A crucial difference between that forthcoming era of the BCS, which will feature more wiggle room, and the one we’re stuck with now is the importance of being undefeated ... especially this season.
The way things are shaping up with the league leaders in the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and independent Notre Dame, there seems to be absolutely no margin for error if those teams have designs on playing football on Jan. 7.
History has shown us that these things tend to work themselves out. As we know, each week of the college football season typically brings a new surprise.
But before all of that plays itself out (or not and chaos arrives), let’s take a look at the leading candidates to take their talents and unblemished records to South Beach.
Alabama (8-0 overall, 5-0 in SEC)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 at LSU; Nov. 10 vs. Texas A&M; Nov. 17 vs. Western Carolina; Nov. 24 vs. Auburn; (possible) Dec. 1 SEC Championship Game
The Crimson Tide’s biggest hurdle is upon us. It’s all downhill after Saturday’s visit to Baton Rouge. Playing at night in Death Valley is no walk in the park, but our friends in the desert seem to think double-digit favorite Alabama won’t have much trouble with last season’s SEC champions.
Bama’s final three games are all at home. Texas A&M won’t go quietly, but they’ll go. Western Carolina is merely a warmup for the Iron Bowl. Auburn, which really isn’t Auburn anymore, is just an exercise to stay sharp for a likely appearance in the SEC Championship Game ... and an opportunity to bid farewell to Gene Chizik.
Upsets happen, but Nick Saban isn’t the kind of character that would allow his crew to let its guard down.
Assuming that things go according to form on Saturday at Tiger Stadium and subsequently against the SEC East champion in Atlanta, the Tide are one of the two in Miami.
That’s a couple big assumptions, but these guys are No. 1 by a significant margin and should stay that way.
Notre Dame (8-0)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 vs. Pittsburgh; Nov. 10 at Boston College; Nov. 17 vs. Wake Forest; Nov. 24 at USC
After snagging that 30-13 victory in Norman last Saturday, the Fighting Irish have an excellent chance to remain undefeated. Their biggest mountain to climb is now behind them.
Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest have only 10 combined victories and all three might not go bowling.
USC, which stands out there at the end of the regular season, is on a slippery slope. Once a major player in the BCS discussion, the Trojans are fading.
Currently a strength of schedule and perception pawn that has been reduced to the role of spoiler, USC has Oregon coming to the Coliseum on Saturday. But by the time Notre Dame makes its visit to Los Angeles, the Trojans could possibly have melted down.
Kansas State (8-0 overall, 5-0 in Big 12)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 vs. Oklahoma State; Nov. 10 at TCU; Nov. 17 at Baylor; Dec. 1 vs. Texas
The Wildcats’ toughest games are already in the bag, but they don’t have an easy road the rest of the way.
Both of their remaining home games are versus teams currently ranked among the BCS standings (Oklahoma State is 24th and Texas is 23rd).
The two road games are tricky and Kansas State’s arrival will create “Game of the Year” environments. TCU hasn’t lost a game in November since 2008 and you’d have to go back four more years to find an instance of them dropping a late-season game at home. Baylor beat K-State the last time it visited Waco and only lost by a point in Manhattan last season.
All that being said, however, Collin Klein and Bill Snyder will sweep all potential banana peels to the side.
The fact that the Wildcats don’t have a conference title game to worry about is good for their aspirations of being undefeated, but it hurts the potential to maintain their current No. 2 position in the BCS Standings.
Yup, with only two teams playing one game for the mythical national crown, strength of schedule might end up deciding it.
Oregon (8-0 overall, 5-0 in Pac-12)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 at USC; Nov. 10 at California; Nov. 17 vs. Stanford; Nov. 24 at Oregon State; (possible) Nov. 30 Pac-12 Championship Game
The Ducks have an air of invincibility about them. But let’s think about that for a moment. How is that any different from what they’ve been like ever since Chip Kelly’s second game in charge in 2009?
The only time they’ve been able to get to the end of the regular season unscathed was in 2010 and during that final stretch of four games then-No. 1 Oregon was favored by no less than 16 points in each contest.
This time around, they’ll enjoy that sort of respect only when they play those two pushovers from northern California.
Anything can happen in Saturday’s game at USC, the regular-season finale at Oregon State and at their presumed appearance in the conference title game.
The first two-thirds of the Duck schedule was a pillow soft. Their only road games were at Washington State and Arizona State.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Louisville (8-0 overall, 3-0 in Big East)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 vs. Temple; Nov. 10 at Syracuse; Nov. 24 vs. Connecticut; Nov. 29 at Rutgers
After an overtime victory last week against Cincinnati, the Cardinals are still undefeated. To remain that way, all four of their remaining games will have to be earned.
If (and that’s a huge “if”) Louisville makes it to Piscataway at 11-0, Rutgers, which would have been included in this conversation if not for last Saturday’s stunning loss to Kent State, will dash the undefeated dream.
The prospect of claiming an automatic BCS berth adds a lot of pressure to a regular-season finale and by then the “Charlie Strong to (fill in the blank)” talk will be a massive distraction. It’s a toxic mix.
Alas, it doesn’t really matter, Big East teams are virtually as ineligible for the BCS title game as ... (see below).
Ohio State (9-0 overall, 5-0 in Big Ten, ineligible for postseason play)
Remaining games: Nov. 3 vs. Illinois; Nov. 17 at Wisconsin; Nov. 24 vs. Michigan
The road to 12-0 won’t take the Buckeyes to the BCS or any bowl game, but probation shouldn’t keep them from being recognized along with the rest of this unblemished bunch.
The last two hurdles — at Camp Randall and the finale vs. “you know who” — are high ones, but it seems like Urban Meyer has most, if not all, of the answers.
CFT: Syracuse confirmed that former quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Don McPherson will have their respective jerseys raised to the Carrier Dome roof this year.
CFT: Senior receiver Wilson Van Hooser is transferring from Tulane to help care for his ailing mother.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
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