The only question this week was what happened below No. 3. After all, it was a near-certainty that the top three teams in the SEC West would be the top three teams in the BCS standings. But after the complete chaos that engulfed every other team in the Top 7, the question was who would remain in the running after the dust settled.
And the team now in the driver's seat if things fall their way in the SEC is ... Oklahoma State? The Cowboys no longer control their own destiny once the attrition kicks in -- Alabama needs to lose for the team from Stillwater to have any real chance -- but they are still the top-ranked non-SEC team in this week's standings.
4 Oklahoma State
5 Virginia Tech
7 Boise State
Full standings here.
Somehow, a Virginia Tech team that has defeated exactly one currently-ranked team and only beat East Carolina by seven has made its way to No. 5 in the standings. And I'm not sure that you can really argue with that. Add Stanford back on the edge of the Top 5 and Boise State checking in at No. 7, and we're actually almost back to where we were before the chaos began several weeks ago.
It's unanimous. LSU is No. 1 across the board. And I mean completely across the board. Both human polls have the Tigers as a unanimous No. 1 and the computers polls now agree to give LSU every top vote for the first time this season. That's as clean a sweep as you can possibly have. The problem is that the Bayou Bengals still have to win out to capture the national championship -- maybe.
The SEC battle. This is the first time that I'm actually starting to wonder if an 11-1 Arkansas can move ahead of an 11-1 Alabama. The voters have what I consider to be a slightly nonsensical attachment to the idea that when someone loses is important. (Coincidentally, this is one of the reasons I don't support a playoff system. I don't think a team should be able to win a championship by playing well for five weeks after playing above-average for most of the season.)
But they still face the problem that they lost the head-to-head, and if there's one thing the voters care about almost as much as the timing of a win or a loss, it's head-to-head results. The quickest route to the SEC championship game for Arkansas is still to defeat LSU on Friday, then cheer for Auburn on Saturday as the Tigers knock off the Tide.
As for the three-team scenario for the SEC: I also think that's more alive than ever before. It's possible LSU could weather a loss against Arkansas and return to No. 2 if Arkansas wins the game against the Bayou Bengals and then lose to Georgia in Atlanta. Or if Alabama loses to Georgia in Atlanta after that.
The key element in all of that, of course, is for Georgia to become the first team from the SEC East to defeat any of the three from the SEC West. Even as someone who's beginning to think that the East's reputation as a weak division is getting a little bit ahead of the facts, it's hard to see the Dawgs coming away with a win in Atlanta right now.
Eyes of the Apples (and the PCs). The Big 12 is still the unquestioned champion of the computer polls. After LSU's first-place vote, Oklahoma State is No. 2. Kansas State is fifth according to the chips, a full 10 places ahead of their station in both human polls. The Sooners follow the Wildcats, despite the fact that they are no higher than 10th in the human votes. Just like last week, every Big 12 team ends up higher in the computers than in the poll at large.
Again, this becomes more important depending on how many losses the SEC teams have and whether the humans eventually scatter on the voting for No. 2. If they do, the computers become the tiebreaker, and Oklahoma State once again emerges as a viable candidate to face whoever emerges from the SEC in the national championship game.
The non-AQs. There's suddenly no longer a guarantee that only one of the non-AQ teams gets into the BCS, though that's probably still more likely than not. Houston is still in the driver's seat on that one; an undefeated Cougars team will automatically go to the BCS.
But things get more complicated if the Cougars lose. If they lose before the Conference USA Championship Game and then win their league's title event, an intriguing battle will emerge between the Houston and TCU for the automatic non-AQ berth. The wild card in that is the requirement for an automatic non-AQ spot, which requires of the champion of one of the non-AQ leagues:
A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.
A one-loss Conference USA champion Houston or TCU, which will take the Mountain West Conference no matter what happens next week, will almost undoubtedly rank ahead of the Big East champion. The problem is whether they will land above the 16th spot. TCU is currently No. 20 and Houston would have to keep from falling too far if it loses to
Southern Methodist or Tulsa.
If Houston loses in the Conference USA Championship Game, TCU is the only team that can still get an automatic berth. But that would also introduce a Boise State team that could be in the Top 5 or pretty close as a potential at-large team. But Boise would not be an automatic team for the bowls, because the Broncos will not be the champions of the Mountain West.
Bowl seeds. Again, we're giving the head-to-heads and conference championships to the top-ranked teams and this is a rolling exercise based on the standings as they are today.
BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Houston
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Rutgers
So we get a rematch in the national championship game under the current standings. The Sugar Bowl takes Oklahoma as the closest and most marketable eligible AQ team left on the board. The Fiesta Bowl grabs Oregon to get a high-flying shootout. The Sugar Bowl takes Houston to stay away from the ratings train-wreck that is the Big East champion. And at least the Orange Bowl has a familiar face in Virginia Tech to pair with Rutgers.
That, of course, will only happen if the rankings remain the same next week. Of course, the season so far has shown us that the odds of that happening are exceedingly small.