Ranking the BCS contenders

Alabama has a clear path to the title game, while Baylor and Ohio State need some help. Getty Images, Icon SMI

Discussion about the national championship race has intensified since the release of the initial BCS standings Sunday. Some pundits have debated the strength or merit of one contender compared to another, but this article will attempt to do neither. The goal here is simply to measure the position of each top-10 team within the scope of the BCS formula, and try to determine where that team really stands, regardless of its current ranking.

The question is this: If we assume a team wins out (a big assumption in many cases), how much outside help does that team need to reach the BCS title game? Here are my answers, ordered from least help needed to the most:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

What a team did in previous seasons is not supposed to matter to poll voters, but it sure seems as though it does with Alabama. Through the Crimson Tide's early-season struggles, to Oregon's impressive win over Washington, to Florida State's dominance of Clemson, nothing has weakened Bama's stranglehold on the No. 1 spot. So we have to assume that's not going to change as long as the Tide keep winning. And with the polls counting for two-thirds of the BCS formula, it seems like a safe assumption that Alabama requires no assistance to reach the title game. The Tide control their destiny.