Tag:Rose Bowl Tiebreaker
Posted on: November 3, 2010 8:03 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 11:12 pm
 

Big Ten Rose Bowl update, Week 10

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Week 9 has come and gone, and with Iowa's utter pantsing of Michigan State, the Rose Bowl picture is even murkier now than it was seven days ago. As mentioned before, with MSU's loss, there are now zero teams in the Big Ten that control their own destiny; every one of the four one-loss teams needs at least one of the others to lose (or, in one instance, win out) in order to reach the Rose Bowl. Let's go down the list.

Wisconsin can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • Wisconsin wins out AND Ohio State wins out;
  • Wisconsin wins out AND Michigan State loses once.

If the season ended today, Jim Delany would probably be fired. I stole that joke from somewhere. But more to the point, Wisconsin would be the Big Ten's representative in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are buoyed by wins over Iowa and Ohio State, but the Hawkeyes' loss to Arizona in the non-conference schedule may doom Wisconsin's Rose Bowl hopes. Huh? Here's the relevant portion of the Big Ten tiebreaker:

If three teams are still tied, and one of the three teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

That two-team procedure goes head-to-head, overall record, BCS rating. So even though Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State split their three-team series and Wisconsin's got the highest BCS rating of the three, Iowa's 10-2 record eliminates it from consideration. That means only Wisconsin and MSU would be up for the Rose Bowl bid, and MSU won that meeting. Hence, Michigan State would go to Pasadena. Of course, that assumes Michigan State wins out; one more Spartan loss, and nobody can stop Wisconsin if the Badgers win out.

Ohio State can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • OSU wins out AND Wisconsin loses once;
  • OSU wins out AND MSU wins out AND OSU's BCS rating climbs higher than Wisconsin's.

It's tough to overestimate just how much of a power position Ohio State is in relative to Michigan State. Since the two teams don't play and their non-conference records are equal, by rule, the team with the higher BCS ranking will get the nod. Observe:

If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.
If there is still a tie, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on the percentage basis of all games played.
If there is still a tie, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

MSU can't beat the Buckeyes in any of those three categories, but the Buckeyes can't beat Wisconsin in any of them either unless a win over Iowa vaults OSU over Wisconsin in the BCS standings. That might happen -- the Buckeyes are only two spots back -- but the gap in poll position between the two teams is pretty substantial, largely because OSU's schedule is actually pretty weak so far. Again, that'll change, but there's no telling by how much yet. Thus, everyone in Columbus would feel a lot easier if Wisconsin would just go ahead and drop another game.

Of course, if OSU wins out and passes a 7-1 Wisconsin in the BCS, that itself isn't enough; the key here is to get MSU involved in the tiebreaker, since its presence would cancel out Wisconsin's win over OSU as a disqualifying factor for the Rose Bowl berth (see the bolded part of the second rule above). Needless to say, there are plenty of Spartan fans in Columbus these days.

Michigan State can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • MSU wins out AND Wisconsin wins out AND Ohio State loses once;
  • MSU wins out AND Iowa and Ohio State both lose once.

Make no mistake about it, Michigan State's 37-6 loss at Iowa dealt a major hit to the Spartans' Rose Bowl chances, but they're far from out of this race. The key for Michigan State is its win over Wisconsin, to the point that Michigan State basically can't win a tiebreaker for the conference title if Wisconsin's not involved.

The good news is that Wisconsin probably will end up at 7-1; the Badgers' last four games are against unranked opponents, and the toughest of the bunch is probably Northwestern -- a game that's in Madison. But the key here is Ohio State, whom Michigan State just can't catch if the Buckeyes finish at 11-1, as mentioned before. If OSU's in the mix, MSU's not. It seems incredibly counter-intuitive that Michigan State would rather be in a three-way tie with Iowam, a team that it lost to, rather than OSU, a team that it didn't play at all , but that's the nature of the Big Ten tiebreaker rules.

Iowa can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • Iowa wins out AND Wisconsin loses once.

This is the same scenario as last week, and on its face, it seems to be the simplest of the four. No ANDs or ORs here -- if Iowa wins out and Wisconsin loses, the only other team that can finish at 7-1 is Michigan State. Advantage: Iowa.

Of course, for Iowa to win out, it'll have to beat Ohio State AND Northwestern in Evanston. Iowa hasn't beaten an Ohio State team that ended the season with at least nine wins since 1983, and unless all hell breaks loose in Columbus in November (under Jim Tressel, that seems exceedingly unlikely), this OSU team will qualify with ease. Moreover, Iowa robbed Northwestern of a Rose Bowl berth in 2000 with a 27-17 win, and the Wildcats have been exacting their revenge on the Hawkeyes since, winning four of their last five against Iowa. So, yeah. Not a whole lot of history on the Hawkeyes' side on this one.

And lastly, we can't mention Northwestern -- the Big Ten's Loki -- without noting that it's lurking once again this season, waiting to unleash its special brand of discord on the conference title race. Northwestern has four wins over 9-win conference foes in just the last five seasons, and can completely blow this conference race to smithereens by winning out and getting a little help. Sure, the Wildcats have lost to Purdue, blew a 17-point lead to MSU, and have no rushing attack. You underestimate them at your own peril. So without further ado...

NORTHWESTERN CAN GO TO THE ROSE BOWL IF...

  • Northwestern wins out AND Iowa wins out AND Ohio State loses another game on top of the Iowa loss AND Michigan State loses at least once and probably twice.

The crazy thing about Northwestern is that it really only has two plausible nemeses standing in its way in this race: Michigan State, who defeated the Wildcats two weeks ago, and Ohio State (one of Northwestern's byes). The Wildcats still have yet to play Iowa and Wisconsin; if they win those two games, they can be in the clubhouse at 6-2.

The problem is, though, there isn't much chance of Northwestern getting past either MSU or OSU in any tiebreaker scenario. The Wildcats' BCS rating is currently nonexistent, and even wins over Iowa and Wisconsin probably aren't going to be enough to push them past even a two-loss Ohio State. Heck, it's not even certain to get the Wildcats past a two-loss MSU, although that would at least seem a little more plausible. Still, this is quite clearly a longshot, and ony the most mischievous of football gods would set a plan like this into motion. And that only happens in the ACC.

Posted on: October 19, 2010 4:29 am
Edited on: October 19, 2010 5:30 am
 

Midseason Report: Big Ten

Posted by Adam Jacobi

We're halfway through the regular season, so it's time for the Midseason Report. Who the real contenders are in the Big Ten is pretty clear. Who'll actually win the conference, however, is a little more muddled. This certainly looked like Ohio State's conference to lose seven days ago -- and it still might be -- but Wisconsin's superlative 31-18 upset of the Buckeyes in Madison muddled the picture somewhat. Here's a list of the contenders for the conference crown thus far.

Michigan State (7-0, 3-0): It's generally lazy analysis to assume that a current front-runner -- especially one without any recent history of success -- will maintain its place atop the conference. And yet, Michigan State has, essentially, a two-game schedule to sew up a trip to Pasadena. After all, of the Big Ten teams with one conference loss or fewer, Michigan State has already beaten one (Wisconsin), won't face another (Ohio State), and gets another at home (Purdue, who, yeah). The only games left are visits to Northwestern and Iowa in the next two weeks. If the Spartans win these, they'll have the tie-breaker over everyone in the conference. Add a loss anywhere, and the prospects get a little dicey -- especially since if it comes down to Michigan State and Ohio State both at 11-1. More on that in a bit.

Iowa (5-1, 2-0): If the Spartans are the new frontrunners to the Big Ten title, then the Hawkeyes are the gatekeepers. Iowa has three home games remaining, and they're against the other three teams on this list: Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Will the Hawkeyes beat all three of these teams? That'll depend on the leadership of Ricky Stanzi, the senior quarterback who's playing at a level few would have expected after last season. The Hawkeyes' defense, anchored by Adrian Clayborn and the rest of the line, is still their strong spot. But if Stanzi malfunctions like he did on occasion in 2008 and '09, the Hawkeyes could take a very damaging loss and (probably) watch their Big Ten title hopes evaporate.

Wisconsin (6-1, 2-1): Which Wisconsin team will show up in Iowa City on Saturday? The high-octane world-beaters that ran Ohio State out of the stadium last weekend? Or the semi-suspect squad that looked sluggish against plainly inferior non-conference competition and got outgained by 150 yards in a 10-point loss to the Spartans? Granted, 2009 Iowa demonstrated the folly of reading too much into low margins of victory against putative cupcakes, but Iowa won the majority of their games against upper-level Big Ten competition, and Wisconsin hasn't reached that plateau quite yet. A win in Iowa City changes that outlook substantially. Still, when the Badger rush offense is struggling, QB Scott Tolzien's track record isn't promising. It's probably wise to expect one more loss from the Badgers before the season's said and done. 

Ohio State (6-1, 2-1): Ever thought you'd see the day when a 6-1 Ohio State had arguably the fourth-best chance to win the Big Ten crown? Here we are, though; for as good as Michigan State's prospects look, the Buckeyes' seem to be on the other end of the spectrum. Of the contenders, they've already lost to one (Wisconsin), they play another on the road (Iowa), and the last they miss entirely (Michigan State), which means OSU can't take matters into their own hands and put a loss in the Spartans' column. Essentially, to win the conference, Ohio State needs every other team to lose at least once -- and the Buckeyes only play Iowa in the second half of the season. That's a lot of help needed. The Buckeyes have the talent to keep up their own end of the bargain, of course; that defense is still stellar across all 11 positions, and OSU's offensive line will keep their offense humming. But for all his otherworldly physical talent, Terrelle Pryor still isn't taking over games at the level that, let's say, Cam Newton is. Further, this is Pryor's third year in Tressel's offense. It's Newton's first with Auburn OC Gus Malzahn. Either this trend gets corrected, or Pryor's collegiate career becomes a relative disappointment; it's not as if OSU's a seven-win team without Pryor at the helm, is it? 

Any of these four teams could go to the Rose Bowl without any surprises; Wisconsin's an underdog at Iowa, but not prohibitively so. Yes, technically, Northwestern and Purdue are in the mix for now too, but they're definitely longshots next to these four teams. My prediction is that Iowa effectively eliminates the Badgers from the discussion by beating them this weekend, while MSU handles Northwestern. Iowa then hands Michigan State their first conference loss in Iowa City, all while Ohio State keeps winning. Then, Ohio State knocks off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. All three teams win out otherwise, and there's a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings at 7-1. Tiebreaker time!

Iowa will be the first team to be eliminated from consideration, as the Hawkeyes will be 10-2 while OSU and Michigan State are 11-1. Now, a few years ago, the Big Ten had a Rose Bowl tiebreaker after head-to-head competition and overall record that gave the bid to the team that hadn't been to Pasadena in the longest amount of time. This would obviously be Michigan State. But! That tiebreaker was ditched a few years ago and replaced with a Big XII-style stipulation that the highest BCS ranking is awarded the bid. So here we go again. Ohio State, having been ranked ahead of Michigan State when both were undefeated and having an earlier loss than the Spartans, is likely ranked higher at the end of the regular season and sent to Pasadena. Spartan faithful cry foul, but they're rewarded with an Orange Bowl bid in consolation. Iowa represents the conference in the Capital One Bowl, and Wisconsin goes to the Outback for the third time in the last seven years.

Of course, watch Northwestern beat Michigan State this Saturday and render this entire prediction worthless.

 
 
 
 
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