By RALPH D. RUSSO, Associated Press
College football's most storied program, playing on its grandest stage.
Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl. It could happen.
While most fans are focused on the four-team race to the BCS championship game, another intriguing Bowl Championship Series sidebar is developing. Will the Rose Bowl, if given the opportunity, invite Notre Dame? The Fighting Irish have only played in the Granddaddy of Bowls once before — in 1925.
"There is still so much that can happen, and of course the biggest story out there is whether we would take Notre Dame, but there is a lot to play out before it starts to become a serious conversation within our group," Rose Bowl spokeswoman Gina Chappin said Wednesday.
Here's how those conversations becomes serious.
If Oregon wins the Pac-12 and finishes first or second in the BCS standings, the Ducks will pay in the BCS national championship game.
Depending on where the Ducks finish, that would give the Rose Bowl either the first or second pick among the four BCS games to replace one of its contractually bound champions with an eligible at-large team.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 are longtime and lucrative partners with the Rose Bowl, and game organizers would prefer to keep their partners happy and dip back into those conferences for replacement teams.
"Whenever we can protect our relationship with the Pac-12 and the Big Ten, that is very important to us," Chappin said.
To be eligible for an at-large spot, a team must be ranked in the top 14 of the final BCS standings and have nine victories. No. 13 Oregon State (7-1) is in 11th-place heading into Saturday's game at No. 16 Stanford. The Beavers also play California, Oregon and Nicholls State on Dec. 1 (provided they aren't in the Pac-12 title game).
If Oregon State finishes 10-2, assuming a loss to the Ducks, the Beavers should have no problem being BCS eligible, very possibly in the top 10. And because Oregon State last played in the Rose Bowl in 1965, the Beavers would check a second important box for the selection committee.
"Have they played in our game recently?" Chappin said.
Bowl organizers love inviting teams who haven't been to their game in a long time, because fired-up fans gobble up tickets.
It would get interesting if Oregon State loses twice between now and the end of the season.
At 9-3, the Beavers could still slip into the BCS top 14. But at that point, they might not look so appealing to the Rose Bowl. Especially, compared to Notre Dame.
There are other factors that could influence the Rose Bowl's decision. If Wisconsin wins the Big Ten, the Rose Bowl would probably like to avoid a rematch of a regular-season game between the Badgers and Beavers.
Or, if not Notre Dame, how about this possibility: A Rose Bowl reunion of old conference rivals Nebraska and Oklahoma.
"There are so many variables that go into the conversation of the matchup. It's not a conversation we have a lot," Chappin said. "We're at a position right now where it's too early to focus on the what-ifs."
True, but they are interesting.
No. 8 Florida State (minus 14) at Virginia Tech
Hokies need to win two of final three to become bowl eligible ... FLORIDA STATE 28-17.
No. 15 Texas A&M (plus 14) at No. 1 Alabama
Aggies QB Johnny Manziel has been contained by LSU and Florida's top defenses ... ALABAMA 35-17.
California (plus 28) at No. 2 Oregon
Ducks RB Kenjon Barner making late Heisman push ... OREGON 55-21.
No. 3 Kansas State (off) at TCU
With or without Collin Klein ... KANSAS STATE 38-31.
No. 4 Notre Dame (minus 19) at Boston College
For first time in about a month, Irish get easy win ... NOTRE DAME 35-10.
No. 5 Georgia (minus 15) at Auburn
Tigers haven't shown much fight ... GEORGIA 42-14.
Louisiana-Lafayette (plus 26½) at No. 7 Florida
Sun Belt teams have been tougher outs for SEC squads this season ... FLORIDA 42-14.
No. 23 Mississippi State (plus 14½) at No. 9 LSU
Bulldogs have lost 10 straight trips to Death Valley, 12 straight overall to Tigers ... LSU 24-13.
Maryland (plus 31) at No. 10 Clemson
Tigers QB Tajh Boyd is another late-blooming Heisman contender ... CLEMSON 50-14.
No. 11 Louisville (minus 2½) at Syracuse
Unbeaten Cardinals face tricky trip to improving Orange ... SYRACUSE 28-24.
Arkansas (plus 14) at No. 12 South Carolina
Razorbacks need two wins against tough schedule to become bowl eligible ... SOUTH CAROLINA 38-21.
No. 13 Oregon State (plus 4½) at No. 16 Stanford
Cardinal making QB switch from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan ... OREGON STATE 28-24.
Baylor (plus 21½) at No. 14 Oklahoma
Bears snapped 20-game losing streak to Sooners last season ... OKLAHOMA 55-24.
No. 17 UCLA (minus 14½) at Washington State
First season at Washington State has been a mess for Mike Leach ... UCLA 44-14.
Penn State (plus 7) at No. 18 Nebraska
Cornhuskers control their road to Big Ten title game ... NEBRASKA 28-14.
No. 19 Louisiana Tech (minus 20) at Texas State, 7 p.m.
La Tech has scored at least 50 in seven of nine games ... LOUISIANA TECH 54-31.
Iowa State (plus 10) at No. 19 Texas
Cyclones won in Austin two seasons ago ... TEXAS 31-17.
Arizona State (plus 9) at No. 21 Southern California
Sun Devils have lost three straight ... USC 48-21.
Army (plus 17) at No. 24 Rutgers
Scarlet Knights have won eight straight in series ... RUTGERS 38-17.
Kansas (plus 25½) at No. 25 Texas Tech
Jayhawks averaging 12 points in conference ... TEXAS TECH 42-12.
Last week's record: 17-2 (straight); 11-8 (vs. points)
Season record: 163-35 (straight); 94-86 (vs. points)
Best bets: 4-6.
Upset specials: 6-4.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphdurssoAP
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