We're in the final month of the season, and teams will be making a last push to make a case for being included in the BCS National Championship Game. For some—like Florida State and Boise State—it seems like they're hopeless, dreaming for something that will never come.
For others—like the top four—it is about putting the pedal to the metal and letting the chips shake themselves out. Alabama is in the catbird seat—no one has the schedule or the clout to unseat a 13-0 Crimson Tide team as the No. 1 squad going into Miami.
However, for the three teams behind Alabama, it is a crapshoot to figure out who will be the likely No. 2. Oregon, the current fourth-ranked team, appears to hold the edge because it still has a little quality left on its schedule.
The games aren't going to get easier for people, especially with the tightening vise grip that is pressure to be perfect. But what if they do go perfect? What if the teams all hold serve? We would be sitting in the midst of a nightmare scenario. Or, for Fiesta Bowl supporters, a remarkable dreamland possibility.
Alabama, Kansas State, Oregon, Notre Dame and Louisville can all finish the 2012 season undefeated. That's a feat we have not seen since 2009's Bama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State teams all went unbeaten.
Unlike 2009, this is not just two teams from power conferences and three "also-rans" joining the party. No, this scenario would mean three teams from respectable, power conferences, the Fighting Irish as one of college football's most valuable commodities and Louisville. The Cardinals would be the only "also-ran" to most folks in this scenario.
The Tide at 13-0 will be No. 1, but after that, get ready for bellyaching of epic proportions. If you thought the "Oklahoma State vs. Alabama for a rematch" talk was nothing but chronic complaining, should this scenario play out, expect far worse.
If the Ducks get to go, we'll hear cries about how they lost to Auburn in 2010 and how they haven't played anybody. If Kansas State ends up No. 2, we'll hear all about the "no defense" Big 12. And yes, if the Fighting Irish go over 13-0 Oregon and 12-0 Kansas State, expect to hear talk about the bias and unfair treatment that Notre Dame gets.
It's a lose-lose situation for everyone, but the two teams involved in the BCS National Championship Game.
Well, almost everyone. The Fiesta Bowl, the only BCS venue to host two undefeated teams for a non-BCS Championship Game, could have greatness thrust upon it once again. Should the Ducks finish in the second spot, what we would see is a Kansas State and Notre Dame matchup in Glendale that would draw big viewing numbers.
A 12-0 Wildcats squad versus a 12-0 Fighting Irish is one thing. However, we're talking Manti Te'o's final game for BCS Bowl-starved Notre Dame scrapping it out with Collin Klein, a possible Heisman winner, in the Fiesta Bowl. That moves the meter.
Now, from one nightmare to another: What happens if everyone loses?
Alabama goes down to LSU and the Bayou Bengals win the SEC. Oregon loses the Civil War to Oregon State, and the Beavers win the Pac-12. Kansas State drops a contest to some Big 12 opponent. Rutgers beats Louisville and they both end with one loss. Clemson wins out. Florida State OR Florida win out. Boise State wins out. Notre Dame drops its game to USC. Maybe Alabama beats LSU, but loses to Georgia in Atlanta.
I mean, the madness is almost too much to type. Reading back to myself, I'm wondering if I got it all right.
This, folks, is the ultimate nightmare. Teams that lost early are climbing back into the mix. Teams that lost late are seeing themselves get passed after being in the lead spot all season. And when the dust settles, what happens?
The best bet is to bank on the SEC champion showing up in Miami. LSU is sitting at No. 5 right now, and a win over Bama plus an SEC title—while Notre Dame, K-State and Oregon drop a game—would certainly land it where it wants to be. Georgia is at No. 6, and if the teams ahead of it lose, including the Bulldogs beating Alabama, you can bet Mark Richt is working on his tan in Miami. The same goes for Florida.
The SEC winner's opponent? Depending upon the vibe and time of the loss, it could be one of the undefeated teams that dropped a game. Lose a fluky, close game but still finish strong (and as conference champion), and folks might see fit to put you back into their top two. Lose in a blowout or to a team that people don't respect, and odds are, you are on the outside looking in.
That makes room for a one-loss Florida State, or possibly Oregon State. Sure, they're mighty far down the list right now, but as teams get knocked off, and if they beat their highly ranked opponents, we could see them get quite a boost.
The good thing about each of these nightmare situations is, they are hypothetical. There is still plenty of season left for teams to let the chips fall into place, by losing or winning, and whittling the picture down to just two squads. That's the hope in all of this—that, after the first weekend in December, we have just two squads standing with unbeaten records, ready to square off in Miami.