A somewhat mundane, mid-November Notre Dame-Boston College game got a jolt of energy Saturday evening as Texas A&M knocked off top-ranked Alabama, greatly increasing the Irish’s chances of playing for a national championship.
Alabama’s loss leaves three undefeated teams (not including ineligible Ohio State) vying for a spot in the BCS championship game. As of last week, Kansas State was No. 2 in the BCS, with Oregon at No. 3 and Notre Dame at No. 4. Assuming the Wildcats handle TCU and the Irish handle BC tonight, those three will be the top three when the BCS standings are unveiled on Sunday night.
The question is, who will be in the top two at the end? If all three win out, all three will have a case.
Oregon, which will almost certainly be No. 1 in both human polls tomorrow, has the clearest path. If the Ducks win out, they’ll have beaten USC (on the road last week), Stanford (at home next week) and Oregon State (on the road Thanksgiving weekend). That strength-of-schedule boost should push them ahead of Kansas State and keep them ahead of the Irish.
But what of the Wildcats and the Irish? Kansas State — which has wins over Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State — closes with Baylor next week and Texas on Dec. 1 — a week after the Irish finish the season at USC. So awin over the preseason No. 1 Trojans might not be enough to push Notre Dame ahead of KSU, as USC is a pedestrian 6-3 (and will have its hands full again next week against UCLA). But the Irish will point to wins over Oklahoma, Stanford and Michigan as evidence that it deserves the bid (and critics, of course, will understandably point to near-disasters at home against BYU and Pittsburgh).
As it stands now, Notre Dame is still the odd team out, with the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl all possible destinations. But Alabama’s loss certainly makes a trip to the Jan. 7 BCS championship game in Miami a more realistic possibility.