Published October 25, 2011 - 9:30am
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
The second weekly BCS standings provide a slightly clearer roadmap to the national championship game. SEC fans are already salivating over the November 5 LSU-Alabama match that will likely serve as a de facto national semifinal. But as is always the case in college football, there are a number of moving parts to consider. Here’s a brief explanation of where things stand and where they could end up.
1. Oklahoma State is in the driver’s seat
Although the human polls and BCS standings show LSU and Alabama as No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, Oklahoma State was the near-unanimous choice of the six computer rankings. (Only Richard Billingsley ranked OSU No. 2 behind LSU.) Overall, the computers show the Big 12 as stronger from top-to-bottom than the SEC and if OSU wins out the Cowboys will definitely play in the title game. OSU also has an advantage over its two SEC rivals in that there’s no Big 12 conference championship game this year.
2. South Carolina could play an important role
It’s highly improbable that the Gamecocks will vault from No. 13 in the BCS to No. 1 or No. 2 even if they win out and upset the Alabama-LSU winner for the SEC championship. But South Carolina can assist the SEC by eliminating No. 5 Clemson in their season-ending rivalry game on November 26. If Oklahoma State falters, Clemson and current No. 4 Boise State are in position to fight for the No. 2 slot. The Harris and USA Today polls both currently rank Boise State 5th and Clemson 6th and 7th, respectively, and the computer rankings slightly prefer Clemson.
3. Boise State is a legitimate contender
If Oklahoma State and Clemson each lose a game, Boise State will be in striking distance of the No. 2 ranking. Boise State certainly has the easiest schedule going forward. Their remaining five opponents, all in the Mountain West Conference (which has no championship game), have a combined record of 14-18 and include 1-5 UNLV and 0-7 New Mexico.
The question is how will the soft schedule affect the computer rankings? Although Boise State is currently 4th in the BCS standings, it actually finished 5th in all three individual components, the two polls and the computer average. Stanford currently ranks higher in both polls (4th in Harris, 3rd in USA Today) but substantially lower by the computers (9th). It’s unclear whether Stanford winning out will be enough to convince the computers. Stanford does play Oregon on November 12, but overall, the Cardinal’s remaining opponents have a 16-12 record, which isn’t that much better than Boise State.
4. If everyone loses a game, then…?
Let’s say (1) LSU defeats Alabama, (2) South Carolina defeats Clemson and LSU, (3) Oklahoma defeats Oklahoma State, (4) Oregon defeats Stanford, (5) Boise State loses to somebody (say, TCU), and (6) currently undefeated Kansas State loses to somebody (they play Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, so the odds are pretty strong here). Now you have a bunch of one-loss teams. So what will the BCS likely decide?
My best guess is actually LSU and Oklahoma State. Which is pretty much where we seem to be heading anyways. Oregon and Oklahoma would also have a fighting chance.
5. There could be an all-SEC national championship game…but not the one you think
There is already chatter about a LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS championship game if, say, Alabama defeats LSU in a close game on November 5. A one-loss LSU team could, if there are no other undefeated teams, manage to grab the No. 2 spot.
But there’s another possibility: Arkansas wins out. That means defeating South Carolina on November 5 and LSU the day after Thanksgiving. If that happens — and Alabama wins the SEC West — than a one-loss Arkansas team could leap to No. 2 in the BCS standings if there are no other undefeated teams. Arkansas is currently No. 10 in the BCS: 9th in the Harris poll, 8th in the USA Today poll and 8th in the computer average. The computers actually have Arkansas across a wide range, from 6th according to Jeff Sagarin to 15th in the Colley Matrix. But defeating LSU would easily improve Arkansas’ standing across-the-board.