Maybe we should just draw names out of a hat.
Or throw darts at a wall. Anything would be easier than deciphering this BCS mess. But today we try to figure out the easiest (but maybe not the only) way each of the top eight teams in the ratings can make the big game. So grab a pencil (make it one with an eraser), lots of paper and maybe a handful of aspirin as we break it all down.
Simple. All the Crimson Tide must do is defeat Auburn on Saturday, then Florida in the SEC Championship Game. If Alabama does that, it's in. But don't count Saturday as a victory just yet. The game is in Tuscaloosa, and Alabama has never beaten Auburn in six tries there. Plus, Auburn has won six in a row in the series.
Texas wouldn't get as much credit for beating Texas A&M on Thursday as Oklahoma would for beating Oklahoma State on Saturday. So Oklahoma could jump Texas, though Texas beat Oklahoma. For Texas to be safe, it needs to win and OU needs to lose. If those things happen and Texas then beats Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game, the Longhorns are in. They also likely get in if they win out and OU loses to Missouri in the Big 12 title game.
If Oklahoma wins out — against Oklahoma State, then in the Big 12 Championship Game — the Sooners could make a big enough jump in the BCS standings to get into the national title game. If Oklahoma does not jump past Texas and the Longhorns go to the Big 12 Championship Game and lose to Missouri, that likely would put the Sooners into the national title game though they wouldn't have even won their conference.
The guess is the Gators are in as long they beat Florida State on Saturday, then Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. There is speculation that even if Florida does win out, it could end up behind Texas and Oklahoma in the BCS ratings and get shut out of the national title game. But that would be unlikely.
5. Southern Cal
Here comes the controversial question: Can a team play for the national title if it doesn't win its conference? If Oregon State beats Oregon this weekend, Oregon State earns a share of the Pac-10 title and the league's automatic BCS bowl bid. But USC still has a chance to play for the big trophy. The Trojans needs losses by Oklahoma and Texas. That probably would be enough because either Florida or Alabama is guaranteed to lose.
The Utes are 12-0 and saying, "Hey, what about us? Forget those one-loss teams. We're undefeated.'' What hurts them is playing in a mid-major conference and having victories over only three ranked teams: No. 14 TCU, No. 17 Oregon State and No. 20 Brigham Young. Utah needs four of these five teams to lose one more game: Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Southern Cal. Even then, it could still get leapfrogged by Texas Tech.
7. Texas Tech
As ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said last week after Oklahoma pasted the Red Raiders: "(Texas Tech) woke up Saturday morning dreaming of a national title. They go to bed thinking about the Cotton Bowl or the Holiday Bowl.'' Texas Tech needs Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas to lose once more. And it needs either Notre Dame or UCLA to pull off a major upset of USC.
8. Penn State
Even the Nittany Lions have pretty much given up hope. When they won the Big 10's BCS bowl bid last week in their final game, they passed out roses, knowing they were going to the Rose Bowl, not the national title game. Frankly, Penn State needs a miracle. Everybody in front of it has to lose, and Utah is done playing. Go ahead, JoePa fans, and buy your tickets to the Rose Bowl.