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BCS Rankings - Same old story

Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After years of questionable results, the BCS could face its toughest criticism to date when the season ends. In looking at the first BCS Poll released on Sunday, there is a realistic scenario that as many as seven teams finish up with perfect records.

Right now there are 10 unbeatens left in the FBS ranks, including each of the first eight in the recently released poll.

The top two spots go to 7-0 SEC schools in LSU and Alabama, respectively. The next two are 6-0 Big 12 teams from the state of Oklahoma. Those top four become two as the Tigers take on the Crimson Tide in a couple of weeks, followed by a regular-season finale that pits the Sooners against the Cowboys.

While the two losers should be on the outside looking in, it will really depend on how the others finish that determines just which two teams will meet in New Orleans for the national title.

Starting at number five in the poll, it seems that Boise State has the easiest route to an undefeated season, as the Broncos have steamrolled the competition thus far, with the lowest margin of victory being a 14-point season-opening win against Georgia in Atlanta, 35-21. All-American Kellen Moore and company have made light work of everyone thus far and have only one real speed bump the rest of the way and that comes at home against TCU on November 12.

Boise State has the easiest route to an undefeated season, as the Broncos have steamrolled the competition thus far.
The Wisconsin Badgers are next in line coming in at number six. The Badgers have already proven themselves to be the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, absolutely destroying a good Nebraska squad (48-17) to open play in October. Russell Wilson's decision to choose Wisconsin over Auburn has proven to be just what the doctor ordered in Madison, transforming the Badgers from a solid Big Ten team to a national title contender. Wisconsin still has some work to do with back-to-back road tests at Michigan State and Ohio State to close out October and then a trip to Champaign to take on the surprising Illini as well as a home date with the defensive-minded Nittany Lions to close out the regular season. Then there's the Big Ten title game, which could have Wisconsin match up with Nebraska again. Winning out won't be easy, but in doing so, the Badgers will have a rightful claim to one of the spots in the Superdome come January 9.

One of the real surprises in the FBS this year has been the emergence of Clemson as a top contender. The Tigers are young on both sides of the football, but have taken care of business to be 7-0 at this juncture. Dabo Swinney's squad certainly gets props for the three-week gauntlet it ran against Auburn, Florida State and Virginia Tech. The team has one of the most balanced offenses in the nation, highlighted by the pitch-and-catch combo of Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins. With games against the Seminoles and Hokies already in the win column, the Tigers are in the driver's seat in the ACC. A road trip to Georgia Tech in two weeks and a season-finale against rival South Carolina looms large, but Tech has returned to the pack as a beatable team (recent loss to Virginia) and the Gamecocks have made a switch at quarterback and have lost their All-American tailback (Marcus Lattimore) for the season. The stars may be aligning for the Tigers in 2011.

Coming in at number eight on the list is Stanford. The Cardinal have the nation's best quarterback in Andrew Luck and have absolutely cruised in the first half of the season thanks to a light schedule. The team is 6-0 on the year with the lowest margin of victory being a 26-point romp of UCLA. Luck's talent is apparent, but the Cardinal will need much more than that to carry them successfully through the second half of the season, starting with Washington this weekend. It doesn't get any easier the following week at USC, while home dates with Oregon and Notre Dame in November may just tell the tale.

The other two undefeated teams in the nation are Kansas State and Houston.

The Wildcats are currently 11th in the BCS rankings, and although big wins over Miami-Florida (28-24), Baylor (36-35) and Missouri (24-17) are impressive, that little run will seem like a cakewalk when compared to the four-game stretch that begins next week. Bill Snyder's squad closes out October at home against Oklahoma, followed by Oklahoma State on the road, Texas A&M at home and Texas on the road. KSU will be fighting an uphill battle to remain among the Big 12 elite.

The Cougars are 19th in the poll and while they may make a slight move up the rankings thanks to a schedule void of any real threats, they aren't likely to cause any problems in terms of the BCS. Houston does have a a dynamic signal- caller in Case Keenum, but Conference USA is not exactly the SEC, Big 12 or Big Ten. There just aren't a whole lot of competitive programs outside of SMU remaining on the slate and a possible big win over the Mustangs isn't going to give Houston enough "street cred" to become BCS Bowl worthy.

There have been plenty of BCS blunders since its inception in 1998. Who can forget in 2003 when USC, which held the top spot in both polls, was no better than third in the computer rankings, leaving the 11-1 Trojans on the outside looking in at Oklahoma and LSU playing for the national title. Both the Sooners and Tigers also had one blemish on their records and to make matters worse, the Sooners didn't even win the Big 12, getting routed by Kansas State in the conference title game (35-7).

A similar occurrence happened in 2001, with Oregon staking claim to a spot in the BCS Title game. The Ducks were 10-1 on the year, with the lone loss coming in a shootout with Stanford (49-42). Still, the computers chose Nebraska to play Miami for the championship, despite the fact that the Cornhuskers didn't even make it to the Big 12 Title game.

The list goes on and on. The Texas Longhorns and Utah Utes in 2008, the Miami Hurricanes and Washington Huskies in 2000, the Auburn Tigers in 2004 all had legitimate gripes, but were left out in the cold.

This year is shaping up as more of the same. What teams will be complaining when all is said and done remains to be seen, but its a good bet that this year's BCS misery will have plenty of company.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Scott Haynes at shaynes@sportsnetwork.com.

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