October is here as we're just three weeks away from the unveiling of the first official BCS standings. But with the simulated standings (compiled by BCS Guru), we already have a pretty good idea about the pecking order among the top teams.
The beginning of the conference season always means the pairing down of potential national contenders, though this early in the season a loss doesn't necessarily kill a team's chances. It happened to LSU last week, but the Tigers will have ample time to get back in the BCS race.
This week, we'll get a chance to find out a few surprising teams that made it through September unscathed. There are 20 teams that remain unbeaten, though that number is guaranteed to be reduced to no more than 17 as there are three matchups between undefeated teams this week. All three are among our Top 5 BCS Impact Games of the Week.
Rankings according to simulated BCS standings at BCSGuru.com.
When: Thursday, 10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
With USC's implosion that culminated in the dismissal of coach Lane Kiffin on Sunday, UCLA is in the driver's seat in a Pac-12 South that's awash in mediocrity. Other than the Bruins, who have yet to play a conference game, every team in the division has already absorbed a loss.
UCLA (3-0) can seize control in its Pac-12 opener against Utah (3-1), whose comeback against Oregon State fell short in overtime. Unlike two years ago when they were walloped in Salt Lake City late in the season, the Bruins have already proved their road-worthiness, with an impressive rout of Nebraska in Lincoln after overcoming an early 21-3 deficit.
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Miami won an early-season bout against Florida and otherwise cruised to a 4-0 record against not-too-threatening competition. Georgia Tech (3-1), on the other hand, has ground to make up after a lackluster loss to Virginia Tech that set it back in the ACC Coastal race.
The division winner likely will come from among those three teams and a loss by the Yellow Jackets will about assure their elimination from the conference title chase. History is not on Georgia Tech's side, as it's lost the last four encounters against Miami.
As for the 'Canes, quarterback Stephen Morris should be ready to go after leaving the game early in last week's rout of South Florida. Morris claimed that the Bulls played "dirty" as he re-injured his ankle, but he appears to be healed enough to start in Miami's ACC opener.
When: Saturday, Noon ET, ESPN
Coming off a dreadful 4-8 season, Randy Edsall's 4-0 Maryland team is the most surprising among the four unbeaten ACC teams. The Terps' most recent victory was a 37-0 rout of West Virginia, which was made more impressive when the Mountaineers upset Oklahoma State the week after. They will now seek a truly defining victory in the first of this week's three games pitting unbeaten teams.
The Seminoles have a national championship in their sights and can ill afford a loss, even if it's against a team that's now ranked in the AP Top 25. Quarterback Jameis Winston has emerged as a likely Heisman Trophy front-runner, and he'll want to keep the momentum going after last week's spectacular outing that included a completed Hail Mary pass just before halftime against Boston College.
When: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
Ohio State (5-0) escaped against Wisconsin last week in its Big Ten opener, and now will face its first serious road test against fellow unbeaten Northwestern. Both teams defeated California out in Berkeley this season, but because of the vagaries of the Big Ten schedule, they have not met since 2008.
The Wildcats have used their high-powered offense, averaging 41 points per game, to surge to a 4-0 start. They'll need to maintain that scoring pace against an Ohio State team that now has a healthy Braxton Miller back. The Buckeyes have yet to lose a game since Urban Meyer took over as coach before 2012, and they'll look to extend that 17-0 record.
When: Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN
Both Washington and Stanford scored impressive victories in Seattle last Saturday, playing just five miles apart. The Huskies ran their record to 4-0 with a dominant performance at home against Arizona, while the Cardinal dismantled Washington State in the Seattle Seahawks' crib to likewise go to 4-0.
A victory in this game will be crucial as both teams need to keep pace with unbeaten Oregon in the Pac-12 North. With a home game against the Ducks, the winner will have a fighting chance to keep the No. 2-ranked team from winning the division, as well as a shot at the BCS National Championship.
Washington upset Stanford last year in the fourth game of the season, derailing the Cardinal's own BCS hopes early. The Cardinal have had a change at quarterback since, with Kevin Hogan taking over late in the season. He has not lost a game as a starter, going 9-0.