Commentary

History warns us against counting out one-loss teams

Updated: October 1, 2008, 11:30 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | Special to ESPN.com

The first official BCS standings won't be released until Oct. 19, but both polls and four of the six computer ratings that make up the formula are already being published.

So what are we waiting for?

Mock BCS standings

Team Record
1. Oklahoma 4-0
2. Alabama 5-0
3. LSU 4-0
4. Texas 4-0
5. Missouri 4-0
6. Penn State 5-0
7. Georgia 4-1
8. South Florida 5-0
9. USC 2-1
10. BYU 4-0
11. Utah 5-0
12. Texas Tech 4-0
If the BCS standings were out this week, this is what you would see: Oklahoma, on the strength of its commanding lead atop both polls (coaches' and Harris; AP doesn't count in the BCS) would be ranked No. 1. Alabama, although it isn't ranked second in either of those polls, would be No. 2 because it's the clear-cut top team in the computers. The most significant deviation from the top 10 of the polls involves Texas Tech, which currently ranks very low in the computers thanks to two early games against FCS opposition.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when looking at these standings is … last season. It's been almost 12 months to the day since USC lost at home to Stanford as a 40-point favorite, and many people believed -- logic even dictated -- that the Trojans' national title hopes were gone. In retrospect, if they hadn't taken a second loss (at Oregon), they would've played for the BCS title in spite of that upset. That loss no more eliminated USC than a late home loss to Illinois did Ohio State or an even later home loss to Arkansas did LSU.

Or USC's loss last week to Oregon State, or Florida's loss last week to Ole Miss, or Georgia's … You get the point.

Highest Avg. Poll Ranking
By Non-BCS Team Entering Oct.

Year Team Avg. Ranking (Avg. of
2 polls used by BCS)
2008 BYU 8
2001 Fresno State 10.5
2004 Utah 14
2000 TCU 14
2007 Hawaii 15.5
1999 Marshall 17
2006 Boise State 21.5
If last year should've taught us anything, it's that one loss doesn't necessarily end championship dreams. And if you're really fortunate, two losses might not do it, either.

• BYU is entering October with a BCS standing that would be good enough for automatic inclusion in a major bowl game. So the question isn't whether the Cougars will make the BCS if they go undefeated. It's whether they could actually work their way into the BCS Championship Game. Obviously, that's impossible to answer right now, but by having a coaches' poll ranking of 7 and a Harris poll ranking of 9 entering October, BYU has made such a discussion far from ridiculous.

It's the highest a non-BCS team has been ranked at this stage of the season in the BCS era, and it's pretty close to where the Cougars were ranked (6th by the coaches, 7th by the AP on Oct. 1) when they won their national title in 1984.

Brad Edwards is a college football researcher at ESPN. His Road to the BCS appears weekly during the season.

• Analyzes college football and the CFB Playoff as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app