It's Championship Week, so that means we've had just about enough action in the season to drag out my score projection method that I use during bowl season. Over the course of the last three bowl seasons, it's gone 69-36 (.657) in calling the correct outcome of games. Being right two thirds of the time in bowl season ain't bad.
So, I decided to apply it to the games that matter for extending the SEC's national championship streak. The best chance for it to have a shot at continuing is if FSU loses to Duke or Ohio State loses to Michigan State. Failing either of those, the SEC champ would have to leapfrog Ohio State for second. Let's take those in order.
ACC Championship Game
In the conventional wisdom, an upset here is the least likely outcome of the things we're focusing on. The projection method agrees. It has Florida State winning this one 51-18.
I am impressed as anyone with what David Cutcliffe has done at Duke this year, but the chances are vanishingly small that he'll pull out the conference championship this weekend.
Big Ten Championship Game
An upset here is a lot more likely. Ohio State has only played one opponent of Michigan State's caliber—Wisconsin, who it beat 31-24. That score is slightly closer than it should be as Wisconsin hit a late field goal, but it still isn't anything like some of OSU's more recent wins where it was blowing teams out by 30 or more.
The projection for this game is a 29-20 Ohio State win. That outcome is a lot closer than the ACC title game, but it still doesn't do a whole lot for the quest for an eighth straight title for the SEC.
SEC Championship Game
I am certain that only Auburn could jump an undefeated Ohio State team for second. That view is no slight on Missouri, which I think has been the better team over the course of the entire season. It's just that voters will be willing to consider putting Auburn above a 13-0 Ohio State because it defeated Alabama. Missouri doesn't have such a win, so the voters won't put them that high up there. It's as simple as that. That reasoning is flawed at best, and a complete explanation is a full blog post in and of itself, but there it is. Plus, I don't think Missouri will have a chance at passing OSU in the computer polls, which is almost certainly a necessity for jumping an undefeated Buckeyes team in the BCS.
If this is going to happen, we must pin our hopes on the Plainsmen. The score projection dashes those hopes, however, in indicating a 32-28 Missouri win.
Conclusions, Caveats, Etc.
If the score projection method is correct, then the SEC national championship streak is going to end. However, the method tends to hit games on a two-out-of-three pace, which means one of these is likely wrong. So, I'm telling you there's a chance.
This system has its limitations though, as it's not really well equipped to handle teams like Auburn and Florida State. AU is a team that began the year merely OK, narrowly defeating two eventual 6-6 teams and losing solidly to LSU in the season's first month. Had the Iron Bowl been played in September, Bama almost certainly would have won it comfortably. The Tigers have improved greatly over the course of the year, but the score projection system weights every game equally. That fact means it probably is underestimating Auburn here.
As for Florida State, the problem is that the method doesn't have a good way to handle teams that run up the score with abandon. I personally have no problem with a team that runs up the score with the backups, but I have no way to account for garbage time with this system. FSU has won games by scores of 62-7, 63-0, 51-14, and 80-14, and it has two 59-3 wins as well. Those results are going to skew things in FSU's quite a bit. The same would go to a lesser degree for Ohio State, which began running up scores in late October for style points.
In any event, I tend to think that the national title streak is over unless Ohio State loses to Michigan State. FSU isn't losing to Duke, even with the ACC title game in North Carolina. I also don't think that voters, who tend to be conservative by nature, are going to put a one-loss team ahead of 13-0 Ohio State.
If Auburn could have somehow beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship Game this weekend, then I think there would be a chance with voters being swept up by emotion. Given a week to stew on the idea of leaving out an undefeated team for a one loss team, I don't think enough will have the nerve to make it happen. Plus, OSU's 25-0 win streak probably would play in its favor even though last year shouldn't count for anything towards this year. Maybe I'm wrong, but I wouldn't bet on Auburn or Missouri passing up an undefeated Ohio State.
When I pull out the score projection formula, I tend to get requests in the comments for more than just what I include in the post. In an attempt to head off some of those requests, here are some other results I thought some of y'all might be interested in. These will change by next week once the final weekend's games enter into the equation.
FSU 48, Auburn 22
Ohio State 40, Auburn 31
FSU 44, Missouri 22
Ohio State 36, Missouri 31
FSU 38, Alabama 23
Alabama 32, Ohio State 29
Alabama 33, Auburn 22
If you didn't read the above and just skipped down here, the system doesn't have a good way to account for teams that run up the score, so it's going to be friendly to Ohio State and very friendly to Florida State. I also included a Bama-Auburn projection that includes the result of last week's game. I did so as a reminder to myself as much as any of you that the likely result doesn't always happen.