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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Handicapping the season's first BCS standings

The first Bowl Championship Series standings will be released Sunday, but Saturday's games could alter things.

October 13, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron calls out to his offense against the Mississippi Rebels on Sept. 29, 2012.
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron calls out to his offense against… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images…)

There is one problem in trying to project Sunday's first release of the Bowl Championships Series standings:

That problem is Saturday. The games could substantially alter all pre-standings prognostications.

There would be no huge controversies if the first BCS show was Friday. The top 10 would pretty much mirror the top 10 in the polls. Alabama and Oregon would be cruising at first and second, followed by South Carolina and then some combination-plate of West Virginia, Florida, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Louisiana State, Georgia, Oregon State, Oklahoma and USC.

What about 6-0 Ohio State? Sorry, teams banned from postseason play by the NCAA are ineligible for the BCS standings.

But won't that muck up everybody's computer readings?

No. The BCS will crunch the numbers using all of Ohio State's relative data and simply remove the Buckeyes from the standings order.

Using USA Today's top 10 as our guide, let's handicap the field.

1. Alabama. BCS order status: almost a lock. The Crimson Tide plays at Missouri, but the Tigers are without starting quarterback James Franklin. Missouri is 0-3 in league play as a first-year Southeastern Conference member.

2. Oregon. Status: safe. The Ducks are off in advance of next Thursday's critical game at Arizona State. Oregon could be vulnerable if No. 3 South Carolina wins at LSU, but it's probably nothing to worry about since Alabama and South Carolina would eventually have to play.

More on Alabama and Oregon: They have become the consensus 1-2 without having done much. Neither school has played a team currently ranked in the USA Today poll. Every team ranked No. 3 through 13 has played an opponent in the top 25 with the exception of No. 7 Notre Dame.

3. South Carolina. Status: Call us Saturday night. A win over LSU in Baton Rouge should solidify South Carolina as the nation's best team based on merit. Neither Alabama nor Oregon could match Gamecocks wins against Georgia and LSU. However, a South Carolina loss to LSU makes the Gamecocks BCS-vulnerable and headed next week to Florida.

The status of teams rated No. 4-10 are in at least some danger because they, too, face capable opponents.

4. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have an interesting road test at improved Texas Tech, which boasts the nation's No. 2 defense behind Alabama. Texas Tech is allowing only 210 yards per game, but West Virginia's potent offense last week knocked Texas' defense from No. 63 overall to 74.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats had best not overlook this week's trip to Ames because giant-killer Iowa State has victories against ranked opponents each of the last three seasons. Last year, the Cyclones handed Oklahoma State its only loss.

6. Florida. Vanderbilt is another watch-out game, sandwiched between LSU and next week's game against South Carolina. Two of Vanderbilt's three losses came on the road against Northwestern and Georgia. The other was a four-point home defeat against South Carolina.

7. Notre Dame. The Irish have not trailed all season but should get severely tested by Stanford, which is coming off an emotional overtime win against Arizona. Stanford has won three straight against Notre Dame and seems to have recovered offensively from that mystifying effort at Washington.

8. Louisiana State. Count these guys out at your own peril. The Tigers have produced three straight lackluster efforts yet have not fallen out of the top 10. LSU is the BCS comeback king of all time, rising from No. 7 to No. 2 on the final weekend in 2007 to get into the BCS title game. A home victory against South Carolina puts LSU right back in the title chase.

9. USC. The Trojans parlayed last week's string of upsets into a three-position rise in the USA Today poll. But USC faces a tricky weekend trip to Washington, which tripped the Trojans up in 2009.

10. Oklahoma. It will be difficult to overcome that home loss to Kansas State, but the Sooners can start with a win over No. 15 Texas. For historical inspiration, Oklahoma can look to Florida's 2008-09 team, which recovered from a home loss to Mississippi to win the national title against a program Oklahoma knows very well.

Also noteworthy: Oregon State, only No. 14 in USA Today but top 10 in early BCS projections, will be without starting quarterback Sean Mannion (knee) for its game at Brigham Young.

The BCS standings are set to be released Sunday at approximately 5 p.m., just before all the shouting starts.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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