Notre Dame is not going to win the national championship. Not in 2012.
There, I said it. I went nuclear on Twitter the moment Tommy Rees took a knee to finish the Irish's victory over Michigan, putting them at 4-0 for the first time in a decade. Naturally, this being Notre Dame, where everything must be vastly overhyped, the Irish-for-BCS mania instantly kicked into high gear.
Can Notre Dame actually win the BCS title? Hypothetically, yes, of course. Hypothetically, if I were Gordon Gee, I'd be able to expense all of my clip-on bow ties without feeling any pangs of hypocrisy while I tell my student-athletes that it's so out-of-bounds for them to trade their jerseys for tats.
But let's return to earth for now. The Irish's road to South Florida for the BCS title game is full of obstacles. And here's why it's extremely complicated:
Make no mistake, the computers love Notre Dame, which is behind only Stanford in that portion of the latest simulated BCS standings. The Irish play their typical challenging schedule, and already own victories over Michigan and Michigan State. The immediate stretch of their forthcoming schedule is only going to help, as they face Miami, Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma in their next four games - all teams with more than sufficient computer cred.
Strength of schedule, however, is always a double-edged sword. Because the Irish play all these tough teams - with the reprise of "Catholics vs. Convicts" in Chicago and Oklahoma in Norman - their odds of running this gauntlet unbeaten are not terribly good. It would not be entirely surprising if Notre Dame ends up 5-3, or even 4-4, after it gets through these next four games.
The bigger problem facing the Irish, though, are the humans, especially the fellow coaches, who for reasons that include professional jealousy have never been all that friendly toward Notre Dame with their votes. The Coaches Poll, which accounts for one-third of the BCS standings, has Notre Dame at No. 11, a good deal behind No. 10 Texas, which has beaten exactly nobody.
The polls are of paramount importance because since 2004, when the BCS last tweaked its formula, every team that's ranked either first or second in the two polls (first AP and coaches, then coaches and Harris) has made it into the BCS title game. The Irish will not get past teams such as Alabama (or LSU), Oregon, Florida State and possibly Kansas State if any of them runs the table. And some of those teams may well stay ahead of Notre Dame in the polls even with a loss.
Overcoming its low poll position will be a major challenge. Notre Dame, which began the season at No. 24 in the Coaches Poll, is currently No. 9 in the simulated BCS standings despite its lofty computer rankings. And don't invest too much hope in an October surprise from the Harris poll, which will come out for the first time in two weeks. The Harris poll almost always closely mirrors the two major polls.
So if you're a Notre Dame fan, savor the 4-0 start for a couple of weeks and don't work up into a huge frenzy with all the BCS talk - because it'll only leave you bitterly disappointed, trust me. If the Irish are 8-0 after Oct. 27, then we'll have a serious talk, because in that case they might actually have a serious chance. We'll really let the hype begin then.
But if you're a Florida State fan ... it's time to dream big. The Seminoles moved up five spots to No. 3 in the BCS after walloping Clemson with an impressive second half. This development is significant because FSU will have the best chance among major contenders to finish the season undefeated. As of right now, Florida is the only BCS-ranked team remaining on FSU's schedule (and that includes the ACC championship game). Basically, the Noles will get to watch the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 teams wreak mayhem on each other while they glide through a pretty benign ACC.
Oregon moved past LSU for No. 2 ... but that's not necessarily that big of a deal. The winner of the Alabama-LSU game will be No. 1 in the BCS standings, so the Tigers' momentary slip against Auburn isn't all that hazardous to their health, since they did win the game. Oregon, on the other hand, isn't going to be challenged until November when it begins a four-game stretch against USC, Cal, Stanford and Oregon State, with all but the Cardinal on the road.
We make so much fun of the Big East ... so it's only fair that we point out that it's not any less relevant than the Big Ten, which has exactly one team in the BCS top 20 - Michigan State at No. 18, one spot ahead of Big East-leading Louisville. The B1G continued its pathetic preseason, with Iowa getting beat at home by Central Michigan and Illinois being routed by Louisiana Tech. That the Big Ten champion will still play in Pasadena is appropriate only in this sense - that's about as far away from Miami as you can get.
This week's simulated BCS standings:
Keys: Pvs = Previous Week; Coach = USA Today Coaches Poll; AP = Associated Press Poll; Md = Median ranking of 38 computer ratings; CM = Colley Matrix; JS = Jeff Sagarin; KM = Kenneth Massey; RB = Richard Billingsley; Cp Avg = Computer Average.
Explanation: This rankings method is a simulation of the actual BCS standings with the following variations: 1) The AP Poll is used in place of the Harris Interactive Poll, which is not published until after the first weekend of October; 2) Four of the six BCS computer ratings are available - Colley Matrix, Jeff Sagarin, Kenneth Massey and Richard Billingsley; 3) The other two computer ratings - Anderson & Hester and Peter Wolfe - will not be available until October, so they're replaced by the median ranking of 38 computer ratings.
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