COLUMBIA — With pundits weighing numerous hypothetical scenarios, one thing is certain: Missouri’s chance to win the national title will end if Kansas wins Saturday.
But what about West Virginia, MU’s latest rival in the Bowl Championship Series standings? If both teams win their remaining games, and LSU wins out, could the Mountaineers beat out the Tigers for No. 2?
That scenario seemed impossible after Oregon lost to Arizona on Thursday. With Kansas, Oklahoma and MU directly behind the Ducks, it looked like the Big 12 Conference champion was guaranteed to play for the national title. But then Texas Tech upset Oklahoma on Saturday, derailing the Sooners’ hopes.
While Oklahoma dropped to No. 10 in the BCS, Kansas moved up to No. 2, ensuring that the Jayhawks will advance to the title game if they win the Big 12.
But it’s more complicated for the Tigers, who are battling West Virginia in the BCS standings. Last week the Big East power was one spot behind MU, but now the No. 3 Mountaineers are ahead of the No. 4 Tigers.
What will happen if both teams win out? West Virginia plays both Connecticut and Pittsburgh at home, and MU will play in the Big 12 title game, if it beats Kansas on Saturday.
That scenario favors the Tigers, according to several BCS experts, who will probably beat out the Mountaineers for the No. 2 spot.
The BCS uses two polls and six computer rankings to rate teams. The Harris Interactive poll and the USA Today coaches’ poll each count one-third toward a team’s total while the computer rankings are averaged together for the final third. This week West Virginia moved ahead of MU because its computer ranking improved markedly.
But if both teams win out, those computer rankings should favor MU, said Jerry Palm, who analyzes the BCS on his Web site BCSFootball.com. What the voters do in the polls, however, is anyone’s guess.
“Betting on the voters is a sucker’s bet. But I really like Missouri’s chances of finishing ahead of West Virginia if they both win out. I think that’s a very probable result,” Palm said.
The voters have helped MU so far. Last week the Tigers were behind West Virginia in both polls, but they narrowed the gap in the coaches’ poll and tied West Virginia in the Harris poll.
Jeff Anderson agrees with Palm. Anderson runs one of the six computer rankings used in the BCS standings and writes a weekly commentary on his Web site, AndersonSports.com. His logic mirrored Palm’s rationale, citing the Mountaineers’ slim lead and the strength of the Tigers’ possible victories. “The guess here is that West Virginia cannot hold off a 1-loss, Big 12 champion Missouri,” Anderson wrote.
Kenneth Massey, who also runs one of the computer rankings, concurs. “Missouri has too much upside. WVU does not,” he said via e-mail.
praise FOR MU AND KU: With two of the most unlikely teams playing in the Big 12’s biggest game this season, compliments were plentiful for MU coach Gary Pinkel and Kansas coach Mark Mangino during the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference.
“Mark Mangino and Gary Pinkel are two of the great coaches in the country,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “We in this business have known that. Kansas nearly beat us up there (three) years ago. … Missouri just continues to get better every year and every play.”
Iowa State coach Gene Chizik was diplomatic when asked which team was better. “It would be hard for me to sit here and pick who I think is the best one because I think they’re both very worthy,” he said.
One coach was willing to pass judgment, but not by much. Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said Kansas’ defense is “a tad better.”
Even after the Tigers beat his team Saturday, Kansas State coach Ron Prince can’t stop lauding them. “I just find Missouri very, very challenging. At different parts of the game, we played about as well as we could play and just couldn’t stop them,” he said.
DANIEL FINALIST FOR DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD: Quarterback Chase Daniel was named one of three finalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, which is given to the nation’s top quarterback. Oregon’s Dennis Dixon and Florida’s Tim Tebow were the other finalists. The winner will be announced Dec. 6.
Daniel was not a finalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the country’s best all-around player. Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, Tebow and Dixon are the three candidates for that award.
MACLIN ADDS ANOTHER HONOR: Jeremy Maclin, freshman wide receiver and all-purpose guru, won the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week award for his performance against Kansas State. Maclin’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the Tigers’ first since 1982.
He was a popular topic during the coaches’ teleconference. Nebraska coach Bill Callahan said he liked how MU has utilized him as a receiver, runner and returner. “I think they’ve featured him as well as you possibly can in terms of their scheme,” he said.
INJURY UPDATE: Pinkel said wide receiver Will Franklin (bruised back) was the only player who suffered an injury during Saturday’s game. Franklin should fully recover before playing Kansas, Pinkel said.