Third in the BCS Standings. Fourth in the Coaches’ Poll. Strong with the computers. Weak with the pollsters. A November schedule that softens before USC. Opponents losing games that could cost Notre Dame in the end.
The variety of permutations and enormity of the variables that go into determining the BCS formula makes most football fans dizzy, and more importantly excited that we finally have a playoff coming in 2014. But until then, the BCS, and its much-discussed formula, is the only way to find the two teams that’ll play for the national title.
That proposition has many Notre Dame fans worried. Could the Fighting Irish, who many believed had the toughest schedule in the country heading into the season, be kept out of the title game even if they go undefeated?
The short answer: Yes. The slightly longer answer is: Don’t get too worked up about it yet.
Paul Bessire of PredictionMachine.com has some fun statistics that should have Notre Dame fans feeling a little less worried about the possibility of being left out.
For those worried that Notre Dame won’t have time to end up in the top two in the country, consider that there’s roughly a 1% chance that the Irish, Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon will still stand unblemished at the end of the year.
- Chances there are still six undefeated FBS teams on December 2 (after conference title games): 0.06% (or 1-in-1718)
- Chances Alabama, Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon are undefeated on December 2: 1.22% (or 1-in-82)
- Chances Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oregon are undefeated on December 2: 2.23% (or 1-in-45)
- Chances Oregon is undefeated and Kansas State and Notre Dame are not on December 2: 8.79% (or 1-in-11)
- Chances Notre Dame is undefeated and Kansas State and Oregon are not on December 2: 22.96% (or 1-in-4)
- Chances Kansas State is undefeated and Oregon and Notre Dame are not on December 2: 13.31% (or 1-in-8)
- Chances that Louisville is the only undefeated FBS (BCS eligible) team on December 2: 2.62% (or 1-in-38)
- Chances that Alabama is the only undefeated FBS (BCS eligible) team on December 2: 15.83% (or 1-in-6)
- Chances that both Alabama and Oregon lose in their respective conference championship games: 4.28% (or 1-in-23)
- Chances that no FBS team is undefeated on December 2: 9.35% (or 1-in-11)
- Chances that Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State all have at least one loss on December 2: 15.75% (or 1-in-6)
Of the four teams with realistic hopes of making the national title game (Alabama, Notre Dame, Kansas State, and Oregon), here’s Bessire’s breakdown on the likelihood of each team actually running the table.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Games Remaining: 5 (with conference championship, though one of those games is against FCS Western Carolina)
Undefeated Chances: 54.7%
Closest Remaining Game: at LSU (November 2)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Games Remaining: 4
Undefeated Chances 39.8%
Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 24)
Ohio State Buckeyes
Games Remaining: 3
Undefeated Chances: 28.8%
Closest Remaining Game: at Wisconsin (November 17)
Kansas State Wildcats
Games Remaining: 4
Undefeated Chances: 27.7%
Closest Remaining Game: at TCU (November 10)
Games Remaining: 5 (including conference championship game)
Undefeated Chances: 20.2%
Closest Remaining Game: at USC (November 2 – at Oregon State is close)
Games Remaining: 4
Undefeated Chances: 16.6%
Closest Remaining Game: at Rutgers (November 29)
Notre Dame actually has the second best shot of the teams remaining to win out, and the Irish will beat the Trojans 65% of the time according to these statistics. (You’d have taken those chances in the preseason, wouldn’t you have?)
So while the Irish aren’t a lock to play in the national title game, they’re actually sitting better than you’d expect. And of course, this is just a friendly reminder that it’s still too early to start worrying about the BCS.