There are still games left in the regular season, but there is an interesting scenario I haven’t heard many people talk about yet. Notre Dame could finish undefeated and not make the National Championship. Who would have thought that would be possible? With two weeks to go, Notre Dame trails both Oregon and Kansas State in the BCS standings, and if all three win out, I think Notre Dame will remain the odd team out. They will close out the season at home against Wake Forest and then play USC on the road. Let’s compare this to their competition.
Currently #1 in the BCS despite being 2nd in both human polls. They are actually second currently in the computers to Notre Dame, but because Oregon and Notre Dame are 1st and 3rd in each of those categories. Kansas State closes out the season at Baylor and at home against Texas. Texas is currently 15th in the BCS and Baylor is an abysmal 1–5 in the Big 12 and 4–5 overall. That doesn’t help Kansas State all that much. Notre Dame’s opponents, Wake Forest and USC don’t offer a lot more to strength of schedule. Wake Forest is 5–5 overall (3–5 in the ACC) in a much weaker conference than the Big 12. USC is currently ranked 18th in a pretty good conference.
How these teams fair in their other games could play a factor. Baylor plays Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, both top 25 BCS teams right now. If they finish 1–8 in the Big 12 that will not help Kansas St. A win in one, or both of those games, however, would be a boost. Texas plays TCU after a bye, so they should get a win there. USC gets UCLA (17th in BCS) at the Rose Bowl this week and could potentially have the Pac 12 Championship to get a big win, although if they beat Oregon there this whole conversation is moot.
On paper right now, Kansas St.’s schedule is probably slightly tougher than Notre Dame’s, but it will likely be how these teams perform in their other games that will really make an impact. Just looking at things as they are now, Notre Dame is going to need a little help to pass Kansas State.
Oregon is 1st in both human polls but average out to 4th in the computers. This is likely due to what, so far, has been perceived as a weak schedule. Business is about to pickup though. Oregon hosts #13 Stanford this week before traveling to their rival #16 Oregon St. to close out the regular season. Provided they win those, they will then get USC or UCLA in the championship. If they beat USC (again) that would pretty much cancel out Notre Dame’s win over them. And wins over Stanford and Oregon St. definitely surpass that over Wake Forest. Oregon will not lose the #1 spot in the human polls at this point unless they lose. I also expect that beating Stanford, Oregon St. and UCLA/USC will be more than enough to move up in the computer polls.
With all of this in mind, Oregon is surely the only team that truly controls their own destiny. It’s hard to believe they win out and don’t make the National Championship.
One-Loss SEC Champ
This is where things get crazy. #5 Georgia has already clinched a spot in the SEC championship and assuming #4 Alabama doesn’t lose against lowly Auburn, they will be there too. The winner of this comes out the nation’s bet conference with just one loss. Alabama is currently 4th and 5th in human polls and 5th in the computers. Georgia is 5th and 4th in human polls and 6th in the computers. They would definitely need Oregon or Kansas State to lose, which would get them some more human votes. The problem is the computers.
Georgia has Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech to close things out. Neither of which is likely to help them in the computer. Alabama has Western Carolina and Auburn, again which won’t provide much of a boost. Playing each other in the SEC Championship would have an impact though. And because thees teams only factor in if Oregon or Kansas State loses, both of these teams would be in the top 5 in the BCS when they played. Whoever won would likely get a huge boost in the computers. The SEC as a whole could get a boost from Florida beating Florida State and South Carolina beating Clemson the last week of the season.
A one-loss SEC team doesn’t sound too crazy now, does it?
Notre Dame is going to need some help. A loss to Oregon or Kansas State might almost be a requirement at this point. A one-loss SEC team could cause them some problems as well. Bottom line is that Notre Dame needs to win both of their games, and win them big. They also need to root hard for every team they played already to win some games.