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October 31, 2012

Notebook: BCS Breakdown

TUSCALOOSA | A month remains in college football's regular season, and four unbeatens still have a close eye on the game's biggest prize, a national title.

The task for No.1-ranked Alabama, according to ESPN BCS expert Brad Edwards, is plain enough: Don't lose, and the berth will be there when the time comes. But for the unbeatens immediately behind UA in the polls -- Notre Dame, Oregon and Kansas State -- things aren't quite that simple. If all four teams win out, two among the Irish, Ducks and Wildcats will find themselves undefeated but out of the national title game.

"I think Notre Dame has by far the least chance. They need a lot of help," Edwards said. "I think it's going to come down to Oregon and K-State. Knowing what I know today, I would favor Oregon. They still have a pretty big edge in the two polls on Kansas State. That's two-thirds of the formula. And Oregon's computer numbers will get better because their schedule is back-loaded. They've got USC, Stanford, Oregon State left and a conference championship game."

Edwards, who has been with ESPN since 1996, said he doesn't believe the remaining schedules of Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State are collectively tough enough for three of them to lose a game, which would allow for a one-loss team in the national title game.

"I've sat there with everybody else and watched all the upsets take place in the final weeks of the season in recent years," Edwards said. "I know they can happen. But it feels like the door is not going to open for a one-loss team. ... Kansas State and Oregon, both of them, play their most losable game this weekend. People would say the same thing about Alabama. Three of the four have their best remaining chance to lose Saturday."

While Alabama travels to Baton Rouge to battle a 7-1 LSU team, Kansas State faces Oklahoma State and Oregon plays at Southern Cal. Notre Dame's toughest remaining game is also at Southern Cal, on Nov. 24.

"If we're still sitting here next week with those top four unbeaten, it's going to be really tough for two of them not to end up in the title game," Edwards added.

McCarron on game management
UA quarterback AJ McCarron was asked about the phrase "game manager" that often is used to describe quarterbacks on Wednesday. In some circles, the phrase has come to indicate a quarterback who doesn't make many big plays, a connotation neither UA coach Nick Saban nor McCarron appreciate.

"What I think and then what the media tries to make a game manager out to be is two totally different things. I probably think more along the lines of coach Saban," McCarron said. "A game manager can be anything. I mean, he can throw nine touchdowns in one game, but he still managed the game. He could hand the ball off 47 times, but still manage the game. I think coach, in that aspect, is saying, he's taking what the defense is giving him and he's not making any real bonehead mistakes. And that's the biggest thing. People now a days love to see the ball being slung around and everything but that's not our style of play. So, I'm going to, like what coach always, take what the defense gives me. And eventually, like our old saying, eventually they'll give you the game."

Injury update
Freshman receiver Amari Cooper participated more fully in Wednesday's practice, which UA coach Nick Saban indicated would happen Wednesday morning on his SEC teleconference call. Cooper (ankle) was more limited in practice Monday and Tuesday, but is expected to play Saturday.

Saban said McCarron has practiced well this week and has not had a problem with the back contusion he sustained against Mississippi State.

"There's nothing wrong with 2nd and 6. That's better than 2nd and 16." - Offensive lineman Barrett Jones on running the ball between the tackles.

Quotable II
"We pretty much let everybody know now. Anybody that's been through it before, we kind of let the younger guys know that as soon as you come out of the locker room, to your left will be a live tiger. Be ready for that." - Defensive end Damion Square on LSU's live mascot, Mike the Tiger. In Saban's two previous trips to LSU as Alabama's coach, the Crimson Tide's defensive linemen have gone through warm-ups very near Mike's cage.

According to FanSnap, an online ticket search engine that captures market data for ticketed events, about 2,800 Alabama-LSU tickets are available online for an average cost of $440. That's down from $840 in mid-September, when both teams were unbeaten and demand was higher. The cheapest ticket available was going for $127, while club seats and 50-yard line tickets were at $2-3,000. ... Saban sent well wishes Wednesday to outgoing UA president Guy Bailey, who resigned after only two months on the job because of his wife's illness. ... Saban' turned 61 Wednesday.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722.0196.

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