Week 11 was pegged by many as the one that would shift the paradigm of the 2013 college football season, and it didn't disappoint one bit.
Starting with Oregon's loss to Stanford on Thursday night, the once-murky landscape is finally starting to show signs of clarity. Alabama and Florida State each followed the Ducks' upset loss with wins of their own, locking themselves into the top two spots in Sunday's BCS rankings update.
The clarity continues down through the Top Five, where Ohio State, Stanford and Baylor should round it out in that order. We'll have to see the human poll results early Sunday to get a proper read on the rest of the standings, but it seems logical that Oregon would fall to No. 6 and the rest of the Top 10 would stay stagnant—minus the No. 10 spot, where Oklahoma will cede its positioning after losing to Baylor.
In the last year of the BCS before the FBS moves to its plus-one playoff system, things seem strangely...tidy. Ohio State and Baylor fans would understandably raise a stink if their teams go undefeated without a shot at hoisting the crystal football, but to most objective observers, the two teams atop the standings are the proper pairing.
Beyond the top of the standings, teams are taking out the Louisville Sluggers and trying to kneecap their competition for the other big-money bowls. If you're in the Top 15 at this juncture, some form of a January trip awaits. The remaining weeks will be about deciding whether that trip is the type that earns coaches fat bonuses or shrugs from the athletic department.
With that in mind, let's check out the latest BCS rankings projections from B/R's Samuel Chi and check in with a few takeaways from the Week 11 action.
|3||Ohio State||9-0||Big Ten||4|
|11||Oklahoma State||8-1||Big 12||14|
|14||Michigan State||8-1||Big Ten||17|
B/R's Samuel Chi
Clarity at the Top
After three weeks of worries about whether they would be No. 2 or No. 3, the Seminoles can treat the second ranking like Charlie Murphy's couch. They'll be there for a while.
Despite a mostly shrug-worthy performance from Jameis Winston, Florida State moved to 9-0 with a 59-3 victory over Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons turned the ball over seven times, two of which were returned for touchdowns and most of which led to Seminoles points in one way or another. They've won each of their games by at least two touchdowns this season and all but one by 20 or more.
Barring something wonky, Alabama-Florida State seems like by far our likeliest scenario for the national title game. Florida State's three remaining regular-season opponents are a combined 10-18. As the Coastal Division continues to look like a hodgepodge of mediocrity, it's a stretch imagining Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech or Miami giving the Seminoles much of a rough time.
Winston is now the prohibitive Heisman favorite and will run away with the bronze statue if things stay on course.
A Heisman contender in his own right, AJ McCarron's path to a fourth national championship ring is equally self-explanatory. The Tide aren't moving from their perch atop the standings without a loss, and their trip to Auburn on Nov. 30 is the only chance of that happening. The Tigers, battling through one of the most tumultuous seasons in their history in 2012, have rebounded to 9-1 this year under Gus Malzahn.
But again, we're stretching a little thin here to ask a still-rebuilding program to take down the nation's monolith. That leaves the SEC Championship Game and a likely matchup with Missouri as the only foreseeable monkey wrench left on the calendar.
Which, of course, means that both teams will lose next week, and things will go straight to hell. Because how else could the BCS go out?
What About Baylor and Ohio State?
The Bears and Buckeyes would probably like that answer as well. Ohio State, off this week, will move into the No. 3 spot by default.
From there, it's pretty cut and dried for Braxton Miller and co. The Buckeyes' strength of schedule is nonexistent to the point where it's nearly an insult to the word "strength." Let's just call it their flaccid schedule and be done with it.
At any rate, Ohio State will probably be two-touchdown favorites or more in each of its last three regular-season games before a likely meeting with Michigan State in the Big Ten title game. With a pre-existing chasm already in place between the Buckeyes, Seminoles and Tide, it would take a loss from either the No. 1 or No. 2 team for Ohio State to have a chance.
Anything less and it's welcome to the Rose Bowl for Urban Meyer.
Baylor is a more intriguing case. The Bears, met with tepid optimism during their undefeated start, got their first signature win of the season with a 41-12 evisceration of Oklahoma. Quarterback Bryce Petty had five total touchdowns, and the Baylor offense picked up 459 yards despite Lache Seastrunk being limited to 19 yards on six carries.
Art Briles' squad should have no trouble moving into the BCS Top Five for the first time in school history. Its ceiling beyond that point is up in the air.
Like Ohio State, Baylor needs help. Alabama and Florida State are entrenched unless one of them loses, and Texas Tech's spiral bludgeoned an already weak schedule. There's no way Baylor overtakes Stanford this week even with its win over the country's No. 10 team, and the computers are probably going to favor the Cardinal going forward no matter what.
That means Baylor is going to need the human polls to provide backing.
If the Bears stay undefeated, they'll need to incrementally make up points in the stretch run, and humans are typically more swayed by the undefeated storyline than computer algorithms. They'll get help from the schedule bumps associated with a trip to Oklahoma State and a season-ending contest against Texas, while Stanford won't play a ranked team until possibly the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Will that be enough? We'll have to wait and see.
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