Michigan Still 2nd, Notre Dame Still 5th in BCS… Now What?

(UHND.com) – When the BCS standings were released Sunday afternoon, the top five looked eerily similar to last weeks, and for good reason – they did not change. Michigan’s close loss to Ohio State was about the worst possible outcome for Notre Dame’s national championship hopes.

With Army on Notre Dame’s schedule this weekend, there was not much of an opportunity for the Irish to win too many style points so the best scenario would have been either a Michigan win or a blowout by either team.

A Michigan win would have made Notre Dame’s lone loss on the season to the #1 ranked team in the country. Combine that with a win over #3 USC next weekend and that may have been enough to push the Irish into a title game rematch against the Wolverines.

The other positive outcome for Notre Dame would have been a blowout by either team. The type of loss that would have made a rematch of these two teams something people wouldn’t want to watch. Had the Buckeyes won much more comfortably, the Irish still had a better shot at making it the Glendale than they do now.

The close game, however, makes a Notre Dame-Ohio State title game much less likely. Assuming Notre Dame can win in Los Angeles (which is a mighty big assumption – more on this later), Notre Dame and Michigan will have identical records with Michigan’s lone loss coming by 3 points to the #1 team in the country with Notre Dame’s lone loss being… well you all know what that one loss was.

The same logic that was used against Notre Dame in 1993 when Notre Dame beat Florida State, then lost a week later and were denied a title shot in the bowl game. And, considering the amount of complaining we Irish fans have done about that over the last 13 years, it would be just a tad hypocritical of us to complain about Michigan getting a title shot over the Irish this year.

There are of course other teams very capable of making the title game, namely USC. USC just got done beating its second ranked opponent in as many weeks. A win over Notre Dame next weekend combined with a win over rival UCLA and the Trojans will be in Glendale to face Ohio State.

The other possible title contenders are Arkansas and Florida who face each other in the SEC Title game. Both have a game next weekend before they face off – Arkansas hosts #9 LSU and Florida travels to Talahassee to take on rival Florida State. Best case scenario here for Notre Dame is a LSU win over Arkansas combined with an Arkansas win over Florida in the title SEC Championship.

Should Florida and LSU both lose, the only possible opponents for Ohio State would be USC, Notre Dame, and Michigan. With the Irish and Trojans squaring off Saturday night in primetime, the winner would then be competing with Michigan for the right to face the Buckeyes for the title.

If the winner of the SEC Championship does indeed end the season with just one loss, they still could find themselves on the outside looking in if USC beats Notre Dame. Should Arkansas take the SEC Title, their lone loss would be against USC 50-14. Some will argue that because Darren McFadden did not play that game it was not a true indication of Razorbacks. There aren’t, however, too many players that account for 36 points a game.

There are a lot more scenarios proving just how confusing this year’s title chase has become, so instead of look at all of them, let’s look at what has to happen for each of the five teams still alive to spend the first week of 2007 in Arizona.

#2 Michigan
With Michigan holding a slight lead over USC in the current poll, they have to root for the Irish to beat Southern Cal on Saturday. A win by USC and the boost their strength of schedule gets from the 10-1 Irish should be enough to push them ahead of the Wolverines. Its also very possible a resounding USC win would put the Trojans in second in the human polls as well.

Best case scenario for Michigan: LSU beats Arkansas, Arkansas beats Florida, Notre Dame beats USC in a really close game. If those four things happen, Michigan gets its rematch.

#3 USC
It’s really quite simple for USC. If they beat Notre Dame and UCLA, they are almost assured an invitation to the title game. Even if they win both games by a combined two points, it should be enough to get them to the title game. A loss to either and USC is eliminated.

Best case scenario for USC: They win out.

#4 Florida
Florida has to win out first off. Florida State is 6-5 and has looked down right dreadful at times this year. It’s a rivalry game so anything is possible, but the Seminoles have little to no offense and got shutout at home last week at the hands of Wake Forest. Florida must then beat Arkansas. For Florida to have the best shot, they need Notre Dame and Michigan to be the only other one loss teams of the five.

Best case scenario for Florida: Florida beats Florida State and Arkansas, Notre Dame wins a close game over USC.

#5 Notre Dame
Notre Dame has the toughest path to Glendale because Michigan beat the Irish head to head by 26 points earlier this season. The only chance I see Notre Dame having is a resounding win over USC. A three point win and Michigan or a potential 1 loss SEC Champion probably gets the nod over them. A 14 point or more win and Notre Dame could have a chance. Considering Notre Dame hasn’t beaten USC since 2001 and has lost the last four by a combined 96 points (three 31 point losses under Willingham and a 3 point loss last year under Weis), a 14 point or greater win by Notre Dame isn’t likely.

I think the Irish have a very good chance to beat USC this year, but I think if they win, it will be a much closer game than they need to get to the title game.

Best case scenario for Notre Dame: Notre Dame beats USC soundly, LSU beats Arkansas, Arkansas beats Florida.

#6 Arkansas
The Razorbacks, like the Irish have a blowout loss to one of the other teams vying for a title shot which will hurt them. Arkansas needs to win out and hope Notre Dame beats USC. I really can’t see any rather, objective voter putting Arkansas in the title game over USC should they both have an 11-1 record unless Arkansas really takes it to LSU and Florida. You can argue about injuries and quarterbacks in the first game all you want, but Arkansas still lost by 36 points.
Like Notre Dame who lost by 26 to Michigan, they will need to win impressively if USC also wins out. If Notre Dame knocks off USC, Arkansas could possibly sneak into the title game even if they have to squeak out victories over LSU and Florida. Having LSU and Florida added to their strength of schedule should help them gain ground in the computer polls on Notre Dame and Michigan.

Best case scenario for Arkansas: Wins over LSU and Florida, Notre Dame beats USC.

It’s going to be a very exciting couple of weeks in college football with five different teams having realistic chances of playing for the championship.

Unfortunately for the Irish, their path to Glendale got a serious roadblock when Ohio State beat Michigan by just three points.

Championship or no championship, any win over USC for Notre Dame will cap off a truly special season and should be enough to please Irish fans. Going 11-1 would be a major accomplishment for this team even if it does give them a rematch of last year’s Fiesta Bowl with Ohio – a game many people predicted would be the title game this past summer.

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