Trying to make sense of all of the Stanford-BCS scenarios? Me too. And since I'm running low on Tums and Tylenol, I looked to the man who can hopefully untangle some of the various BCS scenarios, ESPN Insider and BCS guru Brad Edwards.
While Saturday's game against Notre Dame is by no means a guaranteed win, for our purposes here, let's just assume that the Cardinal take care of business against the Irish. That would leave them at 11-1 and waiting to see what happens in the conference championship games.
I'm sure there are dozens of strands off of each one of these scenarios, but these are the most straightforward and what could happen.
A lot needs to happen -- specifically where the Cardinal end up in both human polls and in the computer rankings. The Cardinal are No. 4 and No. 5 in the Harris and coaches polls, respectively, -- the two human polls.
Let's start with the team directly in front of them and then work our way down.
Virginia Tech is No. 5 in the Harris and No. 4 in the coaches. Stanford is No. 9 in the computers and Virginia Tech is No. 7.
"The people who are voting for Virginia Tech are not going to change their minds if Virginia Tech wins both games," Edwards said.
Virginia Tech isn't too far ahead of Stanford in the computers, but it's unknown what impact the Notre Dame win would have.
"It would help if Virginia Tech loses, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary," Edwards said. "Stanford is probably a threat to Virginia Tech even if they don't lose."
Next, Oklahoma State has to lose to Oklahoma on Dec. 3.
"Oklahoma State is so much stronger than those other teams in the computer rankings and it's not going to get any weaker by beating Oklahoma. Stanford needs Oklahoma State to lose," Edwards said.
Now, the SEC trio. What happens if Alabama and Arkansas also lose? That, combined with everything else could be enough to jump Stanford to No. 2. But it also depends on what the computers and voters have to say. Because the Cardinal's computer average drags them down, they need all of the help they can get from the human polls. If LSU also loses, Stanford could get to No. 1 in both human polls. That's its best chance to overcome the computers.
It's a long shot, but a shot nonetheless.
BCS bowl game automatic berth
No crazy scenarios here. If Oregon loses to Oregon State, the Cardinal would host the Pac-12 championship game next week with a berth in the Rose Bowl on the line.
BCS bowl game at-large berth
More than likely, a win and Stanford is in. Depending on what happens with some other teams, the Cardinal could get in as an automatic at-large if they finish in the Top 4. And most indications are Stanford would go to the Fiesta Bowl against the Big 12 champion -- be it Oklahoma State or Oklahoma pending the outcome of their game next week.
"The best case scenario for Stanford is an LSU-Alabama national championship," Edwards said. "It puts Michigan in the Sugar Bowl and takes another at-large team off the board."
That is the probable outcome.
However, there are a few things to consider:
The Fiesta might take Houston and showcase the Big 12-Houston matchup as a track meet. Not likely, but not impossible. So Stanford fans probably want to cheer for Tulsa this weekend all the same. If the Fiesta picks Houston, Stanford could go to the Sugar Bowl, or the Sugar could take Kansas State.
Another reason to cheer for Tulsa: If Houston takes a loss, there's no guarantee that a non-AQ conference champ would reach the top 16, which would free up one more at-large spot and virtually guarantee a place for an 11-1 Stanford team.
The Big East champ is probably going to go to the Orange Bowl to face the ACC champ, but like the Houston scenario, there is an outside chance that if West Virginia wins the Big East, Fiesta organizers might want to bring the Mountaineers out as a preview for next season when they join the Big 12.
And there is a really, really outside chance that if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, Boise State might get the nod over Stanford to create more interest in an Oklahoma-Boise rematch of the classic 2007 game.
"It's far-fetched to think the Fiesta would take Boise over Andrew Luck's final college game," Edwards said. "But with the expectations Oklahoma had this year -- preseason No. 1 -- fans probably wouldn't be too excited about that game. One possibility is Boise State to generate more interest."
The flip side.
"As much as Stanford wants Oklahoma to win for national championship hopes, Oklahoma State has never been to a BCS game," Edwards continued. "If they beat Oklahoma, they will buy a lot of tickets which eases the pressure."