Clemson's path to the BCS

For the first time ever, Clemson is ranked among the top five teams in the country in the latest BCS standings.

And rightfully so.

The Tigers are one of eight undefeated teams left in college football, and one of just six teams without a loss from a "power conference." (Current undefeated teams: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Clemson, Stanford, Boise State, Houston and Kansas State.)

While the ACC is certainly far from the kingpin of college football, Clemson is the only team in the nation this year to beat No. 12 Virginia Tech.

The Tigers also have two other wins against ranked opponents on their resume, including defending National Champion Auburn.

Futhermore, after Saturday's 59-point outburst against North Carolina, speculation is already building that Clemson will jump undefeated Boise State and move as high as No. 4 in the BCS rankings.

If this turns out to be the case, the stakes for the 2011 season just went up in a significant way. (And even if it doesn't, as long as Clemson keeps winning it will likely jump the Broncos at a later date.)

While there's always been talk amongst fans about National Championship possibilities, it became much more real last night with Texas Tech's upset of No. 3 Oklahoma and Michigan State's win over No. 4 Wisconsin.

So what will it take for Clemson to play for the BCS Championship this season?

The answers aren't nearly as complicated as what they were one week ago, thanks in part to the upsets mentioned above, a closer-than-expected win by Boise State over a .500 Air Force team and another Clemson win.

For starters, the Tigers must win every regular season game and the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

There is no scenario in which Clemson loses any of its remaining games and still plays for the BCS Championship.

In addition, Clemson must also have Oklahoma State lose one game as well. The Cowboys are set to be the new No. 3 team in the BCS rankings this week.

The good news is Oklahoma State still has a matchup with top 10 Kansas State, a road game at nationally ranked Texas Tech and top 15 Oklahoma still on the schedule.

The bad news is the Big 12 has no championship game this season after Nebraska and Colorado bolted for the Big 10 and Pac 12 conferences, respectfully, after last year.

That's one less opportunity for a slip up.

The bottom line here is if Clemson remains unbeaten and Oklahoma State loses just one game, the Tigers obviously get the edge.

Clemson is just one of six teams from a power conference still unbeaten this season. (Roy Philpott)
The other team could cause issues for the Tigers is undefeated Stanford. The Cardinal have Andrew Luck, the future overall No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft under center, and gaudy numbers on the scoreboard this season- including Saturday night's 65-21 win over No. 25 Washington.

In addition, no team has played Stanford closer this season than Arizona, which lost by 27 points last month.

Again, the good news is the schedule is favorable, from the orange and white perspective.

Next week Stanford travels to Southern California, which is fresh off an impressive road win over an improved Notre Dame team, plus No. 10 Oregon on Nov. 12, and Notre Dame, in addition to the Pac 12 Championship game (likely Arizona State).

As far as Boise State is concerned, right or wrong, the No. 5 Broncos have no more ranked teams on left on their schedule and that likely spells doom for their National Championship chances.

After a lackluster performance against Air Force this weekend, Boise State is likely set to fall below Clemson and Stanford in the BCS rankings later this evening. Again, assuming Clemson wins out, it would be awfully difficult for the Broncos to regain their previous advantage over the Tigers, if not impossible.

At that point, Clemson would have wins over at least five ranked opponents, compared to the Broncos lone win against No. 19 Georgia way back in the first week of the season.

Again, right or wrong, Clemson will get the edge in that matchup 100 percent of the time.

Meanwhile, the final two teams ranked ahead of the Tigers in the BCS last week, LSU and Alabama, square off on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, Ala., with the loser likely out of the National Championship hunt if an undefeated team from a power conference, like Clemson, remains after the first week in December.

Kansas State could also still be a factor if it runs the table, but the Wildcats schedule down the stretch likely lends itself at least to one loss with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas A&M still left.

Confused yet? Don't be.

Here's the quick and dirty breakdown of what has to happen:

1. Clemson has to run the table and win the ACC Championship.
2. Oklahoma State has to lose one game.
3. Stanford likely has to lose one game.
4. Kansas State likely has to lose one game.

While it wouldn't be a stone-cold lock Clemson would play for the National Championship if those four things happen, there's a very high probability it would.

It is certainly possible a one-loss LSU or one-loss Alabama would command enough respect to make things interesting versus an undefeated Clemson team, especially if the Nov. 5 matchup is close.

But even then, it would be awfully hard to justify a rematch of two teams within the same division from the same conference - even the SEC - over unbeaten Clemson.

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