The BCS rankings came out yesterday, but don't get too comfortable with the order of things. There is still a lot of football to be played—the results of which stand to thrust these four teams into the national spotlight by season's end.
Many teams are knocking on the door, but only a select few will break it down. Having high-profile games on the horizon presents a great opportunity to leapfrog into contention, but which teams will shine under the bright lights, and which teams will wilt?
Find out inside.
After losing to a scrappy South Florida team in their season opener, Notre Dame has really found their stride—losing only once since, in a very close game to No. 18 Michigan.
In a strange twist of musical chairs, Notre Dame, Michigan and No. 16 Michigan State share an interesting relationship: although Michigan was handled easily by rival Michigan State last week, the Fighting Irish actually bludgeoned the Spartans 31-13 just a week after falling to the Wolverines in Week 2.
Logically then, these three teams' seasons should be evaluated relative to one another.
So who is the best of the bunch?
Notre Dame's upcoming games against USC, Wake Forest and Stanford will go a long way to establish that.
Michigan State must perform well against No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 13 Nebraska, while Michigan has Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State still left on their schedule. Of the three, Notre Dame has the most to gain from their high-profile matchups.
With the balance Notre Dame exhibits (36th-ranked offense, 30th-ranked defense), they could be the best team to emerge from this impressive pack.
After losing a close game against a tough Wake Forest team, Florida State must win out to be a factor in the BCS Top 25. But thankfully for them, the tough part of their schedule is over—with FSU having already lost to No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 7 Clemson.
Those losses aren't debilitating. Both were close games against two of the very best teams in the country.
FSU's remaining schedule, however, offers the best of both worlds: tough enough to matter, but not tough enough to bet against them. Games against Miami, a very surprising Virginia team, and—probably their biggest competition for a spot in the rankings—the Florida Gators will likely propel them up the charts if they can capitalize.
The Gators could also be in the hunt by the time these two teams meet on the last weekend of the regular season. The winner of this game may very well punch its ticket to BCS recognition, while the loser must join the indistinct masses.
Look for the Seminoles and their 28th-ranked offense to overpower the Gators.
Georgia's only losses this season have come in close games to No. 5 Boise State and No. 14 South Carolina. With games against Florida, No. 20 Auburn, and No. 22 Georgia Tech left on the schedule, the Bulldogs control their own destiny.
Win, and they will almost certainly leapfrog each of these teams on their way to BCS recognition.
The Bulldogs should handle both Florida and Auburn fairly well, as their production on both sides of the ball generally outclasses Auburn, and their offense is well beyond that of Florida.
The real test will come (once again) in the last game of the season, when Georgia’s 26th-ranked defense meets Georgia Tech’s 10th-ranked and explosive offense.
Look for Georgia to win a nail-biter.
All Arizona State has to do is beat the teams they are supposed to beat (namely everyone left on their schedule), and they can punch their ticket to the Top 25.
Having padded their resume with wins over former No. 21 Missouri and former No. 23 USC, the Sun Devils' stiffest remaining challenges should be manageable games against UCLA and Washington State—though it would be unwise to look past their conference rivals. Parity in the Pac-12 is in vogue.
This would be the wrong year to write off a stubborn WSU team, and UCLA has proven to be dangerous.
ASU must win out. Any more losses in addition to those to a good Illinois team and No. 9 Oregon will likely result in their immediate dismissal.
But Arizona State is clearly ahead of the Pac(k), and two signature wins over their conference rivals will go a long way toward convincing BCS pollsters.