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Navigating the road to BCS title game

Petros Papadakis previews Week 9 in college football.
Petros Papadakis previews Week 9 in college football.
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Clay Travis

Clay Travis has been a columnist for CBSSports.com, FanHouse, and an editor/writer for Deadspin. He's written two books, Dixieland Delight and On Rocky Top, hosts a daily radio show in Nashville and appears on FS1's "FOX College Saturday."

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Lots of time is spent debating which teams will play for the BCS title.

In reality, it isn't that complicated when you break down all the possible outcomes.

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Here are this week's BCS standings.

Keep in mind that there are really just two factors to analyze: 1) the psychology of voters -- i.e. how will a group of Harris Poll and coaches respond to different game outcomes 2) the computers.

It's a relatively simple formula -- the humans make up 2/3rds of the voting and the computers make up a third. The computers don't vary that much. So what you really need to analyze more than anything else is the psychology of the voters.

The BCS is more psychology than it is math. That's why each Wednesday, I'll tell you how many teams are still alive for the title and what would have to happen for them to end up in the BCS title game.

Right now there are 10 teams that still have a shot at the BCS title. The easiest two contestants to break down are Alabama and Oregon.

If these teams win out, they will meet for the BCS title. Period.

So that's where we'll begin.

1. Alabama

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game remaining on its schedule.

2. Oregon

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game remaining on its schedule.

3. Florida State

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game remaining on its schedule and either Alabama or Oregon loses.

4. Missouri

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game remaining on its schedule -- including a likely victory over Alabama in the SEC title game -- and either Florida State or Oregon loses.

This is the first difficult call to make: Would 13-0 Missouri get in over Florida State?

Oregon would be No. 1 in this scenario and the debate would come down to Florida State, likely the pollsters' No. 2, and Missouri at No. 3. Florida State is the highest-ranked computer team. Missouri would figure to be No. 2 in the computers.

Given that Florida State would be ranked above Missouri in the computers, voters would have to rank Missouri over Florida State.

I don't believe enough voters would do that.

So in order to play for the title, Mizzou would need to beat Alabama and have either Florida State or Oregon lose.

5. Miami

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game remaining on its schedule -- including two head-to-head wins over Florida State (Nov. 2 and in ACC title game), which would knock the Seminoles out of the title mix -- and the Alabama/Missouri winner or Oregon loses.

Believe it or not, Miami's in pretty good shape for the title race if the Hurricanes keep winning.

6. Baylor

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game left on its schedule and four of the five teams in front of the Bears lose. (Keep in mind that either Alabama/Mizzou or Florida State/Miami are guaranteed to lose).

Which means that Baylor would need two of the top three winning teams to lose to advance to the BCS title game.

The computers don't like Baylor. But if the Bears win out, they would beat three teams ranked in the top 20 of the existing BCS. That would send their computer numbers surging, and pollsters would consider Baylor's body of work to be better than Ohio State's.

It wouldn't hurt that Vegas would have Baylor as a seven-point favorite over the Buckeyes on a neutral field.

The Bears would end up ranked above Ohio State in the final BCS standings.

7. Ohio State

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Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game left on its schedule and five of the six teams ranked in front of the Buckeyes lose. (Again, Alabama/Mizzou or Florida State/Miami are guaranteed to lose).

Which means that Ohio State would need three of the top four surviving teams to lose in order to advance to the BCS title.

Ohio State has a lid on its head because of its schedule and the awful Big Ten.

When you compare Baylor and Ohio State, it's important to look at the computers as well as the polls. Worst case: Baylor is ranked behind Ohio State. But not by much. Then look at the computers. Baylor is going to surge in the computer polls over the final five games. Ohio State isn't going to move very much at all.

8. Texas Tech

Plays for the BCS title if: it wins every game left on its schedule and six of the seven teams ranked in front of the Red Raiders lose (keep in mind Tech would beat Baylor, plus the Alabama/Missouri and Florida State/Miami losses).

So what you're left with is the Red Raiders needing four of the remaining five teams ranked above them to lose.

Now, here's where things could get messy.

9. Beware the one-loss Alabama, Oregon, Florida State or Stanford team

These four one-loss teams could still be in the mix for a BCS title berth.

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You can make a strong case for one of these four one-loss teams advancing to the title game over undefeated Baylor, Ohio State or Texas Tech.

Look at Stanford, for instance. Are you telling me if the Cardinal run the table with wins over Oregon State, Stanford and Notre Dame plus a Pac-12 title win, that a 12-1 Stanford wouldn't have a better resume than 12-0 Baylor Texas Tech or 13-0 Ohio State?

What if Florida State, for instance, lost to Miami by a point in the regular season but came back to beat the Hurricanes convincingly in the ACC title game?

Beware these one-loss teams.

10. You want the ultimate darkhorse?

How about Auburn?

Sitting at 6-1, what would happen if the Tigers won out?

That would mean back-to-back wins over No. 1 Alabama and potentially No. 2 or 3 Missouri in the SEC title game.

I don't think it will happen, but a 12-1 SEC champ with Auburn's resume would be pretty sterling.

Tagged: Florida State, Ohio State, Stanford, Oregon, Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Alabama, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas

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