Which teams could help Notre Dame's championship chances?

927369.png

Which teams could help Notre Dame's championship chances?

Notre Dame's win over Oklahoma on Saturday vaulted the Irish to No. 3 in the BCS standings, narrowly beating out Oregon for that spot. Alabama and Kansas State are ahead of Notre Dame, and Oregon could leapfrog Notre Dame by staying undefeated against a fairly difficult schedule to close out the year.

Even if Notre Dame goes on the road and beats USC, they'll need help to reach the BCS championship game. Here's how the three others teams vying for a title game berth's schedules stack up, along with which teams could aid Notre Dame's chances:

No. 1 Alabama: @ LSU, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Western Carolina, vs. Auburn
Who could help Notre Dame: LSU, SEC East champion

Alabama's big test comes this weekend in Baton Rouge against an LSU team that's won close games against South Carolina and Texas A&M in the last three weeks. If LSU deals Alabama a loss, it would likely keep the Tide out of the SEC championship game -- although it could create a headache if LSU wins the SEC, as there would be a legitimate argument to be made that a one-loss LSU is better than an undefeated Notre Dame, K-State or Oregon.

The same thing can be said for Alabama if Nick Saban wins on Saturday but loses to Georgia in the SEC championship -- but chances are, the BCS would favor an undefeated team over a one-loss team, no matter how strong the conference.

Outside of LSU, a solid Texas A&M team probably won't challenge Alabama, and Western Carolina and Auburn might as well be on the same level at this point. Don't expect an Iron Bowl rally in what probably will be Gene Chizik's final game on the Auburn sidelines.

No. 2 Kansas State: vs. Oklahoma State, @TCU, @ Baylor, vs. Texas
Who could help: TCU, Baylor

While OSU and Texas are both ranked -- unlike TCU and Baylor -- OSU has struggled on the road (21-point loss to Arizona, six-point win over Kansas), while Texas hardly has looked like a top-25 team this year.

But weird things happen the road -- just ask Oklahoma State about its trip to Ames last year -- and TCU has a decent enough defense to cause some problems if they're amped up for their biggest game of the year. Baylor's offense, too, has the potential to put up 50 points on any given Saturday in Waco.

K-State, however, has already gone on the road to beat Oklahoma and West Virginia, and the fundamentally-sound Wildcats aren't prone to the kind of mistakes that usually cost teams away from home.

No. 4 Oregon: @ USC, @ California, vs. Stanford, @ Oregon State
Who could help: USC, Stanford, Oregon State, Pac-12 South champion

Oregon has the most to gain and lose in next month, with four key games awaiting looming. If they win all four, they could very well jump into the BCS title game, but a loss would doom the Ducks' chances.

Trips to USC and Oregon State look a little less daunting after both teams lost this past weekend, and drawing a physical Stanford team at home could give Oregon the edge. Oregon could get USC or Arizona in the Pac-12 title game, although that game would almost certainly be played in Eugene -- where the Ducks have only lost once under Chip Kelly.

Notre Dame will probably need two of these three teams to lose to slide into the national championship picture. There's still plenty of time for attrition, though, so expect plenty of scoreboard watching to fill your Saturdays from here on out.

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

Three Bears necessities to lay a broom on the Lions

If the Lions beat the Bears in Detroit, it'd be a recent rarity. No, not the Bears losing, but in this long series that reaches 175 games Sunday. One team or the other has swept the season series 11 of the last 12 years (the lone exception being 2011). The 17-14 Bears win Oct. 2 ended a string of six consecutive losses to their division rivals. At that point, both clubs were 1-3. The Bears have remained at that pace since, while the Lions have taken off, winning seven of eight.

It was Brian Hoyer's steady hand that guided that win, while a Vic Fangio defense missing Eddie Goldman, Pernell McPhee and Danny Trevathan forced Matthew Stafford into easily his worst game of the season.

1. STAY COMMITTED

That first meeting was Jordan Howard's first start, and his first 100-yard game, and the rook ran it 23 times for the first of five 100-yard rushing efforts (113). And since the two Bears touchdowns were scored by a couple of players who won't suit up Sunday (Eddie Royal and Zach Miller, from a quarterback who also won't be suiting up), keep feeding the beast. He's 117 yards from reaching the 1,000-yard mark (after just a dozen carries the first three games), and another 100-yard effort would give him the most for a rookie in Bears franchise history.

2. A FASTER START FOR MATT

...meaning Barkley, not Stafford. The Bears want to avoid a faster start by Stafford and the home offense, which was held to just one first down and 14 total plays on their first four possessions back in October. As Barkley makes his first NFL road start in a dome, he and his offensive teammates need to get out of the gate quicker than they have the last two home games. Before they got things rolling on the final drive of the first half against the San Francisco 49ers, they had four possessions that totaled 14 plays, 27 net yards and two first downs. In Barkley's first start two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, they surrounded one 13-play touchdown drive in the opening half with five possessions, totaling 16 plays, 108 yards, three first downs, and an interception.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. HOO-RATIO

The Bears have lost the turnover battle in eight of their 12 games, and just twice have they won it. One of those instances was in Week 4. For a team that has just five interceptions all year, against a quarterback who's thrown just five picks, two came in the first meeting on the lakefront. And those picks were by (....wait for it....) Deiondre Hall (the rookie who'll play for the first time since that game), and Jacoby Glenn, who's now back on the practice squad. Now, yes, Stafford is a different beast in his den, and there's a completely different confidence level now for the NFC North leaders. But what if the defense can pull an encore? And can Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks pick up where they left off against another mobile quarterback? The Bears had just two sacks in the first meeting, registered by (....wait for it....) Mitch Unrein and Cornelius Washington.

** Finish up your snow removal by 11 a.m. Plop yourself in front of CSN, and watch ex-Bears Lance Briggs, Jim Miller and Alex Brown join Chris for Bears Pregame Live. Then as soon as the second quarter ends on CBS, log on here to CSNChicago.com as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments on Bears Halftime Live. Finally, as soon as the team's start sharing handshakes, flip back to CSN as the three ex-Bears and Chris provide 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, press conferences and locker room interviews from Detroit on Bears Postgame Live. **

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

Complete Bears-Lions coverage on CSN

The Bears and Detroit Lions square off Sunday at noon and CSN Chicago has you covered along the way.

Check out a schedule of Sunday's events:

— Meijer Bears Pregame Live with Chris Boden, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller airs at 11 a.m. on CSN.

— Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois Bears Halftime Live streaming live on CSNChicago.com and ChicagoBears.com.

— State Farm Bears Postgame Live airing immediately after the game on CSN.

Important Twitter follows:

— John "Moon" Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), CSNChicago

— Bears Talk (@CSNBears), CSNChicago

— Kip Lewis (@CSNKipLewis), CSNChicago

— Chris Boden (@CSNBoden), CSNChicago