It's only the first BCS Standings of the 2009 season, but there are enough clues to provide a glimpse at what will be the narrative the rest of the year, leading to the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl next Jan. 7.
* It is almost assured that, for the fourth consecutive season, an SEC team will be in the BCS title game and for the first time since the 1946 game, a Southern team will make an appearance at the Granddaddy of 'Em All. It's unlikely that either Florida or Alabama will lose a game until they meet again in Atlanta for the SEC title. The winner of that game will play for the BCS championship.
* Next in line is Texas. Though at times shaky, the Longhorns have managed to keep a clean slate. Their toughest stretch will be the next two weeks, when they go play at Mizzou and Oklahoma State. After that, they do not leave the Lone Star State again the rest of the regular season, culminating with the Big 12 title game in Arlington.
* Iowa would be the first alternate should Texas falter. The Hawkeyes might be only seventh (Harris) and eighth (Coaches) in the polls, but as they continue winning, they will inevitably rise. Particularly crucial is their Nov. 14 game at Ohio State. If they can win in Columbus and beat their remaining opponents, they're just a Texas loss away from their first BCS title game appearance.
* If Texas and Iowa both lose once, USC would be next in line. It may seem far-fetched at the moment, as the Trojans are No. 7 in the BCS Standings, but take a closer look. USC is already the highest ranked one-loss team in the polls (No. 4 in both Coaches and Harris polls), and its computer rankings will only improve as the season goes on. The Trojans need to beat Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Oct. 31, but other than that, they'll be a double-digit favorite for every remaining game. Wins over Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona will help the Trojans' computer ratings. If they should finish the season without another loss, the Trojans will be among the top 5 teams in the computers.
* Cincinnati and Boise State, though both still unbeaten, may not be able to vault a one-loss USC team for the BCS title game. The Broncos should have clear sailing to 13-0, but their atrocious remaining schedule will keep their poll rankings stuck at about Nos. 5-6. Cincinnati, despite a big win over South Florida, does not have a single signature opponent on its schedule and may finish 12-0 without beating even one team that's ranked at the end of the season. If USC should beat both Oregon (Boise State) and Oregon State (Cincinnati) impressively, then it will win the common-opponent argument.
* TCU is the wild card here. Where the Frogs might go from this point and on is a bit of a mystery. A win at BYU this week and then Utah later in the season should cement a 12-0 record, but would they be enough to put TCU over Boise State for a BCS bowl spot, let along for the BCS title? Where the Frogs go end up might depend on both BYU and Utah finishing with at least nine wins apiece. TCU's problem is its nonconference schedule. Though well intended - with road games at Virginia and Clemson - it just hasn't turned out to help much.
It's difficult to see anybody outside of this eight-team pool to emerge in the BCS title game picture without a spate of upsets. The chances for utter BCS chaos remain, but most likely it will result in a debate over the merits of a one-loss BCS behemoth such as USC vs. an unbeaten non-BCS entry (or in Cincinnati's case, BCS-lite).
If the choice for the voters - and ultimately, it will be the voters who decide things - is a delicious and long-awaited matchup between the SEC champ and the Trojans, or the SEC champ and Boise State or Cincinnati, it's hard to see them going for the latter.
It's not a fair fight. But it never is in the BCS.