Top 9 unchanged in BCS standings

The annual BCS puzzle looks fairly clear this year.

Notre Dame, which completed an undefeated regular season Saturday, is No. 1 in the latest BCS standings and has secured a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship Game.

The Fighting Irish will almost certainly play the winner of the SEC Championship Game, to be played Saturday between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.

The top 9 teams remained unchanged in this week's standings. Next Sunday's edition is the final one of the 2012 season.

After the championship, the BCS picture is still as murky as the Florida swamps. The No. 4 Gators could secure a bid in the Allstate Sugar Bowl if they pass the Alabama-Georgia loser in next week's standings.

"If you think about what the game means, this that and the other, it doesn't really help you win the game," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle. That's what you've got to do."

If the loser of the SEC championship falls below Florida, it could find itself out of the BCS picture altogether because the No. 3 team is guaranteed a BCS bowl bid and no more than two schools per conference can receive bids.

"For either one of these teams, it's not really a great scenario," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

At the other end of the standings, No. 17 Kent State (11-1) is just one place away from earning a spot in a BCS bowl after moving up six places this week.

The Golden Flashes play No. 21 Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference championship on Friday. If the winner of that game moves up to No. 16 and remains ahead of a conference champion from an automatic-qualifying school, it will crash the BCS party.

The MAC has never sent a team to the BCS.

There is no Big East team ranked in the top 25, and there is room for Kent State to move up if No. 16 UCLA loses to No. 8 Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday and No. 18 Texas loses at No. 6 Kansas State.

No. 20 Boise State also has an outside chance to break into the top 16. The Broncos play Nevada on Saturday to earn a share of the Mountain West title.

The team that could be hurt most if a BCS buster emerges is No. 11 Oklahoma. With a final victory against TCU, they would seem to be in good shape to get into the BCS even if Kansas State clinches the Big 12 by beating Texas. But that at-large spot could get gobbled up by a BCS buster.

The other big movers in this week's standings came from the ACC. No. 13 Florida State dropped three spots after losing to Florida on Saturday, and No. 14 Clemson also fell three spots after losing to South Carolina, which cracked the top 10.

The Pac-12 was more fortunate. UCLA actually moved up one spot to No. 16 after losing to Stanford, and No. 15 Oregon State did not move after losing to No. 5 Oregon.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.