Road to the BCS Championship, Week 9

And then there were three.

Three teams have distanced themselves from the pack: LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State.

In the case of the two SEC titans, it's because of overwhelming support in the Coaches and Harris Polls. They're comfortably ahead of No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Harris, and they're way out ahead of No. 3 Stanford in the Coaches. The human polls are the most important element to follow, as we'll look at later.

The computers love them some Big 12 and hate the Big Ten.

Oklahoma State is comfortably in third place thanks to being an almost unanimous No. 1 in the computer polls. Overall, the CPUs are in love with the Big 12. All six teams from America's favorite unstable conference are ranked higher in the computer component than they are in the overall standings. I think it's fair to say that the Big 12 is top-to-bottom the best league in the country in this particular season, so it makes sense for the algorithms to be where they're at (given that they can't factor in margin of victory according to BCS rules).

Meanwhile, the computers are very down on the Big Ten. All five teams from the Up North Conference except Penn State are ranked lower in the computer component than in the overall standings. In PSU's case I'll bet it's because voters are very skeptical of the Nittany Lion offense, and because Penn State played Alabama in the non-conference. Anyway, Michigan State is the highest of them all at 15 in the computer component, Nebraska is seven spots lower than its overall rank at No. 21 in the computers, and Wisconsin is nine spots lower at No. 24. That will severely hamper the Badgers' chances at becoming a one-loss entrant into the championship game.

But enough about the computers.

It's important not to put too much stock in the computer component, even if it's the most interesting of the three elements of the formula. After the computers overruled the humans in 2003, sending LSU and Oklahoma to New Orleans without unanimous human poll No. 1 USC, the people in charge of the formula de-emphasized the algorithms. At this point, they are largely a glorified tiebreaker in the event that the Coaches and Harris Polls disagree. Unless they are way off of the human polls, like in Wisconsin's case, they probably won't play a big role when all is said and done.

LSU-Alabama rematch odds: 5%

I'm giving it a 5% chance of happening simply because it could conceivably happen, but it's far too early to give it anything higher.

For one thing, these teams haven't even played yet. For a rematch to be feasible, the final margin must be close (preferably no more than one score). It also must be a legitimately close game, not with a garbage time touchdown making the score look closer than the game really was.

For another, we still have three potential undefeated AQ conference champions running around. K-State and Oklahoma State haven't played yet, so one of them is definitely losing that game (my money's on the Wildcats losing it). So we have that game's winner plus Stanford and Clemson possibly standing in the way of a rematch.

Right now, my guess for the BCS title game is the LSU-Bama winner against Clemson. I think Stanford will lose to Oregon, K-State to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma State to Oklahoma. That clears the path for Clemson, who is easily the most complete team in the ACC. Of course with them being Clemson, they could go spit the bit against Georgia Tech this weekend in Atlanta. GT's kind of cratering right now though, and the two toughest remaining games are against shorthanded teams. South Carolina is without Marcus Lattimore, and CU's likely ACC championship game opponent Virginia Tech (who lost 23-3 at home to the Tigers) just lost its leading tackler for the season.

Ultimately, I don't think a rematch has any chance of happening if LSU beats Alabama. LSU could sway the human voters in a doomsday scenario by possibly having non-conference wins over the Pac-12 champ (Oregon) and Big East champ (West Virginia). I don't think Penn State and three cupcakes will get the job done for Bama, and the LSU showdown is in Tuscaloosa to boot. Voters would be more sympathetic to a rematch if the loser had lost on the road.

This is a possibility we'll monitor, but it's not worth losing sleep over just yet.

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