Conference championship week typically comes with massive BCS implications, but it's hard to remember college football being in such a state of flux as it is at the moment.
Looking at the Week 15 BCS standings, Florida State and Ohio State stand above the rest and seemingly control their own destinies. The two remaining undefeateds from major conferences on the planet after Auburn's Miracle at Jordan-Hare 2.0, the Buckeyes and Seminoles look like they're on a collision course to Pasadena.
That said, orange and navy objects may be closer than they appear.
Auburn's 34-28 defeat of Alabama all but guarantees the Crimson Tide won't win their third consecutive national title and also set up one of the more fervent national debates in recent memory.
On one side of the debate, there are those calling for the Tigers to leap-frog Ohio State into the No. 2 slot. Two Associated Press voters even ranked Auburn No. 1. The thought process goes that the SEC is the best conference in the nation—which almost no one can deny—and having one loss after suffering through the southern gauntlet is more valuable than an undefeated Big Ten squad.
Ohio State's strength of schedule has been lacking with the Big Ten scuffling, and the conference title game will be the first time the Buckeyes have played a Top 15 team all season.
Auburn will be playing a Top 10 team for the fourth time when it takes on Missouri on Saturday. So there's that argument.
On the other side, there are those who are wondering why we're even having this argument. Ohio State is undefeated. The Buckeyes have won 24 straight games since Urban Meyer arrived. Gus Malzahn gets a nice cookie and everything for beating Alabama, but the Tigers blew their chance when they lost by two touchdowns to LSU. Sooo...that's that.
Looking at how the rankings shook out heading into the weekend, it seems the BCS is much more on the former side than the latter. The Buckeyes hold a significant lead over Auburn in the standings.
BCS muckity muck is always a little difficult to explain, but for those in need of a simple explanation, that deficit is pretty much insurmountable if both teams win. Ohio State is going to get help from both the computer and human polls if it manages to defeat Michigan State, itself a one-loss team ranked No. 10 in the nation. Auburn defeating No. 5 Missouri is probably more impressive, but that's debatable enough that any possible rankings bump the Tigers would receive is negligible.
Things get beyond strange should any two of the top three lose, but that seems unlikely at this point. In other words, book your flights to Pasadena now, Ohio State supporters.
Looking elsewhere, an interesting trend emerges: It's probably better to have not made your conference championship game at all than it is to lose your season's final game. Arizona State and Missouri both get the opportunity to prove themselves on a national stage but stand to be big losers if they, well, lose.
In the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils take on a Stanford team that already beat them handily once this season. With seven straight victories, Todd Graham's squad has the longest winning streak in the conference and walloped an Arizona squad on Saturday that had beaten Oregon the week before. Arizona State also sits at No. 11 in the BCS rankings, one spot above the Ducks with an identical 10-2 record.
This is important because Oregon probably stands to gain the most from a Sun Devil loss. Should Stanford take care of business in Tempe, the Ducks are in position to back into a potential Orange Bowl matchup with Alabama.
Of course, this is inherently unfair, but it's a fate Missouri is guaranteed to face with a loss to Alabama. Conference limits prevent a league from having more than two representatives in BCS contests—mostly because of the financial implications—and the Crimson Tide are locked into an at-large spot at No. 4.
The Missouris and Arizona States of the world can also thank Central Florida and Northern Illinois for their likely exclusion from the festivities. UCF's campaign concludes with a matchup against SMU on Saturday in which the Knights will almost certainly clinch the automatic berth given to the American Athletic Conference for no earthly reason whatsoever.
Meanwhile, Northern Illinois will be capping off its run to a second straight BCS bowl with a win over Bowling Green. Led by Heisman candidate Jordan Lynch, the Huskies are the outlier undefeated FBS squad and can give credit to their No. 93 schedule strength for some of those wins. I'm inclined to say that Northern Illinois deserves inclusion in the BCS festivities despite its schedule lacking in difficult opponents—or at least far more so than UCF.
The lesson: The BCS is the best. I'm totally going to miss it when it's gone next season and we have a playoff and things make sense.
For now, though, let's all cherish these moments where we put our hand over our tilted head and try to discern how any of this is happening.
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