Normally, the headlining teams for the final polls of the season would be the first and second-place teams. But Notre Dame and Alabama are on a path to the BCS championship game. You knew that part.
The Irish and the Tide remained No. 1 and No. 2 in the latest USA Today coaches’ poll, a factor in the BCS rankings. Non-division winners Oregon and Florida came in at No. 3 and No. 4. If the BCS rankings reflect the coaches’ poll, the Ducks and the Gators will automatically go to a BCS bowl — likely the Fiesta and Sugar Bowls, respectively. Georgia, seconds away from toppling the Tide and making its own BCS championship appearance, drops to No. 5. Big 12 champion Kansas State comes in at No. 6 and Pac-12 champion Stanford moves up one spot to No. 8. The Cardinal will play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl after last night’s Big Ten championship blowout. Texas A&M and South Carolina round out the top 10.
This is where things get more interesting. Oklahoma ranks at No. 11 and has a share of the Big 12 championship. However, non-automatic qualifier programs Boise State and Northern Illinois come in at No. 15 and No. 16. BSU did not move in the coaches’ poll, but NIU jumped up two spots from No. 18. Those two received assistance from UCLA losing to Stanford (the Bruins dropped three spots to No. 19) and Nebraska getting rocked by Wisconsin (the Huskers dropped eight spots to No. 21). Louisville, the Big East champion, is ranked 18th. A non-AQ team only needs to finish in the BCS top 16 to receive a berth so long as it finishes ahead of a champion from an AQ conference. If that happens, it would likely knock Oklahoma out of a Sugar Bowl appearance.
Could some coaches’ poll positioning mean an Orange Bowl trip for either Boise State or Northern Illinois? We’ll find out tonight. Final standings will also depend on Harris Poll results.
In other coaches’ poll news, Wisconsin (the Big Ten champion) and San Jose State moved into the top 25 while Kent State and Rutgers dropped out.