There's some movement in the race for the national championship in this week's BCS standings:
- Kansas State
- Notre Dame
- South Carolina
- Florida State
The SEC still has five of the top ten, as LSU understandably did not fall far after letting a win slip through its fingers last night. No. 15 Texas A&M advanced slightly after smoking No. 21 Mississippi State, and both remaining in the poll gives the standard seven teams in the rankings.
It is both understandable and also ironic that this is the week where Oregon finally moves up out of the No. 4 spot in the standings. With Notre Dame very nearly biting the big one against Pitt and the Ducks finally getting a win over a decent team, it makes perfect sense that Oregon jumps the Fighting Irish. However, this game completely exposed Oregon as not having that great a defense.
It's certainly true that USC has a terrific offense, but Oregon seemed to put up only token resistance to it for much of the game. It's been a popular thing among college football experts who want to sound smart by being contrarian to defend Oregon's defense. The points they use are totally valid, too. Oregon does tend to shut things down early and give up points and yards with the backups when it builds big leads, and the fast pace of the offense means the defense spends more time on the field and allows more total yards. However, this game was close throughout, so the poor stats have nothing to do with third stringers and walkons. The Trojans also passed for nine yards per attempt and rushed for five yards a carry, and that has nothing to do with offensive pace. Oregon's defense lost its, um, defense with this game, which makes the team look more vulnerable despite also looking better with the big win.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 21 Mississippi State
Best remaining opponents: No. 15 Texas A&M, possibly No. 5 Georgia or No. 6 Florida in the SEC Championship Game
It got really dicey there for a bit, but a flawlessly executed two minute drill saved the Tide's unbeaten record and kept them atop the polls. Only two real hurdles remain. First is this weekend with Johnny Football and Texas A&M, a game which will sew up the West division if the Tide wins. The next would then be the conference championship game against, in all likelihood, Georgia. Even with those to go, it would appear that Bama has passed its largest test until the bowl game.
2. Kansas State
Best wins: No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 22 Texas Tech
Best remaining opponents: No. 17 Texas
The Wildcats kept on trucking against Oklahoma State, even if they didn't completely salt the game away until late. The big news from this one was Collin Klein got knocked out of the contest. K-State hasn't said anything publicly about the injury, so we don't know what's going on. While backup Daniel Sams finished the game just fine, he's no Klein. It will be interesting to see what happens with this team, particularly if it finishes out undefeated but Klein never returns. Might voters drop KSU behind Notre Dame simply because Klein is gone? It's something we'll have to monitor.
Best win: No. 19 USC
Best remaining opponents: No. 11 Oregon State, No. 14 Stanford, No. 19 USC, possibly No. 18 UCLA or No. 19 USC again in the Pac-12 Championship Game
The Ducks finally have something other than "None." in their best win category, but they might not get another crack at the Trojans this year. UCLA is now the outright leader in the South division, though it still has both USC and Stanford yet to go. The encouraging thing for Oregon is that merely playing USC improved its computer rankings noticeably. Stanford and Oregon State are still coming up, and the computers like them more than the humans do. Oregon won't fall below KSU in the human polls as long as it keeps winning, so every boost in the computers is a step closer to being No. 2.
4. Notre Dame
Best wins: No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 14 Stanford
Best remaining opponents: No. 19 USC
The luck of the Irish kept this team afloat for now, but it's about as solidly in fourth place as it can be. That win over Pitt will keep it above one-loss teams, but it will also keep human voters from putting Notre Dame ahead of any of the three teams above it here. The computers really love the Irish still, but when that only makes up a third of the formula, it won't be enough to make a significant difference.
Best win: No. 6 Florida
Loss: No. 8 South Carolina
Best remaining opponents: possibly No. 1 Alabama or No. 7 LSU in the SEC Championship Game
The Bulldogs are first in line among one-loss teams now, but that doesn't matter a whole heck of a lot right now. Win out and win in Atlanta, and we've got something to talk about. The computers don't really like this team, and the rest of the regular season slate won't certainly impress them. It's possible that even if UGA beats Bama that, if the teams are only one slot different in the human polls, the Tide could still be ahead of the Bulldogs in the BCS formula. But, let's cross that bridge when we come to it.
Best wins: No. 7 LSU, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 15 Texas A&M
Loss: No. 5 Georgia
Best remaining opponents: No. 10 Florida State, possibly No. 1 Alabama or No. 7 LSU in the SEC Championship Game
The Gators could end up having the best collection of wins if they win out, but the fact that they almost certainly aren't going to Atlanta means they're only title contenders on a technicality right now. If Georgia loses to Auburn (and it won't), then this team can be considered a possibility for the title game if chaos ensues. If not, then this team will disappear from this feature next Sunday.
Best Win: None.
Best remaining opponent: No. 23 Rutgers
The Cardinals actually have fewer good opponents on the slate than Florida State does, but an undefeated AQ conference leader is an undefeated AQ conference leader. If UL does run the table, it will almost certainly be another 2009 Cincinnati situation where the Big East champ doesn't get a spot in the national title game. It could be even more of a parallel if Charlie Strong leaves to take another job.
10. Florida State
Best win: No. 13 Clemson
Loss: NC State
Best remaining opponents: No. 6 Florida
Though FSU has an excellent chance to be a one-loss champ of an AQ conference, it's 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. Still, a one-loss AQ conference leader is a one-loss AQ conference leader.
11. Oregon State
Best Win: No. 18 UCLA
Best remaining opponent: No. 3 Oregon, No. 14 Stanford, possibly No. 18 UCLA or No. 19 USC again in the Pac-12 Championship Game
The Beavers' bad loss to UW means that they are last in line among the marginal championship contenders, but because they still are capable of becoming a one-loss BCS conference champ, they get to cameo here. OSU needs a lot of chaos to sniff the title game, but it can be an agent of that chaos by taking out Oregon in the Civil War game later this month.