BCS on the mind

Wisconsin may not play Saturday but could still benefit, or suffer, from the day's gridiron action

Wisconsin's players and coaches are right to not get worked up over movement one way or the other in the Bowl Championship Series standings at this still-early juncture in the proceedings. Too much can happen between now and Dec. 5, when the BCS slots are announced.

More importantly, Wisconsin still has three challenging games left on its schedule with Minnesota, Michigan State and Iowa. All are winning teams; the Gophers and Hawkeyes are ranked. The three games are all essentially playoff games with a BCS prize, be it Roses or Oranges, at the end of any tunnel that includes three more wins.

Caveats—including the recognition that the Badgers are not likely scoreboard watchers, even in their bye week—aside, Saturday's action around college football could have a huge impact on the BCS landscape and Wisconsin's fortunes.

A loss by any of the teams ranked higher than the Badgers would obviously improve Wisconsin's chances of making it to the BCS Championship Game, the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl.

But even if all active top 10 BCS teams win, Monday's rankings may change, as put on display earlier this week, when Wisconsin fell from No. 6 to No. 7 despite beating Northwestern 24-12.

A little movement in the polls or the computer rankings can have a significant impact on the overall standings. Say, for instance, that Florida State needs a comeback to beat another unranked team, this week Maryland. The Seminoles BCS score fell from .8072 to .7759 after they beat Wake Forest 20-17 last week, but they stayed No. 5 because Utah's and Wisconsin's score also fell, leaving the No. 6 Utes .543 from reaching the top five.

Utah plays a San Diego State team that has just two wins but did give No. 12 Michigan a scare earlier this year. If Utah does not win by at least 20, they will likely slip in the eyes of pollsters. As the result of playing a 2-5 team, the Utes' computer ranking will also go down no matter what their margin of victory.

So Wisconsin may watch all of its counterparts win Saturday and find itself right back where it was two weeks ago: No. 6.

Or maybe not. No. 8 California, with only a loss to USC on its résumé, could make a big splash with a win over No. 15 Arizona Sate. A win over the Sun Devils, who are No. 6 in the computer rankings, could give Cal enough of a boost to surpass the Badgers and the Utes in one week. It really would not take much movement: if Cal gains a mere 35 points in the two human polls and moves up just four spots in each computer poll—not an unreasonable scenario—their BCS score would surge to .7243, ahead of both Utah and Wisconsin, unless those respective teams also receive a boost.

The possibilities, and the resulting debate are, of course, endless. For the Badgers the reality of the situation is that they must go 11-0 and hope that three of the top four—USC, Oklahoma, Miami (Fla.) and Auburn—lose in order to have any shot at the Orange Bowl.

Only one of the top six teams play an opponent with a winning record but all six are on the road.

BCS Top 10 Saturday schedule:

No. 1 USC (7-0) at Washington State (3-4)

No. 2 Oklahoma (7-0) at Oklahoma State (6-1)

No. 3 Miami (6-0) at North Carolina (3-4)

No. 4 Auburn (8-0) at Mississippi (3-4)

No. 5 Florida State (6-1) at Maryland (3-4)

No. 6 Utah (7-0) at San Diego State (2-5)

No. 7 Wisconsin (8-0) bye week. Next game Nov. 6 vs. No. 25 Minnesota (6-2)

No. 8 California (5-1) vs. No. 15 Arizona State (6-1)

No. 9 Georgia (6-1) vs. Florida (4-3)

No. 10 Texas (6-1) at Colorado (4-3)

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