The national championship race is down to a half dozen contenders.
With two weeks left in the regular season, LSU, Kansas, Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio State and Arizona State are the only teams left with aspirations to play in the BCS title game in New Orleans on Jan. 7. Let’s handicap the field:
Games remaining: vs. Arkansas, Friday; SEC title game against Tennessee or Georgia, Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
The Tigers are first in the BCS standings and control their own destiny and most of the college football world seems content with that.
LSU is the most talented team in the country, has a chance to win the toughest conference and no other team has a more impressive nonconference victory than the Tigersâ€™ 48-7 demolition of Virginia Tech in the second week of the season.
Since that Virginia Tech game, the Tigers have also had more narrow escapes than any other contender and thereâ€™s no reason to believe they couldnâ€™t get picked off by Darren McFadden this week or in the Georgia Dome, especially if theyâ€™re facing Georgia in its backyard.
Chance to reach the title game on a scale of 1-5 (five being a lock): 4.5
Games remaining: vs. Missouri, Saturday in Kansas City; possible Big 12 title game against Oklahoma or Texas on Dec. 1 in San Antonio.
The undefeated Jayhawks, second in the standings, also have only themselves to worry about. No unbeaten team from a BCS automatic qualifying conference has ever been left out of the title game in favor of a one-loss team.
The bad news for the Jayhawks: No team has a tougher road left. Kansasâ€™ opponents to date have a 47-75 record, by far the worst of the six contenders. Because of that, one loss will eliminate the Jayhawks.
There are still legitimate questions about just how good Todd Reesing and the Jayhawks are. The good news for them: Theyâ€™ll get to prove it over the next two weeks.
Signs point toward the Jayhawks being exposed.
Chance to reach the title game: 3.5
Games remaining: vs. Kansas, Saturday in Kansas City; possible Big 12 title game against Oklahoma or Texas on Dec. 1 in San Antonio.
If LSU and/or Kansas slip up in the next two weeks, the BCS picture gets murky.
The Tigers are fourth in the BCS standings and could get caught from behind even if they win out. Kansas has doubters and beating the Jayhawks might get downplayed by voters. Oklahomaâ€™s loss to Texas Tech on Saturday means at best a two-loss team awaits the Big 12 North winner in the league championship.
Chance to reach the title game: 3
Games remaining: vs. Connecticut, Saturday; vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 1.
Aside from needing the Big 12 teams to cancel each other out, the third-place Mountaineers have to overcome the fact the Big East doesnâ€™t have another powerful team. West Virginiaâ€™s best win so far came Saturday night at Cincinnati (8-3). Beating UConn (9-2) will help some, but not that much.
Pat White, Steve Slaton and company are ahead of Ohio State and Arizona State in the polls for now, but if voters are asked to chose between the Mountaineers, Buckeyes or Sun Devils to play in the national title game, that could change.
Chance to reach the title game: 2.5
Games remaining: none.
Being idle hurt Michigan last season, when the Wolverines were jumped first by Southern California, then by Florida and left out of the BCS title game.
Fifth-place Ohio State isnâ€™t facing the rematch scenario that worked against Michigan and in one week, the Buckeyesâ€™ national title hopes went from minuscule, to not so bad as Oklahoma and Oregon dropped out of the race.
The Buckeyes still need a few breaks, but nothing as unlikely as both Oklahoma and Oregon losing their quarterbacks to injuries in the first half.
Simply being Ohio State might help the Buckeyes sway poll voters, too.
Chance to reach the title game: 3
Games remaining: vs. Southern California, Thursday; vs. Arizona, Dec. 1.
The sixth-place Sun Devils have the most ground to make up, but their remaining schedule has the perfect balance; itâ€™s not as tough as the Big 12 teams, but itâ€™s more difficult than West Virginiaâ€™s.
Also working in Arizona Stateâ€™s favor: the Pac-10 has been getting a lot of respect this season.
Chance to reach the title game: 2
–Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press Writer