So everyone seems to think that Michigan is going to face Houston in the Sugar Bowl. Of course, in order for that to happen, Michigan has to finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. The current BCS standings come out at 8:15 pm tonight. This has been an overanalyzed topic on the MGoBoard, but there are some interesting and somewhat overlooked things that could happen next week to affect Michigan's BCS hopes. The consensus round these parts has been that if LSU beats Georgia, we should be in the top 14 and thus selected to the Sugar Bowl. However, even if that happens, there are some other teams that we should be concerned about:
1. Michigan State. If they lose to Wisconsin in a close game, it is not unreasonable to think that they might stay above us. Yes, they have 3 losses to our 2, but they beat us by two touchdowns. They have moved up to 9th (barely) in the Coaches poll and are 11th in the Harris poll. The computers have us (just) ahead of MSU, so if they drop to one spot ahead of us in the polls, the BCS rankings will probably have us ahead of them. For State to stay in the top 14, they'd have to only drop a couple of spots after a loss. A State win in the B1G championship game, while deeply unsatisfying to my fandom, would actually benefit Michigan, as Wisconsin would almost definitely drop below us, and with MSU as one of our opponents, it would help our computer rankings. It would still, however, make me nauseated.
2. Baylor. This is the one that really scares me. The computers LOVE the Big 12. Two of the computer rankings had Baylor 7th overall last week, even with losses to Kansas St. and Texas A&M. My guess is that Baylor and Michigan will almost be exactly tied in this week's rankings, with Michigan having a slight edge. The good news is that they might have dropped a little in the computer rankings, as their win over Texas Tech will not help them as much as South Carolina's win over Clemson, for example. That same game helped Michigan to move in front of Clemson in several computer polls. In any case, Baylor's game next weekend against Texas may decide Michigan's bowl fate.
3. Oklahoma. An Oklahoma win over Ok. St. keeps both in the top 14. I have no doubt that the Sugar Bowl would take us over the Cowboys, but we'd have to make the top 14 for that to matter. An Oklahoma loss should drop them past Michigan in the human polls, but they were 6th in the computer polls last week. A loss to Ok. St. (#2 in the computers last week) is not going to hurt them too much, and they'll probably stay in the top 10 in the computer rankings. That means they'd have to drop to at least about 17th in the human polls to fall past Michigan. I don't know if that will happen.
The overall math is this: We will be 16th in tonight's rankings. We need two teams to drop past us with no teams moving ahead of us. (or three drop and one moves ahead of us.) We need the following to happen:
1. Georgia loss to LSU. A Georgia win eliminates the Sugar Bowl slot. Nobody, not even Mark Richt's mother, thinks this will happen.
2. The B1G loser to drop at least 4 spots in the human polls. That should happen, but hope for a blowout either way (run it up, Bielema).
3a. Texas beats Baylor. A Baylor win probably puts them ahead of Michigan and leaves us at 15th in the BCS, which means we can't be selected over other eligible teams.
3b. Oklahoma loses badly enough to Ok. St. that the human polls drop them to about 18th, allowing Michigan to slide ahead of them in the BCS.
3c. UCLA beats Oregon. The Pac-12 championship game should be irrelevant, as UCLA won't beat Oregon, but if they do, Oregon should drop out of the top 15 in the BCS. That would be great, as it would pretty much lock up a spot in the top 14 for Michigan, and it would give the B1G a winnable Rose Bowl. Go Bruins!
We also should hope that Virginia Tech beats Clemson. A Clemson win is dangerous because it hurts us in the computer polls, and it gives a bowl game the opportunity to take Virginia Tech as an at-large instead of Michigan (unlikely, but possible). I don't think Clemson overtakes Michigan in the human polls with three losses, but it would probably be close.
The BCS standings come out at 8:15. What to watch for: the gap between Michigan and Baylor, and both teams' positions in the computer rankings. I expect Michigan to be at almost exactly 0.400 overall (probably a little above), and Baylor to be just a little below 0.400. If the gap is big enough, it could be hard for Baylor to overcome even with a win over Texas, especially if Baylor gets pushed down by other teams in the computer polls. Last week the computers had them at 0.550; hopefully they have dropped from this spot.
Edit: There has been a lot of consternation in this thread and the others that have popped up tonight about Baylor. Basically, the fear is that a Baylor win over Texas bumps them ahead of Michigan. I should know, since I said it above. Having seen the updated standings, I don't think it will happen. A Baylor win is not going to help them in the human polls. We all know that the voters have a tendency to "ladder" their votes, meaning that teams usually only drop when they lose, or if a team behind them has an impressive win. Beating Texas is not that impressive; a lot of other teams have done it too. So Baylor should stay two spots behind us in the human polls even with a win (assuming TCU beats a 2-9 UNLV team at home). In the computer polls, Baylor can only move up about one spot (ahead of South Carolina) if Houston, Boise, Va. Tech and Oregon win (as they should). The Michigan-Baylor gap is 0.04, which corresponds to exactly one spot on average between the three polls. Since Baylor can't move up in the human polls, and can move up at most a spot and a half in the computers, that gap should only narrow to about half of what it is now. Also, either Georgia or the B1G loser should drop between Michigan and Baylor in the human polls, which should increase the gap. In short, I think the Baylor-Texas game shouldn't matter. We should just need LSU to win, and the voters to drop the B1G loser below us.