With one week to go in the 2012 regular season, here is how the new BCS poll looks:
- Notre Dame
- Kansas State
- Texas A&M
- South Carolina
The SEC is back to its dominant position of having six teams in the top ten. South Carolina even has some distance between it and No. 11 Oklahoma, so it's not like this is a close call or anything. The dominance displayed over the top of the ACC last weekend answered the critics and solidified the league's top teams at the top of the polls.
However despite the strength at the top of the conference, it will not be putting two teams into the national championship game unless we find out that Brian Kelly has been honoring a monetary contract that Manti Te'o signed with Charlie Weis or something. With an assist from some awful coaching decisions by Lane Kiffin, the Irish put away all doubts as to who the No. 1 team in the BCS National Championship Game will be.
It's looking like there won't be anyone to play spoiler and snipe the No. 2 spot eBay-style away from the SEC champ at the last second. Not only are the two SECCG participants right there at the top, but East runner up Florida provides a buffer against any unlikely late-stage poll advances by the Oregon or Kansas State. This season's BCS puzzle is solved before we even get into the final weekend: it's going to be Notre Dame against the SEC champion for the national title.
1. Notre Dame
Best wins: No. 8 Stanford, No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 19 Michigan
Best remaining opponent: Regular season over.
If Notre Dame goes undefeated, almost in any kinds of circumstances, it's going to end up the No. 1 team in the polls at the end of the regular season. Complain about this team all you want, but it has defeated nine bowl-eligible teams (including Miami, who's voluntarily sitting the postseason out) and shows up well in the advanced statistics. This squad is a worthy No. 1 team.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 19 Michigan
Loss: No. 9 Texas A&M
Best remaining opponent: No. 3 Georgia in the SEC Championship Game
The Crimson Tide took care of business with authority in the Iron Bowl and Processed Gene Chizik to boot. Things for this team remain the same today as they do a week ago: win the conference and play for the title; lose the conference and go to Orlando to blast some poor Big Ten team in the Capital One Bowl.
Best win: No. 4 Florida
Loss: No. 10 South Carolina
Best remaining opponent: No. 2 Alabama in the SEC Championship Game
There was no hint of looking ahead in UGA's dominant win over Georgia Tech. It's going to be a tough task for the Bulldogs to take out the Tide in Atlanta, but make no mistake, it's going to be about as tough on the other team to knock this one off. I don't expect a repeat of last year's blowout loss to LSU.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M, No. 10 South Carolina, No. 13 Florida State
Loss: No. 3 Georga
Best remaining opponent: Regular season over.
When it comes to high end wins, no one at the top of the polls can match Florida's resume. Of course no one else needed a last-minute touchdown on a blocked punt to beat UL-Lafayette either, though Notre Dame's triple overtime win over Pitt comes close. If the title of conference champion meant nothing, then the Gators would probably have the inside track to the No. 2 spot behind the Irish. It does, though, so Florida remains the lead blocker for the eventual SEC champ against the barbarian hordes below.
Best win: No. 15 Oregon State
Loss: No. 8 Stanford
Best remaining opponents: Regular season over.
Had Oregon actually been the Pac-12 North champ with a chance to play for the Pac-12 title, there might actually be some arguments as to whether this team or the SEC champ should be in line behind Notre Dame. Its hypothetical Pac-12 winning resume is not all that far off from Georgia's hypothetical SEC winning resume. After all, Jeff Sagarin's ratings have Oregon with the No. 31 toughest schedule and UGA with the No. 42 toughest schedule. This is all hypotheticals, though. If something unpredictably strange happens next weekend and someone without a conference title ends up playing the Irish, it won't be the Ducks.
6. Kansas State
Best wins: No. 11 Oklahoma, No. 23 Oklahoma State
Best remaining opponent: No. 18 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.