Who has the best shot to run the BCS gauntlet?

The polls have had their say and no the computer rankings have caluclated who the top teams in college football are. Alabama is number one, Florida State is second and Oregon and Ohio State are hoping to wiggle in to one of the top two spots over the next seven weeks. Fire up the engines because the race to Pasadena is officially underway. Now the question is which of the BCS contenders has the best chance to get to the BCS Championship with one of those top two rankings that awards a chance to play for the crystal ball.

1. Alabama

Why They Will Get There: Simply put, Alabama is the best team in the country. You would think by now we are wise enough to not question Nick Saban’s program because everytime one is raised about Alabama the Crimson Tide go out and flex their muscle on the scoreboard. Alabama remains the favorite to win the SEC championship, and that has been the ticket to a BCS Championship six out of the last seven seasons. Alabama continues to lead the way in the human polls by taking first place in the Harris poll and the USA Today coaches poll. The computers also respect Alabama as well, ranking the Crimson Tide secodn in the computer rankings used for the BCS standings.

What’s Stoping Them: The SEC has been beating up on its own this season. Take last week for exmaple. South Carolina, Georgia and Florida all lost on the road to pave the road for Missouri in the SEC East. In the west we saw LSU and Texas A&M each stumble. No team appears to be safe in the SEC, and now all sights are set on Alabama’s attempt to get through the regular season unscathed. The two games that stand out are against LSU at home and the road game at Auburn. When LSU is playing their best football they may be one of the most complete teams in the SEC. Auburn has surged this season and comes off a win over Texas A&M on the road. This year’s Iron Bowl could be wildly entertaining. The SEC East may not have a team capable of running with Alabama, but in a one-game situation like that you just never know.

Outlook: Even if Alabama gets tripped up along the way, they may still lead the pack of one-loss teams, so the odds may still be in Alabama’s favor. Bottom line, it is probably going to take two losses to knock Alabama out of contention. It’s not impossible to see happening, but it is not at all very likely.

2. Florida State

Why They Will Get There: The Seminoles have the head start by starting the BCS portion of the season ranked secodn in the polls. After blowing away Clemson the pollsters have been quick to react, but the computers responded even more. Florida State jumped up to third in the human polls but first in the computer rankings. Florida State will have some chances to pad their profile as well, with what could be another battle of top ten programs in a couple of weeks when they face (potnetially) undefeated Miami, and of course they will play the regular season finale against their SEC rival Florida. As long as Florida State can avoid a letdown against North Carolina State this weekend, the chances could start to look pretty good for the Seminoles if they continue to play the way they have proven capable of doing. It will help Florida State’s cause if Florida can bounce back in to the top 25 by the end of the regular season to add one more win over a ranked team and if they could face Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game instead of a rematch with Miami. The Hokies are currently ranked 14th in the BCS and could crack the top ten if they reach the ACC title game. Florida State will be pulling for the Hokies to finish strong to provide one last respected opponent.

What’s Stoping Them: The computer polls may be in love with Florida State now, but will they still have the same outlook after Oregon plays UCLA and Stanford and Oregon State? If the numbers being crunched come down to Florida State and Oregon, which school will have the advantage? This could be something that comes back to hurt Florida State, especially if Clemson takes another hit or two (they do play South Carolina of course) or possibly if they have to play Miami a second time. Maybe Florida State has the computers in their favor, I’m not sure, but if they slip from first in the computers one or two spots, that could end up making a difference in the final BCS standings.

Outlook: Florida State is as desrerving of this spot as anyone right now, but their outlook is certainly a question mark. If this Florida State team is different from teams of past years, then the Seminoles will avoid the inevitable letdown game. There appears to be something different about this team though, and that is very encouraging. Ultimately I think they get passed by another team if the records are identical, but who wouldn’t want to be in Florida State’s position right now?

3. Oregon

Why They Will Get There: Oregon is the second best team in the country and they will have their chance to start making their case this weekend and next. Orgeon hosts UCLA, who despite losing to Stanford last weekend is still considered the Pac 12 South favorite, and travels to Stanford next week. If Oregon wins both of those games, then the computers should start swinging in their favor to close the gap on Florida State. After that, Oregon should be able to keep pace in the BCS race on their way to a trip to Pasadena. The key game may actually be The Civil War, the regular season finale against Oregon State. People have forgotten about Oregon State since losing to Eastern Washington in the first week of the year, but they may be the team that is most capable of knocking the Pac 12 out of the BCS picture entirely.

What’s Stoping Them: Stanford still has the defense that can slow down Oregon’s offense like few others may be able to, and playing in Palo Alto has seen Stanford play pretty well in big conference games this season. If there is one team likely to beat Oregon, it is Stanford, and given the timing of the game it may be enough to keep Oregon out of the BCS hunt.