NEW YORK – Two straight weekends of seismic upsets sent tremors throughout college football from the Deep South to the Pacific Northwest and all but cleared the way for two marquee teams and best-known brands to play for the national title.
Notre Dame was No. 1 in The Associated Press college football poll released Sunday and Alabama was No. 2 after a pair of stunning Saturday night upsets rearranged the rankings. When the BCS standings came out later Sunday, they lined up the same way.
Notre Dame needs only to beat struggling rival Southern California (7-4), with its star quarterback injured, to secure a spot in the BCS title game for the first time. In the 76-year history of the AP poll, Notre Dame has been crowned national champion by the media panel eight times, the last in 1988.
“It’s like being selected for the playoffs,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Now you know you’re in if you take care of business.”
The only other school with as many AP championships is Alabama.
The Crimson Tide potentially have two more games. They’re home Saturday against rival Auburn (3-8) and, if they beat the Tigers, the Tide advance to the Southeastern Conference championship game against No. 3 Georgia on Dec. 1.
Win that one, too, and it will be Notre Dame and Alabama playing in Miami on Jan. 7 for the championship.
Oregon and Kansas State were in the front row of the BCS race as of Saturday. All the Ducks and Wildcats had to do was win the rest of their games and they would have played for the BCS crown.
Saturday’s first shocker came when then-No. 2 Kansas State lost at Baylor 52-24 after barely putting up a fight.
While Kansas State was lamenting its lost opportunity in Waco, Texas, over in Eugene, Ore., Stanford was pushing around the top-ranked Ducks as no opponent had this season and won 17-14.
A Notre Dame-Alabama BCS championship game would mark the first meeting between the storied programs since 1987, and the biggest since the 1973 Sugar Bowl.
Now the question is: With 2 more weeks to go in college football’s regular season, can the Irish and Tide calm the chaos and set up what could be the most-hyped national championship game in history?