The USA Today Coaches Poll is always important, as it helps to determine the BCS rankings. But it takes on a new importance this week, as it could play a huge role in determining the BCS standings of several schools hoping to earn automatic bids.
So which schools will be praising this week's coaches poll, and which will be shaking their collective fists?
We know for sure that No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Kansas State, No. 8 Stanford, No. 12 Florida State, No. 18 Louisville and No. 23 Wisconsin all earned automatic bids. No. 3 Oregon is sure to be given an at-large team bid as well.
What we don't know is whether the computers will place No. 4 Florida ahead of No. 5 Georgia. The Bulldogs are coming off of a loss, yes, but it was a 32-28 loss against arguably the best team in the country, in a game that Florida didn't even qualify for and Georgia was five yards away from winning.
Which team should be ranked No. 3?
The other major question is whether No. 16 Northern Illinois or No. 15 Boise State can earn the automatic BCS berth presented to a school that finishes in the Top 16 and is ranked higher than a conference champion.
The coaches bumped Northern Illinois into qualification after the win over Kent State and the loss by No. 21 Nebraska. Boise State was already in the Top 16 coming into the week, and the Coaches Poll is one of the biggest allies for the Broncos.
But will it be enough for either to earn a Top 16 BCS ranking? Northern Illinois was No. 21 in the BCS last week and will certainly jump ahead of Kent State, No. 25 Texas and No. 19 UCLA, each of which lost. The question is, can they jump ahead of Nebraska, which was ranked No. 12 last week and was smoked by Wisconsin?
And will Boise State be able to stay ahead of Northern Illinois? The Broncos were ranked No. 20 in the BCS last week, but didn't have as impressive a win over Nevada. Remember, Kent State was No. 17 in last week's BCS rankings.
If neither Boise State nor Northern Illinois qualifies, look for No. 11 Oklahoma to get the final at-large bid and face either Florida or Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
The biggest loser from Saturday was certainly Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were expected to beat a Wisconsin team that had come into the game with five losses and head to the Rose Bowl to face Stanford.
Instead, Nebraska was smoked 70-31 and suddenly looks much less appealing to the Capital One Bowl and Outback Bowl, which could go to Michigan and Northwestern, respectively.
The Coaches Poll will go a long way toward determining those final BCS spots, but the real intrigue remains how the BCS will shake out for several teams. That said, here's this week's USA Today Coaches Poll:
|24||San Jose State||10-2|
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets don't think Georgia should be punished for losing a conference championship game by five yards.