The first BCS rankings are nearly upon us, which means just seven weeks separate us from finding out just who is going to fill these precious 10 BCS bowl slots.
From Baton Rouge to Stillwater, teams are still jockeying for position among voters, computers and the national media; all with the hopes of making a run at a BCS national title.
Not much shook up the projections for this week, but the undeniable presence of BCS rankings are sure to mix things up at least a bit these next few weeks. How will these teams respond?
For reference, the at-large selection order for the 2012 bowl slate (after hosting contracts have been filled and the NCG is filled) is: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange.
BCS National Championship Game: LSU Tigers (BCS No. 1) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (BCS No. 2)
Comment: Traveling on the weekend the first BCS rankings are released can often spell trouble for some top ranked teams, but the Sooners and Tigers had little trouble dispatching their hosts this weekend, as LSU toppled Tennessee easily and Oklahoma ran away from Kansas.
Both are likely looking down the road as massive roadblocks between these teams and the title game loom — namely Alabama and Oklahoma State — but both must stay wary to not slip up between now and their all-important conference battles, or they could loose the opportunity to play in what could be de facto national semifinals.
Rose Bowl: Stanford Cardinal (Pac-12 Champion) vs. Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten Champion)
Comment: Oregon’s struggle with Arizona State at home, coupled with some injuries, strengthens Stanford’s case this weekend as Pac-12 favorites, although the debate will be settled on the field when the two teams meet down the road a little bit. But an easy victory for Stanford did little to cast any doubt on the Cardinal’s position as favorites.
Wisconsin too had no trouble dispatching their conference foe this weekend, and continue to simply plaster their opponents week after week. When will the Badgers truly be tested? Perhaps next week’s test against Michigan State will show the Badgers’ true colors.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama Crimson Tide (At-large selection) vs. Boise State Broncos (At-large selection)
Comment: Once again, both teams coast on by lesser opponents giving yet another reason to expect both to secure BCS bids come the end of the season.
However, the question remains if either can make their way to a title game instead of a simple BCS bowl. For Alabama, the solution seems to be a victory over LSU, which at this point seems a toss-up proposition, while for Boise State, the dominoes that need to fall are a little more difficult to push.
Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers (ACC Champion) vs. West Virginia Mountaineers (Big East Champion)
Comment: Uneasy times for Dabo Swinney and Clemson on Saturday, as Maryland proved a far greater threat than many had assumed they would pose to the Tigers, but Clemson did come away with the victory. More than anything, Clemson proved it could fight back, as so many have this season, and still looks like the class of a very muddled ACC conference and title picture.
West Virginia had the weekend off, although watching other Big East teams around the country stumble to some victories and crumble in some losses, the Mountaineers continue to look like the best of a interesting bunch in 2011.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon Ducks (At-large selection) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (At-large selection)
Comment: Some good and some bad for the Ducks on Saturday as they bested Arizona State at home, but injury concerns and some questions about their defense did come up throughout the game. Can the Ducks hold on to this precarious spot as an at-large team? The rest of the Pac-12 is waiting to test just that.
Oklahoma State pulled through an important victory Saturday, besting Texas for the second straight season and sending the Cowboys into a stretch of their schedule that looks somewhat less difficult after Baylor dropped a second game and Kansas State struggled to stay undefeated against Texas Tech. Oklahoma State, like Alabama, can play in a de facto national semifinal if the Cowboys and Sooners can stay undefeated until they matchup on the last day of the season, but they will have to get their first.