Would BC Have Had a Shot to Crack a 12-Team CFP in 2007?
The 2007 college football season had everything you could ever want: the greatest upset in the sport’s history, the curse of No. 2, the first two-loss national champion since 1960 and Mike Gundy screaming, “I’m a man! I’m 40!”
And Boston College was smack dab in the middle of it all.
In view of last week’s announcement that the College Football Playoff’s Management Committee will consider expanding the field to 12 teams, it’s time to wind back the clock.
Would BC have had a chance at the national title in 2007 had there been a 12-team format? And, if not, how close would the Eagles have been to grabbing a spot in the CFP?
For this thought experiment, we’ll use the final BCS standings to retrofit the bracket. Remember, CFP rankings—more committee-based and less mathematical—weren’t introduced until 2014. If you’re not familiar with the proposed 12-team format, the bids go to the six highest-ranked conference champions and six highest-ranked at-large teams. The top four seeds, along with a first-round bye, are awarded to the four highest-ranked conference champions.
But before we get into the hypothetical bracket, let’s review just how crazy the 2007 season was.
Appalachian State—still an FCS program at the time and 34-point underdogs—kicked off the year with a jaw-dropping upset win over No. 5 Michigan, subjecting the Wolverines to the largest ranking drop in AP Poll history.
It was a sign of things to come for a season dubbed as “The Year of the Upset.”
Ranked teams fell to a lower-ranked or unranked opponent 62 times in regular season and conference championship competition. In Week 5 alone, there were eight top-25 upsets, three of which watched top-five teams suffer major setbacks.
Stanford pulled off a miraculous stunner in Week 6 at the Coliseum after backup quarterback Tavita Pritchard hooked up with Richard Sherman—who was playing wideout back then—on 4th-and-20 to keep the Cardinal’s game-winning drive alive. Stanford then scored and snapped USC’s 35-game home win streak, despite being 41-point underdogs.
The No. 1 team was knocked off four times throughout the year. What was more bizarre, however, was that teams ranked No. 2 lost seven out the final nine weeks of the season, and all but one of those defeats came at the hands of unranked opponents.
The terrible twos saw Cinderella stories collapse in succession. Cal botched its perfect start to the season in Week 7, squandering a game-tying field goal opportunity on Oregon State’s 12-yard line with five seconds to play. South Florida, in just its eighth year as a Division I-A program, had a clear path to the national title before losing to Rutgers in Week 8. BC avoided the fate of previous No. 2s—well, once. Then, in Week 10, Matt Ryan and Jeff Jagodzinksi’s crew lost to Florida State at home, triggering a two-game losing streak.
A few weeks later, Oregon’s season turned upside down with Dennis Dixon’s ACL tear, resulting in the No. 2 Duck’s loss to an unranked Arizona team. The next Saturday, No. 1 LSU lost its second triple overtime game of the season, and No. 2 Kansas—mind you, two games away from a National Championship appearance—fell to Missouri.
The Tigers’ life in the limelight was short-lived, as Chase Daniel and top-ranked Missouri were clobbered by Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. And No. 2 West Virginia choked a 13-9 game against a 4-7 Pittsburgh team in Morgantown during a contest that saw Pat McAfee miss a pair of chip-shot field goals and Heisman Trophy contender Pat White sustain a dislocated thumb in the second quarter. It was the third time in eight weeks that both the No. 1 and No. 2 teams lost.
LSU weaseled its way into the national title game and beat Ohio State to become the first two-loss champion in 47 years.
Phew, that was a lot. You get the point, though. It was a puzzling season, one in which Hawaii, Kansas and Illinois found their way to BCS bowls.
So what about this 12-team bracket? Right.
Top Four Seeds:
Ohio State (Big Ten)
Virginia Tech (ACC)
Oklahoma (Big 12)
● No. 12 Florida (at-large) @ No. 5 Georgia (at-large)
● No. 11 Arizona State (at-large) @ No. 6 Missouri (at-large)
● No. 10 Hawaii (at-large) @ No. 7 USC (Pac-10)
● No. 9 West Virginia (Big East) @ No. 8 Kansas (at-large)
Some of those quarterback duels are intriguing: Tim Tebow (Florida) against Matthew Stafford (Georgia) and Colt Brennan (Hawaii) against John David Booty (USC) stick out. Of course, Pat White (West Virginia) and Todd Reesing (Kansas)—who tossed 33 touchdowns for the Jayhawks that year—would be entertaining, too.
The top four were all beatable as well. It’s not inconceivable that a team seeded five through eight, such as Georgia, West Virginia or USC, could have made a run to the National Championship.
As for BC, the Eagles would have been out of the picture. But they would have been in the CFP discussion for quite some time. In fact, BC was holding onto the second-to-last spot in this hypothetical bracket heading into the ACC Championship. The Eagles climbed from 14th to 11th in the BCS standings after rattling off their second straight win in Week 13, thanks to a 28-14 victory over Miami.
Technically, a win in the ACC title game wouldn’t have guaranteed BC a spot in the 12-team CFP, but since the Eagles were already 11th and Virginia Tech was No. 6, it’s hard to imagine a world where a BC win at Municipal Stadium didn’t book the Eagles’ ticket to the Playoff. Actually, a victory might have even vaulted BC to the No. 8 slot considering that the Eagles were ahead of Hawaii and Arizona State prior to the conference title game and would be coming off an ACC Championship win while West Virginia was reeling from its loss to sub-.500 Pitt, and Kansas was on an off week after failing to qualify for the Big 12 title game.
Perhaps the more interesting scenario, though, is if BC didn’t lose to Maryland the week after throwing away a 27-17 game to FSU. That’s the defeat that really did the Eagles in. BC went from No. 8 to No. 17 in the BCS standings. Assuming BC took care of the Terrapins and stayed at one loss, not only that week but for the following two—downing No. 15 Clemson and Miami, like the Eagles did in real life—Jagodzinksi and Co. would have likely inched their way up to No. 7 or No. 6 in the BCS standings. Even with a loss in the ACC Championship, BC might have snuck into the 12-team field ahead of a three-loss Florida team.
These kinds of things come with speculation, yet there’s no doubt BC would have been in the conversation and, without a bad loss in College Park, could have been a Playoff team.
A 12-team format makes a national championship significantly more realistic for several programs, including BC, which has proven (albeit a decade and a half ago) that it can climb the polls. It just might take any incredibly weird year, like 2007.