Title race all about Top Five
Eleven unbeaten teams remain in major college football. But the five at the top of the polls and Bowl Championship Series standings have separated themselves from the rest of the pack.
Plenty can happen the next six weeks, and teams with one loss such as LSU, Oklahoma and Southern California not only aren't out of the mix, they'll have a direct impact on the final BCS standings because they have games remaining against some contenders.
But for now, the national title race is all about the top five. And that includes Kansas State, which jumped to No. 3 in the latest BCS standings Sunday after going to 7-0 with a 55-14 romp at West Virginia. The Wildcats have five games left, three at home and only one against a team currently in the AP top 25: Saturday against No. 15 Texas Tech in Manhattan.
Here's a breakdown of how K-State, Alabama, Florida, Oregon and Notre Dame reached this point and what may lie ahead:
Kansas State, No. 3 in BCS,No. 4 in polls
Kansas State impressed a national audience with Saturday's 55-14 victory at West Virginia, but a win at Oklahoma a month earlier justified the Wildcats' position among the national leaders.
One outcome that hurt Kansas State: Texas Tech hammering the Mountaineers a week earlier, which cast the first doubt on West Virginia. But K-State now gets to meet the Red Raiders on Saturday in Manhattan.
The four Texas schools plus Oklahoma State remain for the Wildcats, but here's a possibility to ponder. Say K-State finishes 12-0. And Oregon takes a 12-0 record into the Pac-12 championship game. How much could an additional victory, especially if it's against a highly ranked Southern California squad, lift the Ducks in a head-to-head comparison with the Wildcats?
Prediction: The trip to TCU is the toughest remaining obstacle, but the Wildcats win out to reach the BCS title game, and quarterback Collin Klein becomes Kansas State's first Heisman Trophy winner.
Alabama, No. 1 in BCS and polls
The Crimson Tide aren't dominating the computers because of their schedule. They've played one team ranked at kickoff, eighth-ranked Michigan, and the Wolverines eventually fell from the polls before returning.
Still, Alabama jumped to the top spot in the polls and started at the top in the Harris poll. The defending national champion clearly has been deemed the team to beat. No argument here.
The defense is dominating and leading the nation in several major categories, and, as if the Tide needs an advantage on the other side of the ball, it leads the nation in passing efficiency, just ahead of Kansas State.
The Nov. 3 game at LSU looms large, but Alabama must deal with undefeated Mississippi State this weekend.
Prediction: The Crimson Tide wins out and reaches the BCS national title game.
Florida, No. 2 in BCS,No. 3 in polls
The Gators came into the season with hopes of improving on last year's 7-6 record, and part of the uncertainty was quarterback inexperience. Jeff Driskel didn't get the nod over Jacoby Brissett until after the season started, and fans actually booed Florida's choppy performance against Bowling Green in the opener.
But Florida has been the SEC's most impressive team to date, with home triumphs over LSU and South Carolina. The defense dominated the Gamecocks on Saturday, forcing four turnovers.
A victory over Georgia on Saturday will clinch the SEC East Division. The Gators will have only one league game remaining — home against Missouri — after that.
The biggest remaining obstacle is a Nov. 24 date at Florida State. Win in Tallahassee and Florida should enter the SEC title game with a perfect record.
Prediction: No losses for the Gators until the SEC championship game against Alabama.
Oregon, No. 4 in BCS,No. 2 in polls
The Ducks have two major opportunities to strengthen their credentials, at Southern California on Nov. 3, and the finale at Oregon State. So far, Oregon has been dominant.
Take Thursday's victory at Arizona State. The Ducks rolled to a 43-7 halftime lead against a Sun Devils team that entered the game with a 5-1 record and statistically the Pac-12's top defense. Oregon rushed for 406 yards with what must be the nation's fleetest backfield of running backs Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, along with freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Ducks' 51-point per game average ranks second nationally.
The schedule's heavy lifting begins in two weeks.
Prediction: A loss at Southern California derails the Ducks.
Notre Dame, No. 5 in BCS and polls
It wasn't pretty, but the Irish's 17-14 over Brigham Young kept alive national title hopes, and with what remains on Notre Dame's schedule, an undefeated season could push the program into its first national title shot since winning the 1988 championship.
The Irish travel to Oklahoma on Saturday in the nation's lone matchup between top 10 teams. Upset the Sooners, take care of business as a heavy favorite in the next three, and Notre Dame would visit Southern California with a perfect season on the line. Conquests of OU and USC, added to the list of Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford, could pit the plucky Irish against an undefeated SEC champ.
Linebacker Manti Te'o is all over the field. Can he play quarterback? Great defense — the four-game streak in which the Irish didn't allow a touchdown was snapped Saturday — has gotten Notre Dame this far. Quarterbacks Everett Golson and Tommy Rees must be more than they've been to get Notre Dame to the end unscathed. Golson, who missed the BYU game because of a concussion, is expected to start against the Sooners.
Prediction: Losses at Oklahoma and Southern California don't spoil the Irish's best season in years.