Three upsets on Saturday significantly shook up the BCS landscape, making the initial release of the standings next Sunday perhaps less intriguing. Now there's a clear separation of the top five teams from the rest of the pack, and two of them are scheduled for a titanic showdown next Saturday.
In the final simulated BCS standings, the top five teams are, in order: Alabama, Oregon, Clemson, Florida State and Ohio State. After that, there's a big dropoff to No. 6 LSU and the other assortment of one-loss and lesser unbeaten teams. (See BCS Guru for complete Week 7 simulated BCS standings, with an explanation of methodology below.)
The winner of next Saturday's Clemson-Florida State game will emerge as the primary challenger to the presumed Alabama-Oregon pairing, with Ohio State another slot behind. The way the polls and computer rankings are shaping up, the Tide and Ducks will meet in Pasadena on Jan. 6 this season as long as they both remain unbeaten—no matter what happens with the other teams.
Ohio State most likely will play in the BCS title game provided that there are no two unbeaten teams from the SEC, Pac-12 or ACC. The Buckeyes probably won't be jumped by a one-loss team, except for one—if LSU beats Alabama and Texas A&M to win the SEC West and then the conference championship, there is a possibility the Tigers could finish ahead of an unbeaten Buckeyes team, though a remote one.
An assortment of other unbeaten teams potentially can play their way into the BCS title game, but No. 9 Louisville isn't one of them. Thanks to a weak conference and an even weaker nonconference schedule, the Cardinals will be shut out of the BCS title game even if they finish the regular season 12-0. They won't play a single ranked team this season, and therefore, they won't gain any traction in either the polls or computer rankings.
No. 8 UCLA, No. 13 Missouri and No. 14 Miami all could play their way into the BCS title game if they pull off a string of upsets and win their respective conferences.
The Bruins must go on the road to face Stanford and Oregon in the next two weeks. Missouri gets Florida and South Carolina at home, but must get by them without injured quarterback James Franklin. The Canes' tests will come a bit later when they play Florida State and Virginia Tech back-to-back.
Then there is No. 10 Baylor and No. 16 Texas Tech, the only remaining unbeaten teams left in the Big 12. Each is a long shot to finish the season unbeaten and a longer shot to reach the BCS Championship Game. But whether either finishes the season undefeated will be of great interest to a trio of teams in the non-AQ conferences.
No. 19 Fresno State and No. 22 Northern Illinois, both still unbeaten, are in the running for a BCS bowl berth, with two-loss Boise State having a faint pause. If the highest-ranked Big 12 team ends up with one or multiple losses at the season's end, then the MAC or MWC champion only needs to finish in the top 16 (as opposed to top 12) of the final BCS standings to automatically qualify for a BCS bowl. That lower threshold will be easily met if either the Bulldogs or the Huskies run the table.
The first unveiling of the official standings will come next Sunday night on ESPN. But for now, much of the suspense has been removed. After the Clemson-FSU game next week, there probably won't be another shake-up until the week of Nov. 7-9, when Oregon takes on Stanford and Alabama faces LSU.
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* The rankings method is a simulation of the actual BCS standings with the exception of Peter Wolfe's computer ratings—not available until when official BCS standings are released—are replaced by the median ranking of 67 computer ratings.
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