The Road Ahead: College Football's Top-5 Teams and Their BCS Chances
If you have been following college football for long enough, you know that making it to the top isn’t just about how good a team is.
That’s most of the formula, yes, but due to how national championship game participants are selected, an equally important piece of a team’s run is what many refer to as the "politics" of college football.
When a team loses games, how they lose them, and who they lose to are key.
In 2008, Florida dropped an early-season game to Ole Miss at home by one point. The Gators, however, went unbeaten the rest of the way, jumping Texas, Penn State, and USC in the process to make it to the big game.
Placement near the top of the polls is vital if multiple teams end up with similar records at the end of the year.
2004 saw Oklahoma get crushed in the BCS Championship Game by USC. The best reason anybody could give as to why they went over undefeated Auburn was that they were already ranked higher and didn’t lose.
Non-Automatic Qualification status can be fatal. Boise State learned this the hard way after finishing the 2009 season with an unblemished 14-0 regular season record yet only earning a No. 4 final ranking.
So, keeping all of this in mind, what do the championship prospects for the top-five teams look like?
No. 1 Oklahoma
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There is no denying the fact that the Sooners are sitting pretty.
Not only have they gotten arguably their toughest game out of the way, but due to conference realignment, they no longer have to worry about that pesky Big-12 Championship game tripping them up.
Crucial games remain against Texas A&M and away at Texas and Oklahoma State, but the Sooners will be favored in all of them. Oklahoma will no doubt have a few scares over the course of the season, but as long as they stay healthy they should have no problem making it to their fifth BCS Championship Game.
Winning it, however, remains a problem.
No. 2 Alabama
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Alabama has been jockeying with LSU for the second-ranked spot ever since the season began. Fittingly enough, the Tide and the Tigers have the same strengths and question marks.
The defense looks solid through three games and there is no doubt about the talent of running back Trent Richardson.
The quarterback position remains unsettled, though. A.J. McCarron performed well enough against Penn State and North Texas and looks to be improving after throwing two interceptions in the opener against Kent State.
However, he will have to prove he can get the job done against some tough defenses with a trip to Florida approaching and a date at home with LSU later in the season which still looks to be the decisive game in the SEC West.
No. 3 LSU
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The Tigers have looked impressive so far with dominating defensive performances against Oregon’s high-powered spread-option attack and Mississippi State’s Chris Relf and Vick Ballard.
Jarrett Lee has done what has been asked of him thus far, and has provided LSU with a legitimate two-dimensional offense.
Unfortunately, the Tigers have a treacherous schedule ahead of them, as games remain at West Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama. They will also host Florida and Arkansas.
Like any team in LSU’s division, going undefeated will be a very tall order, but depending on how the chips fall, a win over Oregon and Alabama, along with an SEC Championship game victory, may allow the Tigers to squeak into the BCS Championship with a loss.
No. 4 Boise State
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Boise has been here before and knows the drill: keep winning and hope the automatic-qualifying teams ahead of them drop one somewhere down the line.
It is a virtual certainty that as long as two undefeated Big-12, SEC, Big Ten, and possibly Pac-12 teams remain, Boise will stay out of the picture.
A season-opening win against Georgia may help the Broncos' resume, especially if the Bulldogs rebound for a nine or 10-win season, but they will still need a lot of help.
No. 5 Stanford
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Looks can be deceiving when it comes to Stanford.
Overall, the team looks to be hitting on all cylinders and has been helped tremendously by the return of Andrew Luck. The 3-0 Cardinal seem poised to win the Pac-12 and will very likely improve to 7-0 in four weeks.
However, they finish the season with a brutal five-game stretch which includes trips to USC and Oregon State as well as home games against Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame.
Throw into the mix the first ever Pac-12 Championship game, and it is difficult to imagine Stanford finishing undefeated.
Unlike LSU, one loss may be all she wrote for the Cardinal.