Forget ’Bama — little guys the ones making BCS a real dogfight

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. 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.

The sixth BCS standings of the season are out, and here’s what you really need to know:

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The computers love them some Northern Illinois

Last week at this time, Northern Illinois was 16th in the BCS standings and hoping for No. 15 Fresno State to stumble late in the season. Well, the Bulldogs destroyed New Mexico by 41 after the Huskies beat Toledo by 18, and the human polls still sided heavily with Fresno State, the Harris ranking it 13th to NIU’s 17th and the coaches’ poll putting the Bulldogs seven spots ahead of the Huskies, 13 to 20.

But let’s just say the computers don’t quite see it the same way.

The Sagarin rankings have been way out of whack for a while, putting NIU No. 3, ahead of everyone but Alabama and Florida State. But now all six formulas have the Huskies in the top 10, making them seventh overall in the computer aggregate. Meanwhile, Fresno State isn’t getting any respect from the wires and circuits, ranking 17th overall and not even showing up in the top 25 in the Massey formula.

The end result? Northern Illinois jumped Fresno State in the standings, sitting two spots ahead of the Bulldogs (14 to 16). Remember, one automatic bid is available to non-BCS schools (such as NIU and Fresno State) who finish in the top 12 of the last BCS standings or finish in the top 16 while ranking ahead of a BCS-automatic conference champion.

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In other words, it’s Game On for that non-BCS spot.

But relax, Bulldog fans. As long as Fresno State stays ahead — and especially well ahead — of NIU in the human polls, everything should be fine because …

Computers, computers, computers

Remember, and this has to keep being said over and over and over again — the computer formulas recalibrate and the end of the season. The computers play a huge role but remember, last season they had Alabama third in the final standings with Florida second and Kansas State and Stanford tied for fourth. Georgia finished seventh in the overall standings but only 11th according to the computers. These things change in a big hurry, and at the end of the day, the humans still rule.

And other thing that helps both NIU and Fresno State is …

UCF won’t work up past the non-BCSers

It would take a colossal gag at this point for UCF to not win the American Athletic Conference title, especially considering the remaining schedule — South Florida and at SMU. But for the same reason, the Knights are going to have a tough time climbing very far beyond their current No. 19 ranking. The Knights should move up a bit if No. 18 Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State on Dec. 7, but not much — and not past Fresno State and Northern Illinois. Fans of the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12, who are pushing to get two teams into the BCS, have to hope for NIU and Fresno State to lose to be assured of multiple bids.

No, a one-loss SEC champion won’t blow past an unbeaten Ohio State

No, no, no, no, no. Even if Missouri or Auburn end up winning the SEC championship and go 12-1, there’s no chance of either surpassing an unbeaten Florida State or Ohio State to get into the BCS Championship Game. No one-loss team has ever played in a BCS Championship Game over an unbeaten BCS conference team, and there’s no chance of it happening this time around unless the humans put a one-loss SEC champ into the top two — forget about that. The computers, which have Florida State No. 1 and Ohio State third, tend to love the unbeaten teams more than the one-loss teams, and they won’t provide much help. Which means …

Auburn and Missouri don’t control their own destiny, but they’re in enviable positions (sorry, Clemson)

Clemson might be fourth in both human polls, but that will change in a hurry if Missouri or Auburn wins the SEC championship. What’s more, and SEC champion Mizzou or Auburn each would land into the top two if Florida State or Ohio State fall. However, Clemson is still hanging around, and in a perfect world, it beats South Carolina, Missouri loses to Texas A&M and Auburn loses to Alabama, then South Carolina shocks Alabama in the SEC championship and Ohio State falters to Michigan or Michigan State. However even if all of that happens …

51-14 matters

Let’s say everything breaks Clemson’s way and everyone ranked higher, except for Florida State, loses. There’s no chance the human pollsters will want to see a rematch of the Seminoles’€™ 37-point pasting of the Tigers in Death Valley in mod-October. Alabama would most likely be the best of all one-loss options if all hell breaks loose, and No. 7 Oklahoma State could start to look more enticing, but it’s not going to be Clemson.

Wisconsin is moving within range

This could get interesting for the Big Ten. Wisconsin is now No. 15 and in consideration for an at-large BCS spot, but Michigan State is sitting at No. 11. If the Spartans beat Minnesota and then Ohio State in the Big Ten championship, then it’s simple; the Spartans and Buckeyes will end up in the BCS. But if Ohio State wins that game, then the comparisons will be made between Michigan State’s performance in its regular-season finale and Wisconsin’s performance in a 31-24 loss in Columbus in September. A close loss probably puts Michigan State into the BCS, but a double-digit loss might make Wisconsin and its travelling fan base more enticing. But unfortunately for Bucky, the controversial early-season loss to Arizona State still matters, contributing to …

The Pac-12 rebound

It seemed like the Pac-12 had no shot of getting two teams into the BCS last week after Stanford beat Oregon, but oddly enough, after the Ducks were dumped by Arizona, now there’s a solid chance of pushing in a second team thanks to Arizona State’s win over UCLA. The No. 12 Sun Devils are on a roll, winning six straight and seven of their last eight — and the Sept. 14 win over Wisconsin coupled with the improvement of USC are helping the cause in a huge way. Arizona State is now sixth according to the computers. As long as ASU beats Arizona and is respectable against Stanford in the Pac-12 title game, it could find its way into a big-money game with a little bit of luck.

The Nov. 25 best guess: The 10 BCS teams will be …

• BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs. Florida State

• Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford

• Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Fresno State

• Orange Bowl: Central Florida vs. Clemson

• Sugar Bowl: Missouri vs. Michigan State