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Alabama in the clear, already? BCS table set nicely for the Tide

Alabama fans can't book their trip to Pasadena just yet. But have a travel agent on standby.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Despite giving up a school-record 628 yards and 42 points against Texas A&M, the Tide survived the one-man cyclone that is Johnny Football and will be back for a shot at a BCS three-peat. Well, likely will.

Alabama could face only two more ranked teams -- Ole Miss on Sept. 28 and LSU on Nov. 9, and both at home -- before the SEC Championship. The Tide do not play any of the top three SEC East teams (Georgia, South Carolina and Florida) in the regular season. All three look to be highly flawed, and each already has a loss. As for a challenge out of conference, they've got the Rams and Mocs left (I'll let you figure out which universities those belong to).

They're already comfortably on top in the Coaches Poll, 33 percent of the BCS formula. The Tide can possibly even afford a hiccup against LSU as they had in 2011, provided there are no two undefeated major BCS teams at the end of the season. Their computer ratings will be at or near the top by the end of September and stay there after they get through Ole Miss.

The biggest obstacle facing the Tide might be complacency, but with Nick Saban as the coach, that's probably not much of an issue.

And there's something else favoring 'Bama's quest of four titles in five years: after just three weeks, the list of BCS contenders already looks awfully thin.

If things stay to form (and keep in mind they seldom do), Alabama likely will be facing the Oregon-Stanford winner out of the Pac-12. Maybe the Clemson-Florida State winner out of the ACC will stay unbeaten, but both are prone to suffering inopportune losses against lesser opponents. Both the Big Ten and Big 12 appear to be mired in mediocrity with no clear-cut dominant teams. Louisville's strength of schedule will render its case as a non-starter. And Notre Dame is already done for after losing to Michigan last week.

So it looks pretty clear the SEC champion will be represented in the BCS title game for an eighth consecutive year, and that champion seems destined to be Alabama again after the fireworks show at Kyle Field on Saturday. Let's put it this way: Tide fans should be pretty familiar with Pasadena, having just been there four years ago.

On the rise

  • Oregon was No. 1 in last week's simulated BCS standings, and its severe beatdown of Tennessee in Eugene made it clear that it's best qualified to challenge Alabama. The Vols now will serve as a perfect barometer to gauge the top two teams, as they're scheduled to visit Tuscaloosa on Oct. 26.
  • UCLA had an emotional week in the wake of the tragic death of freshman walk-on Nick Pasquale, and yet it found a way to get off the mat after being down 21-3 early. The Bruins absolutely annihilated Nebraska in front of a stunned sea of red and look to be the class of the Pac-12 South.
  • Central Florida withstood a late Penn State rally to score an impressive victory at Happy Valley to improve to 3-0. George O'Leary's Knights just might be the team that can challenge Louisville for a BCS bid, and next week's home game against South Carolina suddenly has much more meaning.

Falling fast

  • Michigan might've survived Akron, but the damage was done. The Wolverines certainly will drop in the polls after nearly losing to a team that has not beaten an FBS opponent since 2010. Maybe not in perception, but the reality is that this Zips team is much worse than the Appalachian State team that rocked the Big House in 2007.
  • TCU doesn't appear to have a functioning offense after QB Casey Pachall went down last week. With their abysmal offensive performance in Thursday night's loss to Texas Tech, the Horned Frogs are no longer a contender even in a decidedly mediocre Big 12.
  • Big Ten's era of good feelings after going 11-1 last week proved short-lived. With the exception of Ohio State, the B1G stunk it up against BCS conference opponents (or even the MAC, see: Michigan), going 2-5 with three losses to the Pac-12 (Nebraska, Illinois, Wisconsin), AAC (Penn State) and Notre Dame (Purdue). They can't go to a nine-game conference schedule soon enough.

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