As always, before diving in, three key things to keep in mind.
1) It’s all about the humans. The computers count for a third of the standings, while the humans account for the other two-thirds. The wires and chips will have their say, but it will take something truly major for the top two teams in human polls to not play for the BCS championship.
2) Don’t get into a twist over the computers over the first few weeks — especially right now. Many of the formulas kick into gear once the entire season is over, so the difference between the second-to-last computer standings and the final ones could be night and day. Basically, the first half of the season doesn’t matter at all according to some of the formulas.
3) The AP poll is meaningless. Many major media outlets still use and reference the AP rankings, but they are not part of the BCS formula. The coaches’ poll counts for one third of the BCS and the ever-mysterious Harris Poll counts for the other human third of the equation. Those are the ones to focus on and scrutinize.
Here’s what matters from the second BCS standings of the season:
And now, it’s over unless …
Florida State can get into the top two in the human polls.
Oregon not only jumped up past Florida State into the coveted No. 2 spot; it did it in a big way with a massive gap opening up to more than .03. It might seem repetitive, but it’s the key part of the puzzle: The teams in the top two in the human polls will end up playing in the BCS championship, so unless Florida State can somehow impress enough to break into the top two in either the Harris or coaches’ poll, the championship matchup is set barring an Oregon or Alabama loss.
So what can the Seminoles do? They have to obliterate everyone left in their path. Style points don’t matter quite yet for Ohio State at No. 4 — more on that in a moment — but they do for FSU, because if there’s the slightest hiccup by Oregon with any sort of close call, there could be a flip-flop.
How close is this? Oregon is up just 64 points in the coaches’ poll and 106 points in the Harris. It’s a beauty contest now more than ever.
You were sleeping and you missed it, but …
San Diego State lined up for a field goal Saturday night with the game tied and time nearly up — and a chance to knock Fresno State out of the ranks of the unbeatens and out of the BCS mix. But the kick was blocked and Derek Carr and the Bulldogs came through in overtime, 35-28. If you’re a fan of a Big Ten team other than Ohio State and you want to see the league put a second team into the BCS, you need Fresno State and Northern Illinois to lose. If you’re an NIU fan, hope and pray that Fresno State finally falls on the wrong side in one of its now-patented close calls. There’s still a show with Nevada up next Saturday, road trips against dangerous Wyoming and San Jose State offenses, and possibly a Mountain West title game against — most likely — Boise State to deal with again.
Ohio State can put up all the points it wants against Penn State, but …
The team needs lots and lots of help. OSU can crank out massive numbers, and it can finish the regular season with a Big Ten championship and a 25-0 record in the Urban Meyer era, and none of it matters unless two of the top three teams lose. Think about it. THE Ohio State University, the biggest of big programs in the biggest — not the best — of conferences with, arguably, one of the five best football coaches on the planet doesn’t control its own destiny. Such is life in the last year of the BCS, but the human voters aren’t going to budge on the firm No. 4 spot unless there’s a loss up top.
Well hello, Baylor
It’s going to be one of the more interesting questions over the next few weeks: Where does Baylor end up if it goes unbeaten? There are several problems with the No. 6 Bears and their rise up the ranks. First, they need three of the top four teams to lose, and Miami can’t shock the world and run the table. Second, the lack of a Big 12 championship is a huge issue. Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State could all possibly end up with a conference title game as a 13th chance to show what they can do. Finally, the Big 12 is at the bottom of the top five league pecking order. If all things are equal, this year the unofficial order goes SEC, Pac-12, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12. The Bears need every break possible to move up into the top two, including the little matter of taking care of business to get to 12-0.
The lurking team to keep an eye on is …
Stanford, with Auburn and Missouri close by.
The problem is that a one-loss Stanford, even with a Pac-12 title, would still fall behind a one-loss SEC champion in the pecking order, but if there are wins over Arizona State (maybe twice if the two meet in the Pac-12 championship), UCLA (maybe twice), Washington, Oregon State at Oregon State, Oregon, USC at USC and Notre Dame on the résumé, a one-loss ACC champ probably wouldn’t be a problem and a one-loss Big Ten and Big 12 champion would be long gone.
It’s a simple deal for all the one-loss teams up high in the standings. Unbeaten BCS conference teams get in first, meaning Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor and Miami would all most certainly get the nod over any other one-loss team, even from the SEC. There’s still a long, long way to go, and it’s certain that at least one will lose — Florida State and Miami play each other — so if Stanford could take care of Oregon and win out, at No. 5 at the moment, it could fly up quickly if and when Ohio State and Baylor lose. It would take some help, and it might require some worrying about the SEC, but the Cardinal have to keep on pressing.
And that’s where Auburn and Missouri come in
If the Auburn version of the Tigers win out, that would mean they’d have beaten Texas A&M, Arkansas and Tennessee on the road along with Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama at home, and then either South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC championship game. Missouri’s road is even better for the BCS standings with a road game at Ole Miss to deal with along with a dates at home against Tennessee, Texas A&M, and then, most likely, Alabama in the SEC championship game. A one-loss SEC champion might leapfrog a one-loss Stanford, but it would be a battle between the pollsters.