With 13 unbeaten teams left, the countdown begins

Time to start counting down the undefeated teams and sorting through which ones have the best chance to reach the national championship game.

With eight weeks left in the regular season, and a week before the first BCS standings are released, there are 13 teams in major college football that have not lost. No more than seven of those teams can finish the regular season (including conference title games) that way. It’s a safe bet that participants in the BCS title game Jan. 9 in New Orleans will come from that baker’s dozen.

While a bunch of undefeated teams entering the postseason would be a good thing at just about any other level of football, at the highest college level it’s a problem because only two teams get to play for the national championship in the Bowl Championship Series.

There’s plenty of time left for this to sort itself out. Or not.

With that, let’s take a look at the field of national championship contenders with their Harris poll and coaches’ poll rankings in parentheses.

SEC

LSU (1 and 2) and Alabama (2 and 3). The Tigers and Crimson Tide meet in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5 and fans are already crossing the days off the calendar. The SEC has won the last five national championships, so if either of these two get through undefeated, there’s no question a spot in the title game awaits. The only question is could either get there with one loss.

BIG 12

Oklahoma (3 and 1), Oklahoma State (6 and 7), Kansas State (17 and 18)

The Sooners are the other team that probably doesn’t have to do much scoreboard watching. If Oklahoma can run the table, beating Oklahoma State and Kansas State along the way, a fifth BCS championship game appearance is very likely.

Though the Sooners might want to at least take a peek at what Wisconsin is doing.

As for the Cowboys, the Bedlam game against the Sooners is in Stillwater and their offense, with All-America receiver Justin Blackmon, is potent. Running the table is possible, but it won’t guarantee a trip to New Orleans.

If the Wildcats can go 12-0, it’ll be the greatest miracle in Manhattan coach Bill Snyder has ever conjured up.

BIG TEN

Wisconsin (4 and 4), Michigan (10 and 10), Illinois (14 and 15).

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