The end of the college football regular season is just a week away, yet there is still uncertainty atop the AP Poll. Here are three things The Chronicle is watching for in the final week of the regular season.
Notre Dame’s Immaculate Record
Grace Hall, one of the several high-rise dorms in South Bend, has a distinguishing feature. An eight-foot tall “#1″ sign is perched atop the residence hall’s roof, and the sign is illuminated whenever the Fighting Irish have a sports team ranked first in the nation. Sunday marked the first time since 1993 that the sign could be lit for Notre Dame’s football team. Thanks to surviving overtime nail biters against Stanford and Pittsburgh, Brian Kelly’s undefeated Fighting Irish control their destiny heading into the final week of regular season football. A win Saturday against deflated Southern California would keep the “#1″ sign illuminated at least throughout December. More importantly, a victory in Los Angeles would guarantee Heisman candidate Manti Te’o and company a spot in the national championship.
Just over a week ago, Alabama’s national title aspirations seemed to be slipping away. Despite a valiant fourth quarter push, the Crimson Tide came up five points short against freshman gunslinger Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel and Texas A&M’s high-octane offense. Luckily for Nick Saban’s squad, the waves have parted. Alabama righted the ship this past Saturday with a 49-0 thrashing of Western Carolina, while Oregon fell to Stanford in overtime and Kansas State lost to unranked Baylor. A.J. McCarron will have to perform well this Saturday in Tuscaloosa for the No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide to hold off Auburn and retain control of their destiny as the ‘best’ one-loss team.
Waiting in the Wings – The Looming Field
Though the list of unbeaten teams has finally narrowed to one, there are a slew of one-loss teams breathing down the necks of Alabama and Notre Dame. Despite an embarrassing road loss to South Carolina which led to Aaron Murray’s house being egged, the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs have fought their way back into consideration. In addition to the aforementioned Oregon and Kansas State, Florida is also in the hunt. Notre Dame and Alabama both control their destiny, but neither have easy games this week. Should one (or both) of the top two lose, a mad scramble will ensue among the field teams to make their case for a national championship berth.