Undefeated Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Ohio State are positioned Nos. 1-4 in the latest BCS rankings. Right behind them are the Stanford Cardinal at No. 5, still the highest ranked team with a loss this season, and best positioned if (or when) another chaotic November ensues.
Little has come easily for Stanford in its 7-1 start, which needed another final-drive stand to hold off Oregon State. The Cardinal played three single-score games this month and a fourth dogfight that required a fourth-quarter touchdown to pull away late.
Still, head coach David Shaw's team is no worse for the wear. In fact, its last four games—plus a fifth early matchup with Arizona State—are central to Stanford's No. 5 BCS ranking.
The Cardinal are the rare bunch with two BCS Top 25 wins, earned in back-to-back games against current No. 20 UCLA and last week's No. 25, Oregon State.
Arizona State appears in this week's Associated Press Top 25, and the fast-rising Sun Devils could climb into the BCS standings with a Halloween night victory over Washington State to give Stanford a third BCS win.
Each of the top four has just one Top 25 win. Though its loss at Utah is an unfortunate pockmark on Stanford's docket, it’s more impressive overall than the Cardinal’s counterparts.
Climbing past three teams to reach one of the top-two spots necessary to play in the BCS Championship game might seem arduous. However, a team ranked No. 5 or lower in the second standings has played for the national title in six of the 15 BCS-era seasons.
|BCS Championship Teams at No. 5 or Lower Through Two Rankings|
|Season||Team (Second BCS Ranking)||Record|
|1998||Florida State (6)||8-1|
|2002||Ohio State (5)||9-0|
|2012||Notre Dame (5)||7-0|
Stanford's Nov. 7 date with Oregon has loomed large from the moment the 2013 schedule was released. The Cardinal have a Week 10 bye in preparation for that highly anticipated rematch of last season’s classic.
Shaw said after Saturday’s win that Stanford has work to do to keep up with the second-ranked Ducks, per GoStanford.com.
I’m already done thinking about Oregon State and the effort tonight, but it wasn’t good enough to beat Oregon or good enough to be in the game against Oregon. So, we have a bunch of stuff that we need to make sure we do in the next 12...days to play one of the best teams in the nation.
A repeat of last year’s win takes care of one of the four ahead of Stanford. Recent November precedent suggests at least one other shakeup. Teams either entering November ranked in the Top Two or elevating to the Top Two in November have lost a game in every season dating back to 2005.
Take care of business, and Stanford ends the regular season with the most impressive list of victories in the nation. The Cardinal's biennial, Thanksgiving weekend game with Notre Dame also takes on added significance with the Fighting Irish entering the rankings at No. 25.
With the best-case scenario, Stanford could head into the conference championship game with six Top 25 wins.