Now What For The BCS Race?
Baylor rolls, Stanford hangs on. What now for the top teams in the BCS?
So now what?
It wasn't just that Stanford beat Oregon; it was the way Stanford beat Oregon.
Don't get fooled by the final score or the late game Duck dramatics – this was a beating.
At least once a year, the Oregon offense that everyone gets so jacked up about can't get the running game going against a tough defensive front that doesn't fall for the Jedi mind tricks. This time, though, the Ducks weren't caught by surprise.
After losing to the Cardinal last season, they weren't stunned, they weren't caught napping, and they weren't off. They knew what this game would be, and they were just plain beaten and battered by a tougher team.
It wasn't just that Baylor beat Oklahoma; it was the way Baylor beat Oklahoma.
It might not have been a 70-point explosion, but it was every bit as effective as it seemed like a foregone conclusion that this fun run was going to come to an end once the Bears had to play someone with a pulse – and it still might with Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and TCU away from Waco, and with Texas to finish things up.
But now Baylor is in the discussion.
To win in a 41-12 with the whole college football world paying attention means something, and yeah, it truly does matter more in the grand scheme of things than a 41-34 win. The score means that Baylor is no longer just a cute novelty that puts up silly statistics; the Bears deserve every bit the respect and scrutiny the other top unbeatens are receiving. It deserves to have everyone ask the question of whether or not it's time to consider the BCS championship possibilities.
With the big, stunning blowouts from Thursday night, here's how the college football world looks on Friday morning for the top teams in the BCS standings.
What Thursday night means: It doesn't mean too much, but it's a positive that Oregon is now tagged with a loss. At the end of the day, no matter how it happens, if it comes down to a slew of one-loss teams, the SEC champion will get into the BCS championship over everyone else. The more teams that fall by the wayside, the more margin for error there is for Alabama if it loses to LSU or Auburn.
What now? Style points don't matter. Alabama will play in the BCS championship as long as it wins out. There's no chance whatsoever of being pushed out of the No. 1 ranking no matter what Florida State does.
2. Florida State
What Thursday night means: And there you go, Seminoles. Being No. 2 in the BCS standings didn't mean anything as long as Oregon was ranked second in both the Coaches' and Harris polls. That's not going to be a problem on Sunday. The computers are already in love with FSU, and Stanford provided just the break the Seminoles needed to be cemented into the top two. There might be some screaming and yelling about other teams pushing for the coveted second spot, but it doesn't matter.
What now? Beat Wake Forest, beat Syracuse, beat Idaho, beat Florida, win the ACC championship, and book a ticket to Pasadena. It's now that simple. And by the way, what time is the Heisman Trophy presentation? What time can you get here, Mr. Winston?
What Thursday night means: The Ducks now need lots of help to have any chance of getting into the BCS championship. If it had been a close loss to Stanford like last year, things would be different, but being manhandled and shoved around like Oregon was – forget about the final score - will sour anyone and everyone thinking that this could and should be a team in the mix for the national title. However …
What now? Remember, the Ducks were still in the mix at the end of last season despite the loss to the Cardinal. Step One in the rehabilitation process is to obliterate the same Utah team that beat Stanford. Steps Two and Three involve blowouts over Arizona and Oregon State to plant the seed that the loss to the Cardinal came on a bad night. If the Stanford loses at USC (possible) or to Cal (not possible) or Notre Dame (not likely), it's game on again depending on what Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor do the rest of the way.
4. Ohio State
What Thursday night means: That's big break No. 1 for what needs to be a special November for the Buckeyes. Oregon losing to Stanford was a huge, huge part of the equation for a Buckeye team that now needs either Alabama or Florida State to lose. Baylor's blowout isn't a plus, but Ohio State gets into the BCS championship over the Bears.
What now? Nothing matters unless the Tide or Seminoles lose. The computers aren't going to help Ohio State's cause in the BCS standings, and there won't be any movement in the top two of the human polls the rest of the way as long as there aren't any slips. Style points won't count – Ohio State needs help or it'll finish a great-looking No. 3.
What Thursday night means: The national championship is on the table, but it'll take plenty of help and a few breaks, considering being the best of the one-loss teams won't matter if there's a one-loss SEC champion and Florida State and/or Baylor finishes unbeaten. For right now, though, whatever. Stanford has the inside track to the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl, at worst.
What now? "But they lost to Utah." Get ready to hear that over and over and over again. However, the Cardinal will jump past Oregon in the standings on the way to No. 4 behind Alabama – assuming the Tide beat LSU – Florida State and Ohio State. However, Baylor could make it close. Stanford is fifth in both human polls and will move up in the computer rankings after beating the No. 3 team, but if two of the top three teams lose, at the end of the day, Baylor will be voted higher by the humans if it wins out. The Cardinal might have a beef, but they lost to Utah.
What Thursday night means: And now it's on. Baylor's blowout over Oklahoma will get the discussion going about how worthy the team really is on a national scale. The Bears might have taken a little while to warm up Thursday, but the play of the defense, and not just the high-octane offense, against the No. 10 team in the country will finally start to open up some eyes.
What now? It's now time to take the Bears seriously. No matter what happens in the BCS standings over the next few weeks, there's no way, no how a one-loss Stanford – or a one-loss anyone – gets into the BCS championship over the undefeated Big 12 champ. There's still a long, long way to go, and the rest of the schedule is tough for the Bears, but that could be a plus. Compared to what Florida State and Ohio State have to do, the Baylor finishing kick is much tougher and would be far more impressive to get through unscathed. Even so, the Bears are no better than Fiesta Bowl-bound without losses from two of the top three BCS conference unbeatens.
What Thursday night means: It puts some interesting scenarios out there to dream about: Stanford could certainly lose again, Baylor has some tough games to play, and Ohio State is no lock against Michigan or a Michigan State in the Big Ten championship. But it would take a miracle to get into the BCS championship. Florida State would have to lose twice, and it would also be a big help if the SEC champion finished with two losses.
What now? Nothing really changes. Clemson is destined for an at-large BCS game by winning out and going 11-1.
What Thursday night means: This helps. A one-loss SEC champion would get the nod in the BCS championship picture over any other one-loss conference champion, and now Oregon is out of the way. Stanford lost to Utah while Mizzou lost in overtime to South Carolina – that's a win for the Tigers. The more unbeaten BCS conference teams that fall, the better for the SEC.
What now?: Don't worry about the BCS standings. If Missouri runs the table and finishes 12-1 and wins the SEC championship, it needs losses from two of the of the three non-SEC unbeatens to go to the BCS championship. Mizzou leapfrogs over all the other one-loss teams if that happens.
What Thursday night means: Shhhhhhhh. It's a bit far-fetched, but Auburn is still alive to play for the whole ball of wax. The Tigers need losses from two of the four non-BCS unbeatens – Oregon, Ohio State, Florida State and Baylor – and it's already gotten the first one. Like Missouri, if all things are equal, Auburn is playing for the national title by winning out and going 12-1.
What now? This is nowhere near the team that won the 2010 national championship, but if Auburn can beat Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and then win the SEC championship, it'll rocket up the charts and shock the world – but again, the Tigers need outside help.
What Thursday night means: It was disastrous in every way. OU had its chances early to score touchdowns, and it settled for field goal attempts – that turned out to be a problem. Baylor might be as good as they played, but on a national stage, Oklahoma didn't look like it was ready for primetime. Kansas State gave the Bears a better game.
What now? Oklahoma's Big 12 championship dreams are all but obliterated. Bob Stoops might still be a revered god around Oklahoma, but after losing to Texas and getting blown out by Baylor, the pressure might start to increase soon despite his perennial success. At some point, Sooner fans are going to want national title runs again, and getting blown away by Baylor – it just sounds bad to get blown out by Baylor – isn't going to sit well.