The BCS standings enter their third week this weekend and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are looking to take another step towards their first BCS title game. For two weeks, the Irish have been ranked No. 5, and lost some points after last week’s close 17-14 win over the BYU Cougars. They currently trail the Oregon Ducks at No. 4, who fell from No. 3 after being jumped over by the Kansas State Wildcats.
This week, they travel to Norman to face the Oklahoma Sooners in a game that could jump them up the BCS standings, even without the help of a loss from a team ahead of them. How? By using the mysterious computer rankings and the “strength of schedule” metric.
Las week, Oregon was surprised to be listed at No. 3 in the BCS despite easily winning all of their games and being ranked No. 2 in both the AP and Coaches polls. They were behind the Florida Gators, who were ranked No. 3 in both polls, based on the computer rankings that make up one-third of the BCS formula. Those computers ranked Florida No. 1 because of their strength of schedule following their win against the LSU Tigers.
Fast forward to this week. Oregon once again won in a walk, dominating the Arizona State Sun Devils 43-21. Kansas State, who trailed Oregon after Week 8 by .0030 in the BCS, went to Morgantown and dismantled the West Virginia Mountaineers 55-14. K-State gained .0148 to their BCS average while Oregon dropped .0027 and the Ducks were overtaken by the Wildcats based on their quality win.
This week, Notre Dame sits .0189 points behind the Ducks. Oklahoma sits at No. 8 in the BCS, which makes them a high-quality opponent. Oregon, meanwhile, takes on the Colorado Buffaloes, who are currently 1-6 on the season. Notre Dame will undoubtedly see a boost to their strenght of schedule following a win over a top 10 team, much like Florida did two weeks ago. Oregon, meanwhile, will likely see their computer rankings drop even further as they take on a bottom of the barrel Pac 12 opponent.
So will Notre Dame overtake Oregon even if everyone in the top 5 win this weekend? A win for Notre Dame would likely generate a greater gain for them than K-State got for theirs since Oklahoma is a higher-ranked opponent at the time of the game than West Virginia was. Oregon will likely see a greater penalty after playing Colorado than they did against Arizona State, who is 5-2. If Notre Dame’s gain and Oregon’s penalty are greater than last week and the difference between them is only slightly bigger, then there’s definitely a shot.
The math is fuzzy and the science of the BCS is far from perfect, but the conclusion is clear: A Notre Dame win equals a move up the BCS rankings.