OK, who wants a piece of Alabama in the BCS title game?
With their Houdini-like escape against an LSU team that outplayed them for nearly 59 minutes, the Crimson Tide emerged from their toughest game of the year more solidified than ever as the top-ranked team. Had Alabama lost, the SEC would've been facing the prospect of not having a team in the BCS title game for the first time in seven years.
Alas, the SEC doesn't kill its best team off. Not usually anyway.
Other than LSU's triple-overtime loss to Arkansas in 2007, the "right" teams always pulled out victories in the season's closing weeks, no matter how perilous the circumstances. And even those '07 Tigers somehow got a reprieve and wound up winning the BCS national championship.
Alabama appears certain to continue that trend. Now that its toughest game is out of the way, it has just a mild challenge from Texas A&M next week, then a scrimmage and a bye (Western Carolina and Auburn, take your pick on which is which), before the SEC championship game. And even there the Tide get a break as they'll end up with Georgia instead of a potentially more troublesome Florida team as title-game fodder.
So, who's Alabama going to face in the BCS title game?
It looks to be a two-team race now, between Oregon and Kansas State. The Ducks won a track meet against USC in their highest profile game of the season, though the outcome of the game was never seriously in doubt because the Trojans could never stop Oregon's offense. Oregon will continue to occupy the No. 2 spot in the polls, and will likely gain vote shares in both at the expense of Notre Dame.
Kansas State will still hold down the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings, despite ranking third in both polls, because of its superior computer rankings. The question is now whether the Wildcats can hold off the Oregon surge in both the polls and the computers.
The biggest loser on Saturday is unquestionably Notre Dame, which won a thriller against Pitt in triple overtime. It was a costly victory for the Irish, who certainly will lose vote shares in both polls and will slide in the computer rankings after beating a team that lost to FCS Youngstown State. Even with a convincing victory, Notre Dame was going to cede the No. 3 spot to Oregon this week, and now it will be a distant fourth.
The Irish will have to resign themselves to either the Rose Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl unless both Oregon and Kansas State lose a game the rest of the season. There is simply no path for Notre Dame to get into the top 2 spots in the BCS standings if all four teams stay undefeated. It will not make up ground in any meaningful way in the polls, and its computer strength will erode a bit with games against Boston College (2-7) and Wake Forest (5-4) coming up.
Projected BCS standings:
1. Alabama, 2. Kansas State, 3. Oregon, 4. Notre Dame, 5. Georgia, 6. Florida, 7. Florida State, 8. LSU, 9. Louisville, 10. South Carolina, 11. Oregon State, 12. Oklahoma, 13. Clemson, 14. Stanford, 15. Texas A&M.