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College football's 2013 national title chase: Who's alive, and who's already eliminated?

Let's not pretend all 125 college football teams actually have chances to win the BCS National Championship. So how many do have an actual chance?

Get on the Colorado State bus now, people.
Get on the Colorado State bus now, people.
Doug Pensinger

Let's be as accommodating as possible here.

If we're being practical, only something like five or 10 or 15 college football teams have any sort of realistic national title opportunity this year (or in any other year). But August is no time to be practical.

So every team in the country with the thinnest whisper of a prayer is included here. If a team could blow away everything on its schedule and thus wind up in Pasadena if everything broke right, that team is here. But first, let us wish well a few teams already no longer with us.

Thank you for your contributions

First, the 23 teams that have no chance of winning the national championship this year, based simply on who they play. No matter how hard we squint. I tried to keep this list as short as possible, seeing as nobody likes sadness (for the strength of schedule columns, we're using the projections from the Football Outsiders Almanac 2013):

SOS (FO Proj.)
Arkansas State 112
Ball State 118
Eastern Michigan 98
FAU 108
FIU 113
Fresno State 105
Idaho 83
Louisiana Tech 125
Louisiana-Lafayette 116
Marshall 107
Memphis 100
Miami (OH) 117
Middle Tennessee 102
New Mexico 77
Ohio 115
Penn State* 48
South Alabama 122
Texas State 119
Troy 109
Tulane 123
UNLV 114
Western Kentucky 121

* Through no fault of Penn State's players or current coaches, of course.

Technically alive

Here we have 42 teams that are mostly ruled out already, but that we can very generously imagine sneaking in due to stars falling in very specific ways. This is a mix of mid-majors with some cachet, lower-tier teams with a couple big names on the schedule, and BCS-conference teams with downright desolate out-of-conference slates.

Many of these teams will already be read their last rites after the season's opening Saturday. We're really stretching the definition of alive for many of these.

SOS (FO Proj.)
Air Force 75
Akron 106
Army 99
Boise State 104
Bowling Green 124
Buffalo 79
Central Michigan 110
Cincinnati 111
Colorado State 13*
Duke 82
East Carolina 103
Georgia State 19*
Hawai'i 91
Houston 97
Kent State 60
Maryland 65
Minnesota 55
Navy 90
NC State 84
Nevada 57
New Mexico State 80
North Texas 87
Northern Illinois 120
Rice 93
Rutgers 96
San Diego State 64
San Jose State 69
Southern Miss 70
Temple 66
Toledo 68
Tulsa 86
UAB 72
UCF 81
UConn 95
ULM 76
UMass 89
USF 67
Utah State 73
Wake Forest 74
Western Michigan 85
Wyoming 71

* Skewed, sort of, by games against Alabama. The Tide so surpass every other team in Football Outsiders' projections that their opponents earn all kinds of kudos just for showing up and surviving. Take that game out, and their numbers plummet, but come on: like the whole country wouldn't get behind a 13-0 Rams team that took out Alabama in Tuscaloosa, swept the Mountain West, and beat the Conference USA champ on the road? Even if one of those wins was against Colorado?

Alive, but could use a boost

Here we have eight teams still fully alive for the national title whose schedules might could use some help, if it comes down to it. The Huskers and Buckeyes have the name brands to overcome schedule concerns, but does anybody else here?

Clemson looks like a really odd one here, as it opens against Georgia and closes at South Carolina. But in between those two games is one big morass of ACC and FCS, plus Florida State at home.

Basically, any unbeaten ACC, America, or Big Ten team that doesn't have an OOC win worth bragging about might have to do some politickin'.

SOS (FO Proj.)
Pitt 58
Clemson 59
Syracuse 61
Wisconsin 62
Michigan State 63
Nebraska 78
Ohio State 88
Louisville 101

Totally alive

These still aren't all necessarily win-and-you're-in teams, mind you. For one thing, several of them won't do much winning.

Based on recent history, we've learned only an unbeaten SEC team is guaranteed a spot in the BCS National Championship. That only one conference's perfect teams get to play for the national title is a hilarious thing to say about the country's second-biggest sport, but we only have one more year of this shit.

Oh, sorry. The 52 teams who control as much of their own destinies as it is possible to control:

Alabama Georgia Tech North Carolina Tennessee
Arizona Illinois Northwestern Texas
Arizona State Indiana Notre Dame Texas A&M
Arkansas Iowa Oklahoma Texas Tech
Auburn Iowa State Oklahoma State UCLA
Baylor Kansas Ole Miss USC
Boston College Kansas State Oregon Utah
BYU Kentucky Oregon State Vanderbilt
California LSU Purdue Virginia
Colorado Miami SMU Virginia Tech
Florida Michigan South Carolina Washington
Florida State Mississippi State Stanford Washington State
Georgia Missouri TCU West Virginia

Your turn! Who's in the wrong spot here?

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