08 September 2008

Gators Lurking At No. 2

(From BCS Guru)

Who's No. 1? Who cares. All we need to know is who's No. 2.

In the world of BCS, it's all important being No. 2. At the end of the season, being No. 2 gets you a ticket to the big shindig. And five out of the last six years, the No. 2 team walked away with the BCS crystal ball trophy.

Two weeks into the season, that coveted No. 2 spot is now occupied by Florida, the BCS champion of 2006. USC, idle last weekend, continues to enjoy a comfortable lead at No. 1 in this week's unofficial BCS standings. Georgia, No. 2 in both AP and coaches polls, follows at No. 3 while Oklahoma moves up to No. 4.

The team that suffered almost irreparable harm despite winning last week was Ohio State. The Buckeyes dropped to No. 5 in the BCS standings after needing a muffed punt and a punt return for a touchdown late in the game to put away Ohio, 26-14. The non-loss became damaging because it's turned Ohio State's Saturday showdown at USC into a must-win game.

If the Buckeyes, No. 1 in the preseason, win that game, then all is well - they might move back up to No. 1, even. But if they lose the game, then they can forget about a third consecutive trip to the BCS title game. The pollsters are already extremely suspicious of the Buckeyes after back-to-back thrashing losses the last two years. A loss to USC, especially a lopsided one as the fifth-ranked team, makes it virtually impossible for Ohio State to climb its way back up the BCS ladder.

Two more SEC teams are in the top 10 of the standings, with defending BCS champion LSU coming in at No. 6 and Auburn at No. 9. Two other Big 12 teams - No. 7 Missouri and No. 8 Texas - join Oklahoma in the top 10, with Kansas just outside at No. 11. Wisconsin checks in at No. 10.

The story of the season so far is the performance of non-BCS teams. In this week's standings, four teams from three different non-BCS conferences made the top 25. Conference USA's East Carolina, the leading BCS Buster candidate at the moment, is the highest ranked at No. 16. The Pirates' ranking is in fact hurt by their ridiculously low placement in the coaches poll (No. 20) even after their thumping of then-No. 8 West Virginia.

The Mountain West's Brigham Young and Utah, each already with a victory over BCS conference teams, are at No. 17 and No. 20, respectively. Fresno State, seeking the WAC's third consecutive BCS invitation, is at No. 23, with a Saturday home date against Wisconsin coming up.

While all the non-BCS conference teams are vying for just a single BCS invitation, the ACC and Big East are sitting pretty with automatic bids, despite dreadful performances in the season's first two weeks. Wake Forest is the ACC's lone representative in the top 25, and the Demon Deacons needed a Sam Swank 41-yard field goal with three seconds left to thwart SEC also-ran Ole Miss.

The Big East has little to brag about, either. South Florida and Connecticut are the only conference teams without a loss right now and both needed overtime to stay unbeaten last week (over Central Florida and Temple, respectively). West Virginia, expected to be the standard-bearer of the conference, plummeted to No. 24 after taking a beating from East Carolina.

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