The Week 14 BCS rankings won't be announced until tonight on ESPN, but the college football world will be anxiously anticipating this week's standings. And for good reason: this might be the most consequential set of standings this year, even more so than the final BCS rankings, and could more or less set the lineup of teams for the BCS bowls.
That's because this week's rankings will likely influence two conference races, and might determine whether Stanford misses a BCS bowl entirely.
First, in the Big Ten, the final BCS rankings will be used to break a tie between Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State. While the Week 14 standings are not the final ones, all three teams have finished their regular seasons, and should remain in the same position next week as they end up in this week. For that reason, Wisconsin and Ohio State will be watching tonight's standings closely, each hoping to lead the Big Ten and all but lock up a Rose Bowl berth.
Whichever team comes in second shouldn't fret, though: a Sugar Bowl berth is likely for that team.
The Big 12 South will also be paying close attention to this week's BCS rankings: whichever team of the trio of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M is ranked highest in this week's BCS standings will win the division tiebreaker and head to the Big 12 Championship Game this week. That's almost assured to be Oklahoma, which is higher-ranked in both of the major human polls, but the Cowboys and Aggies can still hold out hope.
And for Stanford, getting up to fourth in the final BCS rankings would qualify the Cardinal for an automatic BCS bowl berth, and save them from the vagaries of a bowl selection process that might not work in their favor, thanks to a Rose Bowl that likely cannot take Stanford and a small fan base that might not appeal to the Fiesta Bowl or Orange Bowl. The Cardinal's season is done, though, which means that if the squad cannot beat out Wisconsin for fourth in this week's standings, it must hope for upsets of Oregon and Auburn — or a radical devaluation of TCU — to free up a spot next week.