BCS: Top three create more separation

The Pac-12’s national-title hopes died Nov. 7 when Stanford pummeled Oregon. Saturday night, the Big 12 went toes up as Oklahoma State completely outclassed Baylor.

Two weeks remain until the final BCS standings, and only three leagues (SEC, ACC and Big Ten), and most likely three teams, are still breathing. No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida State and No. 3 Ohio State enjoy significant separation in the latest BCS standings, a gulf separating those three from No. 4 Auburn and No. 5 Missouri.

If two of the top three win out, you’ll see them Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif. If all three win out, the Crimson Tide and Seminoles will play for the championship.

Florida State has the easiest path. The Seminoles this week visit a flatlining Florida team, which fell Saturday to FCS Georgia Southern, before facing No. 24 Duke, Virginia Tech or Miami in the ACC title game. The only potential stumbling block for Jimbo Fisher’s crew could come away from the field, as the state debates whether to charge star quarterback Jameis Winston in an alleged sexual-assault case.

Alabama has the toughest road. The Tide must get past Auburn on The Plains this week and then either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC championship.

Ohio State is in the middle. The Buckeyes face the Michigan schools the next two weeks, but the much more challenging test appears to be No. 11 Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, not archrival Michigan on Saturday in the Big House.

The only chance for a shakeup -- and it's slim -- comes in the SEC, as Auburn and Missouri can both boost their profiles. While Auburn gets Bama in one of the most anticipated Iron Bowls ever, Missouri hosts No. 21 Texas A&M on Saturday. If Gary Pinkel’s crew prevails, it will get Auburn or Alabama in Atlanta.

A win against the two-time defending national champion Tide would certainly help Auburn or Missouri, but both teams are so far behind in the polls and computers that it might not matter.

The top of the standings is rather boring this week, but there’s a shakeup in the race to bust the BCS. Fresno State crushed New Mexico 69-28 behind Derek Carr’s seven touchdown passes, but Northern Illinois leapfrogged the Bulldogs after its latest quality win (Toledo) and another spectacular effort by its own star quarterback (Jordan Lynch). Fresno remains ahead of NIU in both human polls, but the Huskies are 10 spots higher in computer average (No. 7) than the Bulldogs (No. 17).

NIU now sits at No. 14, two spots ahead of Fresno State. The Bulldogs play a tougher foe (San Jose State) than NIU (Western Michigan) this week before both teams enter championship games. It’ll be interesting to see which team emerges.

The quest for at-large BCS berths also continues to evolve. Oregon’s second loss drops the Ducks to No. 13 and likely eliminates the Pac-12 from contention. No. 7 Oklahoma State’s win, meanwhile, could enhance the Big 12’s chances of two teams in the big bowls.

Wisconsin won its sixth consecutive game and rises to No. 15 in the standings, just one spot away from being eligible for at-large selection. The Badgers should get there with a strong performance this week against Penn State.

The SEC is assured of multiple BCS entries, and the ACC will get two if No. 6 Clemson wins this week at rival South Carolina, which is No. 10. The Big Ten and Big 12 will likely compete for the final at-large spot.

This week’s spotlight shines on the SEC and, specifically, the Iron Bowl. If Alabama goes down, so, too, could the SEC’s hopes of an eighth consecutive national title.

Then again, a league is only dead in the BCS race until it receives new life.