The Race For Miami - The BCS Chase
The race for Miami - Which teams are realistically left in the hunt?
By Richard Cirminiello
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More than two months of college football have successfully pared the list of eligible contenders for a national championship from more than 10 dozen to a neat and tidy half-dozen. Four weekends of the regular season are all that remain in 2012. Six programs are all that realistically have a chance of appearing in Miami on Jan. 7, with a crystal ball at stake.
Of the four primary threats for a title, Kansas State and Notre Dame have been major surprises this fall. Alabama and Oregon have not. USC and Oklahoma? We thought you'd still be in the discussion in November. College football doesn't have a playoff yet. It'll just feel as if it does over the next 22 days.
6. Florida (8-1)
Cause for Hope: In a best case scenario, Georgia loses on the Plains this Saturday, and Florida State keeps winning. The Gators can still play for an SEC championship, but only if the Dawgs fail to get by Auburn this week. And a one-loss Seminoles team can bring some much-needed attention back to Florida, which will go radio silent in upcoming games with Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State.
Cause for Concern: Obviously, no one needs more help than the Gators, who were a little light on style points even before the Oct. 27 loss to Georgia in Jacksonville. They'll spend the next four Saturdays scoreboard watching, hoping that hurdles to Sun Life Stadium gradually come down each week. If three of the current top four teams don't lose, the best Florida can hope for is an at-large BCS bowl berth.
Roadblocks to Miami: Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, at Florida State, SEC Championship Game
5. Georgia (8-1)
Cause for Hope: Fans were warned not to dismiss the Bulldogs after their loss to South Carolina on Oct. 6. They've since rebounded with three straight wins to reduce their magic number in the SEC East to one. Win four more in a row, including Alabama in the league championship game, and Georgia will be on the doorstep of a national title shot.
Cause for Concern: Among one-loss teams, Georgia has a particularly unsightly blemish, the 35-7 defeat in Columbia. The Bulldogs will only travel north in the standings if one of the top four teams falls for the first time. And a date with ‘Bama in Atlanta is both a blessing and a curse. Yeah, there's a lot to gain, but a second loss could end hopes for any BCS bowl game.
Roadblocks to Miami: at Auburn, Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech, SEC Championship Game
4. Notre Dame (9-0)
Cause for Hope: It's the Irish at 9-0 so anything this team does over the next three weeks will get magnified and overexposed. Of the unbeaten contenders, no one has an easier path to 11-0 than Notre Dame, which travels to Chestnut Hill this week before hosting Wake Forest. The Irish could get a big bump two weeks from now, but only if USC is 8-3 when the two schools meet at The Coliseum.
Cause for Concern: Of the four primary contenders for Miami, Notre Dame is on the outside looking in at this time. If any two of Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State keep winning, there's nothing the Irish will be able to do to get into the top 2 in the human polls. It's just not likely to happen. Not playing on the final weekend, when the others are in action, could hurt ND in the eyes of voters.
Roadblocks to Miami: at Boston College, Wake Forest, at USC
3. Kansas State (9-0)
Cause for Hope: The computer models like the Wildcats, especially when compared to Oregon. Kansas State is directly behind Notre Dame at this time, but might be able to overtake the Irish based on a tougher remaining schedule. Strong finishes by Oklahoma and Miami, K-State victims, would prove beneficial, especially if the ‘Canes can somehow win the ACC title.
Cause for Concern: The human polls, which constitute two-thirds of the BCS formula, favor Oregon for the two-hole. That's unlikely to change as long as the Ducks continue to win. While everyone expects QB Collin Klein to play in Fort Worth this Saturday, his mysterious injury could haunt the Cats if he misses any time over the last three weeks.
Roadblocks to Miami: at TCU, at Baylor, Texas
2. Oregon (9-0)
Cause for Hope: Voters love the Ducks, ranking them No. 2 in both the Harris Poll and USA Today Poll. That's a big plus compared to Kansas State and Notre Dame. Oregon is having problems with the computers, but that only means that there's plenty of room for growth. It'll inevitably edge north with games versus No. 14 Stanford, No. 11 Oregon State and either No. 18 UCLA or No. 19 USC.
Cause for Concern: After traveling to Strawberry Canyon this week, the Ducks have a lot to gain—and lose—down the home stretch. No contender faces more pitfalls to South Florida over the final three weeks than Oregon will. Three ranked teams in the span of 13 days is a tall order for anyone.
Roadblocks to Miami: at Cal, Stanford at Oregon State, Pac-12 Championship Game
1. Alabama (9-0)
Cause for Hope: After knocking off LSU in Baton Rouge, the Crimson Tide is the heavy favorite to repeat as the national champ. The team is No. 1 in both human polls and the aggregate computer models. ‘Bama has a little firewall that no other unbeaten team enjoys. It can lose to Texas A&M this week or even the SEC East winner on Dec. 1, and not be completely eliminated from the discussion.
Cause for Concern: Might there be a letdown after the emotional last-minute win over the rival Tigers? The Aggies are dangerous this week, especially if ‘Bama has trouble matching last Saturday's intensity. LSU made the Tide look mortal, both offensively and with the passing of Zach Mettenberger.
Roadblocks to Miami: Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Auburn, SEC Championship Game