November 2, 2012

Top 4, Beware of the Sleepers

By - Keith Smith

Each of the top 4 BCS teams still face challenges in their quest to remain undefeated and play in the National Championship Game, but their biggest threats may not come from the teams you expect.

Most people look at the remaining games left for Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon and point to their highest ranked opponent as the most likely to knock each off, but I believe there is a sleeper team on each one's schedule that they should fear more than their highest ranked opponent.

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Let's look at each team, their highest ranked foe, and which sleeper has the best chance to knock each one from the ranks of the unbeaten.

#1 - Alabama

Highest ranked opponent left: #5 LSU

This week, the Tide travels to Baton Rouge to take on the highly touted, defense-rich Tigers, ranked 5th with only one loss. While this could certainly prove challenging to the No. 1 ranked team, I'm not sure LSU has enough offense to threaten that vaunted Alabama defense. This is also a game Alabama has had circled all season (as has LSU), after the Tigers went into Tuscaloosa last year and cost the Tide the SEC Championship. While Alabama extracted a certain level of revenge in last year's title game, there is a certain amount of pride associated with the SEC Championship, too, so I think Bama is gunning to win it this year.

Hidden threat: #16 Texas A&M

If Alabama wins Saturday night, look for a potential let down next week, when Johnny Manziel, aka -- Johnny Football, roll into Bryant Denny Stadium. A&M's defense is nothing to write home about, but the Manziel-led offense is. This will probably be the most prolific offense that the Crimson Tide faces this year, so if there is any hangover from a big win on the bayou, watch out.

#2 - Kansas State

Highest ranked opponent(s) left: #23 Oklahoma State, #24 Texas

I put both of these teams on the list because in my mind, they are almost interchangeable, at least in their threat to KSU. I doubt head coach Bill Schneider will let the Wildcats overlook either of these teams, and quite honestly, I don't think it would matter anyway. K-State is superior to both squads, and even if they aren't mentally prepared, they should win easily.

Hidden threat: TCU

TCU has hit the most difficult part of their schedule, which has taken their record to 5-3, but they are a strong offensive team, and they fall into that "trap game" scenario, coming after three-straight weeks of playing ranked teams in West Virginia, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, and before Baylor and a ranked Texas team. There could be a letdown after those three ranked opponents, and the Wildcats have to go on the road to TCU.

#3 - Notre Dame

Highest ranked opponent left: #17 USC

By the time the Irish roll into Los Angeles to take on the Trojans, USC will have three losses (at least), and their dream season will have become a total nightmare. This was the year they were favored to be the first non-SEC national champion since, well, the 2005 USC team that lost to Texas in the BCS Championship. The Trojans will also be coming off a game with their cross-town rivals UCLA, so I don't anticipate much of a challenge for the Fighting Irish.

Hidden threat: Pittsburgh

The Irish are coming off their biggest win of the year against a top 10 Oklahoma team, convincing opponents, pollsters, and the general public that they are for real. What better time for a letdown game? Add to that the fact that Pitt always plays Notre Dame tough, and this could be the biggest challenge left for the Irish to overcome.

#4 - Oregon

Highest ranked opponent left: #11 Oregon State

This will be a battle for Oregon, seeing as how it is a rivalry game and the Cowboys would like nothing better than to knock Oregon out of the BCS. It's the final game of the regular season, so the Ducks should be focused, if they are still in position to qualify for the championship game, but I'm not so sure they will be.

Hidden threat: #14 Stanford

It's hard to consider a #14 team a "hidden threat," but they are hidden in that they fall between this week's game against #17 USC, a team that Oregon loves to beat, and the final game against Oregon State, Oregon's in-state rival, so if anyone gets overlooked, it will be Stanford. That, and I couldn't in good conscience put their only other opponent, Cal, on the list because they are just so bad. Stanford plays more of a power game than Oregon, so if they can control the ball and time of possession, they have a chance to knock off the Ducks. They also have the revenge factor, as Oregon knocked Stanford out of a chance at the BCS last year.

I won't pretend that I know which teams will be left standing at the end. I definitely think from this point forward Kansas State and Notre Dame have the easier roads to staying undefeated. Alabama has three ranked teams left on their schedule (assuming they make it to the SEC Championship Game), as does Oregon (actually, they may have four, depending on who they play in the PAC-12 Championship, should they get there).

But if nothing else, as we head into the homestretch of the BCS, all of these teams should be on the lookout for those hidden threats.


  1. Notre Dame is gonna lose to USC. They'll take their frustrations out on them. Hahaha

  2. I've got a feeling that LSU is going to upset Alabama....

  3. Good call on that Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game. Almost got them.