Update: The new BCS standings are out right here, with Ohio State barely ahead of Auburn.
College football is a pretty exciting sport, isn't it? Two weeks after Auburn pulled off maybe the most improbablelast-second win in school history, the Tigers picked up one of the most improbable wins in the history of organized competition. They knocked off No. 1 Alabama, 34-28, on a 109-yard field goal return to end the game, and in the process improved their own national title chances while seriously putting a dent in the SEC's quest for eight in a row. No one understands it. Especially not Auburn fans.
With Alabama toppled, Florida State moves into the pole position, and the Seminoles will play for it all in Pasadena. barring an unthinkable upset loss to Duke in the ACC Championship Game. That said, maybe we shouldn't call anything unthinkable anymore. After FSU, it gets interesting.
Ohio State will be No. 2 going into conference-championship weekend, and the Buckeyes should be set up to advance to the BCS title game with a win over Michigan State in the Big Ten championship. But voters and computers aren't all that impressed with the their schedule, and after a closer-than-expected win over a mediocre Michigan team, there is doubt about whether Ohio State or a one-loss SEC champion would be more deserving of a title shot. Auburn's AD is already politicking.
If Missouri is the SEC champ, it probably won't have enough to jump the Buckeyes. The Tigers don't have a win over Alabama this season, which is a huge statement on the resume. The other Tigers, however, do have that win over the Tide, and with a victory over Mizzou, would close out the season with back-to-back triumphs over top-five teams. If Ohio State struggles against Michigan State, Auburn's resume might be hard to ignore. It would be a close call, but voters might give Auburn the benefit based on the SEC's recent dominance and the perceived weakness of the Big Ten this season.
Of course, no undefeated team from a power conference has ever been shut out of the BCS Championship Game for a team with a loss. So while this will be the debate for the next seven days, the Buckeyes probably only need one more win to make it.
Whatever happens, fans of this sport need to make sure they're watching. If previous results are any indication, the final chapters of the 2013 season should be magnificent.
Is Alabama really dead?
Here's the thing: The Tide have won the last two national championships, and both came in seasons featuring November losses. In 2011, 'Bama got a rematch against LSU after falling to the Tigers at home. Last year, Nick Saban's team sneaked in despite a defeat at the hands of Texas A&M, again at home. So this Alabama team has one November loss, and it came against an 11-1 arch rival on the road. Can the Crimson Tide get back in it?
Clearly, anything is possible. But it would take a wild, wild final weekend. After the loss, 'Bama will likely fall to No. 4 in the BCS standings. Voters aren't going to punish this team too much, and most would agree it is now the best one-loss club in the country. Assuming a similar drop in the computers, that would leave the Crimson Tide between No. 3 Auburn and No. 5 Missouri. If the fifth-ranked Tigers defeat the third-ranked Tigers in the SEC Championship Game, they'll jump Alabama. So even if Florida State or Ohio State suffered an upset, No. 3 would be the ceiling. Only if Florida State and Ohio State lost would the Tide have a chance at No. 2, and even that would mean a battle in the polls with fellow one-loss team Mizzou or Auburn.
Next week's BCS impact games
Auburn vs. Missouri, SEC Championship Game
Just like everyone predicted in the preseason ... but not with these teams. The winner of this one will receive the SEC's automatic BCS berth, and the loser could challenge Alabama for the SEC's presumed second at-large bid, as well. And depending on what happens in other conference title games, whichever version of the Tigers comes out won't just yet be ruled out of the BCS Championship Game.
Ohio State vs. Michigan State, Big Ten Championship Game
The Buckeyes believe they'll advance to play for a national title with a win against the Spartans, and that's probably true. But if it's a close game and either Auburn or Missouri wins convincingly in Atlanta, Ohio State fans will be holding their breath until the final rankings come out. Of course, Michigan State isn't conceding anything, and with the nation's best defense, Sparty will be a formidable opponent.
Florida State vs. Duke, ACC Championship Game
For the Seminoles, it's simple: Win, and they'll play for their first national championship since 1999. Lose, and they lost to Duke -- DUKE -- in a conference championship game. The Blue Devils' 10-2 season has already been unbelievable, and a win here would be all the gravy. But it's very unlikely.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State and Texas at Baylor
The Big 12 doesn't have a championship game, but these two contests will decided which team reigns supreme. The Cowboys, Longhorns and Bears all have one loss in league play. With a win, OK State gets the automatic BCS bid.
Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green, MAC Championship Game
Don't forget about the little guys! If the NIU Huskies win, they'll likely make the trip to a BCS game for the second year in a row.