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October 27, 2013
Column: Making sense of the BCS and style points
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As has been the case all season, Florida State easily dismissed another opponent on Saturday pasting NC State 49-17. For all intents and purposes the outcome was decided in the first 13 minutes when the Seminoles scored five straight touchdowns to pull out to a quick 35-0 lead. From then on FSU coasted and the starters sat on the bench for pretty much the entire second half.
Florida State's ability to completely dominate its opponents has been commonplace all season. The Seminoles' convincing victories have been reflected in betting lines with point spreads growing larger by the week.
That spread is incredibly large this Saturday given the opponent.
In-state rival Miami comes in with a perfect record and a No. 6 ranking in the Coaches' Poll. Despite what appears to be a relatively even matchup on paper, at least based on record and ranking, is anything but even in the eyes of oddsmakers. The early betting line has FSU favored by 22 points.
MGM Resorts Sportsbook manager Jay Rood told Warchant.com that three touchdown or more spreads aren't as rare as you might think in top 10 matchups but added that it is a pretty large spread for a game involving in-state rivals. In fact, this is largest spread between FSU and Miami going back at least 10 years (and probably much longer).
Should FSU get by Miami this weekend, it will be a heavy favorite in the final four regular season games, and probably the ACC Championship game as well. That means there's an excellent chance that the Seminoles could finish the regular season undefeated.
After this week, Florida State's remaining opponents have a combined record of 12-18. Of those four teams only one has a record better than .500 and that's a 4-3 Florida squad that has been ravaged by injuries. Absent a huge surprise, it looks like Florida State will face either Miami (again) or Virginia Tech (who lost to Duke this past weekend) in the ACC Championship game. Once again, you can bet that the 'Noles will be a multiple touchdown favorite regardless of the opponent.
Unless FSU suffers an unforeseen upset down the stretch, Seminole fans need to start paying more attention to the PAC-12 and the SEC.
Oregon moved into the No. 2 spot in the latest BCS Standings after defeating then No. 12 ranked UCLA 42-14 on Saturday night. Florida State dropped to No. 3 but should reclaim the No. 2 spot if it can defeat No. 7 Miami this Saturday. But the BCS dance between the Seminoles and Ducks will likely end one way or another in a couple weeks when Oregon takes on No. 5 Stanford. If the Ducks bring home the win they will probably jump back into the No. 2 spot. If that happens most BCS gurus believe it will be nearly impossible for FSU jump Oregon the rest of the way should both stay undefeated.
"Yeah, almost certainly, unless Oregon were to really struggle to win a couple of those games, which might cause voters to rethink the two," said BCS expert Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. "FSU is going to have to seriously close the poll gap, if not pass Oregon entirely, to have a shot."
In addition to needing Oregon to struggle, Florida State will have to post big numbers in its remaining games if it hopes to convince voters in the Coaches and/or Harris poll to bump FSU up to No. 2. However, Jimbo Fisher made it perfectly clear on Saturday that he wasn't interested in going for "style" points to impress voters. Despite a 42-0 halftime lead, FSU's head coach pulled his starters to give the backups much need playing time and protect the first teamers from injury. That decision almost certainly resulted in the score being much closer than it would have been had the starters stayed in the game longer. And voters who just saw the score (probably most of them) probably weren't overly impressed by FSU's 32-point win over a team that has yet to win a conference game.
If you were thinking that FSU might pass an undefeated Alabama team you can forget it. The defending national champions have a stranglehold on No. 1 in the standings and are unlikely to relinquish that spot despite what has been a relatively down year in the SEC. With games remaining against LSU (#13) and Auburn (#11), and another ranked team in the SEC Championship game, nobody is going to knock the Crimson Tide off their BCS perch unless they suffer a loss along the way.
Before you fret too much, history tells us that one or more of the teams in the top three will suffer a setback before all is said and done.
Over the 20 years of the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and current BCS system only a handful of teams finished undefeated without having an opportunity to play for the national championship. All of those teams but one were not from major conferences (TCU, Boise State and Utah twice). The lone exception was Auburn in 2004. The Tigers finished the year undefeated and went on to defeat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl only to watch USC and Oklahoma play for the national championship. It would be cruelly ironic if three or more major conference programs finished undefeated again in final year before the four-team playoff system kicks in.
While history teaches us this outcome is unlikely, each week that goes by without one of the undefeated teams falling makes this undesired outcome more plausible. If FSU gets by Miami Saturday, the next weekend could be extremely important when it comes to the final BCS standings. In addition to Oregon traveling to Stanford (as mentioned above), Alabama may face its most difficult opponent the rest of the way - LSU.
If we reach mid-November and FSU is still No. 3 behind Alabama and Oregon then it might be time for Seminole fans to start wringing their hands. Until then just try to enjoy the ride.
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