Nick Saban and the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide are once again in the thick of the BCS title chase.
With Alabama firmly positioned at the top of the BCS standings heading down the stretch of the season, its perch atop the rankings will remain safe as long as the Tide keep winning.
On a weekend that saw several ranked teams buckle under the pressure—including four from the SEC—Alabama made a statement by blanking Arkansas 52-0.
However, should the Tide suffer a defeat, their strength of schedule will undoubtedly come into play. In the past two seasons, Alabama’s resume was strong enough to endure losses in November and earn the Tide a spot in the BCS title game.
Of course, given the way Alabama has looked in recent weeks, Nick Saban’s club is a threat to run the table and render the standings moot in the process.
Which teams—including those on its schedule, another it could meet in the SEC title game and another that can derail the dreams of a fellow BCS title contender—can provide the Tide with a little insurance for their BCS chances?
Stanford’s BCS title dreams took a severe hit with its upset loss at Utah on Oct. 12, but the Cardinal rebounded in a major way by knocking off previously unbeaten UCLA 24-10 this past weekend.
Now, David Shaw’s club presents the biggest threat to the No. 2 Oregon Ducks.
Stanford hosts Oregon on Nov. 7, and the Ducks would put their national championship dreams in limbo should they suffer a loss.
The Cardinal’s physical play is a different style in the Pac-12, and its one that has given Oregon trouble in years past. However, considering the rise of the Pac-12, a one-loss club—whether it be Oregon, Stanford or UCLA—could sneak into the at-large picture if teams above them falter.
Alabama was heavily criticized after its season-opening 35-10 win over Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies have won six straight games since, climbed all the way up to No. 16 in the latest AP poll and are now in heavy contention in the race to win the ACC’s Coastal Division.
Should the Hokies continue winning, it would make the Tide’s win look more impressive. Also, if the Hokies make it to the ACC title game, they could possibly run into an unbeaten Florida State squad that would be challenging for a spot in the national title game.
If the Hokies continue to make noise in the ACC, Alabama’s nonconference schedule would benefit from an otherwise lukewarm slate.
The SEC East has been quite possibly the wackiest division in all of college football in 2013.
Preseason favorites Georgia, South Carolina and Florida each have at least two losses, while Missouri—a team that went 5-7 last season and was predicted to finish sixth in the SEC East in the preseason poll, according to the Associated Press (via the Washington Times)—is 7-0 and ranked fifth in the latest AP poll.
The Tigers essentially have a two-game lead on the field, and a win over South Carolina this weekend would almost cement a reservation in Atlanta for the SEC title game.
Should the Tide go on to win the West, Alabama would benefit from getting an 11-1 or 12-0 Missouri in Atlanta. If Missouri or another team shows up with at least two losses, the normal luster that comes with winning the SEC title would be somewhat dulled by the carnage that’s unfolded in conference play thus far.
The mere thought of cheering for its most-hated rival has to leave Tide fans feeling a little conflicted, but such is the rationale that comes with the strength-of-schedule component in the BCS standings.
Given the rash of upsets that saw several SEC powers tumble in the polls, Auburn represents the Tide’s highest-ranked opponent left on the schedule.
Gus Malzahn has guided the Tigers to a surprising 6-1 mark, and the Tigers have climbed all the way up to No. 11 in the latest Associated Press poll (via ESPN) after their 45-41 upset win over Texas A&M.
Suddenly, the Tigers schedule looks manageable, as it appears they will be favored in the remaining four games that precede the annual Iron Bowl showdown against the Tide. Should Auburn take care of business until then, the Nov. 30 meeting between Alabama and Auburn will be a battle of Top 10 teams.
With the Tide in the thick of the national championship hunt, their schedule could use the boost of playing another Top 10 team, and Auburn represents the best chance to make that happen.