Florida takes No. 4 spot in latest BCS rankings: How the Gators could play for the national title

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Florida's No. 4 spot in the latest BCS rankings makes the Gators' path to the national championship game very clear.

Florida's No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, moving up two spots in the rankings by leaping fallen fellow one-loss teams Oregon and Kansas State. And that leap puts the Gators in great position to play for a national title if Notre Dame loses.

Florida's incredibly strong computer poll average — Florida is No. 2 in five of the six computer rankings, with the Billingsley rankings keeping them No. 6 — is as bad as it's going to get, and will only get better if the Gators beat Florida State this Saturday. The Gators have a .011-point lead on No. 5 Oregon despite being behind the Ducks in both human polls, and Oregon's not going to make up that gap with wins over Oregon State and, if Stanford loses to UCLA, UCLA. No. 6 Kansas State won't, either, with only Texas to go.

The only way Florida is falling is if Florida loses to Florida State. And that means the Gators control whether or not they're going to a BCS bowl.

Here's the provision known as the 3-4 Rule that will ensure that Florida goes to a BCS bowl if it's No. 3 or No. 4 in the final BCS standings:

5. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 4, and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 3 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier, provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

6. If any of the 10 slots remain open after application of provisions 1 through 5, and if no team qualifies under paragraph No. 5 and an at-large team from a conference with an annual automatic berth for its champion is ranked No. 4 in the final BCS Standings, that team will become an automatic qualifier provided that no at-large team from the same conference qualifies for the national championship game.

As long as Florida beats Florida State, it'll be No. 3 in the final BCS standings, at least, because either Alabama or Georgia is getting another loss.

But Florida needs just a win over Florida State and a loss by Notre Dame to USC — an unlikely one, to be sure, because redshirt freshman Max Wittek and not senior star Matt Barkley will start at quarterback for the Trojans — to be in position to go to Miami and play for the national championship, because that SEC Championship Game still has to give a loss to a team ahead of Florida.

Notre Dame, Alabama, and Georgia could all still lose before the SEC Championship Game that will deliver that loss to either the Tide or the Bulldogs, and if they all do so this weekend, Florida could be No. 1 in next week's BCS standings (and, subsequently, the final ones) without even playing for its conference title. I wouldn't bet a cent of someone else's money on the chances of that, because they depend on Auburn beating Alabama, but it's theoretically possible.

For these Gators, the objectives and rewards are clear. If Florida beats Florida State, it will play in a BCS bowl game, and possibly for a national title. If the Gators lose to the Seminoles for the third straight time, they can look forward to spending New Year's in Orlando.

Style points are immaterial: Florida can beat FSU 2-0 and still have four wins over current top-12 BCS teams. Just win, Gators, and the world is yours.

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