While Stanford and Baylor picked up signature wins, Alabama ended up as one of the big winners in Sunday’s release of the BCS rankings.
At No. 1, the Crimson Tide have nowhere to go, but the win over LSU strengthened Alabama’s slot at No. 1. The Tide were a unanimous No. 1 in the Harris poll and got all but four first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. The win over LSU also returned Alabama to the No. 1 spot in the computer average after spending
Of course, all that really matters in the BCS is being in the top two spots. As expected, Florida State remained at No. 2 and tightened its grip on the championship game as Oregon slipped to No. 6 after the loss to Stanford.
Florida State. The conventional wisdom was that an undefeated Oregon would jump Florida State in the BCS standings. The Seminoles no longer have that concern. The Ducks’ 26-20 loss to Stanford on Thursday all but ensures FSU will be in the national championship game as long as it remains undefeated. The Crimson Tide and Seminoles are the only teams with a BCS average better than 0.900. For each of the three previous BCS rankings, three teams were better than 0.900.
Stanford. The win over Oregon not only kept Stanford in the national championship race, it helped the Cardinal stay ahead of undefeated Baylor despite the Bears' win over Oklahoma. One-loss Stanford is ranked one spot behind Baylor in both the coaches’ and Harris polls, but the computers have Stanford third. Baylor is fifth in the computer average.
Baylor. The Bears picked up their signature win of the season so far with a 41-12 victory over Oklahoma, but Baylor remaind behind Stanford. Baylor moved up from No. 6 to No. 5, but Stanford remained one spot ahead thanks to a stronger win over then-No. 2 Oregon. Stanford will not face a top-25 team until the Pac-12 championship game while Baylor still faces No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 24 Texas. With a minuscule gap between the two, Baylor has little reason to worry about Stanford as long as the Bears remain undefeated.
Key Games this Week
No. 4 Stanford at USC. After Notre Dame’s loss to Pittsburgh, Stanford’s road trip against a hot USC team could be the toughest remaining matchup for the Cardinal. After facing the Trojans in Los Angeles, Stanford faces Cal and Notre Dame in Palo Alto.
No. 25 Georgia at No. 7 Auburn. The Tigers need this game to set up an Iron Bowl matchup for the SEC West. BCS-wise, Auburn could set itself up as an attractive at-large team if the Tigers beat Georgia and still miss out on the SEC championship game. If the Sugar Bowl loses Alabama to the title game, a two-loss Auburn would be a nice consolation prize.
Ball State at No. 15 Northern Illinois. The Huskies’ slim chance to start moving past Fresno State in the BCS standings begins Wednesday against their main challenger in the MAC West. Ball State is 9-1 overall and 6-0 in the league, but the odds of the Cardinals sneaking into the BCS as a one-loss MAC team (as NIU did last year) are remote. Ball State is unranked and its loss was to North Texas.
• Fresno State checked in at No. 14, one spot ahead of Northern Illinois and three spots ahead of American Athletic Conference leader UCF. The Bulldogs would be an automatic bid if the season ended today. However, Fresno State is creeping closer to the top 12, which would guarantee an automatic BCS bid no matter where the automatic-qualifying conference champions finish. The Bulldogs’ lead over the Huskies is also significant — Fresno has a BCS average of 0.4317 and NIU has a BCS average of 0.3505. The Huskies may have too much ground to make up against a Fresno team that may face Boise State in a Mountain West championship game.
• Five SEC teams remain eligible for a BCS at-large bid. After Alabama, they include No. 7 Auburn, No. 9 Missouri, No. 10 South Carolina and No. 11 Texas A&M. The Pac-12 has three (No. 4 Stanford, No. 6 Oregon, No. 13 UCLA). No other league has more than two.
• UCF’s win over Houston was enough to put the Knights ahead of Louisville even though the Knights handed the Cardinals their only loss of the season. UCF’s biggest gains were in the in the computer average where the Knights moved from No. 23 to No. 16. Louisville remains ranked five spots ahead of UCF in both the coaches’ and Harris polls.
• Is Clemson iron-clad for a BCS bid? With Notre Dame out of the way and at-large teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 less attractive than Clemson, it’s looking more likely the Tigers could be an at-large BCS bid. With Clemson at No. 7 even a loss to South Carolina wouldn’t necessarily knock the Tigers out of the top 14. Clemson can ill-afford upsets in the ACC and Big Ten championship games, and, of course, a second ACC loss.
Notes on BCS selection:
• Automatic BCS bids go to the top two for the title game, the champions of the ACC (Orange Bowl), Big 12 (Fiesta), Big Ten (Rose), Pac-12 (Rose) and SEC (Sugar). The American’s automatic bid is not tied to a particular bowl.
• Notre Dame receives an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight.
• A champion from a non-automatic qualifying league (Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt and non-Notre Dame independents) receive an automatic bid if it finishes in the top 12 of the standings or if it finishes in the top 16 and ahead of a champion from a non-AQ conference.
• To be eligible for an at-large BCS bid, a team must have nine or more wins and finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings.
• Once automatic tie-ins are placed, the selection order for BCS bids goes as follows: 1. The bowl losing the BCS No. 1 team to the championship game, 2. The bowl losing the BCS No. 2 team, 3. The Orange Bowl, 4. The Sugar, 5. The Fiesta.