Where in the world do we go from here?
Just when it appeared everything was taking its final form in the BCS rankings, the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal had to mess around and lose to the unranked USC Trojans on Saturday.
Now let's attempt to piece together the aftermath:
|2||Florida State (10-0)|
|3||Ohio State (10-0)|
|9||South Carolina (8-2)|
|10||Texas A&M (8-2)|
|11||Oklahoma State (9-1)|
|14||Fresno State (9-0)|
|15||Northern Illinois (10-0)|
|16||Michigan State (9-1)|
|19||Arizona State (7-2)|
|23||Ole Miss (7-3)|
|25||Notre Dame (7-3)|
Chris Roling's Predictions
First things first—was the Cardinal loss truly all that surprising? Probably not. Stanford was just one week removed from an emotional upset over the (then) No. 3-ranked Oregon and had to hit the road to take on the Trojans.
Maybe it is a shocker. ESPN makes a good case:
This is the first time USC has beaten an AP-ranked Stanford team since Oct. 25, 1986 (Stanford was No. 19).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2013
But remember this is the same team that lost to unranked Utah out of the blue in mid-October. Yes, the 4-6 Utah Utes.
Oh, and that's the reason the Cardinal will take a hefty nosedive in the ranks. That's two losses to unranked teams. It's not like Oregon last week—the Ducks lost to the then-No. 5 Cardinal and dropped to No. 6.
That's a credible loss. Oregon also didn't have a blemish on its record when the loss occurred. Using that as a barometer, the Cardinal are out of the picture.
But we digress. Don't expect any shockers in the Top Five. All of the major players took care of business in one way or another the same weekend Stanford elected to lay an egg:
|No. 1 Alabama||Mississippi St||W 20-7|
|No. 2 Florida State||Syracuse||W 59-3|
|No. 3 Ohio State||Illinois||W 60-35|
|No. 4 Stanford||USC||L 17-20|
|No. 5 Baylor||Texas Tech||W 63-34|
|No. 6 Oregon||Utah||W 44-21|
|No. 7 Auburn||No. 25 Georgia||W 43-38|
So yes, we're still on track with Alabama and Florida State at the top.
Should Baylor jump Ohio State?
Ohio State still sits right behind with Baylor finally (and long overdue) taking over the No. 4 slot. Lucky one-loss Oregon gets to sneak back into the picture and faces no threat of being jumped by one-loss Auburn after a narrow victory for the Tigers.
Baylor may have enough juice in the tank to jump Ohio State by season's end. The Buckeyes have won 22 straight, but if Baylor can beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas Longhorns in the coming weeks, the two could flip.
Alas, the Crimson Tide or Seminoles have to lose for it to matter in the BCS National Championship Game picture. Florida State has an elite quarterback in Jameis Winston, an impressive body of work, and Alabama is the two-time defending champ.
Stanford moves out of the picture completely, but nothing else really changes. The good teams did what they were supposed to do—take care of business and keep title hopes alive. Stanford did not.
If there's one thing the Stanford loss does tell us about the rankings, it's that undefeated teams must be taken seriously. It's no joke to be without a loss at this point in the season—a win each week regardless of the competition is a difficult thing to do.
Stanford could not do it, but the remaining top four have. If they continue to do so, the NCAA and its fans are going to wish the playoff had arrived a year earlier.