Tyrone Willingham finally gets to coach in a game impacting the national championship.
Notre Dame's second-year coach hasn't been close in his nine years as a head coach at Stanford and South Bend. But it looks like the Notre Dame game against Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome will have a huge say in who plays Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.
Southern California will stay at No. 2 and Louisiana State at No. 3 this week but things could become considerably tighter this weekend. Strength of schedule might be the determining factor between the two programs.
LSU plays in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia. USC plays host to Oregon State but the Notre Dame-Stanford game will impact the Trojans strength of schedule that stood at 39 coming into Saturday. LSU was at 61, or .88 behind USC.
Coming into Saturday, LSU trailed USC by 2.15 points overall for the No. 2 spot.
A Notre Dame victory boosts USC's strength of schedule. A Syracuse victory hurts it. That's assuming LSU wins, getting strength of schedule boost itself for beating Georgia.
"If Syracuse wins, USC needs a lot of help," BCS expert Jerry Palm said Sunday morning. "It's too early to say they need a miracle."
|BCS projection (week of Nov. 30)|
While the numbers might fluctuate before the official BCS rankings come out Monday evening, it's clear that the Tigers aren't out of it.
The other key component seems to be the computers. Palm is projecting that if Notre Dame wins, USC will stay ahead of LSU in the Colley Matrix. If not, LSU tops USC in the Colley. It could be the difference in the Tigers playing for the national championship.
"If Notre Dame wins, LSU will have to lead in six computers and get a quality win bonus," Palm said. "If Syracuse wins, LSU may not need the quality win bonus at all."
But the Tigers will have to win, regardless.
LSU already is getting .04 credit for beating Georgia earlier this season. Per BCS rules, a team cannot get a double quality win bonus for beating a team twice in a season. That means LSU is in the weird situation of possibly hurting itself with a blowout of Georgia.
For Sugar Bowl purposes, it wants to win but in a close game so that Georgia remains in the final top 10 of the BCS rankings. A similar situation played out two years ago when TCU beat Southern Miss allowing Nebraska to hold onto the No. 2 BCS spot by .05 of a point and play for the national championship despite not even winning the Big 12 North Division.
Of course, all that is out the window if:
- Oklahoma loses to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. There is the possibility that Oklahoma could remain in the top two and still play for the national championship. If not, then LSU and USC, if both win Saturday, could move into the 1-2 slots.
- If Oklahoma and USC win and LSU loses to Georgia, then it's for sure Oklahoma-USC.
- If Oklahoma wins and both LSU and USC lose, then it's most likely Michigan getting into the Sugar Bowl against the Sooners.
- If Oklahoma, LSU and USC lose, Oklahoma is still No. 1 in the BCS. Then you're back to fight for No. 2 between Michigan and Georgia.
But right now, the hottest topic of BCS conversation is the LSU-USC situation. It isn't going away until Saturday night.