Commentary

Ranking second-tier BCS contenders

How Alabama, Arkansas, Boise, Oklahoma and Oregon can get to the title game

Updated: November 10, 2011, 10:56 AM ET
By Brad Edwards | ESPN Insider
Trent RichardsonSpruce Derden/US PresswireTrent Richardson and Alabama are still alive to make the BCS title game.

With the dust having now settled from the Tussle in Tuscaloosa, the pecking order at the front of the national championship race seems very clear.

The No. 1 LSU Tigers have a nearly perfect BCS average and control their own path to the BCS title game in New Orleans. The Oklahoma State Cowboys are ranked No. 2 this week and, because of their sparkling computer ratings, also seem to be three more wins away from playing for the championship. The No. 4 Stanford Cardinal are currently being held back by the BCS computers because of a relatively weak schedule over the season's first two months, and while those computer numbers would improve enough to allow an undefeated Stanford to eventually pass a once-beaten Alabama team, the Cardinal almost certainly need a loss by LSU or Oklahoma State to find their way into the BCS title game.

But the next tier of teams is where the race gets really interesting. If Oklahoma State and Stanford both lose a game between now and Dec. 3, this has the potential to become one of the most competitive and controversial BCS finishes ever.

Any team ranked in the BCS top 10 at this stage of the season has a legitimate argument for why it should be considered a title contender. Every team in this second tier, however, also has reasons why people will say it doesn't belong in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. Based on all of those factors, here's how this group -- Alabama, Arkansas, Boise State, Oklahoma and Oregon -- seems to stack up at the moment.

(Note: These teams are ranked in order of likelihood to make the title game, and the number to the right of each represents the team's current rank in the BCS standings.)

1. Alabama Crimson Tide (No. 3 in the BCS standings)

Argument for: The Crimson Tide may be one of the top two teams in the nation, regardless of whether Oklahoma State and Stanford lose. And Bama looked like the slightly better team for four quarters in its loss to No. 1 LSU.

Argument against: Alabama lost a huge, late-season game on its home field. If LSU finishes undefeated and is ranked No. 1, putting the Tide at No. 2 in the final BCS standings would create a rematch for the national title. And remember, under this scenario, Bama would not have won its division of the SEC.

Ideal scenario: Oklahoma State and Stanford both lose on Saturday, and Boise State wins out.

• Analyzes college football and the BCS as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app