As we round the corner into November, college football enthusiasts begin taking a serious look at the national championship picture. The ugly are weeded out, and no more than a dozen or so can seriously dream up a scenario where they could land themselves in the final game.
Winning games on the field is obviously Job One for every contender, but the BCS format that we’re stuck with for this season (and the next) is still more like a beauty pageant than an actual sporting competition.
Alabama is the consensus No. 1 team, the Kate Upton of the college football runway, but everybody after that has a lot of work to do if they dream of primping and preening all the way to William Shatner singing, “Here she is, Miss America…”
1. Oregon—The Pac-12 probably isn’t any worse this season than it’s been the past four of five. The problem is that we expected it to be better. Oregon has looked every bit the part of an invincible title contender, but they really could use someone in the Pac-12 to finish in the top 10 with them. Oregon State finally slipped last week. USC keeps slipping. And after that, it’s a whole tier of “meh” teams. Can one or two teams provide Oregon with quality wins to woo voters?
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2. Kansas State—The undefeated team that everyone keeps waiting to fall…still hasn’t. They have some scary games ahead, and it’s hard to imagine them winning their final four. They need Oklahoma to win out (to somewhat validate the whole league), and Texas to be strong enough on championship weekend to give them a quality opponent when voters make their final calls.
3. Notre Dame—ND has a favorable path through November, although Brian Kelly teams have imploded on themselves in the past. ND—because of name cache alone—can probably guarantee itself a spot in the title game simply by winning out. But if things get dicey, they might want to hope for USC to do well down the stretch and give them a marquee match-up on Thanksgiving weekend, the Irish’s season finale.
4. LSU, Florida, and Georgia—They already hail from the conference of beauty queens. All they have to do is win out (and hope Georgia loses, if you’re Florida), and then win the SEC championship game. The world will bown down.
5. Florida State and Clemson—These two little Southern belles were supposedly on the Big 12’s dance card last summer, but alas, they’re tightly nestled in at No. 9 and No. 10 in this week’s AP poll as the ACC’s sweethearts. It’s an outside shot for either team, but the best thing they can do for one another is keep winning. If both win out and knock off their SEC rival on Rivalry Weekend (highly-ranked Florida and South Carolina), it’s hard to imagine either outside of the top 5. If there is enough turbulence at the top, one (probably FSU) could slip in the title game.
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6. Louisville—An upset-filled November like no other would be needed for the Cardinals to fly into the top 2. The Big East is too lightly regarded to see even its undefeated champion get serious recognition. I’m not sure if an undefeated Louisville would get in over a 1-loss Notre Dame, Oregon, or Alabama team. Heck, they might be even snubbed for a second team from the—cue the horror music—SEC.
Those are the ten, folks. Two of these pretty lassies will be appearing in your BCS National Championship Game on January 7, 2013.
Of course, if the future BCS playoff system (launching in 2014) were in place, these ten teams would have a far better shot of getting into the semifinals. That system will prove to be a beauty pageant as well, one where we’d probably be talking about at least 5 or 6 more teams with hopes and dreams of squeezing into the Glass Slipper of the fourth playoff slot.
But four tickets to the ball will assuredly be better than two, as we peasants wait for the clock to strike midnight on the two-team BCS era.
Ryan Murphy is author of Ring The Bell: The Twenty-two Greatest Penn State Football Victories of Our Lives and a freqent contributor on Nittany Lions Den.