We're back; the SEC has more teams in the BCS Top 25 this week than any other conference, with six. The Big XII is next with five, the Big Ten has four, and the Pac-10 and ACC has three each. The WAC and the Mountain West each have two. The Big East -- which still gets an automatic berth for reasons passing understanding -- has zero. In any case, this talk of a down SEC and a down Big XII being upstaged by a tough Pac-10 does seem a bit misplaced, no? (This isn't to say that the Pac-10 isn't a great conference, because I think it is. It's just that maybe some of those story lines are being oversold.)
Your Top 10, with the full BCS rankings here:
4. Boise State
The biggest news of the day is the most meaningless: Oregon is now No. 1, with Auburn falling a spot to No. 2. As long as you're in the Top 2, though, it doesn't really matter; you're going to the BCS Championship Game, just in a different uniform. So there's no real reason for Auburn fans to get worked up about this, unless they just want something to get worked up about. The victory is only in the human polls, for those who seem to think that Auburn's advantage is part of human voters' interest in points. The Tigers sweep the computer rankings at No. 1, while Oregon and TCU split the second-place votes, with the Ducks as runners-up in four and the Horned Frogs taking a pair of the ballots.
I have to say that I'm not all that concerned about the Top 5 having three AQ teams -- they're the only other undefeated schools left in the nation -- but I can't see why Utah is there. Three of Utah's eight opponents have winning records, and fully half of their opponents have two or fewer wins. They are 2007 Kansas with an even easier schedule. Sure, if Utah defeats TCU in their Saturday showdown, they probably deserve to be in the Top 5. But they do not beforehand.
If I had to guess at the bowl games based on the current rankings, I'll go with this:
BCS National Championship Game: Auburn vs. Oregon
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. TCU
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama
Fiesta Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Nebraska
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Ohio State
First of all, all the conference champions are decided based on who is the highest-ranked team in that conference right now. That could change. I chose Pittsburgh because they have the most wins in the Big East, a conference that still has no ranked teams. (Again, for those who just like making fun of the Big East, it has two fewer ranked teams than the WAC or the Mountain West.) The Rose Bowl has to take a non-AQ team that wins an automatic berth, and I tried to don the colored blazers of the other bowls and select the teams they would based on the order under the BCS rules. All the match-ups have something going for them -- except the Fiesta Bowl, natch. Pittsburgh is going to get slaughtered, but that really has nothing to do with their bowl destination. That is because Pittsburgh is a bad team that has no business playing in a BCS bowl.
Your other SEC teams in the rankings are No. 18 Arkansas, No. 19 South Carolina and No. 20 Mississippi State.
Since this has become sort of a niche for us, it's time for the weekly Richard Billingsley Watch: 15 teams get their high or low computer rating from Billingsley, with four ties. In the case of eight teams, Billingsley rates them higher or lower than any component of the BCS poll, including the human voters. Some highlights: Alabama at No. 4 (only one other computer has them higher than 13); Missouri at 11 (all other computers have the Tigers in the Top 5); Stanford at 17, three spots lower than any computer and five down from the coaches, the more skeptical of the human voters; No. 21 Virginia Tech, the only computer that ranks the Hokies at all; and unranked Nevada, which is in the Top 25 in every other component of the BCS.
Some commenters have questioned whether Billingsley makes that much of a difference, given that the high and low computers scores for each team are thrown out. He does. It's not as significant as it might be, because the computers have been watered down in the BCS standings. But by consistently coming in higher or lower than other computers, Billingsley keeps other computers' rankings from being thrown out. An example: Billingsley's overranking of Alabama keeps Anderson & Hester's No. 9 in the poll, even though that's four spots higher than any other computer poll. That doesn't make a difference now, but it could in the future. And by having one poll that consistently draws on the safeguard, it defeats the purpose of having the safeguard to begin with.
Of course, the BCS has an automatic qualifying conference for a conference with no teams that would qualify were it not for the fact that it is an automatic qualifying conference. I think we gave up on anything about this system making sense a long time ago.