Georgia, Arizona State and Notre Dame didn’t make the initial BCS standings, but each has a clear path to a BCS bowl bid.
In every case, each team’s BCS bid depends on winning all of the games it’s supposed to win and winning one game in which it will be a significant underdog. All three teams are capable; they need only reach out and grab the opportunity in from of them.
When the Georgia Bulldogs fell to the Boise State Broncos in the season’s opening week, Georgia’s BCS dreams were on the brink. When the 'Dawgs followed that up with a home loss to South Carolina, those dreams seemed to be gone forever. Even as Georgia rallied for five consecutive wins, the Bulldog’s efforts seemed futile.
Then, Marcus Lattimore blew out his knee. A terrible event for college football, yet a beacon of hope for the Bulldogs.
South Carolina, which had previously been securely strapped into the driver’s seat of the SEC East, is vulnerable. With a road date against the Arkansas Razorbacks still on the schedule, South Carolina will almost assuredly finish with at least two losses in the SEC.
Georgia, already on a five-game roll, now has both the momentum and the opportunity (all three of the 'Dawgs’ remaining SEC games are at home) to grab hold of the SEC East and snag a bid to the SEC Championship game.
From there, the only obstacle standing between Georgia and a BCS bid is a team (either Alabama or LSU) likely to be ranked No. 1 in the nation. It seems an insurmountable task, but isn’t that what everybody said about Kansas State when it faced Oklahoma back in 2003?
Even after a loss at Oregon, Arizona State remains well-positioned for a chance at a BCS bid. The weakness of the Sun Devils’ division essentially guarantees them a play-in game for a chance at the BCS.
With USC eliminated from title contention, the Pac-12 South is a disaster. Utah, Colorado and Arizona are all winless in conference play, leaving only UCLA as a challenger for the Sun Devils. The Bruins only have one conference loss, but sit at just 3-3 on the season and have been outscored by their opponents on aggregate.
Arizona State will be favored in every game remaining on its schedule, with only road games against UCLA and Washington State providing any kind of a challenge. The Sun Devils are more than capable of running the table the rest of the way, which would have them entering the Pac-12 riding a five-game win streak.
Certainly, either Stanford or Oregon would present a significant hurdle, but led by NFL-level players like Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict, ASU has enough talent to hang with either of those teams. Going on the road will add to the challenge, but the Sun Devils have plenty of reason to be confident after holding a lead in the second half in Eugene just last week.
Since bumbling to a turnover-laden 0-2 start, Notre Dame has turned its season around. Brian Kelly has rallied his team to four straight wins, outscoring opponents by 19 points per game during the streak. Even in losses, the Irish always had the advantage in terms of total yardage. Cutting down on the turnovers (just four since Week 1) has helped to translate that into leads on the scoreboard. Tommy Rees has stabilized the quarterback position, and Manti Te’o leads a defense that has really rounded into form.
Though Notre Dame doesn’t have a conference championship game to look forward to, the Irish can secure a guaranteed bid by finishing in the top eight of the final BCS standings. However, a 10-2 Notre Dame team riding a 10-game winning streak would be a shoo-in for a BCS bid, even if the Irish somehow came up short of the top eight. With that kind of momentum galvanizing Notre Dame’s huge fan base, the Irish would be a cash cow for any bowl game.
Yet, before Irish fans can start making travel plans, there are still six more games to be played.
Notre Dame should win every game leading up to a trip to Palo Alto in late November. Even then, with the Irish as a decided underdog, they have the talent to pull an upset. Stanford’s pro-style scheme actually plays to the strengths of the Irish defense, and Cierre Wood and Michael Floyd are more than capable of providing enough offense to get a win.