After a chaotic weekend on college football, here is how the new BCS poll looks:
- Notre Dame
- Kansas State
- Texas A&M
- Florida State
First things first: the SEC still has six teams, although only five in the top ten this week. South Carolina fell to No. 12, which isn't a huge surprise as they've been well above their human poll ranking for some time. It was probably just a matter of time before the computers stopped buoying them so much.
Anyway, Notre Dame and Alabama are about as locked in at the top as two teams can be. Notre Dame has been a computer poll favorite all season, and they're now the human poll favorite as the only remaining undefeated eligible team. Alabama is well clear of Oregon in both the computer and human polls, so winning out will keep the Crimson Tide in second. Georgia is close behind Bama, but an SEC Championship Game win will fix that potential issue.
With that said, UGA was just as big a winner this weekend as Alabama was. The path to the title game for the Bulldogs is exactly the same as Alabama's. Florida is suddenly back in the picture as a potential spoiler, especially given that the Gators are second in the computer polls and probably won't fall from there if they win out. I won't call it likely, especially given that FSU will probably beat them next weekend, but they could with a win and a Notre Dame loss give the SEC another sweep of BCS title game participants. We're a couple of improbable dominoes away from that happening, though.
Oregon and Kansas State are both in precarious positions. If Stanford beats UCLA this weekend, then the Ducks won't even play in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It's hard to see them playing for the crystal football without a conference title because the computers haven't liked this team very much this season. K-State at least still controls its destiny in the Big 12 championship race, but there's a real stigma attached to getting hammered by a team that to date has Kansas as its only other win in league play. The Ducks and Wildcats hanging around and are still very much in the race, but they have little control over how things shake out from here.
1. Notre Dame
Best wins: No. 9 Stanford, No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 19 Michigan
Best remaining opponent: None.
Under normal circumstances, I'd be lamenting USC's fall from the polls here for hurting the Fighting Irish's strength of schedule. Instead Notre Dame is a win, any kind of win, away from playing for the national championship. That's quite a statement to say given all the talk in recent years about how the program had faded from relevance or how it wouldn't be possible for them to win a championship anymore with their academic requirements. It does make me a bit more sad that Beano Cook is no longer with us when I think about the possibility of a Notre Dame title. He wasn't an Irish fan, but it always puzzled him why the team just couldn't break through since Lou Holtz left. That it could be Notre Dame and Alabama playing for the title would only make him more excited. It's too bad he left this earth so soon.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 19 Michigan
Loss: No. 9 Texas A&M
Best remaining opponent: possibly No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game
Last week, the story was that the team needed help to get back into the championship game picture. Last night, that help came. All that's left is to not screw anything up against Auburn this weekend and then figure out how to make sure that Georgia can't follow A&M's plan in Atlanta. This team doesn't have the air of inevitability around it anymore, but it's going to be the favorite in every game it has left.
Best win: No. 4 Florida
Loss: No. 12 South Carolina
Best remaining opponent: possibly No. 2 Alabama, No. 7 LSU, or No. 9 Texas A&M in the SEC Championship Game
Mark Richt has
lost gained control of the national championship game race. He was up about this high five years ago, but he was on the wrong side of an unfortunate divisional tiebreaker with Tennessee (remember when that team was good?). In 2002, he had a great 13-1 team that just had the misfortune of being a 13-1 team in a year with two undefeated major conference champions. That bad luck is gone. He's got the East in the bag, and a win in Atlanta will put him in the big one in Miami. How meaningful would it be for him to win a career validating championship in the city where he played his college ball? It'd be a heck of a story.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 12 South Carolina
Loss: No. 3 Georga
Best remaining opponent: No. 10 Florida State
Welcome back to the show, Gators. I removed Florida from this feature last week because it looked like there wasn't a realistic path for them to find their way to the national championship game. Now, there's a plausible path. Let's say that UF beats FSU and Notre Dame loses to USC. The four great wins, one of them coming the same day ND loses, and SEC aura would put the team ahead of the fallen Irish. They wouldn't have a loss as bad as Kansas State's. The computers would have them well clear of Oregon. It could happen. It takes a lot of ifs to make it happen, but it could. Perhaps the best part is that a UF win in Miami could then result in a split national title between the Gators in the BCS and Urban Meyer's hypothetically undefeated Ohio State in the AP Poll.
Best win: No. 24 Arizona, No. 25 Washington
Loss: No. 9 Stanford
Best remaining opponents: No. 15 Oregon State, possibly No. 17 UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game
Chip Kelly has won all three conference titles he's had the chance to as a head coach, so it's amazing that he might not even take the Pac-12 North. It's very startling to see his team lose the way it did to Stanford, but David Shaw has been helping as an assistant or head coach to build the program specifically to beat the Ducks the past few years. It paid off. Oregon has a great shot at being the humans' choice for No. 2 should Notre Dame fall, as they're undefeated in regulation (hat tip: Les Miles) and have looked dominant the rest of the way. Even if they don't win their division, hey, Florida didn't win its division either. The margin of Oregon over Florida in the human polls would be a huge factor, as an 11-1 UF would almost certainly the top team in the computers if the Irish lose. It's too close to call from a hypothetical standpoint right now.
6. Kansas State
Best wins: No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 21 Oklahoma State
Best remaining opponent: No. 16 Texas
The Wildcats are technically in the race still, but losing by four touchdowns to an unranked Baylor team doesn't feel like something they can come back from. More troubling still is that Collin Klein hasn't been himself since his concussion against Oklahoma State. Before we worry too much more about its ability to navigate back up to the top two, this team has to beat Texas. It's not looking quite as sure of a win as it did not too long ago.
10. Florida State
Best win: No. 11 Clemson
Loss: NC State
Best remaining opponents: No. 4 Florida
Though FSU has an excellent chance to be a one-loss champ of an AQ conference, it's next to impossible to take it seriously as a national title contender. Its loss is to an unranked team, it has only two decent opponents on the slate, and it has no hope of playing a marquee team in the ACC title game. The computers also hate the ACC this year, meaning this team has no realistic chance of working its way up a jumbled pack of one-loss teams. A nearly impossible number of dominoes have to fall to get them to Miami for something other than the Orange Bowl, but a one-loss AQ conference leader is a one-loss AQ conference leader.