One down. A lot more to go. For BCS haters like myself, previous No. 1 Alabama's loss to South Carolina Saturday was one small step for a non-BCS school to make it into the national title game.
A lot more teams need to lose.
After Saturday there are 13 unbeatens in college football. Nine of those 13 are from BCS conferences. Boise State is a great story. TCU is a great story, and they are the top two favorites to crash the BCS party, but so much needs to pan out for that to happen. Ohio State is going to go unbeaten. I'm just going to call that a given, which puts them into the national title game. Wisconsin is the team's biggest test Saturday. After that, the disparity in talent alone would require Ohio State to really have to muck things up to lose any other contest.
If any of the eight other teams from BCS conferences do the same, they're in. However the number is going to drop from week to week simply because many of these unbeatens have to play one another. Oklahoma (5-0), Oklahoma State (5-0), Missouri (5-0) and Nebraska (5-0) are all Big 12 teams. Only one of those four can stay unbeaten. Oklahoma plays Missouri and Oklahoma State, as does Nebraska, and there still is the Big 12 title contest.
LSU (6-0) and Auburn (6-0) also play one another in the regular season. And even if LSU slips past Auburn, they've got Alabama waiting the week after, not to mention the SEC title contest, so it would seem unlikely that someone is going to go unbeaten in the SEC.
Oregon could also run the table, and having already jumped Boise State in the rankings control their own destiny. However the Ducks in year's past have always seemed to lose when it really counts. Their Dec. 4 battle at No. 24 Oregon State to me is their toughest test remaining.
The unbeatens from non-BCS conferences, TCU (6-0), Boise State (6-0), Utah (5-0) and Nevada (6-0) also are going to knock one another off. Boise plays Nevada in WAC play, and TCU and Utah square off in Mountain West action.
How voters and the computers choose to view Boise and TCU if they win out is critical to those squads, but it may not matter one bit, and it could be because of the only unbeaten I haven't mentioned - Michigan State.
The Spartans are currently ranked No. 13, and the way their future opponents have played, it's not exactly going to be a daunting task to win out. They don't play Ohio State in the regular season this year. Remaining for MSU are Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. None of those teams exactly make you shudder when mentioned, and with a Big Ten championship game still a year away, Michigan State just might play the Buckeyes - in the national title game. The Spartans would certainly get the nod over an unbeaten Boise State and an unbeaten TCU. Are they better? No. Personally I don't think they're even close. But they're in a BCS conference, and if the BCS has shown us anything it's that it will manipulate things however it can to avoid controversy.
Boise State in all likelihood is going to end up playing TCU in a bowl game for the third straight year. The BCS doesn't want to pit Boise or TCU against anyone from one of its automatic qualifying conferences because if Boise or TCU plays the winner of the Big East or the ACC, it's a very good bet that they win those games making the argument all the bigger that the system needs changed to help out these smaller programs.
The BCS makes entirely too much money to consider changing anything. The best we can hope for is after the current contracts run out is that they add a plus one game. But again, say there was a plus one game last season and you stick unbeaten Boise against Alabama and Boise was to win. Again, controversy. No doubt the BCS could make a ton of money on another bowl game. But why bother messing with what you've got? It's not worth the risk. Utah already brought the issue to Congress after its last unbeaten season. While I think Congress should spend its time on other things than college football, BCS officials aren't stupid enough to test their luck on a plus one scenario.
If anything changes in the next decade concerning a playoff system in college football I would be shocked.
Right now we'll have to see how everything plays out for the 2010 season. While I think a few teams could crash the party, and while I do think Boise State legitimately could win the BCS title game, I'd bet my house that even if all the stars aligned and Boise was one of only two unbeaten teams, a one-loss anybody will be voted in before the Broncos.
I and so many others hope the team gets a shot, but I wouldn't hold my breath. Money talks, and you know what walks. With the BCS, the case has always been the latter.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org