The fourth-ranked Stanford Cardinal wrapped up their 2011 college football regular season last week when they defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 28-14. They climbed up to fourth in the BCS rankings, which if the ranking holds will guarantee them a spot in a BCS bowl.
Now the Cardinal get to wait for conference championship games this weekend before they have an even better clue as to their final destination during the bowl season. Stanford is surrounded by several teams with games still to be played, which could result in their rise or fall in the rankings. Additionally, there are games that impact their bowl positioning even without impacting their rankings.
Virginia Tech vs. Clemson, ACC Championship Game
If the Virginia Tech Hokies defeat the Clemson Tigers, there is a chance Virginia Tech could climb ahead of Stanford in the Week 15 BCS rankings. There is a decent amount of distance between Tech and Stanford, so there is no guarantee of that. Virginia Tech is No. 3 in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and is unlikely to climb above No. 2 Alabama. Tech is No. 4 in the Harris Poll, with Stanford at No. 3. Again, while they might move past Stanford, they are unlikely to move past Alabama.
This means the Hokies would need to make some moves in the BCS computer rankings to get past Stanford. They rank tenth in the computers while Stanford ranks fourth, which accounts for almost the entire deficit in the BCS rating. Stanford would probably need teams like Oklahoma, Oregon, Houston and Boise State to all lose for Virginia Tech to pass Stanford. Anything is possible, but Stanford looks relatively secure.
Oklahoma State vs. Oklahoma, De Factor Big 12 Championship Game
Stanford could also breathe a little bit easier if Oklahoma knocked off Oklahoma State. That would knock the BCS No. 3 Cowboys down and potentially behind both Stanford and Virginia Tech. Again, this really doesn't matter if Tech does not get the help it needs to climb in the computer ratings, but it is worth noting. Stanford likely cannot climb into the No. 2 position in the BCS, so getting up as high as No. 3 before the start of the bowls is all they have left.
Oregon vs. UCLA, Pac-12 Championship Game
The inaugural Pac-12 title game only impacts Stanford if they drop out of the top four. If that happens and UCLA somehow shocked the world and upset Oregon, Stanford could find itself off to the Alamo Bowl with Oregon taking their BCS at-large berth. Odds are relatively low Stanford drops out of the top four, and the odds are even lower that Oregon loses to UCLA.
We'll be here through the weekend tracking how Stanford's BCS chances ebb and flow with each of the games.