A bit closer to the final BCS standings, and yet we still don't have a lot of clarity in the argument that has been the talk of college football this season: What to do with TCU and Boise State. I say we don't have a lot of clarity, and yet we can make some very good guesses about where those teams will end up based on what happens from here. But there are still some wild cards -- where does a one-loss Auburn team land, and how much does it matter whether that team loses to Alabama or South Carolina? (On the latter, it's probably difficult to overstate the importance.) Can the Broncos continue to close the nearly insignificant gap with the Horned Frogs? And what happens to the team that doesn't get the automatic bid.
4. Boise State
8. Ohio State
9. Oklahoma State
10. Michigan State
One of the things that's notable here is the relatively even distribution of the Top 10 spots among this year's power conferences: Three for the Big Ten, two for the SEC (with the next two teams also coming from the SEC), and two for the Pac-10. The other teams hail from the Mountain West, the WAC and the Big XII. Unless something unusual happens, the ACC and the Big East will probably be shut out of the Top 10 through the rest of the season.
The headline, for those of you who haven't paid any attention to college football media for the last week, is that Boise will soon overtake TCU if simply defeats Nevada. The Wolf Pack are a more significant foe than New Mexico by a long shot, and Boise's final game against Utah State will not be enough of a drag on the strength of schedule to overcome that if the humans continue to put Boise ahead of TCU. I've made it pretty clear which of these teams I think is better, and will do so again in my BlogPoll ballot this week, but for now I'm going to stop yelling the same thing over and over.
Now for the bowl projections. Again, this is how I see things shaping up this week. If Boise moves past TCU next week -- which is basically a question of whether they defeat Nevada -- all this will have to be reshuffled. The reason I'm not doing that preemptively is because (a) Boise has not yet defeated Nevada, nor has TCU actually defeated New Mexico, a detail people seem to be forgetting as we try to project the standings in the future; and (b) it's impossible to say how that will affect things until we know what else happens in other games next week, which will also change things around. To reiterate: This is not what I think should happen, this is what I think will happen. And we need to remember that there is no "BCS" that selects the teams; there are bowls, each with their own parochial and financial concerns that play into the selections.
BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. LSU
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Oklahoma State
Nebraska disappears because they're no longer the top-rated team in the Big XII, so I don't count them as the champion, and they don't get an at-large bid because they're not in the Top 14; Stanford doesn't make the cut because I don't see the Sugar or Orange selecting them, and the Fiesta has to take Pittsburgh or whoever wins the Big East because it will be the last team left on the board. If and when Boise passes TCU, I think the Sugar Bowl has a very interesting decision to make: Does it take a Big Ten team whose fans will travel well, but is farther away; or does it take a closer team whose fans will either be energized by a BCS bid or disappointed by not being in the national championship game.
Your SEC teams outside of the Top 10: No. 11 Alabama, No. 12 Arkansas, No. 18 South Carolina and No. 25 Mississippi State.
Amid all this, Richard Billingsley emerges as a practical voice of reason. He's only the high or low -- tied with no more than one other voter -- for 11 teams this week, with the only real outliers being No. 4 Auburn (first in every other computer poll), Alabama at No. 6 (the next highest human votes have the Tide ranked eighth and twelfth), No. 16 Missouri (No. 13 is the next-lowest), Texas A&M at No. 19 (three lower than the next-harshest chips-based survey) and No. 13 Utah, which is 20th overall and No. 18 according to the next most optimistic computer. In any case, this is progress for Billingsley. He also gives TCU (No. 1) and Boise (No. 2) their highest rating -- and I, obviously, agree with his rankings on those two teams.
Of course, all of this is just a prelude to what happens two weeks from now, when the standings actually matter. That might be bad news for TCU, but there are a few teams for which it will be very good news indeed.