The good news: Georgia Tech should — not could, should — play in the Orange Bowl as the ACC champion. The less-good news: Georgia Tech cannot reasonably aspire to anything better than the Orange Bowl, and there is one game better. It will be played in Pasadena, and it’s for the BCS title.
Tech was ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings announced yesterday, and to play for the BCS title a team must be no lower than No. 2. It sounds overly simplistic to say that for Tech to climb nine spots nine teams would have to lose, but that’s essentially how it is. With the Jackets’ schedule, they aren’t apt to jump anybody ahead of them so long as those teams keep winning.
A few of those teams must lose. Alabama and LSU will meet, and the winner of that game will surely play Florida for the SEC championship. And Southern Cal and Oregon face off this weekend. So that’s three teams ranked above Tech that are guaranteed having one more loss than they do today. But only three.
It’s unlikely Boise State or TCU will lose. (Cincinnati could, though: The Bearcats have West Virginia and Pittsburgh remaining.) And if the current standings suggest anything, it’s that an unbeaten team from a non-BCS league figures to trump a once-beaten team from the ACC.
The Jackets have four games remaining in their regular season. They’ll be favored in each. The cumulative record of those four teams is 14-16. Not one is ranked. Nothing Tech does in those four games is going to impress anyone the way, say, Oregon beating Southern Cal or LSU beating Alabama would. The meat of Tech’s schedule is behind it, and even the ACC title game in Tampa figures to offer no heavyweight opposition. Every Atlantic Division team holds at least three losses.
Put simply, a once-beaten conference champion from the Big 12 — say Texas loses to Oklahoma State this Saturday but then wins out — or the Pac-10 would surely shade Tech in the final rankings. The ACC has lost cachet by the carload these past few seasons, and history teaches that the teams extended the benefit of the BCS doubt are those that have already caught someone’s eye. (Think LSU in 2007, which was ranked No. 1 twice only to lose and still wound up the national champ.)
For all its splendid work, Tech isn’t yet in the top 10. The guess here is that it will be somewhere around No. 5 come Dec. 6, the day the final BCS standings are revealed, and that in the grand scheme is really good. (The obvious assumption is that Tech won’t lose again this calendar year, which it shouldn’t.) But the BCS will never be a truly grand creation simply because different teams and different leagues are held to different standards.
Were Tech still in the SEC with its one loss, it would stand a fighting chance to reach Pasadena. Because it plays in a conference that has lost whatever sheen it once possessed, it has next to no chance. Sad but true.