Notre Dame is 8-0 and No. 3 in the BCS, only a hair ahead of No. 4 Oregon. There stands a fairly decent chance the Irish would miss the BCS championship game even if they win out -- so for Notre Dame to make the title game, they'll need some help from the teams playing Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon.
Those three teams play ranked opponents this weekend, so you're forgiven if you wind up watching these following games with the same emotional investment as the one on NBC at 2:30 this Saturday.
No. 1 Alabama @ No. 5 LSU (Alabama -8)
The Tide are favored by over a touchdown heading into Baton Rouge, although Les Miles hasn't lost in Death Valley since falling to then-No. 1 Florida in 2009. A.J. McCarron is one of two FBS starting quarterbacks to not thrown an interception this year, as he's stayed upright behind what's likely the best offensive line in the country. On the flip side, LSU has one of the nation's better defensive lines -- if they can create pressure on McCarron, perhaps his perfect streak will end. LSU is far more battle-tested than Alabama, having beaten South Carolina and Texas A&M with a road loss at Florida.
This game is one of two fairly decent shots Alabama has to lose, with the other being the SEC championship (which they likely won't reach if they lose to LSU). Of course, if Alabama loses, it opens up the question of whether a one-loss SEC team should make the national championship over an undefeated Notre Dame, K-State or Oregon. At the least, expect plenty of scintillating opinions among the callers to Paul Finebaum's show if Alabama falls on Saturday.
No. 2 Kansas State vs. No. 24 Oklahoma State (K-State -9)
Oklahoma State is well-versed in championship hopes going down the drain, although they were on the receiving end that last year in a crushing loss to Iowa State in Ames. With freshman quarterback Wes Lunt back and healthy, Oklahoma State's offense stands a better chance against K-State than it would've in previous weeks. But the Wildcats' physical, fundamentally-sound style has a tendency to slowly wear down teams over the course of 60 minutes, leading to the second-half surges that have become a staple of K-State's 8-0 start. With the game played in Manhattan, don't expect the Cats to trip up.
No. 4 Oregon @ No. 17 USC (Oregon -8.5)
USC's loss to Arizona last weekend put a damper on what looked to be a pretty important Pact-12 showdown, but the takeaway from this game is that it's Oregon's first matchup against a top-20 opponent this year. The Ducks have scored no fewer than 42 points against all eight of their victims this year, and are coming off a merciless 70-14 drubbing of a hapless Colorado squad. Meanwhile, USC has hardly looked like the preseason national title favorite, losing to Stanford and failing to blow away teams like Syracuse, Utah and Washington.
But USC isn't completely out of the running for a BCS bid. They'll have to beat Oregon on Saturday and then Notre Dame on Nov. 24 to finish 10-2, which could land the Trojans in prime bowl game. A loss Saturday eliminates their BCS hopes, so needless to say, they [should] be playing with an increased sense of urgency. Whether that's good enough to stop Oregon's elite offense remains to be seen.