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BCS Standings: Some Chaos Theories

Now that we're entering the final weeks before bowl selections, we can actually start to talk chaos theories. But standings first.

1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
5 Cincinnati
6 Boise State
7 Oregon
8 Ohio State
9 Iowa
10 Georgia Tech
11 Penn State
12 Virginia Tech
13 LSU
14 BYU

Why 14 this week instead of the usual 10? Because that's how many teams are eligible for at-large spots in the BCS bowls if they don't wrap up the championship of one of the major conferences.


Looking at the Top 5, Florida and Texas gain ground -- the Gators across the board, the Longhorns with the chips. TCU is officially locked out barring a Texas loss. That was just a formality, but it becomes official with the end of the Frogs' season.

Notably absent from the Top 14 teams: formerly No. 9 Pittsburgh -- more on the Panthers presently -- now at No. 15 in the standings after a loss to West Virginia, and one-time No. 12 Oklahoma State, last seen rounding out the Top 20 after Oklahoma waxed them.

No. 22 Nebraska, No. 23 West Virginia and No. 24 Stanford are back in the standings. Houston, Nebraska and Utah -- Utah! -- are in the Top 25 thanks solely to the humans. Only two of the computers even bother to rank the Utes.

The only other SEC team that was ranked last week, Ole Miss, is gone after the loss to the rival Western Division Bulldogs.

Now, chaos scenarios:

Nebraska defeats Texas. This is the only surefire way for Boise to still get left out of a BCS bowl. Nebraska would get the Fiesta Bowl berth and Texas would become the at-large team that every other BCS game wants. Meanwhile, the SEC runner-up, TCU and potentially Cincinnati are left in the battle for No. 2.

Pittsburgh defeats Cincinnati. The Panthers then claim the Big East's automatic spot in the BCS system and likely leaves the Bearcats in the Top 14. Does a bowl take the higher-ranked Boise State or fellow "Cinderella" team Cincinnati?

New Mexico State defeats Boise. That puts Virginia Tech and BYU back in the conversation; most people already have either Iowa or Penn State in the BCS, leaving the other locked out, and LSU is also ineligible under the two-per-league rule. Assuming that Cincinnati defeats Pittsburgh and Oregon wins, there's an outside chance that Miami or even Southern Cal could re-enter the Top 14.

Oregon State defeats Oregon. Expect to start hearing "19-8" a lot if this happens, a reference to the Ducks' loss to Boise State and the most PR-friendly justification for giving the Broncos the final at-large place.

All of them. This is the nightmare scenario. Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Oregon State join the SEC winner, Ohio State and the ACC winner as the only sure berths. Four at-large spots now are on the table, with the SEC runner-up probably taking one of them and one going to TCU. Those two are the only ones left in the national title conversation. Left for the final two berths are Texas, Cincinnati, Oregon, Virginia Tech and BYU and maybe Boise, Miami and/or Southern Cal.

But let's assume sanity for the sake of our weekly selection exercise.

ROSE BOWL: Oregon vs. Ohio State
ORANGE BOWL: Georgia Tech vs. Penn State
FIESTA BOWL: TCU vs. Boise State
SUGAR BOWL: SEC runner-up vs. Cincinnati

Wait a minute. That Fiesta Bowl looks like it might not be a good game for Fox's ratings. If only there were some way to fix that --

5. After completion of the selection process as described in Paragraph Nos. 1-4, the conferences and Notre Dame may, but are not required to, adjust the pairings taking into consideration the following:

... whether alternative pairings may have greater or lesser appeal to college football fans as measured by expected ticket sales for the bowls and by expected television interest, and the consequent financial impact on Fox and the bowls.

What if Florida or Alabama were to play a game to repair the SEC's reputation against these upstarts from the Mountain West? And think of the points Cincinnati and Boise State would put up in a game against each other. So let's switch those two.

FIESTA BOWL: Cincinnati vs. Boise State
SUGAR BOWL: SEC runner-up vs. TCU

No, it doesn't make much sense to change the line-ups because of television ratings. But this is the BCS we're talking about here. Dollars have always counted much more than sense.

For more on the BCS, go to the story stream or BCS Evolution, SB Nation's blog devoted to the rankings