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.