So there's roughly four weeks left in the season, which under the tortured metaphor BCS-boosters are fond of makes it roughly the Elite Eight of football. And luckily, the New York Times is here to tell you which, um, seven teams are still in the hunt:
That's two undefeated teams and five one-loss squads. Not included, but sharing the record of those last five schools are Boston College (lost to three-loss FSU), Arizona State (lost to one-loss Oregon), and Connecticut (lost to I-still-can't-believe-they-only-have-two-losses Virginia). Oh, and there's undefeated Hawaii, but they practically play in another country, so we don't have to think about them.
So what do Boston College, Arizona State and Connecticut all have in common? Two things. One, they're all ranked higher than West Virginia in the computer portion of the BCS rankings. You know, the portion that doesn't factor in the team's name, or history, or what Lee Corso was saying about them back in August. And two, none of them were in any Preseason Top 25 polls.
The college football season is not a season-long playoff. It's two. There's the playoff for the plebian schools, where if you lose a game, it's over. Kansas is over here in this bracket - they also weren't in the Preseason Top 25, so it's no surprise the NYT gave them longer odds then the rest of the one-loss field. If it's a season where a whole bunch of teams go undefeated, surviving this bracket may not even get you a title shot, but this season is at leat wacky enough that the Jayhawks have to be humored until they lose. And Missouri, well Missouri is a special case I'll get to in a moment.
The second playoff is for the annoited teams, and it's double elimination. If you have a number before your name before you took the field on the first of September, you were special. You had a mulligan. If that number was small enough, you could even bless other teams, like Michigan did when they were crushed by the Ducks. That first loss doesn't ruin your season.
In a rational world, West Virginia, with a 1-1 record against the Top 25 - they lost to South Florida and beat Rutgers - would not be in contention while Arizona State - same 1-1 record, with a more impressive win and loss - is out in the cold. I know this because the rational world is listed in every newspaper in the country, in th computer ranking portion of the BCS (West Virginia is 12th, ASU 5th). But college football is not played in a rational world, so the Sun Devils' season is apparently over.
And then there's the strange case of Missouri, the only one-loss team in the Times article not in the preseason Top 25. To the computers, they're a Top 8 team, behind BC and ASU, and about on par with Oklahoma. But they're higher in the minds of voters, not for their own success, but because ASU and BC lost, and had to be dropped from 2nd and 6th, respectively. The Tigers are being lifted by a tide of voters thinking in terms of punishing losing teams instead of ranking them by their talents. I'll be interested in seeing how long they'll stay there.