Before we start hyping the Nov. 5 "Game of the Century, 2011 Edition" and pondering a rematch between these same teams in New Orleans next Jan. 9, here's a reminder:
There are other games that still have to be played and they might still matter, just a little.
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To be sure, the LSU-Alabama showdown deserves all the attention it gets, including the belated move to primetime after CBS traded with ESPN for, essentially, "a game to be named later." And we will get into that plenty next week.
But it will be next week. Thanks to ingenious scheduling by the SEC, somehow BOTH teams have a bye to get ready for this titanic tilt. While they practice, a few other teams will be jockeying for the spot in the on-deck circle, hoping for a shot at the winner in the BCS national championship game.
The latest BCS standings tell this much: The top three teams - LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State - control their own destinies. After that, it's far from certain.
Boise State currently holds the No. 4 spot, but it's anything but assured of a spot in the BCS title game should Oklahoma State stumble down the stretch. In fact, the Broncos' lead over both unbeaten Clemson and Stanford is tenuous at best, one that may evaporate in the next two weeks even without the Broncos losing a game. Their biggest problem remains perception, as most voters remain unconvinced of the Broncos' bona fides, which isn't helped by a weaker-than-expected Mountain West Conference.
Clemson, at No. 5, may be best positioned to make a move. The Tigers have a healthy computer rating (fourth overall), while their remaining schedule is both robust enough to maintain their strength-of-schedule rating and manageable enough that they should be favored to win each game. Clemson will remain ahead of both Stanford and Boise State in the computers if all three win out, so it'll just be a matter of not losing ground in the two human polls.
On the other hand, Stanford has plenty of work to do and there's no guaranteed payoff (beyond a Rose Bowl berth) even if it runs the table. The Cardinal have certainly been very impressive this season, winning their seven games by an average margin of 36 points and at least 27 in every game. Of course, the argument is that they haven't played anybody yet, hence their No. 9 position in the computers. They will have a chance to improve on that as their remaining schedule gets tougher, but a mediocre Pac-12 isn't helping.
Kansas State and Houston are the only remaining unbeaten teams, but neither has a realistic chance of getting a shot at the BCS title, therefore we won't waste our breath here. And no team currently with at least one loss will be playing in New Orleans.
That's not to say that there aren't other BCS bowls (i.e. millions of dollars) at stake. So here's this week's BCS bowl forecast:
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin - Despite its Hail Mary loss to Michigan State, Wisconsin remains the best positioned Big Ten team to win its division and the conference. Obviously we're also picking the Ducks to prevail over Stanford in their Nov. 12 showdown on the Farm.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Boise State - The Cowboys won't go the rest of the way unbeaten, but they should win the Big 12 to earn the automatic bid. Boise State returns to the Fiesta Bowl for a third time, but - also for the third time - despite its undefeated record, it won't be playing for the BCS title.
Sugar Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska - Huh? You ask. Yeah, we're picking an All-SEC BCS title game, so the Sugar Bowl will be without an SEC team. It won't pass up a chance to grab an attractive Pac-12 team headlined by Andrew Luck, the presumptive No. 1 pick in next year's NFL Draft and perhaps the Heisman Trophy winner. It then will pick the Huskers out of a bunch of two-loss teams from the Big Ten and Big 12.
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Syracuse - In a couple of years, this will be an ACC conference game. This year, it's yet another stinker between the ACC and Big East champs in Miami. Obviously we're not picking the Tigers to go undefeated, either.
BCS Championship: LSU vs. Alabama - We'll be talking about this rematch, after the first match ... next week.
And finally, here's our BCS Impact Game of the Week:
Stanford at USC (8 p.m. ET, ABC) - The Trojans might be in the second year of their postseason ban, but they can positively wreak havoc in the Pac-12 with both Stanford and Oregon still left on the schedule. USC has lost three of its last four against Stanford, all in excruciating fashion: 2007, on a fourth-down pass against a 41-point underdog; 2009, a blowout at the Coliseum in the infamous "What's Your Deal" bowl; 2010, losing on a last-season field goal thanks to Stanford's questionable clock operations. For the Cardinal, it's their first chance to show a national audience that they're for real, now with the added hype as ESPN's GameDay crew will be coming to the Coliseum.
Other games with BCS ramifications:
- Michigan State at Nebraska (noon ET, ESPN)
- Oklahoma at Kansas State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
- Clemson at Georgia Tech (8 p.m. ET, ABC)
Samuel Chi is the proprietor of BCSGuru.com and managing editor of RealClearSports. Sam's college football and BCS analysis, exclusively for SB Nation, will appear on Sundays and Mondays throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at BCSGuru.