A lot of the speculation surrounding this game isn't just about which team will win, but whether or not this game even matters? That is because many think we could see this matchup again on Jan. 9th in New Orleans.
I don't think that's a very likely event. Obviously, Oklahoma State and Stanford have to lose to even have the discussion. The loser on Saturday will have a couple of things going against them in the eyes of voters. First, while there isn't a whole lot of precedent on this, voters have shied away from a rematch if there was another good choice available.
In 2006, after a pretty exciting Ohio State-Michigan game that ended 42-39 in favor of the Buckeyes, Michigan fell only to third in the polls, just behind one-loss USC and ahead of six other one-loss teams, led by Florida. That was the final game of the regular season for the Big Ten schools.
Entering the final week of the season, the Wolverines were still sandwiched between USC and Florida. That weekend, USC lost to UCLA, opening the door for a rematch. However, after Florida beat Arkansas for the SEC title, voters pushed the Gators ahead of Michigan and into the BCS title game.
The desire to avoid a rematch wasn't the only thing working against Michigan. Florida was also a conference champion. In the 14-year history of the BCS, the top two teams in the final polls have always been conference champions. Earlier versions of the BCS formula overruled the will of the voters a couple of times and put a non-champion in the BCS title game. It is harder to do that in this version of the formula, which gives 2/3 of the weight to the voters.
The loser of this game figures to be in the same boat as Michigan. I think if there is any other reasonable choice, including undefeated Boise State or one-loss Oklahoma, the voters will ultimately go that route, even if they don't do so this week. And I think that is true no matter how good the game is on Saturday, although obviously a good game is more helpful to the rematch cause than a poor one.
Yes, I did say Boise State up there. Certainly, if it comes down to a choice of the Broncos or LSU/Alabama, there will be a lot of debate over how "reasonable" a choice Boise State is. That program has built up a lot of respect with the voters over the last several years, and if the circumstance is right, voters may finally say, "let's see what they got."