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October 30, 2011

BCS analysis: Good news for Stanford, Oklahoma

MORE: Full BCS standings

Stanford's triple-overtime victory at USC on Saturday night was a big boost for Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes, and it also provided a big bump for the Cardinal's national title hopes.

The victory at USC propelled Stanford past Boise State in the third set of BCS standings. The Cardinal were sixth last week, but its win and Clemson's loss - the Tigers had been fifth last week - was enough to move them past Boise State, which was off last week.

Last week, Boise State was .0178 ahead of the Cardinal; this week, Stanford is .0093 ahead.

Oklahoma is another team that's in good shape. Remember last week, when a lot of folks assumed Oklahoma would need a ton of help to get back into the national title picture? Just one week later, the Sooners look just fine, thank you.

THE BCS: A CLOSER LOOK
Here is the third BCS top 14 of the season, with the school, its spot in the Harris poll, its spot in the coaches' poll and its BCS computer average. We've also included the NCAA's schedule strength, which is not part of the BCS formula. (Last week's rank in parentheses.)
Team HarrisCoachesComp.SOS
1. LSU (1)1st1stT2ndT9th
2. Alabama (2)2nd2ndT2ndT57th
3. Oklahoma State (3) 3rd4th1st23rd
4. Stanford (6)4th3rd6th84th
5. Boise State (4)5th5th4th22nd
6. Oklahoma (9)7th7th5th8th
7. Arkansas (10)8th 8th7th54th
8. Oregon (7)6th6th13thT-64th
9. S. Carolina (13)11th10th10th T-68th
10. Nebraska (14) 9th9th12th7th
11. Clemson (5)10th12th 9th21st
12. Va. Tech (12)12th11th11th27th
13. Houston (17)14th14th13thT-85th
14. Kansas St. (8)15th19th8thT-59th
OU moved up to sixth in this week's BCS standings, a three-spot jump from last week. The Sooners manhandled previously unbeaten Kansas State, giving their computer rankings a big boost. The Sooners still trail unbeaten teams Oklahoma State (third), Stanford and Boise State in the BCS standings, but they play at Oklahoma State on the final weekend of the regular season and Stanford has to play Oregon, which is eighth in the standings, on Nov. 12.

Oklahoma is .0762 points behind Boise, but given the differences in the remaining schedule - Oklahoma's is vastly more difficult - it's conceivable that the Sooners could pass Boise State in the computers if they win out; they are one spot behind the Broncos, whose average computer ranking is fourth this week.

LSU and Alabama remained first and second, respectively, and as everyone who follows the sport even casually knows, the SEC West powers meet next Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. LSU is first and Alabama second in both polls used in the BCS formula, and they are tied for second in the BCS computers.

Of course, there is no "what if?" for Boise, Stanford or Oklahoma if Oklahoma State wins out. The Cowboys are first in the computers, and they, too, have a tough finishing schedule - one that seemingly would keep them ahead of a one-loss SEC West team in the computer rankings if they win out.

Stanford's bypassing of Boise State, though, is bad news for the Broncos should Stanford win out. While Stanford is sixth in the computers, two spots behind Boise, the Cardinal already is ahead of the Broncos in both polls; the Cardinal is third to Boise's fifth in the coaches' poll, with Oklahoma State in-between, and Stanford is fourth and Boise fifth in the Harris Poll.

Thus, Boise State once again is reduced to trying to win out while also hoping the teams ahead of them lose at least once. This time, though, the Broncos also need to worry about a one-loss team behind them squeezing past.

Boise State is the highest-ranked non-Big Six conference team this week. A non-Big Six team is guaranteed a BCS spot in two ways. One is if it finishes in the top 12; the other is if it is ranked in the top 16 and its ranking is higher than that of a conference champion with an automatic berth. This week, the Broncos are higher than any team from the ACC, Big Ten and Big East.

Under BCS rules, only one non-Big Six team is guaranteed a spot if it meets the criteria. Any others would be at-large candidates. At-large candidates must have at least nine victories and finish in the top 14 in the final BCS standings.

The final BCS standings will be released Dec. 4. Teams first and second in the final standings meet in the BCS national championship game Jan. 9 in New Orleans. LSU has been in the past two title games played in New Orleans.

The three components of the BCS standings are the coaches' poll; the Harris poll, voted on by media members and by former players, coaches and administrators; and six computers. Each of the components counts one-third. The best and worst computer rankings are thrown out, and the sum total of the remaining four is divided by 100 (the maximum possible points) to come up with the BCS' computer rankings percentage.

While strength of schedule isn't a separate BCS standings component, as it was from 1998-2003, all six computers have a strength-of-schedule factor in their rankings.

[Rivals.com experts: What we learned in Week 9]

Some other items of interest from the first set of standings:

The computers don't seem to like the Big Ten. Nebraska is the highest-placed team in the BCS standings, at No. 10. But the Huskers' average computer ranking is 12th. That's the highest of any league team. Penn State, which has lost only to Alabama, is 16th in the BCS standings; the Nittany Lions' average computer ranking also is 16th.

The computers also don't think too highly of Oregon. The Ducks actually dropped a spot in the BCS standings, from seventh to eighth, despite beating Washington State. The Ducks are sixth in both polls, but their average computer ranking is just 13th. Oregon's only loss is to LSU in the opener.

Oklahoma State is No. 1 in five computers and No. 2 in the other (Richard Billingsley's). LSU is No. 1 in Billingsley, but the Tigers also are third in three computers.

While the pollsters don't like one-loss Kansas State - the Wildcats are 15th in the Harris Poll, 19th in the coaches' poll - the computers do think highly of Bill Snyder's team. K-State's average computer ranking is eighth, which helps Oklahoma. K-State plays Oklahoma State next week, so beating the Wildcats would further boost the Cowboys in the computers (should they win, of course).

Unbeaten Houston is 13th in the BCS standings. The Cougars are ranked eighth by two computers, but another (Billingsley's) doesn't have them in the top 25 and they are 23rd in the Sagarin Ratings.

The SEC leads the way with six teams in the top 25, including four in the top nine. The Big Ten is second with five, followed by the Big 12 with four, the ACC and Pac-12 with three each, Conference USA with two and the Big East and Mountain West with one each.

This the fifth week all-time that LSU has been at the top of the BCS standings.

Texas is No. 21 this week, which is the Longhorns' 89th time in the standings. That's the most of any school. Florida, which is unranked this week, is second with 85. Virginia Tech is third with 81.

No. 23 Georgia Tech and No. 25 Southern Miss moved into the top 25 this week; No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 20 Texas Tech dropped out. This is the first time Southern Miss has been in the standings since Nov. 1, 2004, when it was 23rd.

BCS Standings

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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