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Alabama set to grab pole position in BCS race

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The first BCS standings of the season come out Sunday. Is this important?

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Well, sort of.

Since the BCS was implemented in 1998, only twice has neither of the teams ranked first or second in the initial standings reached the national title game.

Seven out of 13 teams that started No. 1 in the standings played for the national championship. Six times the second-place team in the first standings played for the BCS title.

Four times a team has started third and finished in the top two, and four times a team has started fourth and played in the big game.

Six teams have come from fifth place or farther back to reach the championship game. LSU started the farthest back in 2003 at No. 12.

Conclusion: Just like in auto racing, it helps to start in the front row, but expect some passing and maybe a wreck or two.

The coaches' poll and the Harris poll are the driving forces behind the BCS standings. A compilation of six computer rankings also count for a third of a BCS rating, but essentially the computers break ties when two teams are very close in the polls.

Alabama, an overwhelming No. 1 in the polls, is just about a lock to be first when the standings are released Sunday, barring a major upset of the Crimson Tide at Missouri on Saturday.

The Tigers are still looking for their first Southeastern Conference victory, coming off a loss to Vanderbilt, and they will be without injured starting quarterback James Franklin (knee). So good luck beating `Bama.

Oregon is off this week and stands a good chance to be right behind Alabama in the BCS standings, just as it is in the polls. The Ducks are a solid No. 2 in both.

The computer ratings going into this weekend treat Notre Dame a bit better than the pollsters. The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh in the polls, but first in two of the five computer ratings that have already been released. A sixth doesn't start coming out until Sunday.

And with the Irish facing another strong opponent Saturday, at home against Stanford, don't be surprised to see Notre Dame ahead in the BCS standings of some teams that it trails in the polls if it beats the Cardinal.

The most important thing to remember is this: Don't get too worked up. There are plenty of games to be played.

Wait about a month or so, and then get worked up.

The picks:

SATURDAY

No. 1 Alabama (minus 21 1/2) at Missouri

You know who is enjoying the Tigers' first season in the SEC? Kansas fans ... ALABAMA 38-13.

No. 3 South Carolina (plus 2 1/2) at No. 9 LSU

Death Valley won't be so intimidating if Tigers can't fix their offense ... SOUTH CAROLINA 17-13

No. 4 Florida (minus 7 1/2) at Vanderbilt

Gators have won 21 straight against Commodores ... FLORIDA 17-9.

No. 5 West Virginia (minus 4 1/2) at Texas Tech

Can Mountaineers stay focused in between trip to Texas and home game against K-State? ... TEXAS TECH 38-35.

No. 6 Kansas State (minus 6 1/2) at Iowa State

Wildcats have won four straight in series, all by eight or less ... KANSAS STATE 28-24.

No. 17 Stanford (plus 8 1/2) at No. 7 Notre Dame

Cardinal have won three straight against Irish ... NOTRE DAME 23-13.

No. 8 Ohio State (minus 17) at Indiana

Braxton Miller Heisman hype picking up steam ... OHIO STATE 40-17.

No. 10 Oregon State (plus 6) at BYU

QB injuries have both teams scrambling ... BYU 12-10.

No. 11 Southern California (minus 12) at Washington

Trojans are second-most penalized team in the nation at 10 per game ... USC 28-17.

Boston College (plus 28) at No. 12 Florida State

Seminoles return home in a bad mood ... FLORIDA STATE 45-14.

No. 13 Oklahoma (minus 3) vs. No. 15 Texas at Dallas

Big 12 elimination game; one group of fans is going to be really ticked off ... OKLAHOMA 28-27.

No. 18 Louisville (minus 3) at Pittsburgh

Panthers have been a hard team to decipher ... LOUISVILLE 28-24.

UPSET SPECIAL

Tennessee (plus 3) at No. 19 Mississippi State

Huge game for Vols with Alabama, South Carolina up next ... TENNESSEE 35-31.

Syracuse (plus 7) at No. 20 Rutgers

Orange DE Brandon Sharpe had four sacks vs. Pitt last week ... RUTGERS 21-13.

Fordham (no line) at No. 21 Cincinnati

Been a long time since the Seven Blocks of Granite were playing for Fordham ... CINCINNATI 58-10.

BEST BET

No. 22 Texas A&M (minus 8) vs. No. 23 Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, La.

Biggest hurdle between Bulldogs and BCS bid ... TEXAS A&M 52-24.

Fresno State (plus 7) at No. 24 Boise State

Conference rivals again, Broncos have won six straight in series ... BOISE STATE 31-21.

Illinois (plus 23 1/2) at No. 25 Michigan

Denard Robinson coming off 235-yard rushing performance against Purdue ... MICHIGAN 39-14.

---

Last week's record: 15-5 (straight); 11-7 (vs. points)

Season record: 101-20 (straight); 58-46 (vs. points)

Best bets: 2-4.

Upset specials: 3-3.

---

Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdursso

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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