Stanford keeps focus on Oregon State
As much as some of the games on Friday will have an impact on what bowl Stanford goes to at the end of the season, the Cardinal are keeping their focus on Saturday's regular season finale against Oregon State.
The seventh-ranked Cardinal (10-1, 7-1 Pac-10) are clearly one of the top teams in the country but will need some serious help if they hope to make it to a high-profile Bowl Championship Series game.
As much as an Auburn loss, an Oregon win, or a Boise State loss on Friday may help Stanford, the players know none of it matters if they don't take care of business against the Beavers (5-5, 4-3) the following day.
''It doesn't matter what other teams do. If we don't beat Oregon State none of that stuff matters,'' receiver Doug Baldwin said. ''All the guys are focused on Oregon State and worried about the task at hand.''
Typically a top 10 ranking and a one-loss season would put a Pac-10 team in prime position for a berth in the Rose Bowl or another BCS game. That's not the case for the Cardinal this year, in part because they lost 52-31 at No. 1 Oregon in October.
So the Cardinal could end up winning 11 games and playing in the Alamo Bowl against a third-choice Big 12 team instead of one of the marquee games.
''The BCS, no matter what you say about it, it's an arbitrary thing,'' coach Jim Harbaugh said. ''The thing we have to do is prepare and be ready to be competitive and find a way to beat Oregon State. That's what's important now.''
For Stanford to win the conference outright and earn the Rose Bowl bid, the Ducks would need to lose their final two games to No. 20 Arizona on Friday and at rival Oregon State the following week and the Cardinal would need to win Saturday.
With it looking unlikely that Oregon will lose its final two games, Stanford's path to Pasadena is murky even though the Cardinal could set a school record for wins in a season by beating the Beavers on Saturday.
The Rose Bowl is obligated to take a team from a non-automatic BCS qualifying conference if one is eligible and not playing in the title game. So the Cardinal will need No. 3 Boise State and No. 4 TCU each to lose to likely take those teams out of BCS contention.
The Broncos play at NO. 19 Nevada on Friday night in their toughest remaining test. The Horned Frogs close the season Saturday at one-win New Mexico so that may be a difficult route to the BCS as well.
With Stanford lacking a large alumni base and big national following, the other BCS bowls might shy away from taking a team that struggles even to sell tickets for home games if they want a sold-out stadium.
''We've had a spectacular season so far,'' defensive lineman Sione Fua said. ''We've done things that no other Stanford team has done. In that sense it's been a success. Yeah, it would be sad if we're the number five or six team in the country and don't go to a BCS game. But I think it's been a success.''
Stanford could also get the bid if No. 2 Auburn lost to No. 9 Alabama in the Iron Bowl or No. 18 South Carolina in the SEC title game, and either Boise State or TCU moved ahead of the Tigers into the top two.
That would give the Rose Bowl the option to take the Cardinal. If Boise State and TCU both finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings, the Rose Bowl could still select one of those teams to fulfill its obligation of taking a non-automatic qualifier, but the ties to the Pac-10 may be strong enough to get Stanford a bid.
The Cardinal also could be assured a spot in the BCS by finishing in the top four of the final BCS standings, which would be helped by LSU losing at Arkansas on Saturday.
''We'll definitely be mildly interested in the games,'' quarterback Andrew Luck said. ''It's hard not to be when you play college football and another team as prominent as Auburn, Oregon or Boise State is on TV. We know we can't control what happens outside of us playing on Saturday so we're taking that approach.''