I guess it goes without saying, but OU was eliminated from national championship consideration with its loss to Texas. No way will the Big 12 send a one-loss team to the Big Bowl. Not this year. The conference is too weak. Tiebreakers will go to the SEC, Pac-12 and ACC, in that order. The Big 12 probably would not win a tiebreaker over the Big Ten, if that Big Ten team is Ohio State.
Anyway, here are the unbeatens left in college football.
SEC: Alabama, Missouri.
Pac-12: Oregon, UCLA.
ACC: Florida State, Clemson, Miami.
Big 12: Baylor, Texas Tech.
Big Ten: Ohio State.
American: Louisville, Houston.
Mid-American: Northern Illinois.
Mountain West: Fresno State.
As far as the Big Bowl, Houston, Northern Illinois and Fresno State aren’t contenders, and Louisville probably isn’t. A one-loss team from the SEC or Pac-12 or ACC almost surely would trump Louisville. All of those teams could be BCS busters, though. Northern Illinois made it last year. Fresno State at 13-0 would be a very worthy candidate. Houston might be a stretch but could make it.
Of course, the most likely Big Bowl is Alabama-Oregon, with Ohio State waiting in the wings should someone stumble. Everyone else is likely to have a loss, and those three could.
If a one-loss team can make it to Pasadena, then the door is open to many more teams. Here are the one-loss teams in college football, among the major conference:
SEC: LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Auburn.
Pac-12: Stanford, Oregon State.
ACC: Maryland, Virginia Tech.
Big 12: OSU, OU.
Big Ten: Michigan State, Michigan, Nebraska,
So there is your Big Bowl field. Twenty-three teams from major conferences with one or no losses, plus Louisville. That field will be cut down each week. But just like in the Kentucky Derby, not every horse in the race has a chance to win. Here’s how I would rank the chances of the 24:
1. Oregon: Maybe the nation’s best.
2. Alabama: Going to be very difficult to beat.
3. Ohio State: Few chances of losing.
4. Florida State-Clemson winner: Not even the ACC title game would present a huge obstacle.
5. LSU: If the Tigers win out, they will be hard-pressed to not earn a spot. They play at Alabama, host Texas A&M and would have an SEC title game showdown.
6. Texas A&M: The Aggies have to win at LSU, then hope for some kind of tiebreaking magic to reach the SEC title game.
7. Baylor: The Big 12 is so weak, the Bears could run the table and then take their chances.
8. Stanford: The Cardinal gets Oregon at home. Win out, and Stanford would be in the discussion.
9. Louisville: The Cardinals likely will go unbeaten, but a bunch of teams will have to lose to get the ‘Ville in the Big Bowl.
10. South Carolina: The Gamecocks have a tough schedule — but that helps a one-loss team’s bid. South Carolina closes the season by hosting Clemson.
11. Virginia Tech: The Hokies can hope for a back-door entry. Their schedule is ridiculously weak the rest of the way — Duke, Boston College, Miami, Maryland, Virginia. Beat Miami, and VPI could be facing Clemson or Florida State in the ACC title game with a lot on the line.
12. UCLA: The Bruins might have to beat Oregon twice — in Eugene, then in the Pac-12 title game.
13. Missouri: The Tigers have a tough schedule — Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, but all of those are at home. The biggest hurdle would be Bama or LSU in the SEC title game.
14. Miami: The Hurricanes might have to beat Florida State twice — in Tallahassee on Nov. 2, then in the ACC title game.
15. Nebraska: Don’t laugh. The Cornhuskers aren’t all that good, but their schedule wouldn’t include Ohio State until the Big Ten title game. They get Michigan State and Northwestern at home.
16. Florida State-Clemson loser: The loser likely won’t be the in the ACC title game, which harms the cause.
17. Michigan State: The Spartans have three straight games against Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern. Win them all, and Michigan State could play Ohio State with something on the line.
18. Oklahoma: The Sooners would have to win out, while praying each week for a slew of teams to lose.
19. Michigan: The Wolverines’ biggest problem is that they’re not very good. The schedule sets up well for Michigan. Lots of games to impress. Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, a possible two games against Ohio State.
20. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are a lot like Louisville. Even winning out might not be enough to trump some one-loss teams. And Tech has a lot less chance of winning out than does Louisville.
21. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys haven’t played well enough to make us think they can get on a roll.
22. Oregon State: The Beavers still play Stanford, Arizona State, Washington and Oregon. Plus, Oregon State lost to a I-AA foe, Eastern Washington.
23. Auburn: Plays at Texas A&M, plus hosts Georgia and Alabama.
24. Maryland: It helps to be moderately competitive.