The BCS Title Chase - NOW WHAT?!
E-mail Pete Fiutak
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This was supposed to be a weekend of dud games, and then, all of a sudden, the 2012 college football season was caught looking at a bender of a curveball.
So what the heck just happened?
Kansas State, ranked No. 1 in the latest BCS rankings, was finally exposed for being the marginally talented team that it is, getting its doors blown off by a Baylor squad that came into the game with a high-octane offense and a defense ranking dead last in all of college football.
Meanwhile, No. 2 Oregon and its tippy-tappy finesse attack, and a running game that doesn't work against great defenses with talented front sevens that can get into the backfield, lost in overtime to a Stanford team with a great defense and a talented front seven that came into the game leading the nation in tackles for loss.
Earlier in the day, No. 3 Notre Dame picked a perfect time to finally introduce its fan base to the concept of the style point with a 38-0 blasting of Wake Forest.
The next six teams in the BCS rankings are all from the SEC, and all but No. 7 LSU chose to take the week off by playing FCS teams, while the Tigers struggled at home to get by Ole Miss.
And now the table is set. Barring something wacky on an unprecedented level, some SEC team will get a shot to bring the conference its seventh straight BCS championship. And, get ready for the punchline, America …
Unless Notre Dame can beat USC, get ready for a second straight SEC vs. SEC BCS championship.
So in the span of just a few hours, all the fans sick and tired of living in an SEC world, and being just a few wins by the top three teams away from avoiding the conference altogether, could very easily have to sit back and groove on yet another year of the SEC sticking its dominance in everyone's face.
Unless Notre Dame can come through.
11-0 Ohio State isn't eligible for the BCS championship, so it's magical run through a miserable Big Ten and a worse non-conference slate is irrelevant. Notre Dame is the only unbeaten team left that matters, and all it has to do is win one game over an underachieving Trojan team to play for the BCS championship.
What do the other top teams need to do to play for the title? Here are all the relevant teams and scenarios based on the BCS rankings coming into the weekend – and this could change a bit depending on what happens with the rankings on Sunday night.
No. 1 Kansas State might not be as far out of it as it appears. As lousy as it was against Baylor – easily the worst loss by anyone still in the national title hunt – it'll likely drop no further than fifth in the BCS rankings. That means it'll take a Notre Dame loss to USC, a Georgia loss to Georgia Tech or a Florida loss to Florida State, and an Alabama loss in the SEC championship to potentially move back up into the top two. Of course, the Wildcats first have to finish up the regular season with a win over Texas, and it wouldn't hurt to do so impressively.
No. 2 Oregon could be out of the mix entirely if Stanford beats UCLA next week. If that happens, the Cardinal and Bruins will play again a week later for the Pac-12 title, and even if the Ducks beat Oregon State, it's going to be next to impossible to get back into the top two. However, if Stanford loses to UCLA, Oregon would play in the Pac-12 championship and could stay alive if Notre Dame and Kansas State lose and there's only one SEC team with one loss.
No. 4 Alabama needs to beat Auburn and beat Georgia in the SEC championship to have a shot at back-to-back national titles and its third in four years.
No. 5 Georgia needs to beat Georgia Tech and get by Alabama in the SEC championship. If that happens, the Dawgs are going to Miami.
No. 6 Florida is in a great spot. Despite not being all that impressive over the last few weeks, if it beats ACC championship-bound Florida State, it'll be 11-1 and will be, at worst, one of just two one-loss SEC teams remaining. Thanks to their tremendous strength of schedule, if Notre Dame loses, the Gators could get into the BCS championship. However, the human voters might not be too keen on seeing a rematch of the brutally ugly Georgia win over Florida earlier in the year, and might adjust their ballots accordingly to avoid it. Florida would probably be in better shape if Alabama wins the SEC title – the Gators and Tide didn't play in the regular season.
No. 7 LSU and No. 8 Texas A&M have to close out with Arkansas and Missouri, respectively, to finish 10-2. Both teams need Notre Dame to lose and have to hope for Florida to lose to Florida State, Georgia to lose to Georgia Tech, Georgia to beat Alabama, Kansas State to lose to Texas, and Oregon to lose to Oregon State or in the Pac-12 championship. To get close, No. 9 South Carolina needs all of that, as well as losses from LSU and Texas A&M, while also coming up with a win over Clemson. Even that might not be enough for the Tigers, Aggies and Gamecocks because of …
No. 10 Florida State. The BCS computers absolutely despise the Seminoles, but the humans could help the cause. If FSU beats Florida and ends up winning the ACC title to finish 12-1, and if Clemson rocks South Carolina, all of a sudden, perceptions might change and the ranking could go flying up the charts in a hurry. It'll take a massive number of upsets to get close to the top two, but the Seminoles, despite being ranked lower, are likely in better shape than several SEC teams.
Got all of that?
Basically, if Matt Barkley can't go for USC – he got knocked out of the UCLA game late with an apparent shoulder injury – it's going to be Notre Dame vs. the SEC champion for the BCS championship.
And be honest, college football. After a BCS that generated little interest and lackluster ratings, Notre Dame vs. SEC is going to be really, really fun to hype up.
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