Clemson and the BCS: Start Praying Tigers Fans

The weekend that just happened seemed to be a bright spot for Clemson after the computer numbers had been crushing us for weeks due in large part to a very bad ACC league and a non-conference schedule that turned out to be a disaster. The 14 spot in the BCS was the number to circle as that mark was the point Clemson had to reach at year’s end to be eligible for an at-large berth. After losses by Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Rutgers, Texas Tech and Mississippi State the Tigers jumped all the way up to #13.

Still the talk around campus and on some Clemson websites seem to be of the mindset that if Clemson goes 11-1 all things will take care of themself and the Tigers will get an at-large berth. Reality is that’s not the case at all and Clemson is going to need a LOT of help if they’re going to get into a BCS game as an at-large.

*For the purpose of this article I’m assuming Florida State beats Virginia Tech and Maryland and plays for the ACC championship against the Coastal winner. If that doesn’t happen then Clemson controls its own fate and everything I’m going to type becomes fortunately a moot point.*

Still as Yesh has mentioned in his BCS column over the last two years, at-large bids basically don’t care about merit. They don’t care if you’re 11-1 and somebody else is 10-2 so arguing records is almost a waste of time when it comes to that. The BCS at-large’s are what they’re always about with NCAA sports…money. What school will sell the most tickets, spend the most money in the host city, fill the most hotels, etc. So where does Clemson stand? Lets get the obvious out of the way:

1) The six auto bids would fill the six BCS slots leaving the four at-larges that we’re discussing.

2) Notre Dame is 8-0 and has a favorable schedule left. Seeing as Notre Dame only needs to be in the top eight for an auto bid, unless hell freezes over and they lose to Pitt, BC or Wake then even if they trip up at USC it’s nearly impossible to think they’d fall out of the top eight. So they have an automatic bid essentially. However, even if hell did freeze over and they fell out of the top eight, they’ll be picked as an at-large if they’re in the top 14 every year so basically Notre Dame probably would have to lose three of their final four to even BEGIN thinking about them not making a BCS game. Moral of the story? Notre Dame is in, taking one of the four at-large bids.

3) The SEC has five of the top 10 teams right now and given their fanbases and tradition in the BCS are pretty much guaranteed a BCS bowl. Alabama if they didn’t win the SEC would be pretty much an automatic at-large pick. If they do win you have Florida, LSU or Georgia pretty much fighting for that second spot. If the SEC somehow got a second team in the top four (would need a loss by ND, KST or Oregon at the very least) they’d get an automatic bid. Still, like Notre Dame, wasting breath talking about what would have to happen for the SEC to not get two bids isn’t even worth it because it won’t happen. The SEC is getting two bids.

That leaves us with the six automatic bids, Notre Dame and a second SEC team as eight of the ten BCS bids handed away. So what’s Clemson’s position in the race for the other two?

Clemson wants two main things to happen:

1) Boise State loss and mayyyyyybe a Louisiana Tech loss

Boise State is killing Clemson, Big 12 and PAC 12 teams right now. While I’m ¬†driving the bus on them not being deserving, the fact is it doesn’t matter. The Broncos are 19th in the BCS right now and will make the top 16 if they win out at this point. Louisville may stay ahead of them if they win out but a Big Ten champion catching them is looking like a long shot at best, delusional at worst. Thus, the Broncos would automatically get into the BCS if they’re 16 or higher and ahead of the Big Ten champ. Even though their best win at year end could be BYU or Nevada and they’d have a loss to a Michigan State team that has four losses, they’d qualify for the BCS. The Broncos haven’t been dominant this year and far better Broncos teams have lost late in the year but Boise State is in good shape to go to the BCS. Check out Yesh’s column for more in-depth analysis of the Non-AQ race and where Louisiana Tech fits into this discussion but Clemson would be best served with no non-AQ getting close to the top 16 because if they sneak in, there goes another bid.

2) Big 12 and PAC 12 teams to falter

The Big East isn’t getting two teams and the Big Ten isn’t getting two teams. Both of those leagues are irrelevant in the at-large chase. Clemson is pretty close to that themselves. Oklahoma stayed ahead of Clemson even after the loss to Notre Dame. Whether Oklahoma is ahead or behind Clemson doesn’t matter as Oklahoma will be picked ahead of Clemson if both are in the top 14. Looking at the Big 12, Clemson is likely rooting against Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas and according to Yesh, MAYBE Texas Tech. From the PAC 12 Clemson absolutely doesn’t want USC to find its way back into the top 14 as the Trojans would quickly be taken and Stanford missing out wouldn’t hurt.

Clemson also would probably like to see Oregon not make the national championship. If there’s one scenario where Oregon State may bump Clemson out is if the Ducks make the national championship game and the Rose Bowl wants to keep its traditional PAC-12/Big10 matchup. Otherwise if Kansas State or Notre Dame played lets say Bama for the title then Oregon would likely make the Rose (assuming they win PAC-12) and Clemson would have a much better chance of being chosen over Oregon State.

Stanford plays Oregon State. USC plays Oregon and Notre Dame. Oregon plays Oregon State. The thought that USC, Stanford and Oregon State could all end up outside top 14 at end of year isn’t crazy.

Out of all these teams the teams I think should worry Clemson most is Oklahoma and West Virginia. Oklahoma travels to Morgantown but otherwise has played the Big 12’s top teams. If Oklahoma wins there there’s a good chance they’ll win out. So an Oklahoma loss is a must for Clemson at this point as well.

In reality while the talk of the poor ACC league and non-conference schedule does have merit, fact is Clemson was never going to be picked for an at-large because they played a tough OOC schedule or because the ACC was strong. They’ll get picked if some BCS bowl finds them worthy over the other alternatives available to them in the top 14. For Clemson it’s more about who else is in the top 14 than what they do between now and early December.

However, as I said before, if FSU trips up or Clemson loses to South Carolina then all this probably doesn’t matter.

But if you’re sitting at home wondering where Clemson sits right now, you know what teams you need to start rooting against to give the Tigers at-large hopes more life.

Right now they’re on a breathing machine.

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