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Houston loss has big-time BCS implications

It didn’t take long today for the Bowl Championship Series to get a significant shake up. Sure, we already know who’s going to play in the national title game — because if we’ve learned nothing this year, it’s that every game matters … unless you play in the SEC — but the other games still were up for grabs today.

Houston, which had gone through the season unbeaten and found itself in the top 10, had the inside track to the Sugar Bowl as the top non-AQ school in the country with a ranking inside the top 12. I’m not sure if today’s loss to Southern Mississippi would knock the Cougars outside of the top 12 (it probably should), but it doesn’t matter, as they’re not Conference USA champions, meaning they’d have to get in as an at-large. Good luck with that.

So who gets the spot? Well, if Houston falls behind Michigan, it’s likely enough to get the Wolverines into the top 14, making them a shoe-in for an at-large spot. Then again, Michigan is likely to get there anyway, and most projections have them playing in the Sugar Bowl against Houston already. TCU would be the non-AQ school with the best chance, as it sits at No. 18 in the BCS standings right now, and only needs to get to No. 16 to earn an auto-bid. Head spinning yet? If a non-AQ school wins its conference and finishes in the top 16, it can get an automatic berth in a BCS game provided the champion from at least one AQ conference is ranked below it. Thank you, Big East.

If TCU doesn’t jump two spots (which is possible but not all that likely), then an at-large selection would fill the slot. The most likely choices are Boise State, Kansas State and, if it loses today, Oklahoma State.

As for the Big East, Cincinnati’s win against UConn leaves a three-way tie at the top of the league, so the final BCS standings will determine who gets the bid. Barring something crazy, that will be West Virginia, which is currently the only Big East team in the top 25, sitting at No. 23.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2011 College Football Program Power Rankings

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor hands off the ball to tailback Dane Sanzenbacher in the third quarter at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans during the 77th Annual Allstate Sugar Bowl January 4, 2011. The Buckeyes won 31-26 UPI/Dave Fornell

Almost a year ago we decided to try to quantify the stature of college football programs so that we could rank them against one another. (Click here for the 2010 Rankings.) Then our football guru, Anthony Stalter, wrote a little bit about each program and the direction that it’s headed.

Here’s how the total points are determined — 20 points for a national championship, 10 for a BCS title game loss, seven for a BCS bowl win, five for a BCS bowl loss, five for a BCS conference championship, three for a mid-major conference championship, two for a BCS conference runner-up and one for a major bowl appearance (i.e. a bowl that has a recent payout of more than $2 million, so for 2011 that would be Capital One, Outback, Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Gator, Insight, Holiday, Champs Sports and Alamo.) You’ll see the total points in parenthesis after the team’s name.

We put some thought into the point values for each accomplishment, paying special attention to how the point values are relative to one another. For example, we figured that one national championship would equate to four BCS conference championships, or three BCS bowl wins. We only looked at the last five years, as college football has increasingly become a fluid and fickle sport, and that’s about how far back a recruit will go when deciding amongst a list of schools.

Lastly, since a program is so dependent on the guy in charge, we added or subtracted points if the program saw an upgrade or downgrade at the head coach position in the last five years. A max of 10 points would be granted (or docked) based on the level of upgrade or downgrade. Again, we tried to quantify the hire relative to the program’s other accomplishments. For example, hiring Nick Saban is probably worth two BCS bowl appearances, or 10 points. (Sure, he might lead Alabama to more, but he also might bolt for another job in a year or two.)

So, without further ado, here are the rankings. Every year we’ll go through and update the numbers based on what the program did that year (while throwing out the oldest year of data), so don’t fret if your team isn’t quite where you want them right now. Everyone has a chance to move up.

1. Ohio State (58)

Previous Rank: #2 (+1)
Some college football fans will take issue with the Buckeyes being No. 1 because of their “soft schedule.” But this is a team that has dominated its conference five of the past six years and has finished no worse than second in each of the past six seasons. They’ve also appeared in two title games (though they lost both) and nine straight BCS bowl games, winning the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl in the past two years. They’ve got an interesting season coming up though. Five of their players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron and receiver DeVier Posey will miss the first five games next year after being suspended. Can the Buckeyes stay unscathed until those players return?

2. Florida (51)

Previous Rank: #1 (-1)
If it weren’t for Urban Meyer leaving the program (and their lousy 2010 season), the Gators would probably still be ranked No. 1. They have three conference championships and two national championships in two years, but the lose of Meyer hurts big-time in these rankings. But don’t fret Florida fans, if Will Muschamp gets the program back on the right track then the Gators won’t be at No. 2 for long.

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Rose Bowl Preview: TCU vs. Wisconsin

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs leads his team on the field against the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU beat Air Force 38-7. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

2011 BCS Bowl Previews: BCS National Championship | Fiesta Bowl | Rose Bowl | Orange Bowl | Sugar Bowl

Date: Saturday, January 1 2011
Time: 4:30PM ET
TV: ESPN

Why Watch: This will be the Badgers first trip to Pasadena in 11 seasons, while the Horned Frogs will become the first team from a non-AQ league in the BCS era to play in the Rose Bowl. Both teams scored 520 points this year, which was tied for the fourth most in the nation. This will be a classic strength vs. strength matchup, as TCU allowed an average of just 11.4 points, 126.3 passing yards and 215.4 total yards per game this year, which were all tops in the FBS. They also held opponents to 89.2 rushing yards per game, which was the third-fewest in the country. The Badgers, meanwhile, were tied for fourth with 43.3 points per game (the same as TCU) and employ a three-headed monster in running backs James White (1,061 yards), John Clay (952) and Montee Ball (881). Can TCU’s speedy defense matchup with Wisconsin’s big bodies on the offensive line?

Game Facts: Wisconsin has won its last three Rose Bowl appearances, while this will be TCU’s first-ever trip to Pasadena. The Badgers are 11-10 all-time in bowls and they’ll be making their ninth-straight bowl appearance. They beat Miami 20-14 in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando last season. The Frogs are 11-14-1 all-time in bowls, but are 7-4 in bowl games under current head coach Gary Patterson. After winning their previous four bowl games, TCU was largely dominated by Boise State at last year’s Fiesta Bowl, even though the final score was, 17-10.

Key Player: Wayne Daniels, TCU.
Want to know if TCU can play with the big boys? We’ll learn a lot by watching Daniels try and get around 6-foot-7 beast of a man and Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi. Daniels was an All-American himself, and led TCU with 6.5 sacks this season. If Carimi is able to do to him what he’s been able to do to everyone else he’s gone up against this season (which is destroy them), then TCU might be in for a long day because that likely means Wisconsin won’t have trouble moving the ball. Daniels doesn’t necessarily have to win this battle, but he has to at least hold his own if TCU is going to win.

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TCU to join the Big East in 2012

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Gary Patterson of the TCU Horned Frogs leads his team on the field against the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Mountain West is having itself a rough year. After losing Utah (Pac-12) and BYU (Independent) a couple of months ago, ESPN.com is now reporting that TCU will also leave the MWC to join the Big East in 2012.

The conference change allows TCU to play in an automatic BCS-qualifying league beginning in the 2012-13 school year. TCU currently plays in the Mountain West Conference, which does not have an automatic bid to the BCS and is going through some changes of its own. BYU and Utah are leaving the conference just as Boise State enters.

TCU would become the Big East’s ninth football team. The conference has extended an invitation to Villanova to become its 10th football member.

This is great for TCU and the Big East, but Boise State has to be having a “WTF?” moment. The Broncos joined the Mountain West in part because they thought it would improve their strength of schedule in the eyes of BCS voters. But now that Utah, TCU and BYU are all heading out of town, they probably would have been better served staying in the WAC in terms of SOS competition.

Maybe Boise should join the Big East, too.

Maybe the SEC just isn’t that good this year

AUBURN, AL - OCTOBER 23: Quarterback Jordan Jefferson  of the LSU Tigers breaks a tackle by Neiko Thorpe  of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on October 23, 2010 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I know it’s blasphemy in college football to even think it, but what if the conference that has ruled the sport for most of the last decade just isn’t that good this year?

Yes, there are still great athletes all over the field in these games. Yes, some of the best coaches in the country are leading these teams. But what exactly has the SEC done this year to prove that it’s worthy of being called the best conference in the country?

What are the conference’s big nonconference wins? LSU has two wins over other BCS conference teams, but those are against a scandal-ridden North Carolina team (a game the Tigers very nearly lost) and a mostly erratic West Virginia team. Alabama has a win over Penn State, but so what. Not only are the Nittany Lions down this year, but they were playing with a true freshman in his first road start.

The nation’s No. 2 team, Auburn, is even without a signature nonconference win. The Tigers struggled to put away a Clemson team that came into tonight 4-4 in the ACC.

I understand the difficulty of going through conference games, and that the physical play of the SEC is tough to go through week after week. But what, other than past performance, do we have to go on when judging the SEC this year?

If Auburn beats Alabama next week, it will go to the national title game, and that’s fine. I have no problem with that. But all the talk of a one-loss SEC team somehow finding its way into the title game seems based completely on what we’re used to, not what we’re seeing on the field.

If you want to bring past performance into it, how do you overlook Boise State, which hasn’t lost a game since the Poinsettia Bowl in 2008 against TCU? Or how about a TCU team that’s only loss over the last two years is that same Boise team in last year’s Fiesta Bowl?

I think everyone who’s voting should learn a lesson from the 2006 season, when many thought Michigan and Ohio State deserved a rematch in the title game because they had been so dominant all season. The problem was, the perceived tough games they played were all either in conference, or against teams with more tradition than punch (Notre Dame and Texas). Luckily, the voters voted against that and the Big Ten was exposed, oddly enough, by the SEC.

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