The selection process for the BCS Championship game two seasons ago proved that the strength of a team's loss matters as much as its wins. For the Stanford Cardinal, that could be a high hurdle between them and their title hopes.
Oklahoma State beat four teams ranked at the time it played them in the regular season, and three teams that finished ranked 16th or better.
However, a loss to .500 Iowa State kept the Cowboys out of the title game. Alabama beat three teams that were ranked. Only one, Arkansas, finished in the polls by season's end.
The Crimson Tide's one defeat was to the No. 1 team in the country, LSU. The strength of its loss trumped the more impressive list of wins Oklahoma State accrued.
Stanford already has two impressive wins, beating Arizona State and Washington, and has the potential for more.
However, how Utah finishes is as important as the strength of its remaining schedule. And the Cardinal's remaining schedule is treacherous.
The Cardinal must run the rest of the table to play for the BCS Championship. That includes several more dates against ranked competition, starting Saturday with No. 9 UCLA.
Of course, the Nov. 7 showdown with second-ranked Oregon still looms large, but another potentially high-profile matchup occurs two weeks earlier. lA win over Cal on Saturday likely propels Oregon State into the Top 25 leading up to its Oct. 26 contest against the Cardinal.
Combined with a hypothetical Pac-12 championship, that translates to strong national title credentials for the Cardinal. But would that be enough to trump another one-loss team from another conference?
Precedent suggests a one-loss SEC team is at the front of the line for a BCS title bid. LSU in 2003 and 2007, Florida in 2008 and Alabama last season all earned title-game spots ahead of Pac-12 teams with the same number of losses.
The Pac-12 championship game is one problem the expansion to 12 teams solved.
Stanford is in a fortunate position in that it still controls its destiny for reaching the conference title game, a luxury that kept Oregon behind Alabama in last year’s BCS standings.
That potential 12th win is oh-so important. Oklahoma State won its conference title but had the same record as Alabama.
A one-loss SEC team can realistically be penciled in as a title-game selection, all things being equal.
Beyond a head-to-head scenario with the SEC, the Cardinal could land in a situation requiring a Stanford education to understand.
ACC front-runners Clemson and Florida State meet this week, with huge BCS implications at stake. Miami also factors in from the ACC.
Because of the divisional split, Miami plays Florida State but not Clemson. There could be a situation in which all three finish with one loss:
- Florida State beats Clemson
- Miami beats Florida State
- Florida State beats Miami in an ACC championship game rematch.
Undefeated Ohio State won two of the stiffest challenges on its schedule, besting Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Buckeyes must still travel to Michigan for The Game.
Ohio State could lose that game, but still play in the Big Ten championship as it holds the Leaders Division tiebreakers. A win in Indianapolis in the Big Ten title game puts the Buckeyes at 12-1.
Oh, and then there’s the Big 12. Let’s leave it at that.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer for B/R. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.