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) Again — AGAIN — don’t get into a twist over the computers over the first few weeks. Many of the formulas kick into gear once the entire season is over, so the difference between the second-to-last computer rankings 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 third BCS standings of the season …
Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before
Oregon, really, there’s no need to worry.
Florida State played a good Miami team that was No. 7 last week and, despite a 41-14 whooping by the Seminoles, is still No. 11. Well, the computers really liked that, and this week there’s a flip-flop at 2 & 3 — again (last week, the Ducks jumped the ’Noles into the No. 2 spot. The Seminoles and freshman sensation QB Jameis Winston are No. 1 in all the computer polls except for one, and Oregon is third among the wires. On Thursday, the Ducks play No. 5 Stanford — win that, and it’s right back up to the second spot.
Yes, of course the computers play a role — especially this week — but in the end, unless Florida State can move up into the No. 2 spot in either the Harris or the coaches’ poll, it’s Alabama vs. Oregon if everybody wins out.
I think it moved
Again, all it will take is Florida State moving up in one of the two polls for this to get extremely interesting, extremely quickly. The gap closed a little bit in the Harris with the ’Noles going from 106 points behind the Ducks to only 47 behind, but the coaches’ is a concern for the Ducks with FSU going from 74 behind to 39. Again, though, there’s that that little showdown against the Cardinal happening this week for Oregon. There’s plenty of time to make a statement.
At this point, Ohio State is still playing for show
The computers aren’t providing any real help for the Buckeyes, with only one of the six non-human polls putting them in the top two, along with a ranking of 7 from the Peter Wolfe and an 8 from the Massey. Ohio State needs losses from two of the top three teams to have any shot of going to Pasadena for anything other than the Rose Bowl.
The Cardinal are knocking on the door
Ohio State needs two of the top three teams to lose, but Stanford needs to win out — including a very, very big victory over No. 3 Oregon — and then needs losses from two of the four other BCS unbeatens (don’t forget about Baylor). Get all of that, and Stanford might be able to move into the prime spot.
The computers don’t seem to care too much about the Stanford loss to Utah earlier in the year, with three of the rankings putting the Cardinal at No. 5 or better, along with two 6s and a 9. Currently fifth overall in the BCS standings, Stanford would move up in the human polls from sixth to at worst fifth and possibly fourth with a win over Oregon.
Baylor needs to play someone
Buffalo might end up taking one of the MAC’s bowl spots, ULM should get an invite, and Kansas State and West Virginia might shoehorn their way into a 13th game, but Baylor has yet to beat anyone that registers a blip on the radar. The humans are impressed by the pyrotechnic offense, but the computers need more.
Mainly because the Bears are unbeaten, they get the No. 5 spot in both human polls, but the computers have them ninth — with three of them checking in at 10th or lower. No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 14 Oklahoma State and No. 25 Texas Tech all offer opportunities to improve the Bears’ standing, but where is …
The Longhorns might be unbeaten in Big 12 play, but as soon as you’re in the Others Receiving Votes category, you’ll be all but ignored by the BCS. Technically No. 26 in both human polls, the Longhorns aren’t in the BCS Top 25 standings, and while that might change quickly with some big games coming up, it could hurt Baylor overall. It also should become a big deal if they win the Big 12 title and don’t go rocketing up the standings, because …
Fresno State is still No. 16
Northern Illinois was knocking on the door of the big No. 16 spot — one non-BCS school has to be taken if it’s in the top 16 and ahead of a BCS conference champion — but it fell from 17th to 18th with Michigan State jumping up. Enough teams in the top 15 will lose to ensure the Bulldogs — or the Huskies — of a spot in the top 16, but first they have to win out. If you’re a fan of the Big Ten and you want to see a Michigan State or Wisconsin get in, you need Fresno State and NIU to lose.
Why is Alabama No. 1?
So, you think the SEC is down? It might be, but compared to what? The best league in college football owns the 1 (Alabama), 8 (Missouri), 9 (Auburn), 12 (South Carolina), 13 (LSU) and 15 (Texas A&M) spots.
Why the human polls still stink
Nothing changed since UCF beat Louisville — the only Knight loss came to No. 12 South Carolina. However, both polls have UCF 21st and Louisville 16th. Why does this matter? Flip it, and UCF might come close to moving ahead of Fresno State and Northern Illinois, meaning the non-BCSer might have to finish in the top 12 to get an automatic invite.