LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
It's been 24 years since Notre Dame won college football's national championships. But after a wild weekend of upsets, the Fighting Irish are the number one team in the country, following the release last night of the BCS standings. And the powerful Southeastern Conference, which appeared out of the running, is suddenly back in the picture, with several teams right behind Notre Dame in the rankings.
NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman is here. Tom, good morning.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.
WERTHEIMER: So going into the weekend, college football fans anticipated a possible national championship game between Kansas State and Oregon - today, we're talking Notre Dame v. Alabama. What the heck happened?
GOLDMAN: The Kansas State Wildcats and the Oregon Ducks, numbers one and two when Saturday started, are now ranked six and five, respectively. Both lost Saturday. And let me tell you, Linda, I live in Oregon and this is a state filled with despondent quacker-backers.
GOLDMAN: But anyway, these results moved undefeated Notre Dame to number one. Alabama, which had been a dominant number one all season before losing to Texas A&M last weekend, moved back to number two. The two top-ranked teams play in the BCS national championship game. Those two are now the favorites, as long as they don't stumble down the stretch.
Notre Dame has to beat USC in L.A. this Saturday to secure a spot in the title game. Notre Dame should pull it off. The Trojans lost their star quarterback to injury this past weekend.
WERTHEIMER: So if USC does manage to win, though, does that throw the whole thing into chaos again?
GOLDMAN: Oh, absolutely. Then no undefeated teams are at the top. Ohio State could finish undefeated. The Buckeyes have had a great season but they're ineligible for the post-season because of sanctions from the recent scandal under former head coach Jim Tressel. So if Notre Dame loses its first, then you've got a bunch of one-loss teams at the top and there'll be the usual squawking over the unfairness of the BCS system, with its computers and polls, as it decides which two of those teams get to play for the big prize.
WERTHEIMER: So what happened to playoffs to decide the championship?
GOLDMAN: Coming to you and everyone else in 2014. We've got away two more years. This would have been the perfect year for the four-team playoff as its initially proposed, because we've had four dominant teams at the top for most of the season and we may finish up in a week or two with a muddled picture that would best be decided through a playoff. But we had to wait two more years.
WERTHEIMER: Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
WERTHEIMER: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.