It's hard to say whether nothing has changed or everything has changed in the world of the BCS rankings this week. Because the standings are static this week in the top two spots -- where it really matters -- but there's some interesting movement beyond the left-most numbers.
About those left-most numbers. Again, LSU and Alabama still have the 1-2 position. Arkansas slides precipitously from its lofty No. 3 ranking last week, with Oklahoma State, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Houston and Boise State all moving past the Hogs in the rankings. There's also a little shuffling in the order of those teams from the last poll, but nothing too dramatic.
3 Oklahoma State
5 Virginia Tech
7 Boise State
Full rankings here.
Oklahoma's dip from 9th to 10th actually might play into an at-large bowl, because it gives the Sooners less margin for error if the lose badly to Oklahoma State. And the Michigan talk is still alive for that reason, but barely. The Wolverines are 16th right now. One team ahead of them is going to fall when No. 13 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin play in the B1G Championship Game, but there's no telling whether either of them will fall behind the Maize 'n' Blue. And Michigan needs the Sooners to drop far enough for the Wolverines to move into the Top 14. Oh, and Baylor -- which already gets better numbers than Michigan from the computers -- also has a semi-respectable foe next week in Texas. They need a ton of help.As for that significant movement inside the numbers we were talking about: Alabama is now edging Oklahoma State in the computers. And for now, the edge is substantial -- four went with the Tide as their No. 2 team and two went with the Cowboys. So if Oklahoma State's bump for playing Oklahoma isn't too significant -- remember, the computers can't account for margin of victory -- it might not matter all that much if the human voters splinter. But if the voters change their minds on Alabama to avoid a rematch or for some other reason, and Oklahoma State gets a big boost from the chips in next week's poll, it could be an extraordinarily close race for the second spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
More importantly, though, the voters don't seem to be splintering in Oklahoma State's direction. The Cowboys are fifth in both human polls, behind Stanford and Virginia Tech. (No, I don't understand the Virginia Tech thing either, so please don't ask me.)
Bottom line: The odds of a rematch are continuing to increase. And if the human voters don't split much more dramatically next week, it's very hard to see a scenario where the computers will throw it to Oklahoma State -- regardless of margin. Conversely, it would be hard for the humans to throw it to Stanford or Virginia Tech without voting en masse for one of those two teams -- Alabama is far enough ahead of Oklahoma State, let alone the Cardinal and the Hokies.
As for the automatic non-AQ spot, Houston is still in the driver's seat on that one. Again, the important qualifier here is that the team must be the conference champion, and Boise State will not be the Mountain West champion. TCU still lingers down at 18th, though that's two spots short of where they need to be to get into a BCS bowl if Houston loses the Conference USA Championship Game. Their home game against UNLV next week isn't going to help them with the humans or the computers, so they're going to need a lot more help from teams above them.
Now, to the bowl-seeding exercise. Again, this is if the standings as of today were the standings at the end of the season, with conference championships and head-to-head being given to the highest-ranked team where appropriate.
BCS National Championship Game: LSU vs. Alabama
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Michigan State
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Houston
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia
West Virginia is the only ranked team, but there are still a lot of scenarios that could unfold in the Big East. As I understand it, Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia are all still alive at this point, but the last tiebreaker in the league is the BCS ranking thing, so the Moutaineers it is. And the Orange Bowl ratings get beaten by that night's Jeopardy! re-run.
The only shuffle I can see happening is if Oklahoma drops out of the Top 14 -- in which case the Sugar could take Kansas State or the B1G team that replaces Oklahoma -- or if the Sugar decides to go with Oregon to begin with as compensation for losing an SEC team. In that case, the Fiesta will not go with an Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma rematch, and could go with Houston, opening the door to an Oregon showdown with a B1G team in New Orleans (won't the Rose Bowl be happy with that?) or a Ducks-Sooners tilt. There's a slim chance that West Virginia could move into the Fiesta or Sugar in that case, something that would also cause a ton of upheaval.
Barring an upset in the Georgia Dome this week, we appear to have our national championship game contestants. But there's still plenty to be sorted through in the BCS.