Big, huge college football night and the Badgers path to Pasadena
I'm not one for hyperbole but this is the biggest regular season Thursday night in college football history, right? You've got 7-0 and sixth ranked Baylor hosting 10th ranked Oklahoma and 8-0 and number three Oregon playing at fifth ranked Stanford.
It's going to feel like a Saturday night but it's only Thursday and it kicks off the stretch run to the BCS. As it stands we've got five unbeaten teams in the top 10 and eventually it will shake out, as it always does, to one or two unbeatens left standing.
Aside from trying to figure out who ends up in the BCS title game there's plenty at stake for the Badgers in terms of where they end up at the end of the season. Let's assume two things for the moment: that the Badgers run the table and Ohio State ends the year 13-0 and Big Ten champions. If the Buckeyes don't leap over Alabama or Florida State then they will head to Pasadena and the Badgers will play elsewhere.
But let's say the Buckeyes finish in the top two. The Rose Bowl will get to pick a replacement and in keeping with tradition they will take a Big Ten team if one is eligible. The BCS selection process is always a murky one but essentially if the Badgers finish with 10 wins and are in the top 18 of the final BCS standings they would be eligible for selection. What about Michigan State? Well the Spartans do have a better record and are ranked ahead of the Badgers however MSU plays at Nebraska next week and under our scenario would lose to Ohio State in the Big Ten championship. So the Spartans may not end the year ranked ahead of the Badgers. That may not matter anyway. The Rose Bowl and any bowl is mindful of which schools travel well and the Badgers always travel well.
So to recap: a 13-0 Ohio State team ranked in the top two and a Badgers team that finishes 10-2 and in the top 18 means Wisconsin could play in a fourth straight Rose Bowl. The question now is, will Ohio State get into the top two?
This brings us back to tonight and the pair of unbeatens in Baylor and Oregon. Mind you, the Bears are ranked behind Ohio State but they face a killer stretch with Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State before ending the season against a resurgent Texas team. Now factor in Baylor's explosive offense (think 2008 Oklahoma) and the possibility exists that Baylor could jump ahead of Ohio State. As far as Oregon goes after tonight the Ducks have an open road until the season finale against Oregon State followed by the Pac-12 championship game.
And as for the current top two teams? Well top ranked Alabama gets LSU in a prime time showdown this week then faces one more challenge on the road against Auburn before the SEC title game. Number two Florida State has the easiest path but might have a rematch against Miami in the ACC championship.
One month from now is Championship Saturday with the potential of Alabama, Florida State, Oregon, Ohio State and Baylor all playing and fighting for those two coveted BCS slots. One thing is certain: it will be a wild month and it all starts tonight.