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Oklahoma this week's big BCS winner

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The BCS championship game still may be on Landry Jones' radar.
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Pete Fiutak

Pete Fiutak writes previews, predictions and prognostications for CollegeFootballNews.com.

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The order of the BCS universe is simple: Everything is cut-and-dry easy as long as there are two — and only two — unbeaten teams from BCS conferences. Any other number and let the chaos begin.

Thus, there are three sure things at the moment, even with Boise State still ranked in the top five in the latest BCS standings, released Sunday night:

1. Saturday’s Alabama/LSU winner will be the No. 1 team in next week's standings;

2. Oklahoma State will be in the national championship if it wins out;

3. Stanford will play for the BCS championship if it's one of two unbeaten BCS conference teams.

With Clemson and Kansas State losing in Week 9 and politely bowing out of the BCS championship hunt, per the order of the BCS universe, everything hinges on Stanford and Oklahoma State. If they both lose, then the debates kick into high gear.

Assuming the Alabama/LSU winner finishes the season unbeaten, this is how it should play out:

• If Oklahoma State loses and Stanford goes 13-0, the Cardinal will play for the national title;

• If both the Cowboys and Cardinal win out, higher-ranked Oklahoma State will be impossible to leapfrog and will play in the title game ahead of Stanford;

• If both OSU and Stanford lose, then it'll be an argument between the top one-loss team not from the SEC, the Alabama/LSU loser and a possibly unbeaten Boise State.

Boise State is lurking, but the human pollsters almost certainly will put a one-loss Oklahoma — which would have to beat Texas A&M and Oklahoma State to get to 11-1 — and a one-loss Oregon — which has Stanford and potentially the Pac-12 title game remaining — over the Broncos.

The true wild card plays out on Saturday. If top-ranked LSU loses a close one on the road, it probably won't fall very far and still can be in range to finish in the No. 2 spot. If Alabama loses at home, it'll have a tough time getting the votes in the polls to potentially call for a rematch in the BCS championship game.

A FEW KEY NOTES FROM THE LATEST STANDINGS


• Oklahoma is the huge winner, moving up from No. 9 to No. 6. That is highest ranking of the one-loss teams and, if the Sooners go 11-1 with a difficult schedule to close out, it would take something major — like a 12-1 South Carolina defeating an unbeaten LSU/Alabama for the SEC championship — for Oklahoma to not play for the national title.

• For the third straight week, Oklahoma State is No. 1 according to the computers. Five of the six have the Cowboys No. 1, with one putting them No. 2 behind LSU.

• Shockingly, the computer formulas love Boise State. Fourth overall according to the formulas, the Broncos aren't suffering from the same schedule-hate that's coming from the humans.

THREE KEY THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND


1. It’s all about the humans. The computers had Virginia Tech No. 1 in the final BCS standings four years ago, and that meant a fat load of jack squat in the national title pairing. The computers count for a third of the standings while the humans account for the other two-thirds. In other words, if The Man doesn’t want Boise State playing for the national title, Boise State isn’t playing for the national title.

2. Don’t get into a twist over the computer standings during these first few weeks. Many of the formulas kick into gear once the entire season is over, so the penultimate computer standings and the final ones could be night-and-day different. Basically, the first half of the season doesn’t matter too much according to some of the formulas.

3. The AP poll is meaningless. Many major media outlets still use the AP rankings and reference them as if they make a difference, but the coaches’ poll counts for a third of the BCS standings and the ever-mysterious Harris Poll counts for the other non-computer third. Those are the ones to focus on and scrutinize.

The Big Winners: Oklahoma (9th to 6th), South Carolina (13th to 9th), Nebraska (14th to 10th)

The Big Losers: Boise State (4th to 5th), Clemson (5th to 11th), Kansas State (8th to 14th)

1. LSU — Score: .9734

Finally, it's here. The BCS standings don't matter; the Alabama game might be the national championship. The Tigers’ margin over the Tide at the moment is huge, so a close loss might not mean that far a drop. Lose a good, tight game and LSU probably won't fall further than fourth.

Predicted Wins: at Alabama, Western Kentucky, at Ole Miss, Arkansas, SEC championship game

Predicted Losses: None

Predicted Final Record: 13-0

Predicted Bowl: BCS championship

Toughest Remaining Tests: at Alabama, Arkansas

2. Alabama — Score: .9591

Alabama need only look up one spot to understand the path to the title game: Win out and play for the national title. The computers like the Tide a bit more than the Tigers, but ultimately it doesn't matter; winning is a must. Losing at home, even to LSU, might put the Tide back in the pecking order of one-loss teams.

Predicted Wins: at Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, at Auburn

Predicted Losses: LSU

Predicted Final Record: 11-1

Predicted Bowl: Sugar

Toughest Remaining Tests: LSU, at Mississippi State, at Auburn

3. Oklahoma State — Score: .9310

The gap between .9310 and .8615 might not seem like much, but it might as well be a 15-mile margin between Oklahoma State and Stanford. As long as the Cowboys win out, with tough dates ahead against Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, they'll play for the national title. Oklahoma State stands with LSU and Alabama as the only teams that are a title-game lock with an undefeated regular season.

Predicted Wins: Kansas State, at Texas Tech, at Iowa State

Predicted Losses: Oklahoma

Predicted Final Record: 11-1

Predicted Bowl: Fiesta

Toughest Remaining Tests: Kansas State, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma

4. Stanford — Score: .8615

The good news: Stanford moved up from No. 6 to No. 4. The bad news: four isn't three. The Cardinal are getting enough respect to be on the verge of one of the coveted top two spots, but they ultimately need an Oklahoma State loss to get there. If Stanford beats Oregon and wins the Pac-12 championship game, it almost certainly will hold off the Alabama/LSU loser in the standings.

Predicted Wins: at Oregon State, California, Notre Dame

Predicted Losses: Oregon

Predicted Final Record: 11-1

Predicted Bowl: Fiesta

Toughest Remaining Tests: Oregon, Notre Dame

5. Boise State — Score: .8522

The Broncos probably should've moved down a bit after struggling in Week 8 against Air Force, but didn't. But after a bye in Week 9, coupled with Stanford's big win, they're knocked down a spot. It'll take Stanford and Oklahoma State losses to come close, but even then the ceiling probably will be No. 3, with a one-loss Oklahoma, a one-loss Oregon and the Alabama/LSU loser (should it win out after Saturday) all more likely to get a spot in the BCS championship.

Predicted Wins: at UNLV, TCU, at San Diego State, Wyoming, New Mexico

Predicted Losses: None

Predicted Final Record: 12-0

Predicted Bowl: Sugar

Toughest Remaining Tests: TCU, at San Diego State

6. Oklahoma — Score: .7760

The Sooners didn't drop all that far after losing to Texas Tech in Week 8, and after thumping Kansas State they moved back up and are now in the one-loss catbird seat. As the best of the one-loss teams, and with big games ahead against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, their standing will only improve with more wins. OU, because it was the preseason No. 1 team, has the juice to be ahead of the Alabama/LSU loser with no one complaining.

Predicted Wins: Texas A&M, at Baylor, Iowa State, at Oklahoma State

Predicted Losses: None

Predicted Final Record: 11-1

Predicted Bowl: BCS championship

Toughest Remaining Tests: Texas A&M, at Baylor, at Oklahoma State

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7. Arkansas — Score: .7033

The Hogs have been really, really shaky over the past few weeks against bad Ole Miss and Vanderbilt teams, but they're still in the hunt for the national title. It'll take a few quirky things to make it happen, but having LSU still on the slate helps. The computers are more enamored than the humans, but that'll change in a big way if the Hogs can come up with an 11-1 record.

Predicted Wins: South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State

Predicted Losses: at LSU

Predicted Final Record: 10-2

Predicted Bowl: Capital One

Toughest Remaining Tests: South Carolina, at LSU

8. Oregon — Score: .6916

Oregon dominated Washington State in an easy win — and dropped. The computers aren't big fans, but that will quickly change if the Ducks can beat Stanford in early November. If Oregon wins out, including the Pac-12 championship game, then it might be a fight with Oklahoma to be the king of the one-loss teams. Oregon is in a tough spot. If LSU beats Alabama, that'll probably help the Ducks with the computers. But no one will want to see a national-title rematch of LSU's season-opening win over Oregon, so the better chance of playing for the national title, at least with the humans, might come if Alabama wins.

Predicted Wins: at Washington, at Stanford, USC, Oregon State, Pac-12 championship

Predicted Losses: None

Predicted Final Record: 12-1

Predicted Bowl: Rose

Toughest Remaining Tests: USC, at Stanford

9. South Carolina — Score: .6177

The record is far better than the team, but South Carolina might control whether it gets to the BCS title game. If the Gamecocks win out, including in the SEC championship game over the Alabama/LSU winner, they almost certainly will be the top one-loss team on the board. That's pie-in-the-sky dreaming for a team with so many issues, but the boost in the standings from No. 13 to No. 9 has South Carolina in range.

Predicted Wins: Florida, Citadel, Clemson

Predicted Losses: at Arkansas

Predicted Final Record: 10-2

Predicted Bowl: Chick-fil-A

Toughest Remaining Tests: at Arkansas, Florida, Clemson

NICE GEAR

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10. Nebraska — Score: .6156

The computers despise the Big Ten, and it would take something major — like winning out and blowing up Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game — for the Cornhuskers even to be in the discussion of deserving one-loss teams. Even so, Nebraska sits highest in the standings among the mediocre Big Ten lot; and with the Week 8 win over Michigan State, the Cornhuskers are the hunt for the Rose Bowl or a possible second Big Ten BCS slot.

Predicted Wins: Northwestern, Iowa

Predicted Losses: at Penn State, at Michigan

Predicted Final Record: 9-3

Predicted Bowl: Outback

Toughest Remaining Tests: at Penn State, at Michigan

In Range:

11. Clemson — Score: 0.5961

12. Virginia Tech — Score: 0.5683

13. Houston — Score: 0.4698

14. Kansas State — Score: 0.4600

15. Michigan — Score: 0.4512

16. Penn State — Score: 0.4022

17. Michigan State — Score: 0.3076

18. Georgia — Score: 0.2899

19. Arizona State — Score: 0.2362

20. Wisconsin — Score: 0.2159

Tagged: Clemson, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, Boise State, Stanford, Oregon, Alabama, Mississippi State, Mississippi, LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas State, Kansas, Texas

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