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BCS Realpolitik: Tigers, Tide take the pole, but computers dig… Cowboys?

In a perfect world, the Doc would be given carte blanche to publicly torch the Bowl Championship Series in effigy and institute the elaborate, double-elimination battle royale of his dreams. But we live in the world we live in, so each Sunday he looks at what the new BCS numbers mean for the rest of the season. Rooting interest: Chaos. Always chaos.

BCS Realpolitik: Tigers, Tide take the pole, but computers dig… Cowboys?The most important analysis this week: It's the first one. There are seven more, and all of them will be different. The team sitting atop the initial BCS standings hasn't gone on to play in the BCS Championship Game since Ohio State in 2007, and hasn't won it since USC in 2004. In a month, we'll look back at the assumptions here and laugh.

Now, on with the assumptions.

It's a tie. After careful deliberation by 174 human voters and six very complicated algorithms, there's still no discernible difference between Alabama and LSU, who are are separated at the top by about three-thousandths of a point. The human polls tend very slightly toward the Tigers on the strength of a pair of double-digit wins over teams currently ranked in the top 20; the computers, very slightly toward the Crimson Tide on the strength of… a pair of double-digit wins over teams currently ranked in the top 20. If only there was some clear-cut way to decide this...

The computers have a thing for Cowboys. Maybe it's the prolific offense, maybe it's the new uniforms, but the machines are in love with Oklahoma State: Four of the six computer polls rank OSU No. 1 (the other two break for LSU and Alabama, respectively), leaving the Cowboys atop the circuit-board standings for reasons I cannot begin to explain — especially considering that the computers are explicitly prohibited from factoring margin of victory into their algorithms. Outside of wins at Texas and Texas A&M, OSU's other victims are Louisiana-Lafayette (which has won six straight since dropping the opener in Stillwater), Arizona, Tulsa and Kansas.

If you're asking me how that resumé separates the Cowboys from the human favorites, you're asking the wrong guy. But it certainly clears up any uncertainty about their path to the BCS title game: With a respectable Big 12 slate ahead, including undefeated Kansas State and the winner-take-all showdown with Oklahoma waiting down the stretch, they clearly control their own destiny.

BCS Realpolitik: Tigers, Tide take the pole, but computers dig… Cowboys? Teams that do not control their own destiny. Everyone outside of the top four: Wisconsin, Clemson, Stanford, et al., and most definitely not Boise State, which is in its usual awkward position of winning by obscene margins on a weekly basis while going nowhere in the polls as other contenders move ahead based on stronger schedules. The most "valuable" opponent over the second half of the Broncos' schedule, TCU, has already forfeited whatever cachet it had remaining from last year's Rose Bowl win in early losses at the hands of Baylor and SMU, leaving Boise without anything resembling a "marquee" win outside of Georgia on opening night — and that's still depending on how the Bulldogs finish in the SEC East.

By my count, the Broncos are seventh in line for one of the two BCS title bids if they run the table, at best, behind the Alabama/LSU winner, the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State winner, Stanford, Wisconsin, Clemson and Kansas State if the 6-0 Wildcats manage to miraculously win out. But the basic template right now is straightforward enough for all of those teams: Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are playing in a pair of semifinal games to the send the winners on to the championship, and if those winners don't stumble anywhere else along the way, everybody else can get bent.

For chaos' sake. There are ten undefeated teams left with seven weeks to go, half of which have to play at least one of the others — more than enough time for chaos to weave its usual, unpredictable threads. If any of this week's "Big Four" go down before their defining showdowns, the door will be wide open with half a dozen teams all trying to squeeze through at once, with no satisfying way to distinguish between them.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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