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The first official BCS standings of the 2012 season have Florida over Oregon at No. 2, but the really interesting stories are further down the standings. Click here to see the full Top 25. Follow @SBNationCFB
Wow, Florida came out ahead of Oregon for No. 2 in this season's first official BCS standings.
Not all that shocking, and not a sign that the Ducks are the victims of injustice. In reality the exact positions of the top few teams bear very little consequence, since the season isn't even halfway over. The race to the top was covered in Sunday's BCS projections, where each of the top 15 teams were pegged at no more than 1 spot off the actual rankings.
The early-season standings are more helpful in terms of revealing two things: 1) The teams that are truly eliminated from the national title race; and 2) the teams that are in the running for the four at-large berths in the BCS bowls.
Since we've already dealt with item No. 1 and will come back to it nearly every week going forward, let's focus on item No. 2 this time. And to do that, we need to pay more attention to the bottom of the standings than the top.
We'd have to look at not just at the official standings, but the complete standings, where I use the BCS formula to rank teams past No. 25. You'll find that four non-AQ teams are ranked in the top 31, each with a shot at earning the automatic bid given to the top non-AQ champion ranked in the top 16.
It's No. 16 and not No. 12 for now, thanks to the NCAA jail time Ohio State is serving and the weakness of the rest of the Big Ten. The highest-ranked B1G team is Northwestern, at No. 28, marking the first time in history that not a single team from college football's oldest conference is ranked in the BCS standings.
But the No. 16 threshold for the non-AQ bid is far from a certainty, and No. 29 Michigan is the team that holds the key. The Wolverines are ranked Nos. 25 and 26 in the Coaches and Harris polls, respectively, but they will have the best chance to rapidly move up. Their two losses this season are to teams currently ranked No. 1 and No. 5, so don't be surprised if Michigan ends up ahead of the highest non-AQ team in as few as two weeks by defeating Michigan State and Nebraska in succession.
Should Michigan climb back up the BCS standings, the non-AQs will have to find some other stooge to leapfrog over. The best bet this season isn't the usual suspect - the Big East champ - as three teams remain unbeaten entering conference play. They'd have a better shot at passing the ACC champion.
Florida State leads the ACC at No. 14, followed by Clemson at No. 18, then nothing until No. 38 N.C. State. The ACC is an atrocious 4-12 against teams ranked in the Sagarin top 30, and currently neither FSU nor Clemson is getting any computer points in the BCS standings. Another FSU loss might be enough to do the trick, unless Clemson pulls off a huge upset over South Carolina at the end of the season.
So the fight is joined by Boise State, Ohio, Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech. And here's a look at what each team must do to earn an extra cool $10 million or so for its conference:
No. 22 Boise State - The Broncos are certainly used to this, having been in BCS contention in each of the last four years and having been denied by a single loss in each of the last two years. After a season-opening loss at Michigan State, they have ground out five unspectacular victories. It's likely Boise won't play a single team that's ranked at the end of the season, but it's still on the inside track to the BCS non-AQ bid. As long as they don't stumble the rest of the way, it's nearly impossible for any non-AQ team to pass the Broncos, who have the most solid computer rankings and own the pole position in the polls.
No. 26 Ohio - The Bobcats made a splash by ruining Penn State's opener, and then have quietly worked to a 7-0 record. The problem for Ohio is its schedule just won't give it enough boost to move up the polls or the computers unless it beats an 11-1 Toledo team in the MAC title game. The Rockets, now dormant at No. 42, are a darkhorse, with their only loss in overtime at Arizona. They can relaunch themselves by upsetting Cincinnati on Saturday.
No. 30 Western Kentucky - The Hilltoppers' only loss was a respectable 35-0 at Tuscaloosa, and they have been riding on Alabama's coattails in the computers since. But in a surprisingly competitive Sun Belt Conference, WKU still has tough tests ahead against Louisiana-Monroe and Middle Tennessee, with each having defeated a BCS conference power already this season (Arkansas and Georgia Tech, respectively).
No. 31 Louisiana Tech - If anything, the Bulldogs are probably the most deserving of an automatic bid among the non-AQs. They've already beaten two BCS conference teams (Illinois and Virginia) and came within a 2-point conversion of forcing overtime against Texas A&M on Saturday. LA Tech definitely has the most challenging remaining schedule as well, with UTSA, Utah State and San Jose State still left in the last hurrah of the WAC. But as Little Bill lay dying on the saloon floor, he was reminded, "deserve's got nothing to do with it."
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