Yes, Cowboys have a shot at title game

Four of the BCS spots are locked down. We know for sure that Oregon will play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl and LSU will be in the BCS championship game.

And that’s about it.

Does Oklahoma State really have a chance to push past Alabama for the No. 2 spot and a chance to play LSU for the national title?

It will be really, really close.

The biggest plus for the Cowboys was the No. 5 ranking in the Harris and coaches’ polls last week. Both put LSU, Alabama, Stanford and Virginia Tech in the top four. There’s a ton of room to move up.

Considering Oklahoma State was already No. 3 in the overall BCS rankings last week, it’s not going to take a huge push to make the dream come true.

To make this as simple as possible, if Oklahoma State is No. 2 in either the coaches’ poll or Harris poll and is at least No. 3 in the other, the formula should make it work out. The computers are almost certainly going to make it LSU 1, Oklahoma State 2 and Alabama 3, and that could be just enough of a tiebreaker to give the Cowboys the nod if the humans do something historic to move Alabama out from No. 2.

Close doesn’t count. OSU is No. 3 in the coaches’ poll, and if it isn’t No. 2 according to Harris and the computers, the title game will be LSU vs. Alabama.

The only time in the BCS era that a No. 2 team didn’t lose and was bumped out of its slot in the final ranking came in 2003. It was a different time and a different BCS formula, and even though USC moved up to No. 1 in both human polls, it dropped because of the heavier weight on the computers. In the BCS era, the humans have never moved a top-two team that didn’t lose out of a national title slot in the final ranking.

• At the very least, Oklahoma State is in the Fiesta Bowl, which might seem like a disappointment, but it’s a huge deal for a program going to its first BCS game. Along with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Clemson, West Virginia is almost certainly in, taking the Big East’s slot if it finishes higher than Cincinnati in the final rankings. That leaves three spots open.

• If Alabama goes to the BCS championship game, Stanford — No. 4 in last week’s BCS rankings — will get an automatic invitation by finishing in the top four. However, if Oklahoma State plays for the BCS championship and Alabama is No. 3, the Tide will get the automatic top four slot and Stanford will have to hope for an at-large pick. The draw of Andrew Luck and the high ranking shouldn’t make that a problem.

• The biggest question mark, outside of the BCS championship game, is TCU. With Houston losing to Southern Miss, there isn’t an automatic pick among the non-BCS teams. TCU, ranked 18th last week, needs to finish in the top 16 and ahead of a BCS conference champion to get an automatic bid.

Being ahead of the Big East champion won’t be a problem, but it could be tough to move up two spots unless No. 6 Houston, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 13 Michigan State, and No. 14 Georgia all drop below the Horned Frogs.

No. 17 Baylor will move into the top 16, and No. 20 Clemson could go flying up the charts after blowing out Virginia Tech in the title game. The humans likely will help the cause — with both almost certain to push TCU up from No. 17 in their polls — but the computers might not be on board.

The BCS bowls aren’t going to be doing backflips over having to take TCU and would much rather grab Kansas State and Michigan, but they might not have a choice. If they get in, the Horned Frogs are probably bound for the Sugar Bowl to play Michigan.

• Boise State could be in the mix if everything breaks right. It won’t get an automatic invitation, but it should be No. 5 in the final standings and could be an attractive pick for either the Fiesta or the Sugar if TCU doesn’t finish in the top 16. The politicking will be extremely fierce from the Big 12 to send Kansas State to one of the big games, while the Mountain West will be screaming that it deserves to get the Broncos in. Boise State and Houston join LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, and Stanford as the only teams with one loss or fewer.

• If Alabama goes to the BCS championship, Oklahoma State will go to the Fiesta Bowl and the Sugar will take Michigan if it’s eligible. The No. 16 Wolverines have to finish in the top 14 to get in, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem with Oklahoma, Michigan State, and Georgia all likely to drop down just enough to make it happen.

• If Oklahoma State plays LSU for the BCS championship, the Sugar will take Alabama to play TCU or Michigan, and the Fiesta likely will be Kansas State vs. Stanford.

So what should fans be hoping for? Those who hate the idea of a rematch between Alabama and LSU will want Oklahoma State to be No. 2 in the coaches’ poll. Those who want to see the best BCS games, though, will probably want to see the Tide and Tigers go at it again.

• If Alabama is No. 2, the BCS bowls will most likely be:

BCS: Alabama vs. LSU
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Sugar: Kansas State or TCU vs. Michigan
Orange: Clemson vs. West Virginia.

• If Oklahoma State is No. 2, the BCS bowls will most likely be:

BCS: Oklahoma State vs. LSU
Rose: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta: Kansas State or TCU vs. Stanford
Sugar: Alabama vs. Michigan
Orange: Clemson vs. West Virginia.