Notre Dame, six others harbor realistic BCS championship hopes
Seven different schools harbor realistic hopes of playing for BCS title on Jan. 7
Notre Dame loss, Florida win this week would mean another All-SEC title game
Plus: pregame adjustments, emotional Senior Day choke-up moment, more
So that whole keep-the-SEC-out-of-the-BCS-title-game-thing lasted all of a week. Great job, other conferences. Johnny Football hands you the keys to the kingdom, and you say, "No thanks. We're perfectly happy with our non-crystal footballs and deep-seated inferiority complexes." You had your chance. All you needed was Kansas State to beat a team that entered the game with the worst total defense ranking in the FBS and Oregon to beat a team it usually beats by three touchdowns. But you couldn't handle that, could you? Now you're probably one Notre Dame loss to USC and one Florida win against Florida State away from another all-SEC BCS title game.
But fear not. Seven teams have a realistic shot at playing for the national title, and only three of them are from the SEC. Here's a quick look at the road for every undefeated and one-loss team still in the mix to reach the BCS title game.
Notre Dame (11-0): Beat USC. That's it. You're in.
Alabama (10-1): Beat Auburn on Saturday. Then beat Georgia in the SEC title game.
Georgia (10-1): Beat Georgia Tech on Saturday. Then beat Alabama in the SEC title game.
Florida (10-1): Beat Florida State on Saturday. Hope for a Notre Dame loss. Failing that, hope Alabama or Georgia loses Saturday and then wins the SEC Championship.
Oregon (10-1): Beat Oregon State. Hope UCLA beats Stanford, giving the Ducks the Pac-12 North title. Hope Notre Dame loses to USC. Hope Florida loses to Florida State. Hope Georgia loses Saturday to Georgia Tech. (Or hope Alabama loses to Auburn, likely making LSU the SEC West champ.) Beat UCLA in the Pac-12 title game. Hope Georgia wins the SEC title on Dec. 1. (Or hope two-loss LSU is in the game and beats Georgia.) If Florida did not lose to Florida State, hope human voters engage in massive anti-SEC conspiracy.
Florida State (10-1): Beat Florida on Saturday. Hope Notre Dame and Oregon lose Saturday. Hope Alabama and/or Georgia loses Saturday. Beat Georgia Tech in the ACC title game. Hope the team that wins the SEC title has two losses. Hope Texas beats Kansas State. Engineer electromagnetic pulse that shuts down all computers throughout the country the night of Dec. 1, making computer rankings impossible to tabulate. Failing this, sell the no-computers concept to NBC and watch them make a show in which no one has indoor plumbing but everyone has perfect teeth.
Kansas State (10-1): Hope Oregon loses to Oregon State. Hope Notre Dame loses to USC. Hope Florida State beats Florida and then loses the ACC title game. Hope Alabama and Georgia lose Saturday and the SEC produces a two-loss champion. Hope the Men In Black Neuralizer is an actual thing. Attempt to erase the memory of the Baylor game from as many minds as possible. Beat Texas.
Except for Notre Dame, the three SEC teams have the clearest paths to the title game. So cheer hard for the Irish, SEC haters. They're probably the only hope you have left.
Nebraska at Iowa (Friday): If the Cornhuskers win, they win the Big Ten Legends Division and will face Wisconsin for the league title on Dec. 1. If the Hawkeyes lose, nothing happens. Unless they want to pay Kirk Ferentz $250,000 a month until 2020 to not coach.
LSU at Arkansas (Friday): Sometimes strange things happen when this game is on Black Friday. Remember 2007? That Arkansas win didn't keep LSU from winning the national title, but it provided us with a postgame interview that might have been the best in SEC history until LSU's Les Miles topped it last week. Either Les Miles or John L. Smith will take the mic after this one, and there is a good chance one of them will be dropping it before he walks away.
West Virginia at Iowa State (Friday): After spending the first month of the season climbing into the top five, West Virginia still isn't bowl eligible. But if last week's loss to Oklahoma is any indication, the Mountaineers have finally figured out that Tavon Austin is an interstellar tailback. Austin won't have the element of surprise here, so he probably won't top the 344 yards he gained on 21 carries, but knowing Austin will carry doesn't necessarily mean the Cyclones can stop him.
Georgia Tech at No. 3 Georgia: If not for USC, the Yellow Jackets might be the most commonly adopted team on Saturday. It's anybody's guess as to which Georgia Tech team will show up. Will it be the one that hung 68 on North Carolina or the one that got shelled by Middle Tennessee? That may not matter. If Georgia plays to its potential, the Bulldogs should roll. But if not, check that list above to see who might be cheering.
Michigan at Ohio State: The Denard Robinson-at-tailback plan adds a new wrinkle that should make the Wolverines fairly tough to stop, but with no Fitzgerald Toussaint as a counterpunch, the Buckeyes may be able to adjust quickly. The rest of the Big Ten should pay careful attention to this one. If Michigan can't beat Ohio State right now, the rest of you don't stand a chance come next year.
Oregon vs. Oregon State: Oregon should score more on Oregon State's defense than it did against Stanford, but the Ducks may give up more with Beavers receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton snagging passes. Cooks and Wheaton compare favorably to USC's Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor, who combined for 319 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Ducks on Nov. 3.
Auburn at Alabama: Plenty of the fans of the other schools on that contender list would love to see Auburn beat Alabama, but that would take a miracle. And Gene Chizik is all out of miracles.
Florida at Florida State: Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has recovered from his ankle injury and will start at Doak Campbell Stadium. This probably doesn't matter, because no one playing quarterback is going to enjoy this game. The Gators rank fourth in the nation in total defense (281 yards a game) and third in scoring defense (11.73 points a game). The Seminoles rank first in the nation in total defense (236.3) and fifth in scoring defense (13.09). The star could be field-flipping Florida punter Kyle Christy or deadeye Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins.
Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: The Sooners got shredded by West Virginia's Austin last week. Now they'll face another up-tempo offense that can run. The only difference is the Cowboys play much better defense than West Virginia.
Stanford at UCLA: Jim Mora faces an interesting choice here. He can rest his best players, get the book on Stanford and then play the Cardinal again six days later with a conference title on the line. Or he can go full-force at Stanford, win and face Oregon in Eugene for the conference title.
Missouri at Texas A&M: Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel's last chance to impress Heisman voters will come against a team that ranks in the middle of the SEC in almost every defensive category in conference play. Manziel needs a good -- not great -- game to solidify his Heisman chances. What he doesn't need is a multi-turnover game.
South Carolina at Clemson: This game is getting very little attention for a matchup between two teams that are a combined 19-3. But this should be fun. Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (foot) might not be 100 percent, but he is expected to play. He'll be chasing Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who, despite a lack of attention, has matured into one of the nation's best passers.
Notre Dame at USC: I love USC quarterback Max Wittek's bravado. Sure, he's a first-time starter facing the No. 1 team in the country. Sure, Notre Dame's defense is tied with Alabama's for No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense (10.1 points a game). Wittek still (sort of) guaranteed victory in a radio interview this week. Wittek and the Trojans will have a lot of other fan bases behind them. And if Wittek makes his prediction come true, that's how legends are born.
"If you have a question for Coach Dooley..."
-- The moderator on the SEC coaches' teleconference this week, because it's really hard to quit those orange pants.
Need a good cry? Watch the last two minutes of this clip of Penn State cornerback Stephon Morris talking about what it will mean to run out of the tunnel at Beaver Stadium to meet his father and stepmother.
After this abomination, we're leery of any Woo Pig singing. The shame of this is that these guys can really sing, and they rhyme "Atlanta" with "spider two wide banana." Unfortunately, Jon Gruden is only playing with your emotions. He's going to trample your souls and then take more money to terrify draft-eligible quarterbacks on ESPN.
LSU fans making the Black Friday trip to Fayetteville should stop for a postgame meal at Hammontree's. They serve grilled cheese at Hammontree's. Every delicious manner of grilled cheese. Get the Cheebacca (sharp white cheddar, house cheese, bacon, pulled pork, grilled onions and garlic cilantro sauce on sourdough) and then finish your meal with a Blueberry Grilled Cheese (Mascarpone, fresh blueberries and cream cheese grilled between two slices of pound cake and drizzled with honey).
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