Many teams have an eye on Notre Dame-USC outcome

Win and you're in: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Heisman hopeful Manti Te'o (5) have a lot on the line against Southern California.
Win and you're in: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and Heisman hopeful Manti Te'o (5) have a lot on the line against Southern California. (MICHAEL CONROY / Associated Press)
Posted: November 24, 2012

If your remote-control trigger finger was in shape last week, you got a chance to watch Kansas State and Oregon go down and throw the BCS standings into chaos. As the new No. 1, Notre Dame can punch its ticket to the BCS championship game with a win Saturday night at Southern California.

But fans of the teams that are ranked second through sixth - Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Oregon and Kansas State - all know the scenarios, starting with a Fighting Irish loss, for how their teams can get one of the coveted top two spots.

Oh, say can you SEC

Of course, folks in the Southeast believe that a Notre Dame loss means a return to normalcy - a chance that two Southeastern Conference teams will meet for the national title. Alabama still has to defeat Auburn - a virtual certainty - and Georgia and Florida must win Saturday. The Gators then will stand by while the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs battle for the SEC crown and hope to sneak past the team that loses. Florida is aided by its No. 2 computer ranking.

"Playing in the SEC, it's a playoff every week," Florida coach Will Muschamp told USA Today. "We have an eight-game playoff to go to the championship game."

Flip the script

Southern California began the year as the nation's No. 1 team and boasted the Heisman Trophy favorite, quarterback Matt Barkley. Now, unranked at 7-4 and with Barkley sitting out with a shoulder injury, the Trojans welcome the current No. 1 team, Notre Dame, with the Heisman Trophy favorite (in our eyes) in linebacker Manti Te'o.

What say you, Brian Kelly?

"We get asked all the time, 'Hey, did you expect to win 11 or 12?' " the Fighting Irish coach said. "We know the unexpected is always out there. If we did what you [reporters] did and did that big picture stuff, it would drive us crazy, too."

Eye on the Buckeyes

Ohio State is the only other undefeated FBS team but more or less forgotten because NCAA sanctions make the Buckeyes ineligible for postseason play.

But Associated Press voters could still choose them No. 1 if they're the last unbeaten team standing. Then again, if Ohio State loses to archrival Michigan, most people will forget the wins and focus on the "1" in the loss column.

"Nothing you can control other than getting ready to go play the game," Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. "If it was the first rodeo, I'd be worried about this and that. But you've got to move forward and do the best you can."

A full plate

Rutgers needed to work through distractions this week, from its admittance into the Big Ten to the excitement of possibly clinching the Big East championship Saturday or next week. But coach Kyle Flood said he has been pleased by his team's focus in practice and that his players "are in a good place mentally."

The Scarlet Knights can clinch the Big East with a win at Pittsburgh and a loss by Louisville against Connecticut. If that doesn't happen, Rutgers can take care of matters itself on Thursday night when it hosts the Cardinals.

Look what I found

With Miami announcing a self-imposed postseason ban because of an NCAA investigation, the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division is (drum roll please) Georgia Tech.

Yes, it's the same team that will enter next week's ACC title game against Florida State with a .500 record if it loses as expected to Georgia. Losses to the Bulldogs and the Seminoles would leave the Yellow Jackets at 6-7, meaning they would need a waiver to be able to participate in a bowl - something UCLA did last year - for being below .500.

North Carolina could tie Tech for first in the division, but also is ineligible for postseason play.

Run and duck

For Oregon to be able to stay in the thick of the BCS title chase, the Ducks have to relocate the offensive mojo they misplaced in last week's loss to Stanford when they face Oregon State on Saturday.

The Ducks have dominated on the ground in their "Civil War" matchup with the Beavers the last four years, averaging 346 rushing yards a game and 6.6 per carry, according to the Eugene Register-Guard. But the Beavers have allowed just 108.7 yards per game on the ground.

Oregon tailback Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 321 yards against USC, has gained only 131 yards in two games since then while nursing a thumb injury.

Expats of the week

Maybe they're not local people, but tailback Silas Redd, wide receiver Justin Brown and kicker Anthony Fera, who all left Penn State shortly after the NCAA sanctions, will end up in bowl games.

Redd leads USC in rushing with 740 yards to go with a 5.4-yard average and nine TDs for the Trojans.

Brown is second on Oklahoma with 47 catches, 649 receiving yards and four TD catches, and ranks fourth in FBS with a 16.2-yard average on punt returns.

Fera, who missed Texas' first four games with a groin injury, is only 2 for 4 on field-goal tries with a long of 42 yards.

Games of the Week

Top Choice

Notre Dame at Southern California, 8 p.m., 6ABC: For the first time since1989 and the eighth time overall, the Fighting Irish enter their game against the Trojans as the No. 1 team in the land. With quarterback Matt Barkley out with a shoulder injury, redshirt freshman Max Wittek will make his first career start for USC, facing a team with one of the nation's best defenses, led by linebacker - and Heisman Trophy candidate - Manti Te'o.

Pick Six

Michigan at Ohio State, noon, 6ABC: The Wolverines were eliminated from the Big Ten championship game with Nebraska's win on Friday, but they still can sink their archrival's chance at an undefeated season.

Georgia Tech at Georgia, noon, ESPN: The Bulldogs warm up for next week's SEC championship game by watching their defense face a stern test against the dynamic rushing attack of the Yellow Jackets.

Rutgers at Pittsburgh, noon, ESPN2: The Scarlet Knights, headed to the Big Ten, can clinch the Big East championship with a win and a Louisville loss - or take care of matters themselves against the Cardinals next week.

Oregon at Oregon State, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network: The Ducks need to forget about last week's stunning loss and devote their full attention to their archrivals to stay in the Pac-12 and BCS championship hunt.

Florida at Florida State, 3:30 p.m., 6ABC: The Gators get Jeff Driskel back at quarterback, but their defense will be in the spotlight against the Seminoles' high-powered offense.

Stanford at UCLA, 6:30 p.m., Fox29: The Cardinal can take the Pac-12 North title with a victory and earn a chance to meet the Bruins again next week in the conference championship game.

- Joe Juliano

The Real Top 10

1. Notre Dame 11-0

2. Alabama 10-1

3. Ohio State 11-0

4. Oregon 10-1

5. Georgia 10-1

6. Florida 10-1

7. Kansas State 10-1

8. Louisiana State 10-2

9. Texas A&M 9-2

10. Stanford 9-2

- Joe Juliano

Contact Joe Juliano at Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq

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