You've seen many pre-season Top 25 rankings, even several Top 120 pre-season rankings, including ours. Now we take it a step further. After calling the winner in every game, figuring out the conference winners and championship teams, we paired the teams into bowl games using the BCS rules and conference tie-ins, then projected those games. Here's what happens when you start with our rankings and run through the season in its entirety, then judge the teams by their resulting wins and losses the way pollsters do.
The record included is the record from our projection, but it doesn't have to be literal. There are a number of ways these teams can finish in this order even if events don't strictly play out the way we've envisioned. For example, USC may finish undefeated and #2, or perhaps they played and lost to Florida and still finished second. The far left column is our pre-season ranking of the team.
|2009 Projected Post-BCS Final Top 25|
As you can see nothing can stop Florida from taking the #1 spot. At #2, either USC is bypassed for the BCS title game and wins the Rose Bowl, or alternately they may lose to Florida and still finish #2. Texas and Oklahoma each pick up a loss somewhere along the way—to each other and then likely to Florida, as Texas did in ours. Here, Mississippi's only loss is to Florida.
Penn State finishes #6, either by going undefeated an losing in the Rose Bowl, or they lose one Big Ten game and win the Rose Bowl; in both cases #6 is a reasonable estimate. Alabama could finish below Mississippi by losing to them, or beating them and losing to Florida and in their bowl game; here, it was the former. One of the two SEC teams will miss the BCS, but that team will have an easier bowl game that they'll win.
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were only #25 and #21 in the pre-season rankings but scheduling is in their favor, allowing them to rank high and get good bowl pairings. They both jump ahead of North Carolina, a better team that didn't have schedule on its side. Florida State also moves up. California, on the other hand still had to play USC and comes up short and might be out of luck as far as the BCS goes.
Boise State, TCU, and Rutgers all play very easy schedules and all could go undefeated; each has a great shot at a BCS bowl game. Here they each pick up a loss somewhere along the way, but it's most likely in their bowl game. Rutgers, in particular, is not a great team (only #33 pre-season) and will likely be in over their heads in their bowl.
Michigan State and Oklahoma State should have good years but not quite be the best in their conference, keeping them outside the BCS equation. At #18 Notre Dame will end up about where they should; the voters (and computers) will see through their easy schedule and keep them out of the BCS. If they manage to finish the regular season with just one loss and get in they will likely lose their bowl game.
Two surprise Pac-10 teams are next, Stanford and Arizona. They rank even higher pre-season but they probably won't manage to beat the top conference teams and the Pac-10 has bad bowl tie-ins. They'll probably win their bowl games but it won't impress anyone. At #21 Iowa is a near-top 10 team but they play a tough road schedule which will keep them down. Pittsburgh could go 11-2 and still not impress as their schedule is easy.
Clemson might play in the ACC championship game despite being the #5 team in the conference. Ohio State isn't as highly rated by SportsRatings as most pundits; here they finish about where we would expect based on being #22 in quality. If they lose only to USC and Penn State they'll again be in a high-profile bowl game that they probably can't win. Southern Miss is the real overachiever, managing to make the top 25 without playing in the C-USA title game.
Good teams that don't make it
A few teams that were in the top 25 of the pre-season Top 120 didn't make the projected Final Top 25:
The most interesting is Texas Tech. #8 to start the year, they will probably lose to Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, but not have many big wins to offset that. They finished #30.
Another Big Twelve team, Kansas, is our #24 pre-season team but again, if you can't beat the big teams there's slim pickings left in the conference, and fairly tough tie-in games for the bowls. They finished #32.
Oregon was #19 to start but faces Boise State, USC, Cal, and upstarts Arizona and Stanford. Add in a bowl game and they may have too many losses to get in to the final top 25.
"Others receiving votes"
The teams that we project to finish just outside the top 25: Tulsa, Miami, Central Michigan, Troy, Texas Tech, Georgia, Kansas, Temple, Nevada, Utah, Oregon