Surprise, surprise. Another team jumps Oregon despite a convincing Duck win. Oregon State is now officially out of the National Championship picture, and by officially, I mean if you're being realistic. There are only 5 unbeaten teams left: Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon and Louisville. Below is my evaluation of each team's chances at playing for the title.
1 - ALABAMA -BCS AVG: .9759 (8-0) Remaining Schedule: @LSU, Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Auburn, SEC Title Game @ Atlanta
The Tide got their first real 'test' of the season Saturday with an unbeaten #11 ranked Mississippi State team that had been playing extremely well on offense. Alabama's defense did what they were supposed to and exposed the Bulldogs offense, who was on fire, but had not played anyone of note. I'm not going to go as far as to say AJ McCarron should be a Heisman Trophy candidate but he is incredibly accurate, and is no longer a game manager for this team, he is a dangerous weapon on offense. The running game isn't quite the same as a year ago, but still more than capable, and if Alabama can stay balanced on offense and continue their defensive dominance there is a great chance the run the table. Things don't get easier with LSU on the road this week, they still have a tough Texas A&M team in 2 weeks, and will play either Georgia or Florida in the conference title game should they get there.
K State seems to have the easiest road to going undefeated, unless you count Louisville, which I don't. Collin Klein and the offense rolled again putting up another 50+ point game against Texas Tech, and the defense stopped a very talented Tech offense. I really don't know what to make out of their defense though. They have played very well this season, but watching them against WV and TT, the opposition seems out of their game. Is it because they happened to have an off day, or because of K State's D? I can't answer that. Their strength of schedule took a hit with Oklahoma losing, OK ST and Texas are still ranked, but won't be with another loss (to KST), and with no conference championship, I really see the only way they get to Miami is if they are 1 of 2 unbeatens, again, not counting Louisville.
OK, now we can say the Irish are for real NOBODY expected them to beat Oklahoma, and manhandle them the way they did. ND was the first unbeaten team this late in the season to be a double digit underdog and win since Ohio State in the 2002 National Title game, which really means nothing, it's just an interesting stat. We talk about that ND defense and how outstanding they are, and they showed it again this week, but they had over 400 yards of total offense, including 215 on the ground. Oklahoma's defense isn't extraordinary, but their offense is. ND has 3 easy games before USC on the road, and we've seen USC be incredibly inconsistent, but at home, they are markedly better than on the road, so there's no guarantee ND wins out. If they do, that would likely give USC 4 losses if they lose to Oregon, and put them at the bottom of the BCS top 25 if they remain ranked at all. The ONLY other currently ranked team on their schedule is Stanford, who still has to play Oregon, plus they don't have a conference championship game, since they are independent. The advantage they do have, is they don't have any cupcakes. They have some below average level BCS Conference teams on the sked like Wake Forest, Pitt, and BC, and independent Navy. The Computer polls have them #1, but with the strength of schedule decreasing dramatically in the next 3 weeks, that will change.
4 - OREGON - BCS Avg: .8966 (8-0) Sked: @USC, @CAL, Stanford, @ Oregon State, Pac 12 Title Game
The question Oregon fans are asking today is, at the end of the season will we be ahead of KST or ND if we are all unbeaten. Like I said above, I do think they pass Kansas State. The problem is if ND starts getting more love from the human polls. There is a larger gap between KST at 3 and ND at 4 in both the Coaches Poll and the Harris Poll than there is between OR at 2 and K ST at 3, and Oregon needs to PRAY that it stays that way. I still think there is a very good chance that Oregon passes both the Wildcats and the Irish at the end of the year, gaining some ground with the strength of schedule. USC, Stanford Oregon State are still ranked for now. It's far from a guarantee now that USC gets to the conference championship, UCLA now also controls their own destiny, either team can win out and get in. Arizona and Arizona State still have a legitimate shot.
This weekend was the WORST case scenario for the Ducks, excluding a loss. USC and Oregon State lost, dropping their strength of schedule, Notre Dame and Kansas State won convincingly. Oregon fans are going to be big time LSU fans on Saturday night. So to recap for the Ducks, win out, hope the human polls stay the same, and hope because your remaining strength of schedule is superior to Kansas State and Notre Dame, that you will pass them, or close the gap in the computers. You need Oregon State, USC, and Stanford to win as many games as possible.
5 - LSU - BCS Avg: .8163 (7-1) - Sked: Alabama, Miss St, Ole Miss, @ Arkansas, SEC Title Game (vs FL or GA)
LSU is coming off a bye as they host Alabama on Saturday. If they win out, they go to the conference title game, not Alabama. In order for the Tigers to go to the National Title game, they need to win out, and hope only 1 team is unbeaten. I do think they get in that way, but that's the only way.
6 - GEORGIA - BCS Avg: .7753 6-1) - Sked: Ole Miss, @ Auburn, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, SEC Title Game @ Atlanta (vs Bama or LSU)
A very impressive effort against Florida Saturday forcing 6 turnovers. They do still have a chance. They need some help. They need LSU to win this week, win the rest of their schedule including beating LSU in the conference title game, and hope that 1 or less teams are unbeaten. The Bulldogs regular season schedule is easy, if they win out, they go to Atlanta. It's not unthinkable, just not very likely.
7 - FLORIDA - BCS Avg: .7604 (7-1) Sked: Missouri, ULL, Jacksonville State, @ Florida State, SEC Title Game @ Atlanta (vs Bama or LSU)
Florida is in a similar situation to Georgia. The only difference is, the Gators no longer control their own destiny, they need UGA to lose somewhere along the way so they can get to Atlanta. Very unlikely. That offense was UGLY on Saturday. This looked more like the Florida team we thought we would see more often this season. Very strong defense, average at best offense. The luck finally ran out.
8 - SOUTH CAROLINA - BCS Avg: .5968 (7-2) Sked: vs Arkansas, vs Wofford, @ Clemson
With Marcus Lattimore's season and possibly career ending knee injury, the Cocks have no shot. End of story. They will probably win out, although Clemson on the road isn't easy. They just can't get enough help to get to even a BCS bowl period, let alone the title game.
9 - FLORIDA STATE - BCS Avg: 5743 (8-1) Sked: @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida, ACC Title Game @ Charlotte
The Noles are the class of the ACC. Big deal. They SHOULD easily win the rest of their games, with Florida being the biggest challenge. Even a 1 loss FSU team with no unbeatens will have a very very difficult time getting to the national title game. Enjoy your consolation Orange Bowl, the paycheck, and look ahead to next year.
The only remote chance they have is for the Cardinals to be the only unbeaten team. If that happens, they may have a very slight chance of playing for it all, but like we see in the human polls and even the computers, there are several one loss teams already ahead of them, and that is not likely to change. Louisville's remaining schedule certainly doesn't help.
11 - OREGON STATE - BCS Avg: .5559 (6-1) - Sked: Arizona State, @ Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Oregon, Nicholls State/Pac 12 Title Game
The national championship talk is over, so now the question is how can the Beavers get to a BCS Bowl. The easy answer, win out. Beat everyone, including Oregon, win the Pac-12 title game, you are automatically in. I hate to say this, but you have to assume they lose to the Ducks, although Beaver fans might have something to say about that. Let's assume that happens. They need to beat ASU, Stanford, Cal and Nicholls State. If they do, and they have 2 losses, there is a very good chance that they get to Pasadena, UNLESS Oregon stumbles somewhere. If the Ducks go to the Rose Bowl, and not the national title game, Oregon State isn't enough of a draw for another BCS Bowl game to select them as an at large team, even with the rest of the conferences down. The SEC will get 2 teams in, there are 5 other automatic bids, and ND will get in, so that's 8 teams, leaving 2 spots open. The Big Ten and Big East won't get 2 teams in, leaving the ACC, Big 12 and Pac 12 fighting for those last 2 spots. Clemson will take one if they win out, they won't play in the conference title game if FSU wins out, so that's one less chance of them losing a game. Even a 2 loss Clemson with the second loss possibly being against South Carolina would get in over a 2 loss OSU. A 2 loss Oklahoma would also be selected ahead of OSU. Remember, this is up to the bowls to pick who they want, regardless of what is 'fair". Because the Rose Bowl is obsessed with tradition, there is a very good chance they would select the Beavers ahead of Clemson or Oklahoma, there is no chance the other bowls do that. They do have to finish in the top 14 in the BCS in order to be eligible for an at large selection, as do the other schools involved.
**NO OTHER UNBEATEN TEAMS REMAIN
**Other Pac-12 Teams in BCS Top 25: (14) - Stanford; (17) - USC; (22) - Arizona
Title game: Oregon vs Alabama; Kansas State goes to Fiesta Bowl vs Notre Dame ; LSU in Sugar Bowl vs Oklahoma; Oregon State vs Nebraska in the Rose Bowl; Orange Bowl: Louisville vs Florida State
For more, tune in to Travis & Wilcox weekdays Noon-3 pacific on ESPN Sports Radio 1080 The FAN, www.1080thefan.com and the 1080 The FAN app.