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College Football

College Football Scoreboards Schedules Standings Polls Stats Conferences Teams Players Recruiting` INSIDE COLLEGE FOOTBALL

All Is Not Yet Lost

Thanks to the new bowl formula, teams with one defeat need not give up their title dreams

By Ivan Maisel

Posted: Wed September 30, 1998
Sports Illustrated Attempts this early in the season to apply the abstruse Bowl Championship Series formula—which will determine the No.-1-versus-No.-2 matchup in the Fiesta Bowl—produce little more than a headache, but some things are becoming clear. One is that even with one loss, strong teams like Florida State, which beat then-No. 18 Southern Cal 30-10 last Saturday, and Florida, which outgunned Kentucky 51-35, aren't out of the picture. Another is that, when it comes to comparing conferences, the SEC is strong, the Pac-10 is deep, and the Big Ten is in deep trouble.

  Florida State
After defeating USC, Weinke's once-beaten Seminoles have reason to believe.    (Bill Frakes)

  • Given the quality of their SEC opponents, neither Florida (3-1) nor the loser of the game this week between unbeatens Georgia and LSU should give up hope of a berth in the Fiesta. Each of those teams' strong strength-of-schedule rating (a factor in the Bowl Championship Series formula along with a team's standing in the two polls and various computer rankings and its won-lost record) will help to offset a single defeat.

  • Though USC and Washington suffered awful beatings by nonconference opponents last Saturday, the Pac-10 is 8-3 against the Big Ten, the Big 12 and the ACC. Oregon, Arizona and UCLA remain unbeaten and figure to enhance their Bowl Championship Series ratings because their strength of schedule will be increased by the strong performances of the other teams in the Pac-10.

  • Given the Big Ten's 4-10 record against teams from the power conferences and Notre Dame, the loser of the Ohio State-Penn State game this Saturday can make other plans for Jan. 4. The Fiesta won't be calling.

  • Of the 19 teams that enter October unbeaten, Marshall, Miami (Ohio) and Tulane will never be ranked high enough to reach the Fiesta Bowl. Three others are unblemished only by the grace of their September schedules: Minnesota, Texas Tech and Wisconsin will falter at some point. That leaves 13 teams with a genuine chance to finish unbeaten and earn a spot in the title game.

Well, maybe not. By season's end, it's possible that the Florida-Florida State winner or Syracuse, currently the next most prominent team with one loss, will be ranked high enough and have a schedule rating strong enough to come out ahead of an unbeaten team in the race for a Fiesta Bowl berth.

To curtail all the speculation surrounding strength of schedule—one scenario has an unbeaten, top-ranked Ohio State losing a berth in the Fiesta and a shot at the national title due to the Big Ten's weakness—SEC assistant commissioner Charles Bloom, who played a large role in developing the BCS formula, said on Sunday that the release of the schedule ratings will be moved up from Nov. 15 to as early as Oct. 25.

Issue date: October 5, 1998

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