There's a four-team race for the national championship in this week's edition of the BCS standings:
- Kansas State
- Notre Dame
- South Carolina
- Florida State
The SEC has a whopping five of the top ten, including the highest ranked undefeated, one-loss, and two-loss teams. No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 16 Texas A&M give the conference its customary seven teams in the top 25.
Things are getting quite interesting at the top, with several teams having a legitimate chance of finishing undefeated. Kansas State's toughest tests are behind it, with Texas the only ranked team (and a marginally ranked team, at that) left on the slate. The same arguably goes for Notre Dame, depending on how you view USC and Oklahoma. Alabama's and Oregon's are still yet to come, so we can't pencil in a four-team logjam just yet. If we do end up with one, we know the college football gods have a big sense of humor given that the four-team playoff just got approved this year.
Best win: No. 15 Mississippi State
Best remaining opponents: No. 5 LSU, No. 16 Texas A&M, possibly No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Florida, or No. 8 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game
Bama should be glad for getting the win over MSU this weekend, because Michigan's loss to Nebraska would have left the Tide without a win over a ranked team otherwise. The huge game against LSU is this weekend, followed by a potential let down game against Texas A&M the week after. Alabama hasn't been tried much, but this three-week stretch is as trying as it gets for them in 2012.
2. Kansas State
Best win: No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 18 Texas Tech, No. 21 West Virginia
Best remaining opponents: No. 23 Texas, 24 Oklahoma State
The Wildcats have just about sewn up the Big 12, and it's not even November yet. Oklahoma State, TCU, Baylor, and Texas fill up the remaining slate, and there's not a team among them that looks on Kansas State's level. The only big question left with this team is whether voters will punish it for not having a conference championship game. That factor would come into play if it had to go head-to-head against an undefeated Oregon team for No. 2 behind Alabama. I don't know the answer, either.
3. Notre Dame
Best wins: No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 14 Stanford
Best remaining opponents: No. 17 USC
It's hard to argue the idea that Notre Dame will be stuck rooting for others to lose. Michigan and Michigan State having disappointing years really hurts the Fighting Irish's strength of schedule, and it stands to dip again even more if Oregon beats USC a time or two. This team must root like crazy for Michigan to come back and somehow win the Big Ten and, more importantly, for someone to knock off two of the other three undefeated teams.
Best win: None.
Best remaining opponents: No. 11 Oregon State, No. 14 Stanford, No. 17 USC, No. 22 Arizona, possibly No. 17 USC again in the Pac-12 Championship Game
This was a bad weekend for Oregon's national championship hopes. Oregon State and USC both lost to inferior teams, something that will hurt the Ducks' strength of schedule. The USC loss stings more, because two more Oregon wins over the Trojans could very well put them outside the final polls. At that point, all an undefeated Oregon team would have to stand on is wins over Stanford, Oregon State, and maybe Arizona (if those Wildcats remain in the polls). That's not going to be enough to even make it to third, I don't think.
Best win: No. 8 South Carolina, No. 16 Texas A&M
Loss: No. 7 Florida
Best remaining opponents: No. 1 Alabama, No. 15 Mississippi State, possibly No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Florida, or No. 8 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game
On a weekend when four top ten teams lost, the Tigers had a bye. Pretty good timing, no? Of course, the best timing of all with this off week is that it came the week before the showdown with the Crimson Tide. If the Tigers pull that one off, then we can consider them a real national championship contender again. If they don't, then we say goodbye to them for good from the title watch perspective.
Best win: No. 7 Florida
Loss: No. 8 South Carolina
Best remaining opponents: possibly No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 LSU, or No. 15 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game
UGA vanquished the hated Gators and put themselves in the drivers' seat for the East. The good news is that they only have Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern, and Georgia Tech between them and 11-1. The bad news is that they only had two ranked teams on the schedule and went 1-1 against them. Winning the SEC will take a team far, but the bad loss to South Carolina (and it was a bad loss) sticks out as a big missed opportunity.
Best wins: No. 5 LSU, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 16 Texas A&M
Loss: No. 6 Georgia
Best remaining opponents: No. 8 Florida State, possibly No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 LSU, or No. 15 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game
Anyone who has watched this team closely knows it's not a real national title contender, so it really was only a matter of time before it took a loss. Florida technically is still alive to win everything it could win before Saturday, but it will need a lot of dominoes to fall its way (starting with an improbable Ole Miss win over Georgia this coming weekend).
8. South Carolina
Best win: No. 6 Georgia
Losses: No. 5 LSU, No. 7 Florida
Best remaining opponents: No. 13 Clemson, possibly No. 1 Alabama, No. 5 LSU, or No. 15 Mississippi State in the SEC Championship Game
I mention this team only for two reasons. First, I feel so incredibly bad for Marcus Lattimore. He's by all accounts a great person on top of being a great player, so it's hard to see someone taken out by such a catastrophic injury. Second, I kind of feel obligated to mention the next two teams down the list.
9. Florida State
Best win: No. 13 Clemson
Loss: NC State
Best remaining opponents: No. 7 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.
Best Win: None
Best remaining opponent: None
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.