Barring a massive upset in the Civil War, the Stanford Cardinal might not be going to the Pac-12 title game, which means that Andrew Luck will probably not be heading to Pasadena this season. But their improbable BCS title hopes are incredibly still alive.
Yes people, Stanford can go to the BCS championship game if the cards fall their way. But probably more importantly, an at-large bid that guarantees their BCS bid is still well within their sites.
Right now, Stanford is ranked sixth in the latest BCS rankings. Thus there are three teams standing in their way for that second spot: The Alabama Crimson Tide, the Oklahoma St. Cowboys, and the Virginia Tech Hokies. (It's debatable as to why Oklahoma State losing to Iowa State or Virginia Tech losing to
It figures that the LSU Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks are playing what amounts to a BCS title game eliminator. If Arkansas wins, they're likely to jump up to one or two in the rankings and have a solid shot at getting to the BCS title game (although they'd need Alabama probably to lose that, as Tony Barnhart explained). If LSU wins, they pretty much punch their ticket to New Orleans.
So what's left for Stanford to root for, presuming they beat Notre Dame on Saturday night?
The Iron Bowl: Alabama has been rusty since their tilt for the ages with LSU, so it wouldn't be surprising if their rivals managed to catch them with their pants down. The Auburn Tigers would love nothing more than to spoil any hopes of Alabama rematching in the BCS title game this year and spoil any SEC-fanfest that'll likely be sounding off for the next six weeks in anticipation of that game.
Alabama losing to Auburn kills the SEC rematch, opening the door for many other contenders and moves Stanford one spot up. Who's left that the Cardinal need to fall?
Bedlam: Oklahoma State royally screwed the pooch on Friday night and opened the door for Oklahoma (who proceeded to screw the pooch themselves). Both face each other for what amounts to a Big 12 title game two weeks from now, but if Alabama loses the Iron Bowl, Oklahoma State is right back in the thick of things for the title. This game could still have national significance, even if it's no longer the play-in game for the championship that everyone thought it would be a month ago.
There's one last team that Stanford needs to fall to have any hope at the BCS championship, and (probably frustratingly to the Cardinal) it's the team they blew up a year ago in the Orange Bowl. Virginia Tech is shockingly very much in the BCS title hunt. All they need is to win out. They have a road test upcoming against Virginia and they have to beat Clemson in the ACC title game, both who are decently ranked opponents.
If two of those three events above occur, Stanford will be right there in the top four and earn the automatic bid that all BCS people fear they'll earn, and will no longer have to worry about being snubbed. If all three occur? The Cardinal could still very well get that championship bid that Andrew Luck was seeking when he came back to college.
It's not likely. But this has been an unlikely season, and Stanford will take whatever way they can to get to the title game.