2012 BCS rankings projections, Week 11: Can Oregon pass both Notre Dame and Kansas State?

Stephen Dunn

November 3's BCS standings update will be released shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET (and here's a look at last week's rankings), but expect Oregon to overtake Notre Dame and close on Kansas State, the SEC to maintain dominance and non-AQ teams to have even less of a chance.

Here are the Week 11 BCS rankings.

OK, who wants a piece of Alabama in the BCS title game? With their Houdini-like escape against an LSU team that outplayed them for nearly 59 minutes, the Crimson Tide emerged from their toughest game of the year more solidified than ever as the top-ranked team. Had Alabama lost, the SEC would've been facing the prospect of not having a team in the BCS title game for the first time in seven years.

Alas, the SEC doesn't kill its best team off. Not usually anyway. Other than LSU's triple-overtime loss to Arkansas in 2007, the "right" teams have usually pulled out victories in the season's closing weeks, no matter how perilous the circumstances. And even those '07 Tigers somehow wound up winning the BCS national championship.

Alabama appears certain to continue that trend. Now that its toughest game is out of the way, it has just a mild challenge from Texas A&M next week, then a scrimmage and a bye (Western Carolina and Auburn, take your pick on which is which), before the SEC Championship Game. And even there the Tide get a break, as they'll end up with Georgia instead of a potentially more troublesome Florida team as title-game fodder.

So, who's Alabama going to face in the BCS title game?

Last week's BCS standings || Projected BCS standings for November 3:

  1. Alabama
  2. Kansas State
  3. Oregon
  4. Notre Dame
  5. Georgia
  6. Florida
  7. Florida State
  8. LSU
  9. Louisville
  10. South Carolina
  11. Oregon State
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Clemson
  14. Stanford
  15. Texas A&M

The Top 25, reviewed by Spencer Hall || Bowl projections for all 35 games

It looks to be a two-team race now, between Oregon and Kansas State. The Ducks won a track meet against USC in their highest profile game of the season, though the outcome of the game was never seriously in doubt because the Trojans could never stop Oregon's offense. Oregon will continue to occupy the No. 2 spot in the polls, and will likely gain vote shares in both at the expense of Notre Dame.

Kansas State will still hold down the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings, despite ranking third in both polls, because of its superior computer rankings. The question is now whether the Wildcats can hold off the Oregon surge in both the polls and the computers.

The biggest loser on Saturday is unquestionably Notre Dame, which won a thriller against Pitt in triple overtime. It was a costly victory for the Irish, who certainly will lose vote shares in both polls and will slide in the computer rankings after beating a team that lost to FCS Youngstown State. Even with a convincing victory, Notre Dame was going to cede the No. 3 spot to Oregon this week, and now it will be a distant fourth.

The Irish will have to resign themselves to either the Rose Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl unless both Oregon and Kansas State lose a game the rest of the season. There is simply no path for Notre Dame to get into the top 2 spots in the BCS standings if all four teams stay undefeated. It will not make up ground in any meaningful way in the polls, and its computer strength will erode a bit with games against Boston College (2-7) and Wake Forest (5-4) coming up.

But Notre Dame can do Kansas State a huge favor by staying unbeaten. The Wildcats are unlikely to catch Oregon in the polls should both teams win out, since the Ducks have by far the more high-profile games remaining - against top 15 teams Stanford and Oregon State and possibly a Pac-12 title game rematch against USC.

The Trojans may just hold the key to Oregon's entry into the BCS championship game. They can knock off Notre Dame in the regular-season finale to remove K-State's computer safety blanket, and also, by beating Arizona State and UCLA, they'll get to face the Ducks again in the Pac-12 title game, which will provide the most compelling matchup for the pollsters.

So while none of the top four teams lost on Saturday - even if two of them came perilously close - a lot has changed. Alabama is now nearly a sure thing, K-State less so and Notre Dame not at all.

Non-AQ watch: Boise State's 21-19 home loss to San Diego State just about eliminated any possibility of a non-AQ team crashing the BCS party this year. The Broncos will probably fall outside of the top 25, while the highest-ranked non-AQ team will now be one-loss Louisiana Tech, expected to check in at around No. 19 or 20.

But the difficulty for any non-AQ team to automatically qualify is now increased by the presence of Nebraska in the top 20. The Cornhuskers escaped with a last-minute win at Michigan State, and will be the highest-ranked Big Ten team in the BCS standings. They'll be ahead of every non-AQ team, whose threshold for qualifying at the moment will be an unattainable top 12, instead of top 16.

Nebraska must lose one of its remaining games (against Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa) or in the Big Ten title game to Wisconsin, to bring the qualifying threshold back to top 16. But even if that happens, it's still extremely unlikely that one of the remaining four BCS slots will go to a non-AQ team.

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