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Alabama, Oregon can’t slip-up with Notre Dame, Kansas State football on trail

Alabamrunning back T.J. Yeld(4) scores touchdown give Alabam21-17 lead second half an NCAA college football game against LSU tigers. Tiger

Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon (4) scores a touchdown to give Alabama a 21-17 lead in the second half of an NCAA college football game against the LSU tigers. at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/The Daily Advertiser, Paul Kieu)

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SUN-TIMES BIG TEN POWER RANKINGS

Badgers can clinch division with win at Indiana. Penn State-Nebraska and Northwestern-Michigan will sort out other side. Or muddle it.

LW

1. Ohio State (10-0) 1

2. Nebraska (7-2) 2

3. Northwestern (7-2) 3

4. Michigan (6-3) 4

5. Penn State (6-3) 5

6. Michigan State (4-4) 6

7. Wisconsin (6-3) 7

8. Indiana (4-5) 10

9. Minnesota (5-4) 9

10. Iowa (4-5) 8

11. Purdue (3-6) 11

12. Illinois (2-7) 12

If only we could fast-forward to 2014 . . .

We’d arrange this fine pair of semifinals: Notre Dame vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, and Kansas State vs. Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. The winners would advance to the national championship game in South Florida.

With a little finagling, the Big Ten and Pac-12 could even keep their cherished date in the Rose Bowl.

That Final Four scenario would be reality in two years. For now, college football has four unbeaten heavyweight contenders but only one title bout.

Notre Dame did not gain style points but remains in position after its narrow triple-overtime escape against Pittsburgh.

In Saturday’s other unbeaten thriller, the Crimson Tide staged an unmitigated success. Unlike the Irish troubles, which came at home against a middling team, Alabama’s rally was pure. Its 21-17 win at LSU culminated with a clutch drive on the road against a top-five opponent.

If Alabama and/or Oregon, which have the toughest remaining schedules, stumble, K-State and the Irish are lurking. And worthy.

The Crimson Tide and the Ducks are making good cases as the nation’s two best teams but need to watch their step.

Bama has a dangerous meeting on Saturday with No. 15 Texas A&M, the SEC’s potent newcomer, and is likely to see No. 5 Georgia in the SEC title game.

As unstoppable as Oregon’s offense looks, the Ducks still have to line up against No. 16 Stanford, at No. 13 Oregon State and in the Pac-12 title game, where they could play a rematch with No. 21 USC.

Irish in Fiesta?

It wouldn’t be a national semi-final, but it’d be good stuff. And if the four major unbeatens win out, look for the Fiesta Bowl to try to match up Notre Dame with its Big 12 tie-in, Kansas State.

With the Sugar Bowl rightly eyeing LSU, the Rose Bowl thinking Big Ten/Pac-12 and the Orange Bowl focused on its BCS title game, the Irish and Wildcats in the desert is attractive and feasible.

Waiting for Beckman

Illinois returns to Champaign intent on beating Minnesota to give new coach Tim Beckman his first Big Ten win.

The trouble is, the Gophers need to win in the worst way. And Illinois shapes up as their best chance to notch their sixth win and become bowl-eligible. The Gophers close their season at Nebraska and against Michigan State.

B1G & small

Barring a miracle, the Big Ten’s string of seven consecutive seasons with two BCS bowl teams will end. And with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play, the league won’t come close to filling its eight bowl tie-in slots.

Only four teams — Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern — are bowl-eligible. Minnesota and Michigan State need one more win. Since they play each other Nov. 24, at least five Big Ten teams will be bowl-bound.

Assuming the fewest surprises the rest of the way, here’s where Big Ten teams are tracking and potential opponents:

† Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs. Oregon State.

† Capital One Bowl: Michigan vs. Florida.

† Outback Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Georgia.

† Gator Bowl: Michigan State vs. South Carolina.

† Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Northwestern vs. Oklahoma State.

If Minnesota becomes bowl-eligible, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston is next on the Big Ten list.

NU, which goes to Michigan and Michigan State the next two weeks, could play its way into the Gator Bowl. The trip to East Lansing could wind up being a play-in game for Jacksonville, although Tempe is hardly a consolation prize.

Joker discarded

Kentucky fired Joker Phillips on Sunday after the Wildcats lost their eighth straight game, to Vanderbilt 40-0. It was their worst loss to the Commodores in 96 years. Phillips, 49, who’s 12-23 in three seasons at Kentucky, will finish this season.



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