The polls say California is the No. 2 college football team in the country, but when the first Bowl Championship Series standings are released Sunday afternoon on Fox, Ohio State could claim the second spot.
After last week's games, analyst Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com had the Buckeyes No. 2 in his projected standings. However, Palm says it's too difficult to predict who will be No. 2 Sunday assuming LSU, Cal and Ohio State win.
"Since Cal and Ohio State are so close, it won't take a lot to flip them," Palm says. "For example, if Cal struggles against Oregon State and Ohio State blows up Kent State, Ohio State would be No. 2 in the polls (USA TODAY Coaches and Harris). Or turn it around and say Cal wins big and Ohio State struggles, and all of a sudden, Cal's thin margin over Ohio State is huge."
Ohio State is No. 4 to Cal's No. 5 in the projected computer average, though Palm cautions, "There's a lot of variance in the computers this time of year." The average of six computers and the two polls go into the BCS formula.
If the top three in the coaches' poll LSU, Cal and Ohio State stay undefeated, expect LSU to hold onto the top spot and a close race for No. 2 the second half of the season, Palm said. The Bears still must face No. 7 Southern California and No. 13 Arizona State. The Buckeyes have No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 19 Illinois and rival Michigan. The Tigers' toughest remaining stretch comes Saturday at No. 18 Kentucky, followed by No. 25 Auburn next week.
Because every other highly ranked undefeated team is still in the BCS title race, Palm says, "The general rule of thumb is don't overreact to what you see this week, because this isn't the one that counts."
Though this stupefying season has shown anything can happen, history says at least one of the top two in the initial BCS standings will make it to the title game Jan. 7 in New Orleans. In the last eight years, at least one of the top two in the first set of BCS standings has played for the championship. The only exception is 1998, the first year of the BCS. In every year but one, the teams in the title game were no lower than sixth in the initial standings. In 2003, LSU was 12th and went on to win the title game.