McLean, VA (written by Dan Wolken/USA Today Sports) -- Regardless of whether the Southeastern Conference can put two teams in the BCS championship game for a second consecutive year, it is poised to dominate the conversation once again in the second half of the season.
The SEC held four of the top seven spots in the initial BCS standings Sunday, led by defending national champion Alabama at No. 1 and Florida at No. 2. It's the third time in the last four years SEC teams have debuted 1-2.
Though that may not seem significant, only twice since the BCS was conceived -- in 1998 and 2008 -- did at least one of the top two teams in the first release of the standings fail to make the championship game. On two other occasions, including last year with LSU and Alabama, the teams that started 1-2 also finished there.
It's unlikely Florida and Alabama would meet in the title game this year because, assuming they stay unbeaten, they would meet in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 1. The final BCS standings are released the next day. Last year, Alabama and LSU played earlier in the season, and the Tide, despite losing, had time to work its way back to No. 2 in the final standings.
Alabama coach Nick Saban preferred to tone down the expectations and keep his players mentally into the challenges ahead.
"The big thing is you have to get them to focus on the next game, the next play, the next practice so you can continue to improve as a team," he said on ESPN after the standings were released. "Mindset is so important in this day and age in this game.
"We have a young team and I think the most important thing for our team to do is to continue to develop the kind of chemistry that will help us play with consistency."
Though the Crimson Tide (6-0) ranked just third in the aggregate of six computer polls that make up the BCS formula, its near-unanimous hold on the No. 1 spot in the human polls, including the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, lifted it to a significant edge over Florida (.9761 to .9092 out of 1.000) in the BCS average. Florida and Notre Dame, which came out No. 5 overall in the BCS standings, were ranked as the top two teams by the computers.
Oregon, ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, edged out Kansas State for No. 3 in the BCS standings. Oregon is sixth in the computer ratings.
LSU and South Carolina lead the group of one-loss teams at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively. Other undefeated teams include Mississippi State at No. 12, Rutgers at No. 15, Louisville at No. 16 and Cincinnati at No. 21.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, whose team beat Stanford 20-13 in overtime on Saturday, said he wouldn't specifically address the standings with his team, but took pride in being part of the championship conversation again. Though Notre Dame still has to pass three teams to get one of the coveted top-two spots, it will have a huge opportunity to impress voters on Oct. 27 at Oklahoma.
"I don't normally gauge the interest of these things with our football team, but they watch TV. They see that," Kelly said. "I just have to make sure they understand with that pride comes a greater obligation to do the thing the right way."
This will be the second-to-last year college football has BCS standings to debate in mid-October. Though the exact process for the four-team playoff is still being worked out for its debut in the 2014 season, conference commissioners have agreed that the selection committee will not release weekly standings.