BCS Rankings 2012: Alabama Is Clearly No. 1, but Who's the Real No. 2 Team?

Jonathan LamContributor IIINovember 5, 2012

BCS Rankings 2012: Alabama Is Clearly No. 1, but Who's the Real No. 2 Team?

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    Alabama has been rolling over opponents all season long. So, barring parity, let's just say for argument's sake that the Crimson Tide will be in the BCS National Championship game.

    Out of the remaining undefeated teams in Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame, which squad most deserves to be in the conversation to face Alabama?

Kansas State Wildcats

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    No. 2 Kansas State posted a big win over No. 24 Oklahoma State and did nothing to compromise its position. Heisman favorite Collin Klein, however, left the game with 9:47 remaining in the third quarter after rushing for a one-yard touchdown.

    According to Yahoo! Sports, he may have sustained a concussion. Coach Bill Snyder may have just benched him for precautionary reasons with the Wildcats leading the Cowboys 38-17.

    Snyder sent backup Daniel Sams in for relief but only dialed up six more pass plays to 18 rushes, including the final kneel-down. Of those six passes, only two of them went for first downs. 

    Next week, Kansas State travels to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU, a team that just beat then-No. 21 West Virginia in double overtime. If Klein misses extended time, then the Wildcats' season will go down the drain.

    The Wildcats only have a 0.152-point lead over Oregon in the BCS standings, so the margin for error is extremely low. They cannot afford to have a game like Notre Dame just had against Pittsburgh.

    The Kansas State defense boasts the country's best turnover margin at plus-21 and surrenders an average of 18.6 points per game. An impressive statistic when you consider that they've contained explosive offenses.

    Oklahoma was averaging 46.5 points per game; Kansas State held the Sooners to 19. West Virginia was averaging 45.7 points per game; Kansas State held it to 14. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were also averaging above 40 points per game, yet Kansas State held them to 24 and 30 points, respectively.

    Baylor and Texas, ranked No. 6 and No. 11 in scoring offense, respectively, remain on the Wildcats' schedule. If the defense can continue to play at a high level, Kansas State stands a real chance of winning out and reaching the title game.

Oregon Ducks

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    It seems as though the computers stayed on for Oregon to leapfrog Notre Dame in the BCS rankings. The Ducks have been running over opponents all season long with a deadly ground attack, with USC as their latest victim.

    Their offensive numbers are just that: offensive. It's no secret how powerful they are, but let's just look at the stats for fun.

    The Ducks have the No. 1 scoring offense, with 54.3 points per game and 68 touchdowns, and they place fourth in total yards per game (561.2). Their No. 1 scoring rush offense has 39 scores, leads the nation in yards per attempt (6.29) and ranks No. 2 with 341.22 yards per game.

    Yes, the Oregon offense is powerful, and they're supported by a defense that's tied for third in takeaways with 26. As stingy as the defense is, it does give up yards and points. It is ranked 40th in scoring defense and 51st in total defense. 

    As West Virginia found out earlier this year against Texas Tech, games cannot be won and lost on offense. Eventually, a poor defense will give way and lose the game.  

    The Ducks face real tests in their final two weeks of the regular season against No. 14 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State. Stanford has the best run defense in the nation—yes, even better than Alabama—giving up only 55.56 yards per game and 1.91 yards per attempt. The Cardinal also rank No. 12 in scoring defense, surrendering only 16.6 points per game.

    The week after Stanford, Oregon faces an Oregon State defense that ranks fifth against the run (91.75) and 19th in points per game (18.1).

    To rattle off these wins, the Ducks either need to fix their defense, improve their passing game or have their rush offense pull off a helluva game—twice.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Notre Dame must not be loving the human part of the BCS right now, because that factor bumped them down from No. 3 to No. 4 after a poor showing against Pittsburgh on Saturday. If it were up to the computers, the Fighting Irish would be at No. 2 right now.

    First, let me address the elephant in the room that was Saturday. Notre Dame found itself in a position it shouldn't have been in in the first place, but parity is the reason we love college football. Who didn't think the 2007 season and the curse of No. 2 was the most exciting season in recent memory?

    Notre Dame's season has been defined by its defensive play and the offense making plays in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Tommy Rees led the game-winning drive against Purdue, which ended in a field goal.

    The offense managed the final six minutes of the clock against Stanford to kick a game-tying field goal before Rees put the Irish up a touchdown in overtime and the defense made a goal-line stand at the 1.

    After regaining the lead against BYU early in the fourth quarter, the defense kept the Cougars on a long drive that ended in a punt, and the offense again milked the clock with about six minutes left. With only 22 seconds left, the defense capitalized on BYU's desperation and intercepted the ball. 

    The Pitt game is very much in the same ilk. Backed up against its own 4-yard line late in the third quarter, the defense forced the Panthers to settle for a field goal. Pitt would then be held scoreless in the fourth as the Notre Dame offense rallied behind starting QB Everett Golson to score two touchdowns. 

    This is a team built around defense, and the Irish aren't going to wow you with their offense—unless it's the last 15 minutes of the game.

    Like Kansas State, Notre Dame has an easy schedule down the stretch, but it faces USC on November 24. Though the Trojans have lost big games this year, they have beaten the Irish nine of the last 10 times in the Battle for the Jeweled Shillelagh, and Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley has never lost to Notre Dame.

And the Winner Is...

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    The Wildcats have the easiest schedule of these three teams, with a defense that has held its own against some of the most explosive offenses in the country. Despite leading Oregon by 0.152 and Notre Dame by 0.268 in the BCS, they are far and away the most qualified team to compete against Alabama.

    Oregon clearly has the most difficult schedule of the three teams vying for the right to face Alabama. Hopefully, running back Kenjon Barner will continue to improve upon his performance against USC (though that will be a tall order, statistically).

    It may be jumping ahead, but the last two times Oregon faced SEC opponents in Auburn and LSU, the Ducks could not get their running game going. Against Auburn in the 2010 BCS National Championship, the Ducks could only muster 75 yards on the ground and no touchdowns. In last year's season opener against LSU, they only managed 95 yards.

    If all three teams win out and I'm a voter for the Harris Poll or USA Today Poll, I wouldn't vote Oregon—which has the lowest computer rankings of the top four teams—because the Ducks haven't been able to compete against SEC opponents and don't stand a chance against the best defense in the country.

    A meeting between Notre Dame and Alabama in the title game would be like last year's: a standoff between the nation's two best defenses. The Tide, however, shut out an LSU offense that came in averaging 38.5 points per game. The Irish are nowhere near that mark right now, averaging 26.7 points per game, which puts them at 72nd in the nation.

    Notre Dame's team identity reminds me of last year's Denver Broncos. The defense keeps the team in the game until the offense finds a way to score in the final quarter. Eventually, that type of play will prove to be unsustainable. For the Irish, I predict that will happen sooner rather than later against USC.

    For Kansas State, Collin Klein has accounted for 29 of the Wildcats' 51 touchdowns this season, so his availability certainly translates into team success. I think he will be ready to play TCU on Saturday; his benching was likely nothing more than a precautionary measure.

    Who do you think should play for the BCS National Championship? Could all these teams lose in the next month, allowing an SEC East team to sneak in? Sound off below!

     

    All stats provided by cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.