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.”
TOM LUICCI, Newark Star-Ledger
“I generally use several variables — and just for background I have been covering college football for 32 years now. First, I give victories weight as they happen — to keep them in context. So if Oklahoma beats Texas when Texas is ranked, that's how I view that, even if Texas then winds up 6-6. I also go back and then review the entire season based on the way things stand as of that moment. When you have this many one-loss teams with strong cases for being the top one-loss team, I put a lot of stock in quality road wins and bad home losses. That's how you have to start separating teams, because a lot of them will get to 9-1 or 10-1 with seven home games and without playing a quality opponent on the road.”
DENNY O'BRIEN, bonesville.net (East Carolina)
“For me, it comes down to how one school compares to another. I'll take a look at the entire body of work of all of them to make a determination on my final ballot.”
GEORGE SCHROEDER, Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard
“As the season progresses, I try to gauge a team's entire body of work. A bad loss is a big factor, but it's only a piece of the evaluation. I also look at which teams a team has beaten, and where those games were played, and how the wins occurred, and try to determine which team has the better overall resume. I'm also someone who believes a team should win its conference to play in the national title game. I know it isn't an official requirement — we've seen it before — but I think it should be. That said, I'm not going to automatically disqualify a team because it didn't win the conference, or because I don't want a rematch, or something like that.
At some point, this thing is a gut feel. Which team do I feel is better, and has accomplished more? Which team's body of work is better?”
Late BCS jumps
Since the current BCS formula was adopted in 2004, three times in recent years a team has jumped another in the final rankings, without a defeat involved:
Situation: On the final weekend, No. 2 USC was upset by UCLA. But No. 4 Florida beat Arkansas 38-28 in the SEC title game and jumped No. 3 Michigan (which was idle) in the rankings.
Losses: Florida had lost at Auburn 27-17 on Oct. 14; Auburn was 10-2 in the regular season. Michigan had lost 42-39 at Ohio State on Nov. 18.
Lesson: Voters did not want an Ohio State-Michigan rematch.
Situation: On the final weekend, No. 1 Missouri lost to No. 9 Oklahoma 38-17 in the Big 12 title game; No. 2 West Virginia lost 13-9 at home to Pittsburgh; No. 6 Virginia Tech beat Boston College 30-16 in the ACC title game; and No. 7 LSU beat Tennessee 21-14 in the SEC title game. No. 3 Ohio State, No. 4 Georgia and No. 5 Kansas were idle. Out of that carnage, Ohio State emerged No. 1 and LSU No. 2.
Losses: Missouri lost twice to Oklahoma; West Virginia also lost at South Florida in October; Ohio State lost at home to Illinois on Nov. 10; Georgia lost at home to South Carolina in September and at Tennessee in October; Kansas lost to Missouri a week earlier; Virginia Tech lost at home to Boston College on Oct. 25; LSU lost at Kentucky in October and at home to Arkansas the week before, both in multiple overtimes; and Oklahoma lost at Colorado in September and at Texas Tech on Nov. 17.
Lesson: Voters look at things like overtime losses, which can soften a defeat, and conference championships.
Situation: No. 2 Texas, No. 3 OU and No. 7 Texas Tech were in a three-way tie for the Big 12 South Division, with the BCS as the tiebreaker. In the weekend before the Big 12 title game, OU beat OSU 61-41, Texas beat Texas A&M 49-9 and Tech beat Baylor 35-28. OU jumped Texas to win the tiebreaker and advanced on to the Big 12 title game and ultimately the national championship game.
Losses: OU lost to Texas 45-35 on Oct. 11, Texas lost to Tech 39-33 on Nov. 1 and Tech lost to OU 65-21 on Nov. 22.
Lesson: The computer rankings still pack a punch. OU's prowess in the computers lifted it over Texas.