Oklahoma State's loss at Iowa State on Friday night cost the Cowboys control of their own destiny in reaching the national championship game. But it did not cost the Cowboys their dream of making it to New Orleans.
If top-ranked LSU beats No. 3 Arkansas on Friday, the Cowboys figure to be no worse than third when they host Bedlam on Dec. 3.
With a victory, OSU would need poll voters to jump the Cowboys ahead of Alabama, which already has had its shot at LSU, in a 9-6 overtime loss on Nov. 5.
An Alabama-OSU debate could come down to a long-standing college football question. Which matters more, who a team beat or who a team lost to?
Alabama has the much better loss, but OSU would have more quality wins.
The Oklahoman contacted several voters in the Harris and coaches polls and asked them how they prioritize a team's resume'.
The Oklahoman also takes a look at three seasons since 2004, when the current BCS model was instituted, in which one team jumped another team in the final rankings without the higher-ranked team losing.
The voters speak
FRANK BEAMER, Virginia Tech coach
“I think you look at every one on their own. And try to figure out where that deserves to go. A bad loss affects your thinking, certainly, and a great win affects your thinking. To say one's more important than the other, I think you take it all. Who did you beat and was it a good team? Who'd you lose to and was it a bad team?”
ROBERT GAGLIARDI, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
“I try and approach things on a week-by-week basis, and as the cliché goes, you're only as good as your last game. In this process, bad losses have less effect for me the earlier they are in the season, and good wins hold a little more clout since it's the stretch run of the season and usually have bigger ramifications in terms of conference title, rankings, etc. Big wins also mean more to me with those wins come on the road.”
JIM GROBE, Wake Forest coach
“I try to look as much as possible to the games they've played that week, then also strength of schedule. Quality wins are really, really important. I consider a bad loss to be to a team that maybe you should have beaten and didn't get the job done, I think that's a problem. So many times, teams are losing to great teams. When you play a really, really good team close and lose, there's nothing wrong with that.”
TOMMY HICKS, Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register
“As I would assume the other voters do, I determine my rankings by a lot of factors. Certainly, weighing good wins vs. bad losses is part of the equation, as is consistency of play from the start of the season to the moment of the vote. Head-to-head results, when applicable, are also a key factor for me. Admittedly, gut feeling plays a role as well; often, you simply have to vote based on the comparison of two teams and working your way through down the ballot.”
BLAIR KERKHOFF, Kansas City Star
“Each Sunday before voting, I take a legal pad and list teams by losses; groups of 0-loss teams, one-loss teams, two-loss teams. Next to them I list the losses and good victories (and whether home/road). This becomes my guidepost. I'm not locked into anything, I just want to see how things stack up. I'll consider other factors such as ease/difficult of winning, whether a team is playing well for an extended length of time, conference strength and nonconference scheduling risks, then come up with a top 25.”
MIKE KERN, Philadelphia Daily News
“Without getting specific, I've always tried to judge it, especially at the end, on a body of work. I look at who you played, and how well you played against them. So if everything else were fairly even, a bad loss, especially at home, might be the determining factor. Not sure until I actually see how it plays out. The really confusing scenario is going to be if the SEC West ends in a three-way tie. Then all hell breaks loose. That's why us voters get the big bucks, I guess.”