"Can Boise State make the BCS title game?" has been a constant storyline this season, and if the first BCS standings of the season are an indication, the Broncos are in for an uphill climb.
Boise State was third in the initial set of standings, behind Oklahoma and Oregon. The Broncos are second in both human polls used by the BCS, but they are just seventh in the computer rankings, and because of the ease of their remaining Western Athletic Conference schedule, that computer ranking is more likely to drop than to rise. That means any hope for Boise to play for the title likely rests in the hands of the pollsters, who also may be inclined to drop the Broncos because of their schedule.
THE BCS: A CLOSER LOOK
Here is the first BCS top 14 of the season, with the school, its spot in the Harris poll, its spot in the coaches' poll and its BCS computer average. A bonus: We've included NCAA schedule strength, which is not part of the BCS formula.
3. Boise State
7. Mich. State
10. Ohio State
14. Okla. State
Oregon is No. 1 in both polls but the Ducks are just eighth in the computers. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is No. 1 in the computers, and that's enough to put the Sooners into the top spot in the BCS standings despite their No. 3 and 4 rankings in the polls.
Auburn is fourth and LSU sixth in the BCS standings, thanks mostly to their high computer rankings. LSU's average computer ranking is second and Auburn's third; those teams are sixth and fourth, respectively, in the polls. Good news for the teams behind those two in the standings: They meet Saturday in a battle of the two remaining SEC unbeatens.
Michigan State is seventh in the standings, and the computers like the Spartans more than the pollsters. Michigan State's average computer ranking is fourth, but the Spartans are eighth in both polls, one spot behind one-loss Alabama. The Tide, meanwhile, have an average computer ranking of 12th.
The team atop the initial BCS standings has gone on to play in the national title game six times in the 12-season history, but only twice -- Florida State in 1999 and USC in 2004 -- has the initial No. 1 gone on to wear the crown.
This is the fourth time Oklahoma has been atop the first BCS standings of the season; nobody else has been first more than twice (Ohio State and USC). Only once, in 2003, has OU gone on to play for the national championship.
One team has started outside the top 10 and gone on to win the title; LSU was 12th in the first standings of the '03 season and went on to beat Oklahoma for the national title. The team 12th in this week's standings is one-loss Stanford.
The second-lowest initial ranking for a team that ended up winning it all was Florida, which was 10th in 2008; every other national titlist has started at least as high as sixth.
Auburn-LSU isn't this week's only game matching two teams in the standings. Oklahoma plays at No. 11 Missouri, which also is unbeaten; No. 14 Oklahoma State plays host to No. 16 Nebraska; and No. 13 Wisconsin plays at No. 15 Iowa.
There are 10 unbeatens, and Oklahoma State is the lowest in the standings.
The three components of the BCS standings are the coaches' poll; the Harris poll, voted on by media members and by former players, coaches and administrators; and six computers. Each of the components counts one-third. The best and worst computer rankings are thrown out, and the sum total of the remaining four is divided by 100 (the maximum possible points) to come up with the BCS' computer rankings percentage.
While strength of schedule isn't a BCS component, all six computers have a strength-of-schedule factor in their rankings.
Boise State is the highest-ranked non-Big Six conference team this week. A non-Big Six team is guaranteed a BCS spot in two ways. One is if it finishes in the top 12; the other is if it is ranked in the top 16 and its ranking is higher than that of a conference champion with an automatic berth. This week, the Broncos are higher than any team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big East and SEC.
Under BCS rules, only one non-Big Six team is guaranteed a spot if it meets the criteria. Any others would be at-large candidates. At-large candidates must have at least nine victories and finish in the top 14 in the final BCS standings.
There are two other non-Big Six schools in the standings this week; TCU is fifth and Utah ninth.
The final BCS standings will be released Dec. 5. Teams first and second in the final standings meet in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 10 in Glendale, Ariz.
Some other items of interest from the first set of standings:
Oklahoma is No. 1 in four computers and is No. 3 in the other two. LSU is No. 1 in the other two, but the Tigers are as low as eighth in another.
Wisconsin is three spots lower than Ohio State. The Badgers beat the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Ohio State is 10th in both polls, but the Buckeyes' average computer ranking is 14th.
The computers love Missouri, which has an average computer ranking of sixth. But the Tigers are 16th in both polls. Oklahoma State's average computer ranking is ninth, but the Cowboys are 15th in both polls.