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The first official BCS rankings of 2012 come out Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. ET. In this week's Top 25 projection, Notre Dame maps its course to the national championship. Full BCS standings here.
Update No. 2: BCS standings beyond the Top 25.
Notre Dame won't be No. 1 in the first official BCS standings when they're unveiled Sunday night on ESPN. But for better or for worse, it'll be the No. 1 topic for the remainder of the season until (or if) it finally loses a game.
After getting a favorable review ruling to defeat Stanford in overtime, the Fighting Irish will debut in the Top 5 in the first official standings after placing sixth in last week's simulated standings. They will be ranked first in possibly four of the six computers. But for the time being, that won't be enough to get them into the top two of the standings.
Alabama and Oregon will be ranked Nos. 1-2 in the polls as well as the standings. The Top 15 projection:
- Notre Dame
- Kansas State
- South Carolina
- Oregon State
- West Virginia
- Mississippi State
- Florida State
As per our analysis last week, an SEC champion with not more than one loss is likely going to earn a spot in the BCS title game, with the possible exception of Texas A&M. That means Alabama, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi State all still more or less control their own destiny.
After that, things get a bit murky. The Ducks appear to have the inside track to the title game should they remain unbeaten, but that's not assured. The Big 12 is down to one unbeaten team, and that team - Kansas State - will have its toughest test yet next week when it visits West Virginia, which was shellacked by Texas Tech in its first loss of the season.
Unbeaten Oregon State and recovering one-loss teams Oklahoma and USC are still in the thick of things, as is possibly one of the three unbeaten Big East teams (Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati). It's less certain for Florida State, playing in a weak ACC. What's certain is that the storied Big Ten won't be a factor at all this season and in fact, the B1G most likely will be shut out of the official BCS standings for the first time in history.
But let's get back to Notre Dame.
The Irish were saved by a Big East replay official who apparently did not begrudge the fact that they'd like to leave the conference as soon as possible. The ruling on the Stanford non-touchdown on the game's final play obviously did not please the on-field Pac-12 crew headed by Shawn Hochuli, who was terse in his non-explanation.
The replay ruling will prove to be worth millions for Notre Dame, which is nearly assured of a BCS bowl berth. Even a 9-3 Irish team will be in the mix for BCS considerations, and that appears to be the worst they'll do this season.
They're looking for a lot more than a mere BCS bowl berth, though. Notre Dame isn't out of the woods yet, but its schedule will soon soften considerably. The Irish will get a BYU team that's not a pushover next week and then face their toughest test of the year in two weeks at rejuvenated Oklahoma, which destroyed Texas to rekindle its own national championship hopes.
If Notre Dame does get by OU, it'll be 8-0 with three future ACC foes in Pitt, B.C. and Wake lined up. Yep, it might have seemed unthinkable at one time, but Notre Dame has a great chance to be 11-0 and even be favored against preseason No. 1 USC going into their regular-season finale at the L.A. Coliseum.
Even if Notre Dame doesn't finish the season in the top two of the polls, there's a chance it might leapfrog the No. 2 team in the polls for a place in the BCS title game. The Irish's computer rankings will stay off the charts for the remainder of the season if they can stay unbeaten, and that might be enough to offset their deficit in the polls as long as they're a solid No. 3 in both the coaches and Harris polls.
Of course, we're still a long way away from the end of the season, but rest assured, Notre Dame is not going to go away before then, so get used to it.
Boise State Watch: Everybody's favorite BCS buster is back at it again. The Broncos should crack the BCS top 20 this week and look to have clear sailing for another BCS bowl berth.
With the Big Ten out of sight, out of mind, Boise State only needs to be in the top 16 of the final standings to earn an automatic BCS bowl berth. And after Louisiana Tech's heartbreaking 59-57 loss to Texas A&M, the Broncos' only non-AQ competition has been removed.
Boise State has a fairly benign schedule for an 11-1 finish. The Broncos' toughest test? The season finale at Nevada, their one-time WAC nemesis now relocated to the Mountain West. The Wolf Pack cost their old conference millions when they upset Boise State in 2010. They'll have a chance to do it again to their new conference.
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