I know what you're thinking. It's only been a day or so since Saturday night's loss, and you're not ready to think about the future. You'd prefer that I just leave you alone to sit on the couch in your pajamas working through weeks of unwatched material on your DVR.
Here's the truth of it. All is not lost. The Stanford Cardinal is 9-1, and regardless of what happened against Oregon, this team is still one of the best in the country. The BCS Championship Game is no longer a possibility, but Andrew Luck and the Cardinal will almost certainly be selected by one of the other BCS bowl games as an at-large team.
Let's take a look at the other teams in the mix, as well as the five BCS bowl games, to see how this will happen. As always, any scenario discussed here assumes that Stanford wins its final two games against Cal and Notre Dame.
#1 LSU (@Mississippi, vs. #6 Arkansas, SEC Championship)
It's possible that the Tigers could run into trouble when they hit the road to play #6 Arkansas, but it isn't likely. Assuming they beat Ole Miss, who's winless in the SEC, and take care of Arkansas, LSU will head to the SEC Championship Game where they'll face Georgia. The odds are good that LSU will finish the season undefeated and unquestionably number one in the country and head to New Orleans for the BCS Championship Game.
#2 Oklahoma State (@Iowa State, vs. #5 Oklahoma)
I've been saying the same thing about Oklahoma State for three weeks now, but that was mainly because I was hoping they'd lose and allow Stanford to jump up to number two. Now that I'm free to look at things more objectively, I'm guessing they'll win out. Iowa State is mediocre, and Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech, a team that has spent the last three weeks desperately trying to prove that they are one of the worst teams in the nation.
#3 Alabama (vs. GA Southern, @ #24 Auburn)
Did you watch the "Roll Tide/War Eagle" documentary on ESPN last week? If not, set your DVR now, because the film gives insight into a twisted world where people name their babies Bear Bryant and Crimson Tide. (Of course, if anyone here ends up naming a child Mighty Card, I'll go in half on the kid's tuition.) Anyway, those crazy Alabama fans just might've been the happiest people outside of Eugene, Oregon, as the Ducks were pummeling the Cardinal. A Stanford win surely would've vaulted the Cardinal ahead of Alabama, but now the Tide sit poised to jump back into the title game should either LSU or Oklahoma State falter.
#4 Oregon (vs. USC, vs. Oregon State, PAC-12 Championship)
It's not impossible to imagine the Ducks grabbing a rematch with LSU for the national championship, but they'd need Oklahoma State and Alabama to lose, plus they'd have to hope that an Oklahoma win over Oklahoma State wouldn't put the Sooners into the championship game; it probably would. Considering all that, Oregon is about as locked in to its final destination as any team on this page -- the Ducks will be in the Rose Bowl.
#5 Oklahoma (@ #22 Baylor, vs. Iowa State, @ #2 Oklahoma State)
As I said above, I think Oklahoma State probably tops Oklahoma, but for Stanford it doesn't really matter. (Unless you buy into the idea that Brandon Weeden will steal the Heisman Trophy from Andrew Luck if his Cowboys finish undefeated. In that case, root for the Sooners.) More on this later.
#6 Arkansas (vs. Mississippi State, @ #1 LSU)
Poor Arkansas. If they somehow manage to upset LSU on Black Friday, they'll have a strong argument to jump Alabama and be included in the national championship game; if they lose, they're out of the BCS picture all together. A conference may only send two teams to BCS bowl games, so if the Razorbacks finish behind LSU and Alabama in the SEC -- and they probably will -- they're looking at the Citrus Bowl or something similar.
#7 Clemson (@ NC State, @ #12 South Carolina, ACC Championship)
I don't mind that the Cardinal has fallen down in the standings after the Oregon loss, but it rankles me that they've fallen behind Clemson. I mean, we're talking about Clemson here. Clemson. Dear god.
#8 Virginia Tech (vs. North Carolina, @Virginia, ACC Championship)
The Hokies beat East Carolina by a touchdown and Duke by four points. Even so, they look set for a rematch with Clemson in the ACC Championship game. One of these two teams is headed for the Orange Bowl.
#9 Stanford (vs. Cal, vs. Notre Dame)
Here's how Stanford gets a BCS bid.
- Based on the above, LSU and Oklahoma State are set for the BCS Championship, Oregon would be the Pac-12's representative in the Rose Bowl where they'd play #17 Wisconsin, and Clemson Tech would play in the Orange Bowl for the ACC.
- After that, the BCS selection process would begin. (You can read the entire document here, or you can take my word for it and just follow along.) Since the Sugar Bowl would lose SEC champion LSU, they would select an at-large replacement, and they'd almost certainly choose Alabama.
- Since the Fiesta Bowl would lose Big-12 champion Oklahoma State to the national championship game, they'd probably choose Oklahoma as a replacement.
- Once LSU and OSU are replaced, the bowls will select teams following this order: Fiesta, Sugar, Orange.
- With Oklahoma already on board, there's already been some speculation that the Fiesta would like to invite Nebraska to renew that old Big-12 rivalry. That sounds nice, but Nebraska is currently ranked #16 and still has to travel to Michigan in two weeks. At-large teams must be ranked in the top fourteen to be eligible for selection. The obvious pick for the Fiesta Bowl, then, is Stanford. Make your travel arrangements now.
With all that in mind, here's my projected BCS bowl lineup:
Championship: LSU vs. Oklahoma State
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Stanford
Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Cincinnati