Florida State and Ohio State are in position to play for the BCS national championship, though Auburn and Missouri are close enough behind in the BCS standings to put pressure on the Buckeyes.
The Seminoles grabbed the top spot in the BCS standings released Sunday after Alabama relinquished it for the first time this season.
The Crimson Tide's wild 34-28 loss at Auburn dropped Alabama to fourth. Ohio State is second and Auburn is third. Missouri is fifth. Auburn and Missouri play in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday in Atlanta. The winner should get a boost in the standings, but it might not be enough to catch the unbeaten Buckeyes.
Ohio State (12-0) faces Michigan State, 10th in the latest standings, in the Big Ten championship game Saturday in Indianapolis.
Florida State is first in both the USA Today coaches' poll and Harris poll, and rated No. 1 in the compilation of six computer rankings used in the BCS standings.
The Seminoles' .9948 BCS average makes them a lock to get to the title game in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6 if they can beat Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday.
The Buckeyes (.9503) are second in the polls and second in the computers. Auburn (.9233) is third in each. Missouri (.8428) is fifth in each. But each of those SEC Tigers is 11-1. Ohio State is riding a 24-game winning streak.
An unbeaten team from a BCS automatic-qualifying conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and Big East, now American Athletic Conference) has never been shut out of national championship game in favor of a team with a loss.
The SEC, which has won the last seven BCS championships, would like that to change.
"Any one-loss team in the SEC (should be considered) just because of the strength of schedule," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "Hopefully that will be taken into consideration."
Jerry Palm, who analyzes the BCS for CBS.com, said there is no reason to expect the unprecedented to happen.
"I think the voters would have to abandon Ohio State, and that's never happened in the history of the BCS," he said Sunday.
Alabama (.8539) is fourth but the Tide would need both Florida State and Ohio State to lose to get back in the title conversation.
The BCS is in its last season. It will be replaced by a four-team playoff next year, which will use a selection committee to pick the teams.
Farther down the latest standings, the competition to become the last BCS buster is now a one-team race after Fresno State lost to San Jose State. It's all about Northern Illinois now.
The undefeated Huskies from the Mid-American Conference remained 14th in the standings this week. NIU, looking for its second straight BCS bid, plays Bowling Green in the MAC title game on Friday night.
The Huskies can earn an automatic BCS bid two ways:
- Finish in the top 12 of the final BCS standings.
- Finish in the top 16 of the final standings, ahead of an automatic qualifying conference champion.
The Huskies used the latter route to get to the BCS last season with one loss.
It could happen again this season. Central Florida, in line to win the American and earn its first automatic BCS bid, is ranked 16th in the latest standings and plays SMU on Saturday. It doesn't seem likely that the Knights (10-1) will pass the Huskies, so the only thing standing in the way of Northern Illinois and the BCS is Bowling Green. NIU would most likely play in the Fiesta Bowl.
No team will enter the final weekend of the regular season with a BCS bid locked up. Here are the possibilities:
- Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas are all alive to earn the Big 12 title and the conference's automatic bid to the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma State gets the bid by beating Oklahoma. If the Cowboys lose, the winner of the Baylor-Texas game gets the bid.
- The winner of the SEC championship gets an automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl.
- If Duke wins the ACC championship it will play in the Orange Bowl.
- The winner of the Pac-12 title game between Stanford and Arizona State gets a Rose Bowl bid.
- Michigan State will earn a Rose Bowl bid by beating Ohio State in the Big Ten title game, but also stands a good chance to end up in the Rose Bowl with a loss. If Ohio State plays for the national championship, the Spartans (11-1) are likely to be picked by the Rose Bowl to replace the Buckeyes.
- If UCF loses, it could create a three-way tie for the AAC title with Cincinnati and Louisville that would be settled by the BCS standings. Louisville is 19th in the standings this week, while Cincinnati is unranked.
- Alabama is a virtual lock to get an at-large bid, most likely to the Orange Bowl.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP