There's a Big 4 at top of college football

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Oct. 28 2012 10:13 p.m. MDT

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (5)celebrates with teammate Stephon Tuitt (7) after an interception against Oklahoma in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Associated Press

Call them the fantastic four. Or maybe the final four in the race for No. 1.

Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame hold the top four spots in The Associated Press college football poll released Sunday.

The Crimson Tide is No. 1 for the ninth straight week and the Ducks are No. 2 for the sixth consecutive week.

The third-ranked Wildcats and fourth-ranked Fighting Irish each moved up a spot after Florida lost 17-9 to Georgia. That dropped the Gators from third to eighth.

Later Sunday, the BCS standings came out and Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon were ranked Nos. 1-4.

The Tide, Ducks, Wildcats and Irish will spend the last month of the regular season competing against each other from a far, vying for two spots in the BCS national championship game. All of them could get to Dec. 2, BCS selection day, unbeaten.

The finish line is now in sight, but no peeking.

"It's tough not to, knowing you're so close, but man, you just have to focus in on next week, focus in on next game," K-State wide receiver Chris Harper said after the Wildcats' 55-24 victory against Texas Tech. "It's really hard not to look ahead, but the position that we're in, you can't do it."

Alabama and Oregon both face big tests Saturday. Emerging Heisman trophy contender AJ McCarron and the Tide go to Baton Rouge, La., to face No. 5 LSU in a game that could decide the SEC West.

The Pac-12's game of the year was supposed to be Saturday as well. The Ducks will be at No. 18 Southern California, but the Trojans are coming off their second loss of the season. USC fell 39-36 at Arizona and hasn't looked much like a team that started the season No. 1.

Still, Matt Barkley and crew figure to provide some resistance to an Oregon team that has yet to enter the fourth quarter of a game with the result in doubt.

Kansas State is home against Big 12 rival Oklahoma State. Notre Dame, coming off a 30-13 victory at Oklahoma, takes on Pittsburgh in South Bend, Ind.

A BCS mess looms. Alabama's position as No. 1 is safe as long as the defending national champions keep winning. The other three will jockey for the position behind the Tide, and voters (both in the AP poll and the two used in the BCS standings) will parse scores and schedules, looking for the slightest flaws to separate the Ducks, Wildcats and Irish.

Good luck with that.

? ? ?

MOVING UP

Dismissed after getting thumped at South Carolina, No. 7 Georgia moved up five spots in the latest rankings and moved into position to win a second straight SEC East title.

The Bulldogs put together by far their best defensive performance of the season against the Gators. It really came out of nowhere. Georgia, with a lineup full of future NFL draft picks, had been allowing more than 200 yards per game on the ground over its last three.

All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones, who has been slowed by injuries, was spectacular with 13 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles. Florida ran for only 81 yards.

Georgia needs to beat Mississippi and Auburn to book a trip to the Southeastern Conference title game for the sixth time in 12 seasons under coach Mark Richt. Yes, the Bulldogs have benefited from a favorable schedule the past two seasons, missing the best teams from the SEC West. But you can only play the teams on your schedule and Georgia has beaten almost all of them.

Still, many Bulldogs fans have been exasperated by their team and coach in recent seasons. Georgia hasn't won the SEC since 2005, and while Florida, Alabama, Auburn and LSU have won the last six national titles, Georgia hasn't won any.

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