College Football Rankings 2012: Breaking Down Battles for BCS at-Large Berths
With the release of the AP poll, the coaches' poll and the BCS standings on Sunday after a wild Week 11 of action, the landscape of college football has shifted considerably.
Alabama's loss and eventual drop from the top spot has left Oregon and Kansas State as the two teams on the inside track toward the national championship.
The rest of the bowl picture is still very much in the air. The Pac-12 has much to be decided before the conference championship game. Behind the Wildcats in the Big 12, can Oklahoma make a strong enough push to be considered a legitimate BCS team?
There are several teams with a real shot at the BCS. Here's a look at the main contenders, the sleepers and the teams that need a miracle to make one of the last three at-large spots.
Keep in mind that schools can't have more than two teams in the 10 spots, and the selection committees can take any school if the selected conference to fill a slot has already been represented in the national championship game.
No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 11 Clemson, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 LSU, No. 5 Georgia, No. 19 Louisville
It's safe to say that Notre Dame, barring an epic collapse the last two weeks of the season, will get one of the at-large spots. If they take the Rose Bowl spot occupied by Oregon with the rest of the Pac-12 ineligible with three losses (permissible if Oregon were to win out), leaving three spots still to be had.
Oklahoma has a good chance to catch the eye of an election committee because both of their losses came to teams in the Top 3 of the BCS. One more loss would eliminate them from contention, as would a poor showing against both West Virginia and Oklahoma State.
Clemson's biggest challenge remaining is No. 9 South Carolina. Since Florida State locks up a berth in the ACC championship game with a win over Maryland, Clemson could impress voters with a win there. Louisville will make the Orange Bowl with a conference championship and only one loss.
The rest of the schools are SEC teams, where the biggest scenarios are still in play. Georgia looks headed for a crash-course with Alabama. Win, they go to the Sugar Bowl. Lose, they still aren't completely out of the running.
Georgia needs Florida to lose to Florida State, and the tiebreaker would go to the Bulldogs after a head-to-head win. Voters would then have to decide between LSU and Georgia, two two-loss teams that haven't played each other and have a common loss to Alabama. LSU has a convincing win over South Carolina, Georgia's other loss, while Georgia has a big win over Florida, LSU's other loss.
Needless to say, it could get messy in pursuit of a second SEC spot.
No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 9 South Carolina, No. 13 Stanford
Both A&M and South Carolina need the rest of the teams in the SEC to stumble big-time. That would include both Florida and LSU dropping winnable games the next two weeks, and likely Georgia getting blown out by Alabama.
Still, more likely destinations for the two include the Cotton Bowl and the Chik-Fil-A Bowl. It would take a lot of work from the other teams to push either of those SEC schools into the mix, but a big win over Alabama made it possible for A&M and South Carolina will have a win over highly-ranked Clemson if they are to pull off the task.
Stanford would have to knock off Oregon, creating chaos, but that win on its resume, coupled with defeating UCLA in the final week, would make for an interesting scenario. Would that be enough to leapfrog an SEC team? Only a win would tell, and Stanford will get a shot against Oregon to make things interesting.
Waiting on a Miracle
No. 20 Louisiana Tech, No. 22 Rutgers
Louisiana Tech has shown a high propensity for points this year, and even took Texas A&M down to the wire with 50-plus points. But the voters aren't impressed so far, and they sit at No. 20. To make the BCS via the at-large process, they need to finish ahead of the Big East winner and sit in the top 16.
It's a long shot, but if Oregon State, UCLA and USC all lose along the way (the likely path for Oregon to make the NC) all lose, then Louisiana Tech could be in a good position to move up far enough into the top 16.
For Rutgers, the head-to-head matchup with Louisville will seal their fate. It's a long shot that they win the game or even move ahead of Louisiana Tech, as their style of play and schedule don't bode well for selection committees.
However, they only have one loss and play in the Big East, so that could trump the non-BCS conference La. Tech team when it's all said and done. Lots of scenarios across the board for these two, and it looks like they are the least likely to get in.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Follow @DowntownEG
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