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November 7, 2013

Weekend critical for FSU's national championship hopes

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What happens over the next few days will be critical to Florida State's chances at a national championship and it has very little to do with Saturday's game at Wake Forest.

As soon as Florida State demolished then-No. 3 Clemson last month, the doomsday BCS scenarios began to flow from the college football talking heads. If Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, and even Ohio State all go undefeated it would wreak havoc on the BCS and would be a travesty to the team or teams left out of the Jan. 6th National Championship Game to be played in Pasadena, California.

For Seminole fans this could end up being a nightmare scenario. While FSU currently sits at No. 2 in the BCS Standings, most college football and BCS analysts insist that Oregon will jump back into No. 2 and hold onto that spot the rest of the way should the Ducks remain undefeated.

But the reasonable counterpoint to the potential chaos of having three or more major undefeated teams is that the odds are very much against it happening. History tells us that these situations nearly always work themselves out. Only once during the 20 years of the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and current BCS system has an undefeated BCS conference team been left out of the national championship game - that team was Auburn in 2004.

While it's easy to say once in 20 years is a pretty good track record, tell that to Auburn fans.

"Auburn people were extremely unhappy with how that all played out -- especially after the revelations regarding improprieties related to USC tailback Reggie Bush," AuburnSports.com publisher Jay Tate said. "Auburn people feel like the new playoff system for 2014 is partially rooted in what happened to the Tigers in 2004. It was an injustice in every sense of the word, Auburn went undefeated in a very difficult conference, but the new playoff system should fix that problem. It will create others, sure, but the idea of a major-conference team going undefeated and being left out of the NC picture is over."

Mathematics also tells us this three or four-team undefeated scenario is unlikely to happen in 2013. According to PredictionMachine.com the odds of Alabama (49.7%), Oregon (40.4%) and Florida State (53.0%) all finishing the regular season and conference championship game undefeated is just 10.6 percent. Throw in Ohio State and the chances drop to 4.9 percent.

These percentages and the sentiment that "everything will work out" could change drastically after this weekend.

That's because Oregon travels to No. 5 Stanford, a team that upset the Ducks last year, on Thursday night and No. 1 Alabama hosts SEC rival LSU on Saturday night.

If both of those games go the way the oddsmakers believe, both Oregon and Alabama are double-digit favorites, it might be time to become a bit more concerned if you cheer for the Garnet and Gold or Scarlet and Gray. While the percentages are still against both Alabama and Oregon going undefeated, what was once a distant long shot could turn into a distinct possibility.

Upsets often happen but the schedules of the BCS big three after this weekend present few potential potholes.

BCS Top 3 - Schedules after this weekend
@ Mississippi State (4-4) Utah (4-4) Syracuse (4-4)
Chattanooga (FCS 7-2) @ Arizona (6-2) Idaho (1-8)
@ #9 Auburn (8-1) Oregon State (6-3) @ Florida (4-4)
SEC Championship
#8 Missouri (8-1) or
#12 South Carolina (7-2) or
Georgia (5-3)
Pac-12 Championship
#22 Arizona State (6-2) or
USC (6-3) or
#19 UCLA (6-2)
ACC Championship
#11 Miami (7-1) or
Virginia Tech (6-3) or
Duke (6-2) or
Georgia Tech (6-3)

Should that 10 percent chance kick in and Florida State gets stuck at No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, the consolation prize would be a return trip to the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately with all the bowl tie-ins it's unlikely that the Jan. 3 bowl in South Florida would be an exciting matchup.

With a month of college football still left to be played it's difficult to predict who FSU's Orange Bowl opponent might be given this scenario. Despite the speculative nature picking bowl matchups this far in advance that hasn't stopped national media outlets and fan bloggers from making bowl projections. The overwhelming majority of these projections have Florida State facing either Wisconsin or UCF. While either opponent seems possible at this stage, Vice President of Communications for the Orange Bowl Larry Wahl told Warchant.com that it's way too early to even guess at whether an in-state program like UCF would be a viable option at this stage.

"You just don't who's going to be out there, you don't know who is going to be available," said Wahl. "We would just have to weigh and see what else is available and see how they (other teams) might compare with UCF. There are a lot of factors that go into it. Obviously attendance is one, travel for the region is another, and what their ranking is, and do they have some award winners that have some appeal. So there are just so many factors so until it clear itself out almost anybody is available. Northern Illinois wasn't on anybody's radar until the last week."

No short-yardage woes for FSU in 2013

Wahl added that the Orange Bowl team selection sub-committee, the body that will eventually make a recommendation on which at-large team should be matched up with the ACC champion, hasn't even started discussing who those at-large teams might be yet.

At least unlike last year, when FSU got stuck playing Northern Illinois, the Orange Bowl gets the first pick once all the bowl tie-ins are taken care of. But when the dust settles the pickings could still be pretty thin for the Orange Bowl.

"Assuming two of those championship teams come from those five conference champions, the two bowls that lose their conference championship get to replace them first," explained Wahl. "So there are seven teams that are gone right off the bat which leaves three slots left for the other bowls. The American Athletic Conference gets one of those slots automatically and if Fresno State or Northern Illinois becomes an automatic qualifier that leaves one open slot for another team from one of the big six conferences. Out of those remaining three we get the first pick."

At least Auburn got to play No. 9 ranked Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl to cap off its perfect season in 2004. If Florida State does finish undefeated and gets stuck playing UCF in the Orange Bowl, 2013 would have to go down as the biggest travesty in BCS history. Of course, it could all be moot after this weekend if either Stanford or LSU can pull off the upset against conference rivals. If that happens FSU will control its own destiny all the way to Pasadena.

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