Even at No. 9, LSU sitting pretty
After a weekend of close calls for some of the nation's top teams, not much has changed.
Only Florida, Alabama and Texas still unquestionably control their fate in the national championship race, but there's one other team that might not need any outside assistance to reach the top 2 by the end of the regular season.
That's LSU. Yes, No. 9 LSU.
Iowa, USC, TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati all rank ahead of the Tigers in this week's BCS standings, but those teams don't have a closing schedule that would enable them to jump over Texas or the SEC champion. LSU's advantage is that it can become the SEC champion just by winning its remaining games.
It's by no means a sure thing, but the strength of the Southeastern Conference puts the once-beaten Tigers in a more favorable position than several teams they currently trail in the standings.
Don't forget that the SEC is considered by most analysts (and probably most voters in the polls) the best conference in college football. The SEC has also produced the last three BCS champions.
And if you don't think this means anything, consider that Florida and Alabama have each gone three straight games scoring fewer than 30 points, and yet they are still the top two teams in all three of this week's polls (coaches', Harris and AP).
With Tulane next on the schedule, LSU should walk into Tuscaloosa on Nov. 7 with a 7-1 record. If the Bayou Bengals can win that game against Alabama and close the season with triumphs at Ole Miss, versus Arkansas and in the SEC championship game against Florida, it's not hard to imagine them jumping over a number of teams in the polls and ultimately reaching the BCS title game.
If this scenario plays out, could an undefeated Iowa get that spot instead?
Would LSU be certain to jump once-beaten USC? Not at all.
But if everything does happen to fall just that way, my belief is that LSU would end up ranked in the top 2 of the final BCS standings, and the perceived strength of the SEC would be the reason why.
Perhaps the greatest BCS impact from Saturday's games was made by TCU's dominating victory at BYU.
With the Horned Frogs moving up to No. 6 this week, it's impossible to deny that there's now a legitimate race for the "BCS buster" spot between TCU and No. 7 Boise State, and both teams will be scrutinized greatly over the next six weeks because of it. Those who vote in the coaches' and Harris polls had better be prepared to evaluate these teams against each other, because the odds are good that both will finish the regular season unbeaten.
None of Boise State's remaining opponents ranks in the top 60 of this week's Sagarin ratings. The only top-60 team left on TCU's schedule is Utah, and the Utes must play the Frogs in Fort Worth.
If neither team loses, the higher ranked of the two on Dec. 6 will get an automatic berth into the BCS, and the other will have to hope for an at-large invitation from one of the bowls. There's never been a season with two teams from non-automatic-qualifying conferences in the BCS, but there has also never been a year when two were ranked this high so early.
Stay tuned for what could end up being the top BCS story of November.
Perhaps it's fitting that this coming Saturday is Halloween, because it could potentially have a frightening impact on this college football season -- depending on whom you root for, of course.
A quick look at Texas' schedule sure gives the impression that the upcoming game at Oklahoma State is the only realistic chance for the Longhorns to lose before bowl season. It might not qualify as one of the all-time shockers for Texas to lose at Texas A&M in November, but none of the teams behind the Horns in the BCS standings will be holding out much hope for that upset to take place.
For teams such as Iowa, Cincinnati and USC -- and even Boise State and TCU -- the best remaining hope to reach the BCS title game starts with Oklahoma State knocking off Texas this week. Fortunately for those teams, OSU isn't in this to play spoiler. The Cowboys are also undefeated in conference play and have their own title aspirations.
And if Oklahoma State gets the job done, try to imagine the BCS possibilities if USC also loses on Saturday at Oregon. With Iowa still having to make a trip to Columbus to play Ohio State, teams such as Cincinnati, Boise State and TCU would have a legitimate chance to finish in the BCS top 2.
It's a scary thought, and Halloween holds the key that could unlock that door.
Brad Edwards coordinates the college football research for ESPN and is an analyst for "College GameDay" on ESPN Radio each Saturday throughout the season.
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