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LSU, ‘Bama one step closer to BCS encore

Louisiana State-Alabama Round 2 is just a few victories away.

A weekend filled with upsets left the Southeastern Conference rivals in the top two spots in the Bowl Championship Series standings released Sunday.

And Arkansas was third, further increasing the possibility of an all-SEC BCS championship game Jan. 9 in New Orleans that would be a rematch of a regular-season game.

It’s the first time in the 14-year history of the BCS that the same conference had the top three teams in the standings.

If the Tigers can beat Arkansas on Saturday, then Georgia in the SEC title game Dec. 3, and the Crimson Tide beats Auburn on Saturday, it’s almost a lock that LSU and Alabama will play again, this time at the Superdome.

The Tigers beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime Nov. 5 at Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Oklahoma State fell to fourth place. The Cowboys were unbeaten and second in the BCS standings, but were upset 37-31 in double overtime at Iowa State on Friday night.

Still, Oklahoma State is not out of it. The Cowboys just need some help from Auburn and LSU, or from voters in the Harris and coaches’ polls who don’t have an appetite for a rematch in the BCS championship game.

"Oklahoma State is still the most viable team if we get to two weeks from now and there is still a pull to not have a rematch of some sort," said Jerry Palm, who analyzes the BCS standings for CBSSports.com.

BCS pairings are announced Dec. 4.

Also undercutting the Cowboys’ chances is the loss by Oklahoma to Baylor on Saturday. Oklahoma State plays Oklahoma on Dec. 3.

"Now if Oklahoma State wins that game, (the Cowboys) just don’t get the push they might have gotten otherwise," Palm said.

Oklahoma slipped from fifth to ninth in the standings. Oregon, which lost 38-35 to Southern California, fell from fourth to 10th in the standings.

Virginia Tech is fifth in the BCS standings, with a game against rival Virginia on Saturday that will determine which team plays Clemson for the Atlantic Coast Conference title.

Stanford is sixth with a game against Notre Dame left and could reach the Pac-12 title game if Oregon were to lose to Oregon State on Saturday.

Boise State is seventh, but the Broncos will be shut out of the BCS this season because they can’t win their conference after losing to Mountain West Conference rival Texas Christian.

Undefeated Houston is eighth and can lock up a BCS bid by winning Conference USA. The Cougars play Tulsa this week and would host the C-USA title game, most likely against Southern Mississippi, if they beat the Golden Hurricane.

Meanwhile, the latest Associated Press poll had LSU on top for the ninth straight week, followed by Alabama and Arkansas.

The only other time in the 75-year history of The Associated Press rankings that the top three teams all came from the same conference was the final regular-season poll of 1971, when Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado from the Big Eight were 1-2-3.

■ MIAMI — The Hurricanes aren’t going to a bowl this season, self-imposing a ban that school officials say was "necessary" in response to an ongoing NCAA investigation into the university’s compliance practices.

The move was not unexpected, though coach Al Golden said Saturday night he was unaware of any discussions about Miami (6-5) removing itself from bowl consideration. Less than 24 hours later, the school announced it informed both the NCAA and the ACC of its decision.

Miami players, many of whom had said that they wanted, and expected, to play in a bowl game, were told Sunday that Friday’s game against Boston College will be the season finale.

The NCAA is still investigating the university over claims that former booster Nevin Shapiro provided 72 players and recruits with extra benefits from 2002 through 2010.

■ NOTRE DAME — Jonas Gray’s breakout season came up short. The running back has a "significant" injury to his right knee, and coach Brian Kelly is not expecting the senior to play again.

The Irish, who moved up two spots to No. 22 in this week’s AP Top 25, finish the regular season at No. 4 Stanford on Saturday and are expected to play in a bowl game.

Kelly is still awaiting the MRI results on Gray’s knee. But when asked if Gray’s career at Notre Dame was done, Kelly said, "That’s unfortunately what it looks like right now."

Gray’s injury is a huge loss for the Irish, who are 4-0 since the 5-foot-10-inch, 230-pound back was inserted into the starting lineup. He and Cierre Wood gave Notre Dame (8-3) a potent run game and were on track to be Notre Dame’s first pair of 1,000-yard rushers.

■ ALABAMA — Safety Will Lowery said he’s out for the season with a torn knee ligament.

Lowery tweeted that an MRI revealed that he had a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and "I am done."

He was hurt early in Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern. Lowery has 20 tackles on defense and special teams.

■ WASHINGTON STATE — Quarterback Connor Halliday was in stable condition at Pullman Regional Hospital after suffering a lacerated liver.

School officials said Halliday was admitted to the hospital for observation and imaging immediately after Saturday night’s loss to Utah. Assistant athletic director Bill Drake said Halliday received a number of hard hits during a 30-27 overtime loss to the Utes and played through each of them. After the game, the redshirt freshman approached the team medical staff with significant pain.

■ YALE — A rented U-Haul that struck and killed a tailgater at Saturday’s Yale-Harvard game malfunctioned as a Yale undergraduate drove the vehicle into a crowded parking lot, the student’s attorney said.

William Dow, representing Yale student Brendan Ross, said the collision was a "tragic accident that appears to be the result of a vehicle malfunction." He did not elaborate and said Ross would not be speaking publicly about what happened.

But Ross and his family wanted to express their condolences to the three people who were hit by the truck, Dow said, including 30-year-old Nancy Barry of Salem, Mass., who was killed.

 

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