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A night of upsets and Irish, Tide rise in football

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Coming into Saturday, Oregon and Kansas State had the inside track to college football's national championship and the Southeastern Conference's run of six straight BCS titles was in jeopardy.

Then No. 2 K-State got thumped 52-24 by unranked Baylor and top-ranked Oregon fell in overtime to No. 14 Stanford, 17-14.

Now the SEC is alive and well.

And how's this for a possible national title game: Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

A week after Alabama lost to Texas A&M, more upsets re-opened door for the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide, which shut out lower-division Western Carolina 49-0 on Saturday.

Georgia has a title shot, too. And so does Florida.

But the happiest of all about the Ducks and Wildcats going down had to be Notre Dame and its fans.

The Fighting Irish were third in the BCS standings and the AP Top 25, behind K-State and Oregon entering the weekend. Notre Dame was staring at what must have felt unthinkable for the storied program: Finishing unbeaten and not even getting a chance to play for the BCS championship.

The Irish took care of running their record to 11-0 with a 38-0 shutout at home against Wake Forest.

Then everything fell into place.

Oregon (10-1), the highest scoring team in the country at 55 points per games, couldn't shake free of Stanford's tough defense. The Cardinal tied it late on a juggling TD catch that was called incomplete on the field and overturned to a catch by replay.

In OT, Oregon missed a field goal and Stanford made one. The Ducks were done.

''It hurts and as I told them, you'd like to have some words that would take the pain out of it, but there aren't,'' Ducks coach Chip Kelly said. ''We'll feel bad for a little bit of time and we'll bounce back from it.''

Kansas State's first loss of the season was far more decisive. Collin Klein and the Wildcats (10-1) lost 52-24 at Baylor, and there went Kansas State's BCS title hopes and Klein's status as Heisman Trophy front-runner. He was picked off three times.

It was the first time since Dec. 1, 2007, that the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the AP Top 25 lost on the same day. That year, Missouri and West Virginia were the upset victims, giving Ohio State and LSU a chance to play for the national title. The Tigers won the second of the SEC's six straight.

When the latest BCS standings and AP rankings come out Sunday Notre Dame almost certainly will be No. 1.

Alabama, fourth in the BCS last week, will most likely be in second place this week, followed by SEC rivals Georgia and Florida.

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly won't need to go on television with Oprah Winfrey, as he said he would earlier this week, to plead his team's case for playing in the BCS title game. Just beat rival Southern California next week at the Los Angeles Coliseum and book the plane tickets to Miami, where the BCS national title game will be played Jan. 7.

USC, the preseason No. 1 team, lost again on Saturday, 38-28 to UCLA, to fall to 7-4. And Trojans star quarterback Matt Barkley was knocked out of Saturday's game by a hard hit. No word yet on whether he'll play next week, but if he doesn't Notre Dame's path gets even smoother.

As for the SEC, it's pretty simple.

Alabama (10-1) and Georgia (10-1) have already sealed up spots in the conference title game on Dec. 1, but both have games still to play.

The Tide plays hapless rival Auburn next week. The Bulldogs face Georgia Tech. If they both win, the SEC title game again becomes a de facto national semifinal, with the winner likely advancing to Miami, trying to extend win the league's seventh straight national crown.

Sprinkle in a Georgia Tech win and the Bulldogs beating Alabama in the SEC title game, and No. 7 Florida (10-1) could be the SEC's representative, though the Gators have to play at No. 10 Florida State (10-1).

The Seminoles aren't out of the race yet either, especially if USC shocks Notre Dame. Though if that happens, just about any team with only one loss will be making claim to be in the big game, even Oregon and Kansas State if they can win their conferences.

Or consider this.

USC beats Notre Dame, Florida beats Florida State, and either Georgia or Alabama finishes 12-1. Add it up and it could be an all-SEC championship game for the second straight year.

Or there could be split national championship. Undefeated Ohio State is No. 6 in the AP Top 25 but ineligible to win the BCS title because it is NCAA-banned from playing in a bowl game.

If all the other contenders falter, Ohio State could be the lone unbeaten left standing and lay claim to the AP title.

Sounds crazy, but after Saturday night, nothing seems far-fetched.

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AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson in Eugene, Ore., contributed.

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Follow AP Sports Writer Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdrussoap

Tagged: Oregon, Notre Dame, Stanford, USC, Ohio, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kansas State, Kansas

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