The BCS Chase

BCS CHASE: THREE TEAMS JUST BEHIND ALABAMA FAVORED TO WIN SATURDAY NIGHT

Normally in our Saturday edition of the NOTEBOOK, we provide a preview of the marquee prime time game that everyone's talking about and sports bettors are interested in playing. This week, there aren't any! Well, everyone's talking in general about the three teams chasing Alabama (and we previewed the Texas A&M/Alabama game for you yesterday on these pages). We thought it best to go with the flow, and outline what's ahead for Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame as they try to remain undefeated so they can either play Alabama for the BCS title in early January, or have survivors play against each other.

First, here are the basics...

BCS RANKINGS
2...Kansas State
3...Oregon
4...Notre Dame

Kansas State currently has the #2 spot, but their strength of schedule isn't particularly great the rest of the way. And, the fact that there isn't a Big 12 Championship game any more takes away the possibility of pumping that up. Their season finale is against Texas...and Texas has a chance to bring a good record into that game despite losses to Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Oregon is the team best positioned to make a run because Stanford and Oregon State are still ahead. A couple of weeks ago the Pac 12 Championship game also would have been something that boosted strength of schedule. The South has been such a disappointment (particularly USC), that Oregon must now hope wins over Stanford and Oregon State are enough to push them to #2.

Notre Dame's toughest games are in the rearview mirror accept for a "no-win" spot against USC. Beating the slumping Trojans wouldn't help much. Losing to them would be fatal in BCS championship terms. Bottom line, Notre Dame doesn't control its destiny, and needs help from at least on Pac 12 team and possibly Texas too if they're going to play for the title.

TONIGHT'S GAMES
*Kansas State (-7) at TCU at 7 p.m. ET on FOX
*Oregon (-28) at California at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
*Notre Dame (-19) at Boston College at 8 p.m. ET on ABC

To the degree there's drama this week, it involves the injury to Collin Klein of Kansas State. It's assumed he's going to play. But if he's out, or not playing at 100%, then a road trip to TCU is far from safe. Kansas State has played so great on the road this year at West Virginia and Oklahoma though, that you can't assume this is a critical danger spot until you see Klein struggling or standing on the sidelines watching. Any thrills for Oregon or Notre Dame would be a strike against those programs given Saturday Night's opposition.

NEXT WEEK'S GAMES
*Kansas State at Baylor
*Oregon vs. Stanford (currently 14th in the BCS rankings)
*Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest

Oregon/Stanford will be huge in the BCS picture...and will likely be a game we preview in depth on these pages next week. Stanford just missed beating Notre Dame (some believe they won the game), and at least has a chance to slow down Oregon by playing ball control offense. Kansas State is on the road again, but is playing one of the worst teams in the Big 12. A potential flat spot emotionally, but a game that champions win. Notre Dame plays one of the worst teams in a bad conference, knowing that even a blowout probably won't lift them up to where it matters.

AFTER THAT

  • Kansas State closes with a home game against Texas on Saturday December 1st. With no championship game in the Big 12, so that will be it until bowl time. Kansas State will be a decent-sized favorite given the fact that they beat Oklahoma on the road...while Oklahoma obliterated Texas on a neutral field. But, the Horns are playing better lately, which might help Kansas State's strength of schedule.

  • Oregon visits Oregon State (currently 11th in the BCS rankings) in the final game on their schedule Saturday November 24th. Rivalry games are always danger spots, and this is the best Oregon State team in years. If the Ducks beat Stanford and Oregon State, they will play again in the Pac 12 Championship game the next weekend, as a prohibitive favorite over whoever represents the South.

  • Notre Dame finishes on the road at USC on Saturday November 24th. Tough luck for Notre Dame that USC has been slumping. The Irish were hurt early in strength of schedule because the Big Ten turned out to be so bad (and the close game with Purdue looks really weak now). This late flurry of Boston College, Wake Forest, and USC will probably get them into a BCS bowl, but not playing for the whole enchilada (that's covered with tostitos).

MOST LIKELY SCENARIO FOR THE BCS TITLE
For now, you have to assume Alabama wins out against their projected pointspreads to maintain its #1 spot and a berth in the game. What we've laid out for you suggests Oregon is best positioned to rise up to #2, but has the most serious challenges in terms of quality opposition that might stick them with a loss.

Let's say it this way:

  • If everyone wins out as favorites, then we're looking at Alabama-Oregon for the title

  • If Oregon gets upset, Kansas State would then be well positioned to finish at #2 as long as they take care of business.

  • Notre Dame isn't out of it simply because BCS Chaos can strike anywhere...and because Kansas State could stub its toe in any of its final three spots as Oregon is dealing with two divisional rivals who have earned BCS rankings. It will take an upset...but we all know how common upsets are in the final few weeks of college football seasons. Alabama was lucky to survive last week in Baton Rouge, and could have its hands full Saturday afternoon vs. Texas A&M.

If EVERYBODY stuffers an upset, KATIE BAR THE DOOR! It will depend on who the opponents were, and what happens with other current one-loss teams like Georgia and Florida.

JIM HURLEY has his eye on the BCS races because they can distract players in a way that's very meaningful in handicapping terms. But, he also has his eye on many Saturday games this week that are important in their conferences even if they're not going to influence the national championship race.

Like:
Louisville at Syracuse in the Big East
Wisconsin at Indiana in the Big Ten (could Indiana smell Roses?)
Penn State at Nebraska in the Big Ten
Oregon State at Stanford in the Pac 12 (great "homework" game for handicappers)
Miami of Florida at Virginia in the ACC
Georgia at Auburn in the SEC
West Virginia at Oklahoma State in the Big 12 (coaching drama!)

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Back with you Sunday with an NFL stat preview of Houston-Chicago in the NBC Sunday Night game. That's a potential Super Bowl preview the way those defenses are playing, and will be one of the most bet games in Las Vegas this regular season. Don't make a move until you hear what JIM HURLEY has to say!

23
Nov

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