Have LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma just become too trendy for you? Then let's take a look at the teams you, hipster college football fan, think will win this year's BCS national championship.
You're so over Alabama. And you used to like LSU back when everybody thought they were a little too weird, but now that everybody's come around on them, it's just not fun for you anymore. And Oklahoma? Please. It stopped being cool to like them a couple of years ago, man.
Six weeks into the season, we always think we know how the season is going to play out. The problem, of course, is that we're often incredibly wrong. Last year at this point, the AP Top Five were as follows:
1. Ohio State (6-0)
2. Oregon (6-0)
3. Boise State (5-0)
4. TCU (6-0)
5. Nebraska (5-0)
Auburn was No. 7, seemingly the beneficiaries of a bunch of close wins. Surely they couldn't keep that up for the rest of the season, right?
The teams atop of the F/+ rankings were only slightly different:
1. Ohio State (+36.1%)
2. Alabama (+28.3%)
3. South Carolina (+27.4%)
4. Boise State (+27.1%)
5. Nebraska (+25.2%)
When the first BCS rankings came out a week later, Oklahoma was No. 1. How'd that work out, exactly? Ohio State lost to Wisconsin in Week 7 and saw their title picks slip away. A week later, Oklahoma lost to Missouri. Boise State lost to Nevada, and Nebraska lost four times down the stretch. The first six weeks created one narrative, and the rest of the season shot most of it to the ground.
With that in mind, let's imagine a world in which it is mid-December, we are all preparing for the BCS championship game, and neither Alabama, LSU nor Oklahoma are going to be a part of it. Both the hipsters and the rest of the country have moved on to other teams. In this crazy, unimaginable new world, who is playing for the national title? And are you mentally prepared for an Oklahoma State-Stanford championship?
Oklahoma State (5-0)
AP Ranking: No. 6
F/+ Ranking: No. 9
Remaining Home Games (F/+ Ranking in parentheses): Oklahoma (second), Kansas State (48th), Baylor (36th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: Texas (25th), Missouri (43rd), Texas Tech (61st), Iowa State (89th)
Conference Title Game? No.
If the Cowboys are still undefeated 12 days from now, then they are probably the de facto No. 4 team. By far their two toughest road tests of the season come on the next two Saturdays. First, they head to Austin in attempt to win there for the second straight year, then they head to Columbia, where Missouri will be looking to avenge what happened the last time the two teams met at Faurot Field. Win these two, and the focus zeroes in on what could be the biggest Bedlam battle of all, Oklahoma's December 3 trip to Stillwater.
AP Ranking: No. 7
F/+ Ranking: No. 7
Remaining Home Games: Notre Dame (sixth), Oregon (eighth), Washington (52nd), California (67th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: USC (53rd), Oregon State (74th), Washington State (80th)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably Arizona State (23rd).
Stanford Stadium isn't necessarily known as one of the game's most intimidating venues, but the capacity crowd of 50,360 better pack a wallop, as while Stanford's remaining road slate is incredibly navigable, they finish the season with three enormous home games: Oregon on November 12, the Big Game on November 19 and Notre Dame on November 26. Throw in a visit from a tricky Washington team in two weeks, and you've got quite the home slate. To be sure, Stanford can certainly handle the load -- they current have both a Top 10 offense and defense -- but still, winning all three of those season-ending games is a lot to ask, even if they never have to leave Palo Alto.
AP Ranking: No. 4
F/+ Ranking: No. 5
Remaining Home Games: Penn State (15th), Purdue (91st), Indiana (101st)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: Michigan State (18th), Illinois (22nd), Ohio State (40th), Minnesota (115th)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably either Michigan (11th), Michigan State (18th) or Nebraska (41st).
The Badgers have looked great thus far, but three tricky road trips remain, not to mention a home slugfest versus Penn State and their underrated defense, and the inaugural Big Ten title game. Wisconsin may be a Top Five team according to both humans and my glorious spreadsheets, but their remaining slate is a particularly tough one. The Big Ten is grading out pretty well this year, and the Badgers could get tripped up because of that.
AP Ranking: No. 8
F/+ Ranking: No. 21
Remaining Home Games: North Carolina (19th), Wake Forest (66th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: Georgia Tech (10th), South Carolina (32nd), Maryland (55th), N.C. State (77th)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably Georgia Tech (10th) or Virginia Tech (26th).
Clemson's schedule was front-loaded with home games, which is good for fast starts. But their path to the BCS championship game is now littered with late road games, and their statistical profile is only good, not great. First, they must survive this week's trip to Maryland with a hobbled Tajh Boyd. If they do, then the focus shifts toward their October 29 trip to Georgia Tech, then their November 26 trip to South Carolina. The Gamecocks have disappointed a bit this year, but they looked great last week with Conner Shaw behind center, and they could put up a tremendous fight, especially if they have a chance to foil Clemson's perfect season.
AP Ranking: No. 9
F/+ Ranking: No. 8
Remaining Home Games: Arizona State (23rd), USC (53rd), Oregon State (74th), Washington State (80th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: Stanford (seventh), Washington (52nd), Colorado (86th)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably Arizona State (23rd).
The highest-ranked one-loss team in the polls, Oregon is both well-positioned to capitalize on others' losses, but unlike last year, the computers actually like them this year as well. They are sound on both sides of the ball, and since getting trucked by Tyrann Mathieu and LSU to start the season, they have coasted. James' injury makes things a bit more difficult, but if they are healthy for their November run of USC-@Washington-@Stanford, they could easily build a strong enough resume by December.
AP Ranking: No. 10
F/+ Ranking: No. 13
Remaining Home Games: Tennessee (20th), South Carolina (32nd), Mississippi State (49th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: LSU (third), Ole Miss (87th), Vanderbilt (71st)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably Florida (14th), Georgia (17th) or South Carolina (32nd).
Hey guys, have you heard that the SEC has won the last five national titles? It's true! Since it's never smart to bet against a streak, we should probably figure out the most likely candidate for No. 6 if Alabama and LSU are indeed removed from the picture. There are only two one-loss SEC teams, and only one ranks in the F/+ Top 30: Arkansas. Their chances are quite obviously slim, if for no other reason than they would need to win at Baton Rouge to get the job done. Do the impossible at Death Valley, however, and the rest of the schedule is reasonably manageable. The main problem is simply that they have the worst defense of any team on this list not named Michigan or Clemson.
AP Ranking: No. 11
F/+ Ranking: No. 11
Remaining Home Games: Ohio State (40th), Nebraska (41st), Purdue (91st)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: Michigan State (18th), Illinois (22nd), Iowa (42nd)
Conference Title Game? Yes, versus probably Wisconsin (fifth), Penn State (15th) or Illinois (22nd).
Brady Hoke's first Wolverines squad has only had to leave Ann Arbor once thus far, and they flirted with disaster at Northwestern before pulling away at the end. With a decent that has improved significantly but is still only decent, one has to figure they will trip up at Michigan State and/or Illinois, and even if they skate through the regular season undefeated, they would still possibly have to take out Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. Michigan has made Football Outsiders' division title projection look wonderful so far, and they are more well-stocked for a BCS run than other undefeateds like Illinois or Kansas State, but they still have to be considered a longshot.
Boise State (5-0)
AP Ranking: No. 5
F/+ Ranking: No. 4
Remaining Home Games: TCU (34th), Air Force (94th), Wyoming (108th), New Mexico (120th)
Remaining Road/Neutral Games: San Diego State (69th), Colorado State (100th), UNLV (118th)
Conference Title Game? No.
Just kidding. We'll figure out a way to keep them out of the title game again, even if everybody else in the country has two losses. Prove me wrong.
We think we know how the season is going to play out, and considering the level at which Alabama, LSU and Oklahoma have played thus far, we could be right. Occasionally what we think will happen, actually does. (Think: 2005.) But if the favorites fall -- if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State and/or Texas A&M, if Alabama falls to LSU and perhaps Auburn, if LSU falls to Arkansas and, I don't know, Tennessee? -- there are quite a few non-traditional names ready to pounce. We could end up with the most blue-blood of national title games -- Bama/LSU vs Oklahoma -- but if we don't, someone from off the beaten path could get their shot.