BCS rankings and analysis, Week 13: Why does Alabama get a free pass?

Mike Zarrilli

One week later, Alabama's home loss to Texas A&M practically doesn't exist, at least in terms of the BCS standings and the national championship race. How'd that happen? And does Ohio State have a shot at a share of the title?

We'll learn plenty about Max Wittek this week. He's the redshirt freshman who'll be starting for USC on Saturday against Notre Dame. To the rest of college football, he's the bulwark against the Irish's return to glory - their first shot at playing for the national championship since 1988.

Wittek might also be the guy that can clear the way for another all-SEC BCS championship game. The possibility exists for a title game featuring the SEC champion and one-loss Florida, the current pretender to the throne.

You might be sick of the SEC, but we'll tell you who aren't - and they matter a heck a lot more than we do: The voters in the Coaches and Harris polls. And these voters have a particular thing for Alabama and all things Nick Saban.


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A week ago, Alabama was ranked No. 5 in the Coaches poll, a spot behind Georgia. But after losses by Oregon and Kansas State shook up the polls, Alabama made up a whopping 55 points in the Coaches to leapfrog Georgia. In other words, the Tide's 49-0 victory over FCS Western Carolina was so impressive that all but four of the voters in the Coaches poll flipped their votes.

BCS Harris Poll USA Today Computer Rankings
RK TEAM AVG PVS RK PTS % RK PTS % AVG A&H RB CM KM JS PW %
1 Notre Dame .9973 3 1 2863 .9958 1 1469 .9959 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.000
2 Alabama .9333 4 2 2732 .9503 2 1386 .9397 3 5 2 4 3 3 3 .910
3 Georgia .8763 5 3 2573 .8950 3 1348 .9139 6 4 5 7 7 6 4 .820
4 Florida .8434 6 5 2242 .7798 6 1166 .7905 2 2 6 2 2 2 2 .960
5 Oregon .8318 2 4 2483 .8637 4 1227 .8319 7 7 4 6 6 5 8 .800
6 Kansas State .7692 1 7 2161 .7517 8 1056 .7159 4 3 3 3 10 7 7 .840
7 LSU .7308 7 8 2077 .7224 7 1062 .7200 8 10 7 8 4 8 6 .750
8 Stanford .7077 13 11 1897 .6598 11 934 .6332 5 6 8 5 5 4 5 .830
9 Texas A&M .6526 8 10 1909 .6640 10 994 .6739 10 15 11 10 8 12 9 .620
10 Florida State .6363 10 6 2231 .7760 5 1199 .8129 17 18 16 15 0 22 16 .320
11 Clemson .6056 11 9 1953 .6793 9 1029 .6976 15 13 13 11 20 23 14 .440
12 South Carolina .5871 9 12 1647 .5729 12 853 .5783 11 14 10 12 11 9 10 .610
13 Oklahoma .5677 12 13 1530 .5322 13 798 .5410 9 9 9 14 9 11 12 .630
14 Nebraska .4790 14 14 1275 .4435 14 654 .4434 12 11 15 9 12 15 11 .550
15 Oregon State .4499 16 15 1202 .4181 17 563 .3817 12 8 14 13 13 10 13 .550
16 Texas .4235 15 17 1088 .3784 15 593 .4020 14 12 12 16 14 13 17 .490
17 UCLA .3826 17 16 1144 .3979 16 590 .4000 16 16 18 17 16 18 18 .350
18 Rutgers .2432 22 19 756 .2630 19 408 .2766 21 20 20 18 25 0 20 .190
19 Michigan .2253 21 20 575 .2000 20 289 .1959 19 19 22 20 17 20 15 .280
20 Louisville .2165 19 18 898 .3123 18 453 .3071 26 23 0 21 0 0 0 .030
21 Oklahoma State .2042 24 22 425 .1478 21 258 .1749 18 17 17 22 19 16 0 .290
22 Boise State .1043 NR 21 426 .1482 22 243 .1647 30 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
23 Kent State .0955 NR 25 196 .0682 25 86 .0583 22 24 19 19 0 0 19 .160
24 Arizona .0836 NR NR 21 .0073 NR 5 .0034 20 21 23 23 15 14 21 .240
25 Washington .0643 25 NR 53 .0184 NR 36 .0244 23 25 24 0 18 17 22 .150

Their surge in the Harris poll isn't as dramatic, since the Tide were already ahead of Georgia last week. Nevertheless, 'Bama gained 63 points on the Bulldogs this week, meaning more than half of the 115 Harris voters also flipped their votes.

This might not mean a whole hill of beans for Georgia, which will get its shot at Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and will be guaranteed a spot in the BCS title game if it can take care of business there after getting by Georgia Tech this week. But this is horrific news for other BCS title contenders because the Tide received basically a slap on the wrist for their home loss to Texas A&M, whereas for others, one loss is a death sentence.

Oregon is essentially out of it after an overtime loss to Stanford, a sin deemed far more egregious than Alabama's loss to Texas A&M by the voters. Never mind that Stanford is ranked one spot ahead of the Aggies in the current BCS standings, as both teams have two losses. The Ducks are so far back in the polls that they'll need a virtual miracle to get back into the BCS title game.

But the team that probably has even more of a beef about preferential treatment for Alabama is another SEC team - Florida. The Gators' only loss was at the Cocktail Party to Georgia, but they have also defeated Texas A&M in College Station and LSU and South Carolina at home. Should they defeat Florida State next week, the Gators would have beaten four teams currently ranked in the BCS top 10 - and be shut out of the BCS title game.

Alabama, in contrast, has beaten one team in the top 10, and it required a near miracle for that win at LSU. The Tide's two other wins over ranked opponents were Michigan and Mississippi State, a pair of three-loss teams that aren't exactly elite.

All this will simply leave Jimbo Fisher seething, as his Florida State team has not even a prayer of reaching the BCS title game. The Seminoles' loss by a single point to N.C. State proved to be lethal to its national title chances, as they've been treading water in the BCS standings ever since. They're still at No. 10, behind a trio of two-loss teams.

Florida State's loss will prove to be fortuitous for the BCS, for the Seminoles easily could've been undefeated and kept out of the BCS title game, thanks to their putrid computer rankings. It's probable that FSU would've been either No. 1 or No. 2 in both polls but only around seventh to 10th in the computers, not enough to push it into the top two in the BCS standings. As it is, FSU is no better than mid-teens in any of the computers, with a low of No. 26 in the Massey Ratings.

While there are still two more weeks to produce some BCS chaos, let's not overlook the fact that one team on nobody's radar could be locking up a share of the national championship as soon as next week. Ohio State might be out-of-sight, out-of-mind as far as the BCS is concerned, but it's very much alive to win the AP national championship, which is every bit as prestigious (if not as publicized) as the BCS one.

The Buckeyes, currently ranked fourth in the AP poll, is one of only two unbeaten teams left in the country. A victory over Michigan next week will complete Ohio State's season at 12-0, and more significantly, how they play against the Wolverines will have an impact on the voters. Remember, Notre Dame needed six Michigan turnovers to get by in that game at home, 13-6.

Should the Irish defeat the Max Wittek-led Trojans to also finish 12-0 next week, they'll be in the BCS title game. And according to Danny Sheridan, they'll also be an underdog - and possibly a double-digit underdog - against any other team currently in the BCS top five in the title game. If Notre Dame is routed in Miami to leave Ohio State as the lone unbeaten team, will the Buckeyes take the AP title?

Or what if Wittek leads USC to an upset at the Coliseum? Will that be enough to catapult Ohio State to No. 1 in the AP poll next week? If that's the case, the Buckeyes can size for their national title rings even before November is out. How about that - all the BCS chaos for only half of the national championship?

BCS Bowl Projections

BCS national championship: Notre Dame vs. Alabama

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State

Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. Rutgers

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