Undaunted by its double-digit loss to Nebraska on Saturday, Oklahoma charged back into the national title race this week neither by going back to basics, making a quarterback change or bringing in former linebacker Brian Bosworth for a pep talk. Oklahoma got back in the race by opening this morning's paper.
The Sooners, who debuted at No. 1 in last week's first bowl championship series rankings, dropped only one spot Monday in the latest BCS standings. Never has a bitter loss felt this good.
Nebraska's 20-10 win propelled the Cornhuskers into the top spot with 2.02 points, followed by Oklahoma at 7.59, Miami at 7.71, Michigan at 11.75 and Texas at 14.25. Stanford is sixth, followed by Tennessee, Florida, UCLA and Oregon.
The teams with the two lowest BCS scores at season's end advance to play for the national championship in the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl. Miami fans might be incredulous that their Hurricanes, despite remaining No. 1 in both the Associated Press and the USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls, would move up only one spot to No. 3 in the latest rankings.
What is this, a joke?
Miami, of course, finished third in last year's final BCS rankings, .32 points behind Florida State, a team it defeated. This perceived snub cost the Hurricanes a trip to the national title game and prompted off-season tweaks in the BCS formula. To credit teams such as Miami for beating an opponent head-to-head, the BCS added a "quality win" component. Had this year's rule applied, Miami would have overtaken Florida State and played Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.
Oh, what cruelties the BCS computer continues to dispense. This week, Miami trails Oklahoma for the No. 2 spot by 0.12. Reason? Oklahoma has 1.3 "quality win" points to Miami's zero. The Hurricanes can attest finishing third in the BCS is like finishing fourth in the Olympics, but this race is far from over.
It is almost inconceivable an undefeated Miami squad would be denied a spot in the title game. The Hurricanes are suffering from their No. 76 schedule ranking, converted as 3.04 points in the BCS formula. Miami, though, figures to cut considerably into that number as it closes the season against ranked teams Syracuse, Washington and Virginia Tech.
Nebraska, at No. 8 (0.32) and Oklahoma at No. 9 (0.36), can't appreciably improve their schedule strength numbers. Miami's biggest fear is that a sloppy or close victory would drop it from the No. 1 spot in either the writers' or coaches' polls.
On the Pac-10 front, Stanford's win over UCLA lifted the Cardinal from No. 13 to No. 6 in the BCS. The Cardinal's 3.33 computer average is second only to Oklahoma's 1.00 and Stanford is No. 1 in schedule strength. Yet, the Cardinal's 11.5 poll average is keeping it from serious national contention.
If Stanford's poll average were equal to its computer average of 6.00, the Cardinal would be No. 4 in the BCS with a score of 8.07 and only 0.48 points behind No. 2 Oklahoma. UCLA fell from No. 3 to No. 9 in this week's BCS, while Oregon's victory at Washington State lifted the Ducks from No. 13 to No. 9.
With Washington at No. 11 this week and Washington State No. 12, the Pacific 10 Conference has five teams in this week's BCS top 15, more than any other league, yet it's going to be difficult for any of those five teams to mount a national title charge.