The BCS national title race remains firmly in the control of No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State, two teams destined for 11-0 records following this week’s respective mismatches against Chattanooga, an FCS school, and Idaho, a 1-9 team.
That means the earliest we can realistically see a shakeup at the top of the BCS standings will be Nov. 30, when both teams play on the road in rivalry games: Alabama (10-0) meets No. 6 Auburn (10-1) and FSU (10-0) visits Florida (4-6).
But this is the week No. 4 Baylor (9-0, 6-0 Big 12) needs to position itself to take advantage of a future shakeup, if it occurs.
The Bears get an all-day opportunity to sway poll voters Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., and need to take advantage of the heightened exposure to pass No. 3 Ohio State (10-0) in next week’s BCS standings.
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A victory Saturday against No. 10 Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1) in a national telecast (7 p.m., WFAA/Ch. 8), preceded by hours of Baylor-related discussions during ESPN College GameDay’s morning telecast from Stillwater, could do wonders for pushing the Bears past Ohio State to become the BCS challenger-in-waiting if one of the frontrunners stumbles before the national title matchup is set Dec. 8.
Although the Bears made progress Sunday, they still need more love from voters and computer programmers to slip past Ohio State into the pivotal third spot in the BCS standings. But not much help in either area. Baylor finished with an .886 average in Sunday’s BCS standings, just .001 behind Ohio State (.887).
A victory over the Cowboys would help on both fronts, almost certainly pushing Baylor into the No. 3 spot next week. The move, frankly, is overdue. If Baylor beats Oklahoma State, the Bears would have their second victory in three weeks over a top 10 team. Ohio State, by comparison, has not faced one.
Baylor closed within 18 points of Ohio State in Sunday’s coaches’ poll, a part of the BCS formula. The separation between teams in BCS calculations is so small that if three additional coaches (out of 62) had flip-flopped the schools, Baylor already would be No. 3. Without question, the Bears climb next week if voters witness a win in Stillwater. Coupled with the computer boost the Bears would get from that triumph, this looms as the week Baylor must pass and put some distance between itself and Ohio State.
Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon said players are prepared to seize their opportunity after securing a school-record 13th consecutive victory, dating to last season, with a 63-34 win over Texas Tech at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“We’ve fought our butts off to get where we are,” Dixon said. “It’s fun to be a part of this team. I’m looking forward to getting out to Oklahoma State.”
Historically, trips to Stillwater have not been good to Baylor. The Bears are 0-9 at Oklahoma State in the Big 12 era. The school’s last victory in that venue came in 1939. But in a history-making year for Baylor football, what’s another milestone?
“Big game coming up,” quarterback Bryce Petty said. “These are the ones that you dream about and we’re playing with a lot of confidence. We’ve known since spring that this was going to be a special team.”
What happens Saturday will determine how special this season becomes for the only Baylor football team ever to start a season with a 9-0 record.
• The loser of the Baylor-Oklahoma State game projects to be the frontrunner to grab the Big 12 slot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3 in Arlington against an SEC opponent. That would change if the Bears lose but still land an at-large BCS bowl berth. Likely SEC candidates to wind up in Arlington include Auburn, South Carolina and Missouri.
• The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl needs an opponent for Navy (6-4), which has accepted its bid to play in the Dec. 30 contest in Fort Worth. Navy will face a Mountain West opponent, with the winner of Saturday’s game between Colorado State (6-5) and Utah State (6-4) a solid candidate to wind up in Fort Worth.
• Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, begins a two-week road trip to close the season that will go a long way toward determining if he joins former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974-75) as the only two-time Heisman recipient. No. 12 A&M (8-2, 4-2 SEC) plays Saturday at No. 22 LSU (7-3, 3-3), followed by its Nov. 30 finale at No. 8 Missouri (9-1, 5-1).
• North Texas (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) controls its destiny in the C-USA West Division race and plays a pivotal game Saturday against UTSA (5-5, 4-2), the last remaining division title contender on UNT’s schedule. After Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. showdown in Denton, the Mean Green closes the season Nov. 30 at Tulsa (2-8, 1-5).
• Because of league tiebreakers, No. 11 South Carolina (8-2, 6-2 SEC) would be the first team to land a berth in this year’s SEC Championship Game on Dec. 7 if Missouri falls in Saturday’s game at No. 24 Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3). South Carolina won the teams’ head-to-head meeting and will represent the East Division if Missouri loses either of its remaining games to West Division foes Ole Miss or A&M (8-2, 4-2).