Ohio State has been banished from the No. 1 spot. Oregon has joined LSU as the mathematical favorite to land a berth in the BCS championship game, much to the dismay of the Big 12's upper echelon.
College football demands a playoff system if its national champion warrants a coronation absent an asterisk. To dismiss, based on computer computations, the possibility that Kansas is better than Oregon, or that West Virginia suffers from being under-challenged, is to suggest that games everyone says aren't played on paper really are.
If college football went to an eight-team playoff these would, as of the moment, be the most deserving teams. Five of the eight still have a shot at the contrived NCAA title game:
LSU: How might this program have dominated the last few years if Nick Saban had remained instead of making a short-lived jump to the NFL? Still, the Tigers once again look like the best team in the land. Neither Mississippi nor Arkansas will block their path to the SEC title game, where a date with either Georgia or Tennessee awaits. That overtime loss to Kentucky is an acceptable blemish on the record. In fact, any team that goes unbeaten in the SEC should just be flat-out declared the national champ.
Oregon: No Goliaths to contend with in its final three games, two of which are on the road: at Arizona and UCLA. The Ducks have the offensive clout to give LSU a battle in the title game, which might have an over-under of 80. Wins over USC and Arizona State more than offset an earlier loss to Cal.
Oklahoma: Loss at Colorado in late September remains a drag on its BCS ranking even though the Sooners have dominated since that humbling defeat. Should surge past Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in its final two contests, setting up a Big 12 Conference championship game with either Kansas or Missouri. It would be hard to justify the Sooners sitting out the BCS grand finale if they run the table.
Kansas: Off to its first 10-0 start since 1899 but let's not get carried away. Jayhawks are devoid of victories of distinction unless one cites a win over Kansas State, which was ranked No. 24 at the time but has since settled into .500 territory. The first real test comes in the Nov. 24 game against Missouri that should decide the divisional championship and a date with Oklahoma in the conference title game. Same as the Sooners, if the Jayhawks keeping winning, what's the rationale for denying them a berth in the big game?
West Virginia: The Mountaineers deserve a playoff berth but their late-September loss at South Florida was their death as far as the BCS title game is concerned. The Big East was college football's early season darling with Rutgers and South Florida on the rise. No more. A Nov. 24 clash with UConn could determine whether the Mountaineers get a BCS bowl bid or slip a level.
Missouri: Season-opening win over Illinois gained more weight after the Illini knocked off Ohio State. A victory at Kansas in season-ender would give the Tigers a chance to avenge an earlier 41-31 loss at Oklahoma.Ohio State: The Buckeyes' national championship hopes were cooked with a home loss to Illinois on Saturday, and it's just as well. A much stronger Ohio State team was thrashed by Florida in last year's title game.
Hawaii: The Rainbows are another example why there's a dire need for a playoff system. Boise State was groveling for respect until beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last year. Hawaii gets Boise on Nov. 23, the outcome determining its major bowling chances.