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Elite pulling away from pack two weeks before first BCS release

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The first release of the BCS ratings isn't until Oct. 17, but we already have some pretty good separation at the top.

At least, that's how it appears. One thing that's different about the BCS ratings this year is that the Harris poll has been put off two more weeks. It used to debut after the fourth week of the season, but it was changed this year to come out the week before the first BCS ratings, which is after the sixth week.

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We were told the change was to give voters more time to contemplate the teams, but that's not what happens. Poll voters tend to groupthink, and the polls end up reflecting each other. It will be surprising if there are any material differences between the Harris poll when it debuts and the AP or coaches polls.

And voters are not spending these extra two weeks hunkered down over a VCR breaking down game film on teams they might vote for. The only difference to a voter between starting to vote at four weeks into the season and six weeks into it is getting to sleep in two more Sundays.

Anyway, without the Harris poll, the coaches poll is all there is to go on. In that, Alabama has a 72-point lead over No. 2 Ohio State, and the Buckeyes lead No. 3 Oregon by 77. In a poll with only 59 voters, those are big margins. Oregon and No. 4 Boise State are pretty close together, but there is another big jump down to No. 5 TCU.

There are still 18 undefeated teams entering this weekend, a record for this late in the season in the BCS era. That means the computer rankings are all over the place, with so many undefeated teams to sort out and so few games played. Despite Ohio State's strong showing in the polls, the Buckeyes would be sixth if the BCS were out this week. That is because they are 13th in the computers. They haven't hit the meat of their schedule yet, but there is no way a major conference team with a poll position as strong as Ohio State has would get aced out of the title game in December.

Boise State, on the other hand, might need even stronger poll position than Ohio State has. The Broncos might need Alabama's strength. That is because they cannot count on their schedule holding them up in the computers.

Boise State has had undefeated regular seasons three of the past four years. In those years, the Broncos finished behind every other undefeated team regardless of conference in the BCS computers. They also finished behind 10 of the 12 one-loss major-conference schools, a two-loss major conference school (Southern California in 2006) and tied with another two-loss major (Oregon last year, which Boise had beaten during the season). If we have a year where there are several undefeated teams and/or one-loss majors, Boise could find itself too far down in the computer rankings for good poll position to matter.

As of now, the Broncos still have to watch their backs in the polls. Oregon jumped them last week after stomping Stanford, even though Boise State won its game over New Mexico State 59-0. Nebraska was impressive Thursday night against previously unbeaten Kansas State, so maybe the Huskers will make a move on Boise this week as the Broncos play another forgettable opponent.

All of that right now is just jostling for third. Boise State, Oregon, Nebraska and 115 other teams are all in the same spot at the moment: looking up at Alabama and Ohio State and hoping one of them gets beat.

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