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Bracketology/Bowls Expert

USC, Notre Dame shake up the bowl projections

USC lost to Stanford, turning the current bowl projections on its head, but it's not necessarily over for the Trojans just yet.

The BCS is a poll-driven system, and the poll voters are generally lazy. You lose this week, you move down. It only matters a little who you lose to or how badly. And if you win, you keep creeping upward as teams ahead of you fall.

That means, if you're going to lose, it's best to lose early so you have time to climb back up in the rankings and possibly land in the top two at the end.

If this were Thanksgiving week, and USC suffered its first loss, there's a good chance they would not be able to recover. But, it's still September, so there's time.

Losing means no longer controlling your own destiny though. Two undefeated, major-conference schools will play for the title if two are available. USC can't be one of those now. The Big 12 or ACC could produce one. The SEC can't produce more than one. I don't think anyone needs to lose sleep over Minnesota or Northwestern. It would be interesting to see what voters would do with an undefeated Big East team.

Anyway, there's hope for USC. 12-1 for the Trojans means beating Notre Dame and Oregon, likely twice. At least they better hope it's Oregon twice. I'm not sure USC wants to see Stanford again.

The other significant result in terms of bowl projections was Notre Dame's dominant win at Michigan State. I don't know if this means the Irish are really back. I do know it means the Big Ten is as bad as I have ever seen it, and I've been following it for most of 40 years.

Let me digress briefly. Here's a big part of the problem with the Big Ten. Reilly O'Toole, Cameron Coffman, James Vandenburg, Denard Robinson, Andrew Maxwell, MarQueis Gray, Taylor Martinez, Kain Colter, Braxton Miller, Matt McGloin, Caleb TerBush, Danny O'Brien.

You probably haven't even heard of half those guys. Which of them is ever going to take a snap from center in the NFL? Even in a preseason game? Maybe Braxton Miller. Robinson and Martinez are electric runners, but when the game plan for the defense is to make you pass, you're probably not much of a QB prospect.

The best pure NFL QB prospect in the Big Ten could have been Robert Marve, but his knees are held together with duct tape and bubble gum, which makes it hard for him to get on the field to prove it.

Done with the Big Ten rant. Back to the Irish. Thanks in part to the Big Ten portion of their schedule laying down for them, they now have a pretty legitimate chance to become BCS eligible. A 9-3 record would likely do it, but to get there, they need to beat at least one of Michigan (this week), Stanford, Oklahoma or USC.

So, this week's bowl shuffle pushes USC down to the Rose Bowl and Oklahoma up to the title game. Boise State and Alabama are automatic BCS at-large teams. ND would be automatic in the top 8, but even if they finish ranked 14th, they'll get picked. West Virginia is the other at-large team. Clemson and Oregon drop out.

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