Which teams could help Notre Dame's championship chances?

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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.

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

[PHOTO] Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero patch things up over a drink

Despite the Cubs ending their 108-year World Series drought, Miguel Montero made offseason headlines for all the wrong reasons when he complained about his role in the Cubs' 2017 championship campaign.

Montero criticized Maddon's communication skills, catching rotation and bullpen decision-making after the team's Grant Park celebration. Maddon brushed off the criticism, and last week at spring training Montero said he hadn't spoke with the Cubs' skipper.

That tension appears to be all but a thing of the past, as Montero posted this picture of him and his manager sharing a drink together sporting nothing but smiles.

It's safe to say Montero would describe his relationship with Maddon now as: #WeAreGood.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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