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 royal of his dreams. But we live in the world we live in, so each Sunday the Doc looks at what the new BCS numbers mean for the rest of the season. Rooting interest: Chaos. Always chaos.
It wasn't exactly definitive, but LSU's victory in the SEC Field Goal Fest of the Century does answer the Big Question of the season to date: If the last month of the regular season unfolds according to script, the first golden ticket to the BCS Championship Game belongs to the Tigers. As of right now, the second golden ticket would still belong to Oklahoma State, which controls its destiny down the stretch no matter how many points the Cowboys yield to Kansas State.
Now, on that note, on to the next Big Question, which comes in two parts: Can Oklahoma State's perfect record survive a Dec. 3 assault by Oklahoma on a vulnerable Cowboy defense? And if it can't, who's first in line to take the Cowboys' place?
• Come in from the ledge. SEC haters who resented the drumbeat for an Alabama-LSU rematch before Alabama and LSU even played the first time may be dismayed to see the Crimson Tide still sitting fairly pretty at No. 3, ahead of unbeaten Stanford and Boise State, with only Oklahoma State standing between an unprecedented Crimson Tiger revival on Jan. 9. If so: Chill, guys. It's only a snapshot. Even if the Cowboys stumble, Alabama's still several steps rungs from taking their place.
Not that the ritual chanting for Alabama-LSU II won't go on, but two things have to happen before that's even a remote possibility. The first is a loss by unbeaten Stanford, which will leap the Crimson Tide — not "should" leap the Crimson Tide, will leap the Crimson Tide — with a win over Oregon this Saturday. The second, obviously, is a loss by Oklahoma State.
But even if the Cardinal and Cowboys are removed as obstacles to a rematch, they're certain to be replaced by the teams that removed them — one-loss Oregon and one-loss Oklahoma. In that scenario, the Sooners will have two potential advantages: a) The computers' love for Oklahoma State (see below) and the Big 12 in general, and b) The benefit of the final argument on Dec. 3, when they get to play their biggest game of the season in primetime while Alabama watches from home. In the pecking order of one-loss teams, I see 'Bama and Oklahoma as neck-and-neck to fill the hypothetical void, with Oregon coming in a very close third.
• Digital love. How impressive was LSU's big win in Tuscaloosa? It actually cut into Oklahoma State's stranglehold on the laptop vote: The Cowboys only take three of the computer polls this week, down from five each of the past two weeks, ceding the rest to the Tigers. Oklahoma's strong performance among the machines (the Sooners are tied for fourth with Boise State) is just another reason to look at Bedlam as a possible "semifinal" in the wake of a Stanford loss.
Another quasi-interesting algorithmic note: Five of the six computers (all but Richard Billingsley's) rank Boise State ahead of Stanford. Again, that will change if the Cardinal beat Oregon, but reinforces that they have no realistic hope of jumping Oklahoma State without a Cowboy loss.
• For chaos' sake. The most overlooked team on the board is 8-1 Arkansas, which can reduce every prevailing assumption to dust by upsetting LSU on Nov. 26. That would produce a brain-bending, three-way tie in the SEC West (Alabama > Arkansas > LSU > Alabama) that would likely have to be settled by the BCS standings amid howls of injustice regardless of the outcome. If Oklahoma State and Stanford win out, that scenario would eject the SEC from the championship game altogether; if not, it creates a gaggle of one-loss teams for one or both title slots and no satisfactory way to distinguish among them.
It may also be the only scenario that lends any hope to poor Boise State, whose only realistic chance at the championship is a tangle of one-loss teams so convoluted voters throw up their hands in exasperation and tap the Broncos by default. It will help Boise's cause if its only notable victim, Georgia, goes on to play in the SEC Championship Game, and especially if the Bulldogs somehow win the SEC Championship Game, which would make the Broncos' opening night romp in Atlanta one of the three or four most impressive wins of the season.
At the current rate, I'm not sure Boise would have enough juice in the computers even if everything else did go its way. But if Oklahoma State and Stanford bite it, the Broncos are going to be very much in the discussion.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.