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BCS picture clear at last

Undefeated LSU, Oklahoma State indisputable 1-2

By Chris Dufresne, Tribune Newspapers

November 14, 2011

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Things no one could have imagined a month ago:

•Boise State losing its first conference game at home since 1998 on another botched last-second field-goal attempt.

•Oregon tailback LaMichael James returning from a seemingly season-ending elbow dislocation to rush for 146 yards against Stanford and possibly wrest the Heisman Trophy away from Andrew Luck.

•The Bowl Championship Series working out of the morass of undefeated teams to find itself with its best two tracking toward a Jan. 9 showdown for the national title in New Orleans.

In other words, there's a reason you play through until the end. Did you know Texas A&M would be 8-1-1 if its games ended at halftime this year but is 5-5 after Saturday's four-overtime loss to Kansas State?

Four weeks ago, the BCS race was a mess. There were 10 undefeated teams and all kinds of disaster scenarios.

Suddenly, LSU and Oklahoma State are the top two teams and headed for a quarrel-free collision in the BCS title game.

The Tigers and Cowboys are the only remaining undefeated teams from the six major conferences and were a rock-solid 1-2 in Sunday's release of the BCS standings.

LSU needs to beat Mississippi on the road, Arkansas at home and likely Georgia in the SEC title game to play for its third BCS title since 2002. The Tigers won the two previous title games played in New Orleans (2003 and 2007).

Oklahoma State needs wins at Iowa State next week and against Oklahoma on Dec. 3 in Stillwater.

Undefeated LSU and Oklahoma State teams likely would have gone to the BCS title game anyway, but the losses by Stanford and Boise State on Saturday ended any arguments.

It could be simple now, with the prospect of a BCS title game pitting LSU's tremendous defense against Oklahoma State's stupendous offense.

The uneasiness of undefeated Houston being left out of a major bowl also has been deftly sidestepped.

Boise State's 36-35 home loss to TCU was a crippling blow to the Broncos' BCS hopes because it all but handed the Horned Frogs the Mountain West title.

This is great news for Houston because the at-large bid for the best non-AQ school ranked in the top 12 must go to a conference champion.

That means an undefeated Houston team would earn the bid even if it finishes below Boise State in the BCS standings.

It was a bad weekend for Stanford, Boise State and playoff proponents, but the BCS is smiling.

cdufresne@tribune.com