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BCS BUSTIN': THE WEEK IN REALPOLITIK

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Second verse, same as the first:

Updated BCS Standings, 10-28
Rank Team BCS Pts. Harris Coaches Comp. Avg.
1. Ohio State .976 1 1 T-2
2. Boston College .956 2 2 1
3. LSU .888 3 3 4
4. Arizona State .849 6 6 T-2
5. Oregon .839 5 4 6
6. Oklahoma .792 4 5 9
7. West Virginia .776 7 7 7
8. Kansas .772 8 8 5
9. Missouri .610 9 9 13
10. Georgia .582 12 10 8

Uh...in a season of upsets, this is kinda boring. The top seven teams are identical to last week; Kansas just shifted up from ninth. What’s worse it that it’s late enough in the game now that it may stay boring at the top – nobody seems to be giving Boston College the benefit of the doubt over its last five games, but if you presume the Eagles are favorites to run the table, we may be already at the stage of ossification, where there is very little movement possible outside of actual losses. If every team in the top ten wins out for the rest of the season, how different would the final poll look than it does today? Of the top six, only one (the Oregon-Arizona State loser next week) can be counted on to be knocked out over the next month:

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

Human opinions are so much higher about Ohio State right now than they are Boston College, it’s very easy to say "the Buckeyes are in" if they keep winning, yet ignore how close the margin is between OSU and BC right now because of the computer polls, which have much greater respect for the "surprise" unbeatens (Boston College, Arizona State and Kansas) than do slow-adapting human brains. LSU lost a dramatic three-tenths of a point by not playing, so the question is not whether anyone can challenge Ohio State at the top (B.C. theoretically can by picking up some human votes if it’s impressive enough after OSU has gone into hibernation again before Thanksgiving), but whether the Tigers or the winner of the ASU-Oregon showdown will have enough juice to displace the Eagles.

Personally, because the computers already like B.C. and aren’t allowed to differentiate between the Eagles’ wild, come-from-behind win over Virginia Tech Thursday and LSU’s violent throttling of the same Hokies in September, the best guess here is that Boston College is entrenched unless Arizona State is so undeniably impressive in its closing run that human voters are left with no other choice, which hardly seems liekly given the Devils’ schedule. Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, Miami and Virginia/Virginia Tech are not gems in themselves, but all of those teams look like they’ll be in bowl games – this is not the case for any of the top five contenders behind the Eagles. LSU still looking and Alabama, Arkansas (whatever beating the Razorbacks is still worth at this point, and the SEC Championship, but this is the worst time for Ole Miss and Louisiana Tech to pop up on the Tigers’ schedule. Barring another late season surge by Arizona and UCLA, it’s not very likely the Ducks or Devils will get the schedule boost to make up a full percentage point on B.C. or Ohio State. It doesn’t look like there’s any way to shake the Buckeyes or Eagles unless one of them does it their own selves, and both will be significant favorites the rest of the way.

The only team outside of the top six with any kind of realistic hope of sliding into one of the top two spots is Kansas, which obviously will have to beat Missouri below it and Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, then hope for help in removing OSU, BC, LSU and the Oregon/Arizona State winner. This seems like too long a shot to take seriously right now – the Jayhawks’ schedule is not going to look terrible once it finishes the conference run, but they have to make up almost two full percentage points and pretty clearly do not control their own destiny here.