Originally Published: October 18, 2010

Passing the eye test

By Mark Schlabach

Two of the six computer rankings used in the Bowl Championship Series formula rate LSU as the best team in college football.

Obviously, those hard drives and keyboards haven't watched the Tigers try to operate their offense in the closing seconds of a game.

The other four computer rankings used in the BCS formula rate Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the land.

Those computers were apparently rebooting when the Sooners struggled to beat teams like Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati earlier this season.

How do the computer rankings stack up against an eye test as we hit college football's stretch run to the Jan. 10 BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz.?

Here's one man's opinion:

1. Oklahoma (6-0, 2-0 Big 12)
Computer average: 1
Eye test ranking: 5

The Sooners are No. 1 in four computer rankings -- Colley Matrix, Massey, Sagarin and Wolfe.

Oklahoma has looked like the best team in the country for eight quarters, when it was demolishing Florida State 47-17 on Sept. 11 and Iowa State 52-0 on Saturday. But the Sooners struggled in beating Utah State by seven points, Air Force by three, Cincinnati by two and Texas by eight.

2. Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-10)
Computer average: 8
Eye test ranking: 1

The Ducks are No. 2 in Jeff Sagarin's ratings, but No. 7 or worse in the other five computer rankings. Oregon has the country's best offense, averaging 54.3 points per game, and routed then-No. 9 Stanford 52-31 on Oct. 2. The Ducks won three nonconference games by a combined score of 189-13, but play only one more game against a ranked team -- at No. 18 Arizona on Nov. 26.

3. Boise State (6-0, 2-0 WAC)
Computer average: 7
Eye test ranking: 2

The Broncos have played two games against teams from BCS conferences, beating No. 25 Virginia Tech 33-30 on Labor Day night and Oregon State 37-24 at home on Sept. 25. They won each of their four other games by 43 points or more, but those opponents have a combined record of 8-19. Boise State's schedule strength won't get much better, so it will probably face an uphill climb in getting into the top two spots in the BCS standings.

4. Auburn (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
Computer average: 3
Eye test ranking: 3

Auburn fans are already worried that they'll suffer the same fate they did in 2004, when the Tigers finished 12-0 but were left out of the BCS National Championship Game. As long as Auburn keeps winning, there's virtually no chance it will be left out this season. The Tigers have already defeated three teams ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings (No. 24 Mississippi State, No. 21 South Carolina and No. 23 Arkansas), and they'll play No. 6 LSU on Saturday and No. 8 Alabama on Nov. 26.

5. TCU (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West)
Computer average: 5
Eye test ranking: 4

At season's end, TCU might have essentially the same résumé as Boise State, as long as the Horned Frogs defeat No. 9 Utah on the road on Nov. 6. The Horned Frogs beat Oregon State 30-21 on Sept. 4 and have dominated inferior competition since, winning their past three games by a combined score of 103-3.

6. LSU (7-0, 4-0 SEC)
Computer average: 2
Eye test ranking: 7

The Tigers are undefeated and have played one of the country's tougher schedules, but they've looked far from perfect in doing it. LSU escaped with a 16-14 victory over Tennessee on Oct. 2, only after the Volunteers were penalized for having 13 defensive players on the field, giving the Tigers one more shot at the end zone. Then the Tigers needed a fake field goal to set up their winning touchdown in a 33-29 win at Florida on Oct. 9. But if LSU wins out, and defeats No. 4 Auburn on the road on Saturday and No. 8 Alabama at home on Nov. 6, it's hard to imagine it wouldn't finish in the top two of the final BCS standings.

7. Michigan State (7-0, 3-0 Big Ten)
Computer average: 4
Eye test ranking: 9

The Spartans are off to their best start since 1966, but their BCS résumé looks paper thin. Michigan State has one high-quality victory, beating No. 13 Wisconsin 34-24 at home on Oct. 2. The Spartans' early season victories over Notre Dame and Michigan aren't as good as they once looked, and their other nonconference wins came against Western Michigan, Florida Atlantic and FCS foe Northern Colorado. They still play at No. 15 Iowa on Oct. 30, but don't play No. 10 Ohio State during the regular season.

8. Alabama (6-1, 3-1 SEC)
Computer average: 12
Eye test ranking: 6

The defending BCS national champions are ranked No. 10 or worse in five of the six computer rankings, after losing at South Carolina 35-21 two weeks ago. Still, Alabama probably has the best chance among one-loss teams of reaching the BCS National Championship Game, as long as it keeps winning. The Tide still play two teams ranked ahead of them in the BCS standings -- at No. 6 LSU on Nov. 6 and home against No. 4 Auburn on Nov. 26.

Conference rankings

By Mark Schlabach

Ranking the BCS conferences after seven weeks of the 2010 college football season:

1. SEC
Six SEC teams were included in the Top 25 of the initial BCS standings -- No. 4 Auburn, No. 6 LSU, No. 8 Alabama, No. 21 South Carolina, No. 23 Arkansas and No. 24 Mississippi State.

Auburn walloped the Razorbacks 65-43 at home, setting up an SEC West showdown against LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. Defending BCS national champion Alabama rebounded to beat Ole Miss 23-10 at home, and Kentucky upset South Carolina 31-28. Florida has lost three consecutive regular-season games for the first time since 1988, after falling to Mississippi State 10-7 at home.

2. Big 12
The Big 12 also had six teams in the Top 25 of the BCS standings -- No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 11 Missouri, No. 14 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Nebraska, No. 19 Texas and No. 22 Kansas State.

The Sooners hammered Iowa State 52-0 at home, and undefeated Missouri and Oklahoma State picked up impressive road victories. The Tigers won 30-9 at Texas A&M; the Pokes won 34-17 at Texas Tech. Missouri hosts the Sooners on Saturday, and the Pokes host the Cornhuskers, who are coming off a 20-13 loss to Texas.

3. Big Ten
There are four Big Ten teams in the Top 25 of the BCS standings -- No. 7 Michigan State, No. 10 Ohio State, No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 15 Iowa -- and it looks to be a four-team race in the conference.

Wisconsin upset then-No. 1 Ohio State 31-18 on Saturday, leaving Michigan State as the last unbeaten team in the Big Ten. The Spartans are a half-game ahead of Iowa and Purdue in the league standings. The Hawkeyes host Wisconsin on Saturday in a game that might go a long way in helping determine the Big Ten race.

4. Pac-10
The Pac-10 continues to take its lumps with only three teams -- No. 2 Oregon, No. 12 Stanford and No. 18 Arizona -- ranked in the initial BCS standings.

The Ducks are No. 1 in the human polls and host UCLA on Thursday night. Washington upset Oregon State 35-34 on Saturday night, knocking the Beavers out of the national rankings. The Huskies play at Arizona on Saturday.

5. ACC
No. 17 Florida State and No. 25 Virginia Tech are the only ACC teams in the Top 25 of the BCS standings, and those teams have also taken control of their respective divisions.

The Hokies, who opened the season by losing two games in six days, have won five straight contests. Virginia Tech routed Wake Forest 52-21 on Saturday to move to 5-2, 3-0 in the Coastal Division. The Hokies are one game ahead of Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina in the loss column.

The Seminoles' only loss was on the road at Oklahoma, and they are 6-1, 4-0 in the Atlantic Division. The Seminoles beat Boston College 24-19 on Saturday and play at NC State on Oct. 28.

6. Big East
No. 20 West Virginia is the only Big East team in the BCS Top 25, after the Mountaineers beat South Florida 20-6 at home on Thursday night.

At least defending Big East champion Cincinnati and preseason favorite Pittsburgh are showing signs of life. The Bearcats beat Louisville 35-27 on Friday night, and the Panthers routed Syracuse 45-14 on the road on Saturday.


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