The Kent State Golden Flashes, who are 11-1 and MAC East Division Champions for the first time in school history, ranked No. 23 in last week’s latest BCS standings. The Flashes finished their regular season on a 10-game winning streak with their big victory over rival Ohio on Friday morning, but received even better news on Saturday as the college football landscape again underwent chaos.
Since the chaos was more BCS bottom-heavy than top-heavy like last week, it should provide a nice boost to the Flashes in Sunday night’s BCS update. I’d expect them to jump at least two and possibly as many as six spots. And, with one more win and a bit more luck, it’s possible then not only will Kent State play in its first-ever MAC Championship, but it also could be playing for an Orange Bowl crown.
First, let’s get to the obvious: KSU has a huge, huge game against 11-1 Northern Illinois at Ford Field in Detroit on Friday in that Mid-American Conference title game. The Huskies were not ranked in the latest BCS standings, but placed No. 23 and No. 24 in last week’s Coaches and Harris polls, respectively. They likely were the No. 26 team in the BCS and will certainly be in the update this week. They’re a very explosive team, much like Kent State, and similarly finished with an 8-0 record in regular season conference play.
Of all of the mid-majors out there, only No. 22 Boise State and the winner of the MAC Championship will be angling for possible BCS inclusion. And, since Kent State currently is ranked higher than NIU, they have the higher chance should they prove victorious in the MAC title game next week. It’s also possible — although not necessarily a guarantee — that the MAC title would propel KSU over the Broncos and as the lead mid-major contender.
So here’s why this is all possible: A single mid-major conference champion is automatically guaranteed of a BCS bowl game when it finishes in the top 12 in the nation OR in the top 16 while also ahead of a BCS conference champion. This is only true for one mid-major team. So the first condition isn’t at all likely, and hasn’t been all season, but the likelihood of the second condition at least doubled on Saturday because of several notable college football upsets.
Let’s go to the BCS rankings for more:
|Rk||Team||Week 14||Week 15||BCS Avg|
|1||Notre Dame||W 22-13 @ Southern Cal||BYE||.9973|
|2||Alabama||W 49-0 vs. Auburn||Vs. #3 Georgia||.9333|
|3||Georgia||W 42-10 vs. Georgia Tech||Vs. #2 Alabama||.8763|
|4||Florida||W 37-26 @ #10 Fla. St.||BYE||.8434|
|5||Oregon||W 48-24 @ #15 Ore. St.||BYE||.8318|
|6||Kansas State||BYE||Vs. #16 Texas||.7692|
|7||LSU||W 20-13 @ Arkansas||BYE||.7308|
|8||Stanford||W 35-17 @ #17 UCLA||Vs. #17 UCLA||.7077|
|9||Texas A&M||W 59-29 vs. Missouri||BYE||.6526|
|10||Florida State||L 26-37 vs. #4 Florida||Vs. Georgia Tech||.6363|
|11||Clemson||L 17-27 vs. #12 S. Car.||BYE||.6056|
|12||South Carolina||W 27-17 @ #11 Clemson||BYE||.5871|
|13||Oklahoma||W 51-48 vs. #21 OK State||@ TCU||.5677|
|14||Nebraska||W 13-7 @ Iowa||Vs. Wisconsin||.4790|
|15||Oregon State||L 24-48 vs. #5 Oregon||Vs. Nicholls St.||.4499|
|16||Texas||L 13-20 vs. TCU||@ #6 Kansas St.||.4235|
|17||UCLA||L 17-35 vs. #8 Stanford||@ #8 Stanford||.3826|
|18||Rutgers||L 6-27 @ Pittsburgh||Vs. #20 Louisville||.2432|
|19||Michigan||L 16-21 @ Ohio State||BYE||.2253|
|20||Louisville||L 20-23 vs. Connecticut||@ #18 Rutgers||.2165|
|21||Oklahoma St||L 48-51 @ #13 Oklahoma||@ Baylor||.2042|
|22||Boise State||BYE||@ Nevada||.1043|
|23||Kent State||W 28-6 vs. Ohio||Vs. No. Illinois||.0955|
|24||Arizona||L 34-41 vs. Arizona State||BYE||.0836|
|25||Washington||L 28-31 @ Washington St.||BYE||.0643|
Here’s the damage: 10-11, 15-21 and 24-25 all lost. So of the teams ranked No. 15-25, they went 1-9 with only Kent State winning and Boise State on a bye. How about that for mid-major chaos? Yes, some of those major-conference opponents were more difficult than others and some may not drop much at all, but you can’t say it doesn’t help the cause of the mid-majors.
Before I go into too much more, I also wanted to share a quick look at my top five teams right on the cusp of the BCS rankings, just so you know who might be entering at the bottom.
|Team||Week 14||Week 15|
|No. Illinois||W 49-7 @ E. Michigan||Vs. #23 Kent St|
|TCU||W 20-13 @ #16 Texas||Vs. #13 Okla.|
|Northwestern||W 50-14 vs. Illinois||BYE|
|San Jose St.||W 52-42 vs. La. Tech||BYE|
|Utah State||W 45-9 vs. Idaho||BYE|
Now let’s look at the BCS conferences championships that impact the likelihood of a possible mid-major in a BCS game:
ACC Championship: #10 Florida State vs. Georgia Tech in Charlotte on Saturday, Dec. 1 — Winner receives conference tie-in for Orange Bowl. If Yellow Jackets pull off the upset, a top-16 mid-major conference champion would receive an automatic BCS berth.
Big East: #20 Louisville @ #18 Rutgers on Thursday, Nov. 29 — Winner receives conference automatic berth, no specific tie-in. This isn’t the the actual championship, but turns out to be the de facto one. Both teams lost bad games yesterday, so even a winner wouldn’t rank in the top 16. Thus, regardless of the outcome, as long as a mid-major conference champion ranks in the top 16, it’s nearly a sure thing that that team would be ahead and receive the automatic BCS berth.
Big Ten Championship: #14 Nebraska vs. Wisconsin in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 1 — Winner receives conference tie-in for Rose Bowl. If Badgers pull off the upset, a top 16 mid-major conference champion would receive an automatic BCS berth.
Pac-12 Championship: #17 UCLA @ #8 Stanford on Friday, Nov. 30 — Winner receives conference tie-in for Rose Bowl. Oddly enough, yes this is a back-to-back week rematch. Because of UCLA’s loss already, the Bruins likely wouldn’t rank in the top 16. So if UCLA pulls off the upset, a top 16 mid-major conference champion would receive an automatic berth.
Now, to make the rest of my explanations a bit clearer, here are my current BCS projections:
National Championship: #1 Notre Dame vs. SEC Champion (#2 Alabama or #3 Georgia)
Rose Bowl: Pac-12 Champion (#8 Stanford or #17 UCLA) vs. Big Ten Champion (#14 Nebraska or Wisconsin)
Fiesta Bowl: Big 12 Champion (#6 Kansas State or #13 Oklahoma) vs. #5 Oregon (at-large)
**Sugar Bowl: SEC at-large (#2 Alabama, #3 Georgia or #4 Florida, most likely) vs. Big 12 at-large (#6 Kansas State or #13 Oklahoma) or Big East Champion (#18 Rutgers or #20 Louisville)
**Orange Bowl: ACC Champion (#10 Florida State or Georgia Tech) vs. Big East Champion (#18 Rutgers or #20 Louisville) or Mid-Major Automatic Bid (#22 Boise State or #23 Kent State, most likely)
**So if the mid-major receives the automatic bid, the Big 12 would likely lose a BCS bowl for its runner-up at-large team. More on this follows.
I’d estimate that there’s a 95% likelihood that one of these BCS conferences will have a champion below No. 16 in the polls. There’s three possible upsets AND the abysmal Big East champion, who likely regardless will not jump back that high. So, as long as Boise State or the MAC Champion can keep climbing up higher, they’ll be in the game. But that’s the big catch: How likely is it that Boise State or that MAC team will actually finish in top 16 after next week?
For now, I’d put those odds between 25-30%. It all depends upon how harshly the voters/computers criticize all of those losing teams this week. There’s way too much variation to easily project until all the numbers are released, and I don’t have a great feeling about it.
My BCS instinct would lean toward Boise and Kent jumping about four spots each, to No. 18 and No. 19, respectively Sunday night, while Northern Illinois enters the BCS standings at No. 23. Thus, more help would still be needed to reach the magical spot of No. 16, but I could stillpossibly see this happening.
The three additional key games to watch next week then are #13 Oklahoma @ TCU; #16 Texas @ #6 Kansas State; and, of course, #22 Boise State @ Nevada.
Oklahoma had a big overtime win over Oklahoma State and should be in line to jump up to No. 11. Thus, the Sooners are the at-large BCS team that benefitted the most from the chaos as they currently seem destined for a BCS game. But, a TCU upset would potentially open the door. Texas already just lost to TCU, but might still be higher than the mid-majors, so a Kansas State home win would again be beneficial. Then, it all comes down to whether the Broncos also will be in the running for this BCS berth as well, as their loss to Nevada would again help the Flashes emerge as the best mid-major.
Then, the reason why I said Orange Bowl above is that that game has the last pick in the selection process. Already, the Rose Bowl will have its guaranteed matchup and you can clearly see the Big 12 champion playing at-large Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Next, the Sugar Bowl will pick an SEC at-large replacement team to face the best possible pick, either the Big 12 at-large or the Big East champion. Then, since Miami gets to host the National Championship, they get the last lot and would have the ACC champ facing off against either the Big East champ or the mid-major team.
It would be a whole heck of a lot of fun if the Golden Flashes could somehow miraculously vault into the Orange Bowl in Darrell Hazell’s second season. No one ever viewed Kent State as a legitimate MAC contender in 2012, let alone a possible national contender, as everyone seemed to be fixated on Ohio instead. But led by running back Dri Archer, who entered that game fourth in the nation with 2,240 all-purpose yards, and an opportunistic defense that has the team first in FBS with an unreal +23 turnover margin, the Flashes are knocking on the national radar.
Going back to Hazell, the long-time Ohio State assistant was viewed as a great future coach, but no one saw this happening so soon. Over the past few weeks as KSU’s winning streak continued, his name has been all over coaching rumors — Kentucky, the Flashes’ lone loss, has seemed like a decent fit — but a BCS berth would all but assure his departure. This would be just like a Final Four appearance for a mid-major in March Madness.
So now you know the approximate odds of the Cinderella slipper fitting just right on the Kent State Golden Flashes in just a few weeks. A win over Northern Illinois is necessary, but this could be a historic bowl season not just for KSU, but also for the conference. No MAC team has ever participated in a BCS game since the new system began in 1998. The playoff system beginning in 2014 will likely limit this from ever happening again — yeah right will a MAC team ever climb up to the top 4 — so this would be a tremendous achievement all around.
(Photo: J.D. Pooley, AP)