A rematch looked to be inevitable. As LSU finished off its resounding victory over Georgia in the SEC title game Saturday afternoon, it seemed the Tigers were destined to face Alabama again in the BCS championship game.
But all that might have changed Saturday night after Oklahoma State delivered an emphatic rout of Oklahoma, who had won Bedlam eight consecutive times going in. That, coupled with Virginia Tech's meltdown in the ACC championship game, plus a few peripheral events, might be enough to send the Cowboys to face LSU for the BCS title on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
The final BCS Standings, to be unveiled Sunday night at 8:15 p.m. ET, should feature a near photo-finish for No. 2 between OSU and Alabama, with the computers locking in the Cowboys at No. 2 and Alabama at No. 3. And then it would be up to the voters to render their final verdict.
Projected final BCS Standings:
1. LSU, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Alabama, 4. Stanford, 5. Oregon, 6. Boise State, 7. Arkansas, 8. Kansas State, 9. South Carolina, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Baylor, 12. Virginia Tech, 13. Michigan, 14. Houston, 15. Oklahoma, 16. Michigan State, 17. Clemson, 18. TCU, 19. Georgia, 20. Nebraska.
More of them will still have Alabama at No. 2, in both the coaches and Harris polls, but OSU's edge in the computers might be enough to overcome the Crimson Tide's shrinking advantage in the two human polls.
A few things that happened Saturday night that helped turn the tide:
* Oklahoma State's impressive victory over Oklahoma was an eloquent statement delivered with maximum impact. The Cowboys proved that not only they could score, but they could play sound defense and cause game-changing turnovers. The lopsided outcome required the voters to give them another look.
* Virginia Tech's blowout loss against Clemson removed a direct competitor for the precious No. 2 votes, not to mention the all-important No. 3 votes. Remember, OSU was No. 5 in both polls coming into Saturday night's game. Only with the Hokies out of the way could OSU close its poll gap on Alabama.
* CBS's shameless and disingenuous cheerleading for Alabama ultimately will prove to have done more harm to the Tide than help. If the SEC's network home had done nothing, it's likely it wouldn't have caused enough voters to have such a revulsion to reject an LSU-Alabama rematch. Whereas Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson definitely made the difference in Florida's favor in 2006, the opposite might be true in this case.
* Finally, the fact that the only other worthy one-loss teams - Alabama, Stanford and Boise State - all failed to win their respective conferences bolstered OSU's case. Even though the BCS never made that a requirement to reach the title game, many voters would like to consider that a prerequisite.
(Of course, if I'm wrong about all this, it'll be a Dewey Defeats Truman moment.)
Nevertheless, we might have a shocking conclusion to this strange regular season that has already proved that LSU is unquestionably the best team in the land. But because of the system that we have, the Tigers will have to play one more game to make it official.
There is no right answer or wrong answer to who plays in the BCS title game; it's all a matter of opinion. And the way the BCS is set up, that is the inevitable outcome. The change before the 2004 season to make the standings more reliant on human polls puts nearly all the power in the hands of the voters. At the end, the 174 individuals casting ballots in the coaches and Harris polls will decide whom they want to see in the BCS title game - masqueraded as arranging a No. 1-vs.-2 matchup.
And they'll also decide who will be granted a chance to play in the lucrative BCS bowls, with respect to the BCS's protocol on eligibility and selection order. We know the six BCS conference champions are in (LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Wisconsin, Clemson and most likely West Virginia), and Alabama and Stanford are just about assured of at-large berths. That leaves two more slots available, with four potential suitors:
- Michigan: The biggest brand name in college football, not to mention the winningest program by wins and percentage, has made a dramatic turnaround, finishing a 10-2 season with a streak-busting victory over archrival Ohio State. The Wolverines need to be in the top 14 to be selected, and it appears that they have done just that.
- TCU: After Houston's loss, TCU becomes the highest-ranked non-AQ conference champion in the BCS standings. The Horned Frogs only need to be in the top 16, since they'll be ahead of the Big East champion, to be guaranteed their third consecutive BCS bid. But a victory over woeful UNLV on the final day gives them no help in the computers and whatever poll bumps won't be enough. TCU will not be eligible for a BCS bowl berth.
- Boise State: The Broncos aren't eligible for an automatic berth because they failed to win their conference, but they're still eligible for an at-large berth. Of all the non-AQ teams, Boise has the most amount of gravitas and will be a good draw regardless of where they play because they're so polarizing. But the BCS bowls, stripped down to bare essence, are about relationships. Not having a tie-in hurts, and the Broncos will be left at the BCS altar for ...
- Kansas State: There's nothing all that spectacular or attractive about the Wildcats, but they did finish 10-2, second in the Big 12 Conference. And they travel well. With the Fiesta Bowl having the opportunity to decide on the last at-large entry, it will ultimately take K-State and its Big 12 affiliation over Boise State, which has already played in two Fiesta Bowls in the last five years.
Projected BCS Bowls:
BCS Championship Game: LSU (SEC champion, No. 1) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12 champion, No. 2)
Rose Bowl: Oregon (Pac-12 champion) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten champion)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (at-large) vs. Stanford (at-large)
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State (at-large) vs. Michigan (at-large)
Orange Bowl: Clemson (ACC champion) vs. West Virginia (Big East champion)
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.