LSU and Alabama are first and second in the BCS standings this week - just like they were in the first three sets of standings.
But while those standings were relatively unimportant, the sixth set of standings this season - released Sunday night - sets up the two for a rematch in the Jan. 9 national title game. LSU edged the Tide 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5.
Losses by Oklahoma State (which had been second in the BCS), Oregon (fourth), Oklahoma (fifth) and Clemson (seventh) created a BCS mess this week, and SEC West teams were the beneficiaries. Unbeaten LSU stayed at No. 1, while Alabama moved up a spot to second and Arkansas jumped from sixth to third.
THE BCS: A CLOSER LOOK
Here is the sixth 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. We've also included the NCAA's schedule strength, which is not part of the BCS formula. (Last week's rank in parentheses.)
1. LSU (1)
2. Alabama (3)
3. Arkansas (6)
4. Okla. State (2)
5. Virginia Tech (8)
6. Stanford (9)
7. Boise State (10)
8. Houston (11)
9. Oklahoma (5)
10. Oregon (4)
11. Kansas St. (13)
12. S. Carolina (12)
13. Georgia (14)
14. Mich. State (15)
Arkansas plays at LSU on Friday, and LSU is an early 13.5-point favorite. A victory over Arkansas would send LSU to the Dec. 3 SEC championship game in Atlanta, where the Tigers would play Georgia, which is 13th in this week's standings. Alabama plays at archrival Auburn on Saturday knowing that a win should keep it on track for a title game appearance.
If LSU and Alabama win, it will be status quo at the top of the standings next week. If Arkansas and Auburn win, Arkansas is the SEC West champ - and presumably No. 1 in the BCS next week. But if Arkansas and Alabama win, things become much cloudier. Because Alabama, Arkansas and LSU each would be 7-1 in the division and 1-1 against each other, the tiebreaker would be broken by the BCS standings. But it's not quite that simple: If the highest and second-highest team among the trio are within five spots of each other in the BCS standings - which seems an absolute given - the tiebreaker goes to the team that won the head-to-head meeting between those two. In other words, there's no way to tell about the tiebreaker yet.
Hoping for two of the top three teams to lose in the next two weeks is Oklahoma State, which dropped two spots, to fourth, in this week's BCS standings. The Cowboys were 27-point favorites at Iowa State last week, but were shocked in overtime. They fell to sixth in both polls used by the BCS, but their average computer ranking is second, which keeps them in contact with the top three.
But considering that Oklahoma State still has to play Oklahoma in the annual "Bedlam" game on Dec. 3, fifth-place Virginia Tech still looks to be alive in the national title hunt, as well. The Hokies moved up three spots from last week. Virginia Tech plays at archrival Virginia (8-3) on Saturday, and if the Hokies get past the Cavaliers, they would face Clemson (17th this week) in the ACC championship game. Clemson beat the Hokies by 20 in Blacksburg on Oct. 1.
Thus, even Stanford - sitting at sixth in the BCS this week - may feel it is still alive for the national title. The Cardinal also moved up three spots this week and close out the regular season with a home game against Notre Dame (which is 22nd in the BCS) on Saturday.
Houston (11-0), the nation's other unbeaten, is in eighth place this week. Also of note: Michigan (9-2) is 15th and TCU (9-2) 20th this week.
Michigan closes out its regular season Saturday at home against Ohio State. The Wolverines are out of the running for the Big Ten title game, but a victory would make the Wolverines - who travel well and turn on a lot of TV sets - an extremely attractive at-large candidate. But a team has to finish in the top 14 to be selected as an at-large team.
As for TCU, it clinched the Mountain West title Saturday and finishes its regular season Dec. 3 against woeful UNLV. If it can finish in the top 16, it could get an automatic bid.
Here's how: A non-Big Six team that is a conference champion 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 Horned Frogs are higher than any team from the Big East; there is no Big East team in the standings this week, and it wouldn't be a surprise if, in the final set of standings on Dec. 4, there is no Big East team in the top 20.
One problem for TCU: It obviously needs to move up four spots and it also needs Houston to lose. The Cougars (11-0) play at Tulsa (8-3) on Friday. A win there and Houston moves on to the Conference USA championship game on Dec. 2, almost certainly against Southern Miss (9-2). If Houston wins both, it will be in the BCS.
So why does TCU need Houston to lose? 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. But no non-Big Six team is going to be selected with an at-large pick.
The final BCS standings will be released Dec. 4. Teams first and second in the final standings meet in the BCS national championship game Jan. 9 in New Orleans. LSU has been in the past two title games played in New Orleans, winning both.
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 separate BCS standings component, as it was from 1998-2003, all six computers have a strength-of-schedule factor in their rankings.
Some other items of interest from the fifth set of standings:
LSU is No. 1 in each of the six computers used by the BCS. Oklahoma State is second in four of them, and Alabama is second in the other two.
While the pollsters love Virginia Tech - the Hokies are fourth in both polls - there isn't as much love from the computers. The Hokies' average computer ranking is seventh, and their rankings range from seventh to 18th.
Kansas State (9-2) is 11th in the BCS. The Wildcats are the opposite of Virginia Tech: The computers love them, but the pollsters don't. K-State's average computer ranking is fifth; the Wildcats are fifth in five computers and ninth in the other. But they are 15th in both polls.
Baylor (7-3) is another Big 12 team loved by the computers. The Bears are 18th in the BCS standings; they are 20th in both polls, but their average computer ranking is 13th and their computer rankings range from seventh to 19th.
Houston is seventh in both polls, but the Cougars' average computer ranking is 12th; their rankings range from ninth to 16th.
Michigan State, which already has clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game, is the top-ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings, at 14th. Wisconsin and Penn State, which meet Saturday in Madison for the other spot in the league's championship game, are 16th and 19th, respectively.
The SEC leads the way with six teams in the top 25. The Big Ten and Big 12 have five each, followed by the ACC with three, the Pac-12 and Mountain West with two each and Conference USA and the independents ranks with one each.
This the eighth week all-time that LSU has been at the top of the BCS standings.
Texas is No. 25 this week, which is the Longhorns' 92nd time in the standings. That's the most of any school. Florida, which is unranked this week, is second with 85. Virginia Tech is third with 84.