RALPH D. RUSSO
The race to the national championship game has been well defined.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State are in control. No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Baylor are on deck. There is a group of one-loss teams crossing their fingers and hoping for chaos.
Then there are the conference races, where there is still plenty of sorting out to do.
American Athletic Conference — Simple. Only a major collapse could keep UCF out of the BCS as the American’s representative and conference champ.
Atlantic Coast Conference — Florida State has already locked down the Atlantic Division spot in the championship Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C. The Coastal is messy with four teams with two losses, but could be become far less cluttered if Georgia Tech losses to Clemson today and if Duke beats No. 24 Miami on Saturday. That would give Duke a clear path to its first ACC title game by winning out. A Hurricanes win puts Virginia Tech in the driver’s seat.
Big Ten — Not one, but two huge upsets would be necessary to keep Ohio State out of the conference title game as the Leaders division champ. And No. 14. Michigan State would be in great shape in the Legends division by beating Nebraska on Saturday.
Big 12 — No. 4 Baylor (5-0), No. 12 Oklahoma State (5-1) and No. 23 Texas (6-0) have yet to play each other. The sorting out starts this week when the Cowboys play at the Longhorns.
Pac-12 — The North Division is Stanford’s if it can win out, but one slip gets Oregon back in the hunt. Over in the South, No. 21 Arizona State at No. 13 UCLA next week could decide it, but Southern California still has a chance to work its way back in the mix by upsetting Stanford on Saturday.
Southeastern Conference — Alabama-Auburn will decide the West, if both get through this weekend. In the East, Missouri is in control if it wins out, but a slip or two by the Tigers could put South Carolina and Georgia back in play.
In conferences without an automatic BCS bid:
Mid-American Conference — No. 20 Northern Illinois’ game against Ball State could give the West to the Cardinals. The Huskies would still have to contend with Toledo if they win. Bowling Green-Buffalo on Nov. 29 will decide the East.
Conference USA — North Texas can lock up the West Division this week by beating Texas-San Antonio. The East could come down to the regular season-finale between Marshall and East Carolina.
Mountain West — No. 16 Fresno State can lose one of its final two games and still win the West. Boise State and Utah State are in a tight race in the Mountain division, but the Broncos hold the tiebreaker.
Sun Belt — Louisiana-Lafayette has a one-game lead on Arkansas State, a win in the bank over the Red Wolves and still play two of the league’s worst teams (Georgia State and South Alabama). The Ragin’ Cajuns are cooking.
No. 25 Georgia (plus 3½) at No. 7 Auburn
Bulldogs have won six of seven in the Deep South’s oldest rivalry … GEORGIA 38-35.
No. 12 Oklahoma State (minus 3) at No. 23 Texas
Longhorns have been keeping the critics off Mack Brown’s back … OKLAHOMA STATE 28-27.
Ball State (plus 7) at No. 20 Northern Illinois, Wednesday night
If you graded #MACtion on a scale of 1-10, this one goes to 11 … BALL STATE 41-35.
Georgia Tech (plus 10½) at No. 8 Clemson, today
Tigers have eyes on at-large BCS bid … CLEMSON 31-23.
Texas Tech (plus 27) vs. No. 4 Baylor at Arlington, Texas
Bears bring their point-a-minute game to home of the Dallas Cowboys … BAYLOR 58-24.
No. 5 Stanford (minus 3) at Southern California
Trojans’ defense will challenge Cardinal’s power offense … STANFORD 23-16.
Utah (plus 25) at No. 6 Oregon
Should be one feisty bunch of Ducks … OREGON 49-14.
Florida (plus 13½) at No. 11 South Carolina
Do Gators have any fight left? … SOUTH CAROLINA 24-17.
No. 14 Michigan State (minus 6½) at Nebraska
Potential season-changer for Huskers … MICHIGAN STATE 20-14.
No. 24 Miami (minus 3) at Duke
Blue Devils looking for first eight-win season since 1994 … MIAMI 28-17.
Washington (plus 2½) at No. 13 UCLA, Friday night
Bruins freshman star LB/RB Myles Jack is from Bellevue, Wash., not far from the UW campus … WASHINGTON 31-27.
Indiana (plus 22) at No. 17 Wisconsin
Badgers have won eight straight in series, average score 52-16 … WISCONSIN 51-24.
Houston (plus 16) at No. 19 Louisville … LOUISVILLE 31-21.
Oregon State (plus 13½) at No. 21 Arizona State … ARIZONA STATE 45-21
Cougars face second straight tough road game after close lose to UCF. Beavers trying to avoid late-season tailspin.
No. 1 Alabama (minus 25½) at Mississippi State … ALABAMA 35-14.
Syracuse (plus 39) at No. 2 Florida State … FLORIDA STATE 55-10.
No. 3 Ohio State (minus 33) at Illinois … OHIO STATE 48-13.
No. 15 UCF (minus 16½) at Temple … UCF 42-17.
Iowa State (plus 24½) at No. 22 Oklahoma … OKLAHOMA 48-14.
Last week: Record straight: 13-4; vs. points 9-8;
Season: 174-34; 94-89-3; Best bet: 7-3-1.
Upset special: 4-6.