BCS rankings projections, Week 14: Notre Dame-SEC final set, but can Florida jump Georgia?

Mike Ehrmann

UPDATE: Full BCS rankings now out right here. Notre Dame vs. a SEC team is a sure thing for the BCS title game, but don't overlook whether Boise State or a MAC team can steal a spot.

UPDATE: Full BCS rankings now out right here.

So much for BCS chaos. For the first time in the history of the BCS, we know who'll be in the championship game even before the final weekend of the season. One team has already punched its ticket for the Jan. 7 game in Miami, and the other will be decided on the field straight-up, as if it were a semifinal game. Just like how they do it in the No Fun League.

Instead of all-night Twitter chatter, we can all hit the hay at about 8 p.m. ET next Saturday, secure in knowing who will play for the BCS title. The drama will be whether a non-AQ team will bust into the top 16 to crash the BCS party. That's all we have left for BCS excitement in 2012.

Full bowl projections || Don't count out Gators || Comparing UGA, Bama schedules

So here's the projected BCS standings. And in the interest of finding where the non-AQ teams stand, we expand it to 20 this week from the usual 15:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Alabama
  3. Florida
  4. Georgia
  5. Oregon
  6. Stanford
  7. Kansas State
  8. LSU
  9. Texas A&M
  10. South Carolina
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Florida State
  13. Nebraska
  14. Clemson
  15. Oregon State
  16. UCLA
  17. Boise State
  18. Kent State
  19. Northern Illinois
  20. Michigan

OK, if you're a Gator fan, please contain your excitement. You're headed to the Sugar Bowl, but nothing more. Georgia will jump back over Florida next week if it beats Alabama in the SEC title game to snag the No. 2 spot to face Notre Dame. The SEC title game will be the unofficial BCS semifinal game.

And we also have unbelievable clarity on whom the BCS bowls will be inviting, with the exception of one spot.


Can Boise State steal a BCS spot? Brian Losness-US PRESSWIRE

If the BCS gets busted ...

Besides the six BCS conference champions plus Notre Dame, either Florida or Oregon will be guaranteed a spot by virtue of finishing No. 3 in the final BCS standings. The other one, at No. 4, will also get an at-large entry, leaving but one spot remaining up for grabs. And this is the intrigue.

At the moment, three non-AQ teams appear to be just outside of the top 16, the standard for automatically qualifying for a BCS berth. Since the Big East champ, be it Rutgers, Louisville or Syracuse, will be well behind the highest ranked of those non-AQ teams, the top 16 qualifying threshold will apply for 2012.

Boise State might have a leg up at the moment, but that's likely to prove short-lived. The Broncos, already with two losses, finish the season with a game at 7-4 Nevada. The teams they're in competition with, however, are both 11-1 and will face each other in the MAC championship game. The winner of that game Friday night will almost certainly jump Boise State and be in position to snatch the final BCS bowl berth.

If Oklahoma hangs on ...

If miraculously none of the non-AQ teams qualify, the final BCS bowl berth likely will go to Oklahoma, which can claim the Big 12 outright with a win over TCU coupled with a Kansas State loss to Texas. If K-State wins to clinch the Big 12's automatic bid and a Fiesta Bowl date with Oregon, OU will be headed to the Sugar Bowl to face Florida.


Ducks to Fiesta? Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The rest is set

Oregon, Florida and Notre Dame are the three teams that can pretty much make their travel plans now, as each will be idle next week, unencumbered with having to play an extra game. It will be especially sweet for the Irish, who get to watch the SEC bloodbath while having 43 days until they have to tee it up again.

When they do, despite their No. 1 ranking, the Irish will be a decided underdog in the quest for their first national title in nearly a quarter century. Alabama might be a double-digit favorite and Georgia only a couple of points less so. But take Notre Dame lightly at your own peril. While they've had a charmed season, the Irish have also handled the immense pressure and expectations better than anyone.

Will the SEC win its seventh BCS title in a row? Or will Notre Dame wake up the echoes for the first time since 1988? We do know this much: This matchup is TV manna from heaven. That's why they were pouring the bubbly not just at the Coliseum last night, but also in a faraway place called Bristol, too.

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