The BCS standings have just come out, and Alabama is 2nd, Georgia is 7th, Florida is 10th, and LSU is 13th. All of these teams have a shot, whether good or remote, of making the title game if they win out.
The overall sentiment this season is that, if no one goes undefeated and these are available, the one-loss Big 12 champion and the one-loss SEC champion will play for the title. These two are clearly the best conferences in the land, and the conventional wisdom goes that their champions should be rewarded for it.
Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here: the champion of the toughest conference may not automatically be the best team. A better team could exist in a weaker conference. However the past two seasons have shown that the "most deserving team" argument is going to win over the "best team" in today’s climate, and coming out of the toughest conference with the same number of losses than someone from a weaker conference makes you more deserving.
Because the SEC is one of those top two in the perception ranks, all anyone but the Tide really need is to have Penn State lose and most everything will take care of itself, and Alabama is still in if they lose a game outside Atlanta. Even so, if you want to leave no doubt of your team's chances to make the title game, here’s your rooting guide for the rest of the season arranged by conference.
Thanks to BYU’s loss, there isn’t a non-BCS team that can plausibly make the title game. In theory BYU might have been able to sneak in because they began the year relatively high in the polls, they have wins over two Pac-10 schools, and they’ve won a national title in the past.
TCU made that unlikely scenario moot.
ACC and Big East
None of these teams have a shot, so continue to root for or against teams as you normally should. Some have tried to make the case that the Gators need to root for Miami and FSU to prop up their resume, or that Georgia should root for Georgia Tech, but being from the SEC means those ACC teams don’t really mean anything.
And really, Florida root for Miami or FSU? Georgia root for GT? Unless they are playing a team ahead of Florida/Georgia in the polls at the end of the season only, there’s no reason ever to. Please.
It doesn’t really matter what goes on here, because there’s no way that both title game slots end up with Big 12 teams. Honestly I don’t think anyone left on Texas’ schedule plays enough defense to beat them, so worrying about this league is more or less a waste of time.
If you want to be absolutely sure, then root for every team to have at least two losses. That’s not very likely, of course. If you have a mischievous streak, then root for Oklahoma to win out and Texas to somehow lose to Baylor. OU would finish higher in the polls, but they will not have even won their division.
It’s very simple: root for Ohio State to beat Penn State. A one-loss Big Ten champ will not be ahead of a one-loss Big 12 or SEC champ at the end, so as long as the Nittany Lions lose to someone (Ohio State? At Iowa? Michigan State?), then we’re set.
After this weekend though, root for Ohio State to lose to Northwestern and/or Illinois. They’re by far the best win on USC’s resume, so if the Buckeyes fall they will tug down on USC too.
USC obviously is the only title contender from this conference, and quite simply another loss will do them in. The computer formulas already hate them, and none of their wins the rest of the way will gain them any favor with the algorithms. A sinking Ohio State would also hurt.
Something Lisa Horne brought up is that if both USC and Oregon State win out, then the Beavers will win the tiebreaker and get the Rose Bowl berth as Pac-10 champion. Technically USC and OSU will be recognized as co-champions by the conference, but human voters look at tiebreakers and will recognize the guys from Corvallis as the sole champ. Then, the Trojans will have the "didn’t win their conference" argument working against them.
The only concern within the conference is hoping that the four heavyweights don’t get upset a lot by (any more) weaker teams and bring down the perception of the league some. I don’t know how much that will happen, and it would take an awful lot for people to come to the conclusion that the Pac-10 or Big Ten are better conferences this season.
Alabama, being undefeated just has to win out. Roll Tide. If they take a loss, they just need to make sure it’s not in Atlanta and they’re golden. Georgia-Florida is about the only other big matchup that matters to them, and they would need to root for the Bulldogs since they already beat them but do not play Florida. Then again, beating a one-loss UF team on the final weekend would look good. In other words, just root for who you hate least.
Georgia just needs to win out. Nothing fancy, just win them all. It would be a bonus if the SEC title game was a win over Alabama to avenge for the early season beat down, but it's not necessary. Having Florida beat FSU couldn't hurt.
Since Florida controls its destiny also, all the Gators must do is win out too. Having Georgia beat Georgia Tech wouldn't hurt.
LSU needs the most help thanks to being the lowest-ranked, but their 2003 title team began out of the top 10 in the initial BCS poll too. Florida over FSU and Georgia over GT would be nice insurance policies.
Either UGA or LSU will be bowing out of the national title hunt this weekend, with potentially another one going out the weekend after when Florida and Georgia play. Then you have the Alabama-LSU game the week after that.
No more than two will make it out of these next three weeks with their national title hopes alive. This is a critical stretch in SEC football coming up.