 7 5 0.830 1400 0.933 472 0.944
Ohio State 3 5 3 3 10 3 0.900 1294 0.863 435 0.870
Georgia 5 6 8 6 4 4 0.830 1331 0.887 434 0.868
Oregon 7 2 5 7 3 8 0.820 1242 0.828 421 0.842
Florida 2 7 2 2 2 2 0.960 1262 0.841 416 0.832

Notably, you’ll see how Florida’s key rivalry win over then-top 10 Florida State propelled them higher in every formulation. As a reminder, the BCS Computer decimal is calculated by dropping both the best and worst ranking for each team, then doing a similar equation of 25 for No. 1, 24 for No. 2 as they do with the votes of the major polls.

Ohio State fell back ever so slightly in the computer polls since Florida leap-frogged them in two separate polls, so one counts. Also, while OSU gained 4 votes total in the AP, they lost 5 votes in the ESPN.com tally of 20 writers4. Again, this could relate to a gigantic voter bias as these pollsters have no pressure to put the Buckeyes any higher since they’re ineligible anyway. So this is what happened as a result:

RK BCS TEAM COMP RK AP RK ESPN RK BCS
1 1 Notre Dame 1 1.00 1 1.00 1 1.00 1.000
2 2 Alabama 4 0.83 2 0.933 2 0.944 0.902
3 4 Florida 2 0.96 5 0.841 6 0.832 0.8778
4 ? Ohio State 3 0.90 4 0.863 3 0.87 0.8776
5 3 Georgia 4 0.83 3 0.887 4 0.868 0.862
6 5 Oregon 6 0.82 6 0.828 5 0.842 0.83
7 6 Kansas State 7 0.77 7 0.719 9 0.71 0.733
8 8 Stanford 8 0.76 8 0.707 10 0.694 0.720
9 7 LSU 9 0.67 9 0.704 7 0.716 0.697
10 9 Texas A&M 12 0.58 10 0.695 8 0.714 0.663
11 10 South Carolina 9 0.67 11 0.611 11 0.6 0.627
12 11 Oklahoma 11 0.61 12 0.549 12 0.55 0.570
13 12 Nebraska 13 0.54 14 0.469 14 0.488 0.499
14 13 Florida State 20 0.23 13 0.509 13 0.506 0.415
15 15 Oregon State 14 0.48 16 0.352 16 0.384 0.405
16 14 Clemson 15 0.34 15 0.445 15 0.426 0.404
17 16 UCLA 16 0.33 17 0.337 17 0.38 0.349
18 17 Kent State 19 0.25 18 0.237 18 0.214 0.234
19 19 Michigan 16 0.33 21 0.145 22 0.15 0.208
20 21 Northern Illinois 24 0.08 19 0.233 19 0.212 0.175
21 18 Texas 18 0.30 23 0.123 24 0.076 0.166
22 22 Northwestern 22 0.14 22 0.126 20 0.184 0.150
23 23 Oklahoma State 20 0.23 24 0.116 23 0.096 0.147
24 24 Utah State 28 0.01 20 0.183 21 0.178 0.124
25 25 San Jose State 22 0.14 26 0.052 27 0.054 0.082

 

The Buckeyes fell to No. 4 because of Florida’s gigantic gains. The Gators jumped from No. 6 in my last update to No. 3 as they moved up across the board, causing slight drops for every team included. Everywhere the Seminoles were previously, Florida moved into their place or at least gained other ground because of the win.

As a note, it’s interesting to see how OSU’s mere inclusion affects the top of the BCS standings. They’re taking points away from each team by now actually being there in the computer ratings along with the different human polls. This again adds to Florida’s benefit in these adjusted standings5.

So again, this means very little and even more so now, hardly at all reflects a true possible reality because of all of the various factors that could be different. I’d still profoundly say that if the Buckeyes were bowl-eligible, a significant number of pollsters would change their polls to have the second undefeated team in the nation also in the National Championship game. Yes, the computers can’t change, but if OSU was at all close to being the unanimous No. 2 in the human polls, that wouldn’t be as much of a factor.

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Photos: Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal and Mark Duncan/AP Photo

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Footnotes:

  1. As I explained on Sunday, the Orange Bowl has the last pick in the selection process for the BCS games. This happens every year for the team also hosting the National Championship, except for the Rose Bowl. []
  2. By the way, have I mentioned again how I think Hazell is as good as gone after this season? Because he is. He has a better record and more of a quick national profile than a similar guy who started off his coaching career with two seasons in the MAC: Urban Meyer. []
  3. That No. 3 ranking also just felt right at the time. It felt assuring yet empowering. Like we still had something to prove on the field, the pollsters were kinda doubting us and we still were pretty good at the same time. I don’t know why I felt that way; all the forces just seemed to align really comfortably at that spot. []
  4. Wow. Just wow. I was shocked when I saw that. And, since there are only 20 voters in ESPN.com’s poll, a drop of five votes is a really substantial difference. As a comparison, the AP has 60 voters, Coaches poll has 59 and the Harris has 115. Again, this is why the BCS polls are more powerful as small changes don’t have as much of a decimal difference. []
  5. While Florida benefits in my adjusted BCS rankings, they’re also going to benefit in real life. Because of the recent rule change guaranteeing a BCS berth for the No. 3 team in the standings, the Gators likely will be heading to the Sugar Bowl while the SEC-Champion — bound to be No. 4 below Florida because of a pending second loss — will be heading to the Capitol One Bowl. []
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Hurst/680697039 Josh Hurst

    ” you have to like there chances much”

    come on now, its *their*

  • BisonDeleSightings

    You mentioned it, but it’s something that has lacked discussion nationally: I feel that OSU has been buried a little bit in the AP poll due to the probation.

    OSU might still be sitting at #3 if they were eligible, but I think they would be ranked much closer to Alabama and would have some more distance from Florida/Georgia. Also, they’d still have a conference championship against Nebraska to possibly bolster their public perception and computer rankings.

  • mgbode

    don’t worry too much about Texas upsetting K-State. they have failed against anyone on the slightly right side of mediocre this year (except OkieState, I still am trying to figure out how they won that game).

  • Nottheusual1

    One of the rare times being a NE Ohio sports fan is worth the masochism required.

    The Browns beat the Steelers and KSU playing for the MAC championship. After this, a bowl game will be icing, not the cake!

  • Marty

    come on now, it’s “it’s”

  • architrance

    So my alma mater is looking at potentially playing Florida State in FL
    in the Orange Bowl, on national TV? Nuts. FSU is maybe the most
    “beatable” BCS team for them. Could be exciting. Although, we’ll see if it’s even competitive. But if KSU wins the O Bowl – could they finish in the top ten in the country?!

  • mgbode

    with no Mark Stoops (who is leaving to be HC of Kentucky). hopefully, you get to play them, their defense is negatively affected by his departure and the talking heads don’t mention it much because they never pay attention to that kind of stuff when the story is good (and Kent State over FSU is good)

    of course, they still need to beat NoIll to make it even possible.