Could it happen? Currently Florida State and Notre Dame are #4 and #11, respectively. For them to play each other in the BCS national championship game they would have to be #1 and #2. So the questions are who’s ahead of them, and what would have to happen for these two teams to climb that high?
The Seminoles are already #4, so they only need to move up two spots. Two of those teams are Alabama and LSU, who play each other, thus guaranteeing a loss to one of them. Could FSU possibly jump them both?
Alabama plays consecutive road games at Missouri, then Tennessee. If Missouri is able to at least work them hard enough, it’s certainly possible for the Volunteers to finish the job and give the Crimson Tide its first loss of the season. Alabama then has to travel to LSU — another possible loss. Two losses would certainly be enough to knock Alabama out of the national championship game. Even one loss should be enough to allow an undefeated FSU team to pass them.
Between the top two SEC teams, LSU appears to have the tougher conference schedule. In addition to the SEC West teams, the Tigers must travel to Florida and also host South Carolina (note: to make it even more difficult, those games are back-to-back). So a loss outside of the ‘Bama game is certainly possible for the Bayou Bengals. Furthermore, if Florida beats LSU, that would be ideal because Florida States plays the Gators and could not only take them down but also hurt LSU’s strength of schedule at the same time.
On the other hand, what if the Gamecocks are able to upset LSU in Baton Rouge? Clemson hosts South Carolina this year, so a win for the ACC in that game is a win for the Seminoles. If both Florida and South Carolina should defeat LSU, and then LSU should knock off Alabama, it’s conceivable that no team from the SEC will be selected for the BCS championship game.
These are the teams currently ahead of the Irish in the coaches poll:
Is it conceivable that Notre Dame could climb that many spots? Well, first of all, since we are discussing the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, media darlings with a long and proud football tradition, you can be sure they will get the benefit of the doubt. Still, a majority of the teams ahead of them are also media darlings; it’s most likely those teams would have to lose in order for the Irish to climb. Could it happen?
Yes, it absolutely could. We’ve already discussed what it might take to bump Alabama and LSU out of contention – what about the others? Consider this scenario:
Oregon plays a number of Pac-12 teams fully capable of knocking them off as well. I could see a team like Washington State or Utah upsetting the Ducks under the right circumstances, but the most likely loss is probably at the USC Trojans. The Ducks also play Stanford. Fortunately for them, Notre Dame plays both USC and Stanford, so if either team can take down Oregon, the Fighting Irish would then have a chance to beat the team that beat Oregon.
Georgia ends the season against Georgia Tech, but since I’m not confident of an ACC victory there I’d think the best case would be for Florida and South Carolina both to beat Georgia, thus eliminating the Bulldogs. If not one of those, there’s also Tennessee (next weekend), not to mention the SEC championship game.
The Big 12 teams which are ahead of Notre Dame present a bit of a problem because WVU and Kansas State have already beaten their ACC opponents, eliminating the opportunity for a conference-mate to knock them out of the running. Still, the Irish do play Oklahoma, so if the Sooners can take out WVU and Texas — and if one of those teams can take out Kansas State — then Notre Dame would control their own destiny in that game as well.
Stanford travels to South Bend, so Notre Dame can take care of that obstacle themselves, as well. If the Cardinal can recover enough to knock off Oregon later, so much the better.
What if Florida State, Notre Dame, and one other team should all end up undefeated — how will the BCS break a 3-way tie?
For Notre Dame to finish undefeated, that means the Irish would have to beat Oklahoma, Stanford, Miami and USC — with that strength of schedule, I have no doubts that an undefeated Notre Dame rockets to #1 in the computers, if not the human polls, too. The fact that two of those are Pac-12 teams could really hammer the strength of schedule for Oregon, who already plays several teams who have lost to FCS and/or non-AQ FBS teams (see article: Good wins/Bad Losses, here on Atlantic Coast Convos).
And what about Florida State? An undefeated season for the Seminoles means they would have defeated Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida — not a bad schedule there, either (too bad West Virginia had to chicken out or the ‘Noles could really control their own destiny!). As it is FSU would need a little help, but not an unreasonable amount of it. After all, it’s highly unlikely that the SEC or Big 12 finish with even one undefeated team, much less two.
Given the fact that FSU plays Florida — while a team they’ve beaten (Clemson) plays South Carolina — this year could easily come down to the final game of the regular season, with a lot more than just bragging rights on the line. It’s certainly possible that a BCS championship berth could go to the conference (ACC or SEC) who wins “rivalry week”.
Now wouldn’t that be something?
Read more from Hokie Mark over at ACCFootballRx, where he gives his prescription for fixing what ails the ACC on the gridiron.