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BCS BUSTIN': THE WEEK IN REALPOLITIK

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Right now, one thing about the BCS is certain: Ohio State is the lead dog and won’t be caught if it wins out.

Updated BCS Standings
Rank Team BCS Pts. Harris Coaches Comp. Avg.
1. Ohio State .976 1 1 3
2. Boston College .950 2 2 1
3. LSU .911 3 3 2
4. Arizona State .763 8 7 4
5. Oregon .762 5 5 9
6. Oklahoma .755 4 4 13
7. West Virginia .708 6 6 10
8. Virginia Tech .678 10 9 8
9. Kansas .648 11 10 7
10. South Florida .641 12 12 5

Other human favorites: Florida (9th Harris, 11th Coaches); USC (7th Harris, 9th coaches) Other computer favorites: Viginia (Avg: 4th); Florida (Avg:T-8th)
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The computers don’t necessarily agree, but the margin between the Buckeyes and algorithmic favorites Boston College and LSU aren’t large enough right now to break OSU’s hold on the human polls, and certainly won’t be once Ohio State adds value to its schedule in the form of Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan – though, when it comes down to it, I’m not certain any of the first three teams in that series will be worth more than beating Michigan State Saturday, or possibly even Purdue.

The unfortunate state of Ohio State’s schedule can be debated elsewhere, though, because, for unflinching BCS purposes, the Buckeyes are entrenched until they lose. The question then is whether Boston College or LSU is in better position to assume the number two position at season’s end, and whether Arizona State has any chance of closing what’s currently a fairly large gap.Kansas? Long, long way to go, probably too long to make up without help against B.C., LSU, Arizona State and/or Oregon – if the Jayhawks are mythical title caliber (possibly the most substantial "if" of this post), they’ll have their shot at Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, but of the four undefeated teams in contention, KU is the only one that pretty clearly does not control its own destiny.

The mystifying factor in this week’s results is the computer love for Boston College, which ranks first among the machines by about a tenth of a percentage point over LSU. This is only a footnote at this point, with so many games to turn the tide, but I’m certain exactly what it that puts the Eagles in the lead position in the minds of the humans or the CPUs – Wake Forest?

Whatever it is, B.C. is the frontrunner to play OSU at the moment and will only strengthen its cause with a win at Virginia Tech Thursday night, a game the Eagles desperately need to justify their existence in this discussion, in the same way Arizona State will need wins against the next four weeks over Cal, UCLA, Oregon and Southern Cal. It seems to me that undeniably brutal stretch will be ASU’s biggest asset in closing the existing margin, if it manages to survive:

BCS Top Six: Remaining Schedules
Ohio State Boston College Arizona State LSU Oregon Oklahoma
at Penn State at Virginia Tech California at Alabama Southern Cal Texas A&M
Wisconsin Florida State at Oregon Louisiana Tech Arizona State Baylor
Illinois at Maryland UCLA at Ole Miss at Arizona at Texas Tech
at Michigan at Clemson Southern Cal Arkansas at UCLA Oklahoma State
Miami, Fla. Arizona SEC Champ. Oregon State Big 12 Champ.
ACC Champ.

Best scenarios: Ohio State and Boston College, who get tough enough games to maintain their lofty perches while still heading into each game a pretty obvious favorite – by the end of the season, it’s possible the only ranked teams on either’s schedule will be Michigan and Virginia Tech, respectively; those are the only two on either ledger in the current polls, but even if winning the Big Ten or ACC might not carry enough weight these days to leap positions without help, both are probably prestigious enough to entrench winners until they’re not winners anymore.

Worst scenarios: LSU and Oklahoma, which have one loss apiece and lack the scheduling meat on the remaining plate to advance without help in bringing down OSU, B.C. and the Pac Ten schools – including USC, not listed but still alive with a win Saturday at Oregon – one of which has a chance to soar if it can survive the remaining gauntlet that suddenly constitutes half the conference without even including the teams that have already knocked off SC and Cal. The winner of the ASU-Oregon game in two weeks, if it takes care of its business elsewhere, has an outstanding chance of passing the Tigers as its schedule stiffens dramatically and the Tigers’ softens leading into the SEC championship.

West Virginia, I think, is too far back and lacking the prestige on its remaining slate to make a serious run at the top without a catastrophic final month for those teams, which I think is also true for Virginia Tech regardless of what happens against Boston College Thursday. Below the top six, in fact, the only teams I see with realistic rally narratives are Kansas, because of its record and schedule, and USC, because of its reputation and schedule. "Schedule" is used as an asset in both cases, but in very different ways: KU has a relatively friendly schedule, highlighted by Missouri, which makes it more likely to hang on to the essential undefeated record, where the Trojans need the series of hurdles they’ll be facing in ASU, Oregon, Cal and UCLA to heal the wound caused by the loss to Stanford and subsequent struggle with Arizona. Both need too much help to take their candidacy seriously at this point.