STILLWATER — In an age where polls, computers and formulas still determine which two teams will play for the college football national championship, the only thing Oklahoma State can control is winning the remaining four games on its regular season schedule.
And according to BCS guru Jerry Palm, that will be enough for the Cowboys to reach the BCS title game.
If No. 3 OSU wins out, Palm does not expect the Cowboys to be passed in the BCS standings at any point. Not by an undefeated Stanford. Not by an undefeated Boise State. Not by the loser of the matchup between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama that will be played Saturday.
“They're in control of their own destiny,” said Palm, who owns and operates CollegeBCS.com. “Everybody else is chasing them.”
That's because the computers, which make up one-third of the BCS formula, have loved both the Big 12 and the Cowboys since the initial BCS standings were released almost three weeks ago.
Five of the six computer rankings currently have OSU at No. 1. The one that does not is Richard Billingsley's Report on Major College Football, which has the Cowboys ranked second behind LSU because of the Tigers' slight edge in strength of schedule.
But Billingsley said OSU will not fall out of the top 2 of his rankings if the Cowboys finish the season undefeated. And in the 13 seasons of the BCS' existence, Billingsley's top 2 teams at the end of the season have played for the national title 12 times.
“Everything seems to have just come together for (OSU) at the right time,” said Billingsley, who lives in Hugo. “They've got a great team in the same season that they're playing a difficult schedule. That's the key to winning national championships.”
The current gap between OSU (.9310) and No. 4 Stanford (.8615) is fairly significant by BCS standards. And even though the Cardinal still has No. 8 Oregon and potentially the Pac-12 championship game on the schedule, Palm said the computers will never put Stanford ahead of OSU if both teams remain unbeaten because the Cowboys still have two ranked teams to play in No. 14 Kansas State and No. 6 Oklahoma.
That means the only way Palm sees Stanford leapfrogging OSU if neither team loses is if the poll voters “turn on” the Cowboys.
“If all of a sudden the voters started moving Stanford up, then that could maybe cause Oklahoma State to get passed,” Palm said. “But realistically, that kind of thing doesn't usually happen, unless Oklahoma State starts playing bad teams badly and gives voters a reason to change their mind.”
What else would help cement the Cowboys' BCS future? If OU keeps winning before it comes to Stillwater. Another Sooner loss, Billingsley said, could hurt OSU in his rankings because it would make OU a less “attractive” opponent.
“It's rather ironic, isn't it?” Billingsley said. “The Sooner fans and the Cowboy fans have such a bitter rivalry, but they really need to be rooting for one another right now. Because the higher that both of those teams are ranked, the better it's going to be for the winner of the Bedlam game.
“Now you've got to root for your rival, so when you beat them, you look better.”
Cap a perfect regular season with that marquee victory, and the Cowboys should clinch a spot in the national title game — no matter what the rest of the nation's unbeaten teams do the remainder of the year.