Here are TheSportsNotebook’s updated BCS bowl projections after Week 3. The only change in the lineup is the removal of Wisconsin as one of the at-larges, after their 32-30 loss to Arizona State. I hate doing it for reasons that go beyond my personal affections for the Badgers.
First off, if you didn’t see the end of the UW-ASU game, Wiscy was robbed. The ball was on the Arizona State 15-yard line, on the right hash. The Badgers had the ball, about 20 seconds left and no timeouts. Quarterback Joel Stave went to the middle of the field, and took a knee. The purpose was to line up quick, spike the ball and kick the field goal. Stave was somewhat haphazard in his taking of a knee and there was a debate over whether the ball was fumbled, but the officials blew the play dead at 0:15.
Astonishingly, the officials never let Wisconsin snap the ball. An Arizona State defender stood over it, but the delay of game was not called, as it should have been. The officials were unable to spot the football in fifteen seconds! The clock ran out. The officials did not bother to seriously confer—there was a group conversation, but it was so brief that they couldn’t have discussed anything more than where to get together for a drink after the game. Then they sprinted off the field.
Someone needs to be fired—not suspended, but fired. Arizona State and Wisconsin both fall in the category of teams that might be in BCS at-large contention at the end of the year, and this game could end up settling who gets a major bowl payday. To have this handled in such a haphazard way is insulting to the sport.
Incidentally, anyone wondering if maybe the fix was in, you can quell such thoughts—Wisconsin, as a 5 ½ point underdog had already covered the spread, and not enough gamblers bet the moneyline (where the issue is the straight-up win) to make it worthwhile. Don’t let these officials off by thinking they might be corrupt—that would imply some level of competence, which clearly does not exist.
So right off the bat, my instincts don’t want to demote Wisconsin because I’m still angry—even writing about it on this Monday morning gets my blood boiling.
But even beyond that, my BCS at-large scenario for UW had always presumed a loss in this spot, and again on September 28 at Ohio State. It’s the eight-game win streak against a more manageable schedule that I’m banking on.
Furthermore, no one else in the Big Ten made a credible case to take this spot behind Ohio State—while there’s no rule requiring a Big Ten team to qualify, the odds are strong in the conference’s favor. A league can only produce one at-large team and I’ve already given three of the four spots to the SEC (South Carolina), Pac-12 (Oregon) and ACC (Florida State). No one in the Big 12 impresses me, Notre Dame doesn’t look very good and I don’t see a BCS-buster on the mid-major horizons. That leaves the Big Ten.
Nebraska jumped out to a 21-3 lead on UCLA, but tanked in the second half, as the Bruins scored 38 unanswered points and won 41-21. The Cornhuskers were completely outmuscled, as UCLA’s Jordan James rushed for 105 yards and the team went over 200. If Tom Osborne were dead right now, he’d be turning over in his grave.
Northwestern has played well, at 3-0, but given their lack of marquee status, the Wildcats are going to have to be far and away the consensus #2 option in the Big Ten, and if that happens the conference might just get frozen out of the at-large status.
No one doubts Michigan’s marquee status, but Wolverines barely survived Akron, 28-24, with Devante Gardner throwing three interceptions.
So with Wisconsin’s theoretical path to the BCS still intact—and given how close the game was, you can argue that they’re even more likely to win those final eight games, and perhaps even take a run at Ohio State—why remove them from the current projections?
The answer is twofold—the first is that I like these projections to be TheSportsNotebook’s version of the national rankings. I find the latter fairly useless, valuable only as far as determining the teams in the BCS National Championship Game. Otherwise, they tell us nothing about games we’re likely to see in January due to the selection rules and conference bowl commitments. If you’re a handicapper, I get why you use them, but for a regular fan, the Top 25 is pretty much pointless.
If the projections are like the rankings, there has to be at least some consequence for a loss, unless a team’s case is airtight. I wouldn’t say that about Wisconsin. As bad as Michigan looked on Saturday, they at least have a marquee victory over Notre Dame to point to, and the Wolverines have a brand name that the BCS will find attractive in any close decision.
Maybe the Notre Dame win won’t hold up over the long haul—speaking of looking shaky, the Irish certainly did Saturday night in West Lafayette, needing three fourth quarter touchdowns to escape a Purdue team that had been blown out by Cincinnati. But for now, Michigan still has a little more than the other Big Ten contenders, so they take the final at-large spot in this week’s projections.
THE FIELD OF 10
Big 12: Oklahoma
Big Ten: Ohio State
AAC (the old Big East): Louisville
At-Larges (4): South Carolina, Oregon, Florida State, Michigan
BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Alabama-Stanford
Sugar: South Carolina-Florida State
Rose: Ohio State-Oregon