1. Notre Dame
6. Kansas State
9. Texas A&M
10. Florida State
A seventh crystal ball is back in play.
The Southeastern Conference did not have a representative among the top three teams in last week's Bowl Championship Series standings, but that changed when Kansas State and Oregon were upset victims Saturday night. Notre Dame is college football's new No. 1, and the Irish are followed by the SEC trio of Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
Should Alabama defeat visiting Auburn and Georgia defeat visiting Georgia Tech this weekend, the SEC would be assured of a spot in the BCS title game, which will be held Jan. 7 in Miami. Bulldogs coach Mark Richt was asked several times Sunday about the changed BCS landscape but was honing in on the Yellow Jackets.
"Georgia Tech has scored an awful lot of points lately, and they're playing extremely well as a team," Richt said. "We know what this game means to our program on a year-to-year basis, and we're very excited about playing it. I think our players understand how important this game is regardless of what's going on outside of this game, so I think we will all be able to focus on the right thing."
The Bulldogs (10-1) are favored by 14 points to defeat Georgia Tech for the 11th time in 12 years under Richt.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is scheduled to meet with the media today. The Crimson Tide (10-1), who dropped from first to fourth in the BCS standings following a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 10, opened as whopping 34-point favorites to defeat the Tigers, who are seeking to avoid their first 0-8 league mark.
Auburn has won seven of the last 10 meetings against Alabama, including two seasons ago in Tuscaloosa when Cam Newton rallied the Tigers from a 24-0 deficit to a 28-27 triumph.
"We know what's ahead," Tide defensive lineman Damion Square said following Saturday's 49-0 blanking of Western Carolina. "We have played against these guys previously. We know it means a lot to them and they know that it means a lot to us, so we are going to have to come and play to our standard. We are going to play a good Iron Bowl for the fans."
Said Saban: "Obviously we are going to have a difficult game next week. You throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games."
Wins this Saturday by Alabama and Georgia would make next week's SEC title game a national semifinal, which was the case in 2008-09 when Alabama and Florida met in the Georgia Dome. Alabama won a sixth straight national championship for the SEC last season, defeating West Division counterpart LSU.
Notre Dame must defeat Southern Cal in Los Angeles this weekend to clinch a BCS title berth with a 12-0 record.
The Irish have been a historical thorn for Alabama, defeating the Crimson Tide in five of the six previous meetings. Notre Dame prevailed 24-23 in the Sugar Bowl after the 1973 season and 13-11 in the Orange Bowl after the 1974 season, defeating an 11-0 Alabama each time.
Georgia has a more pleasant memory against Notre Dame, defeating the Irish 17-10 in the Sugar Bowl to claim the 1980 national championship.
One wacky BCS scenario would be if Notre Dame loses Saturday and Florida wins at Florida State to complete an 11-1 regular season. In that case, the Gators could make it another All-SEC final and could get a second crack at the Bulldogs.
Florida has struggled offensively for five consecutive games, but the Gators have victories over No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 11 South Carolina.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...