Two years before the playoffs start in college football, the Southeastern Conference is staging a semifinal to determine who plays Notre Dame in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Alabama was second and Georgia third in the BCS standings released Sunday. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs play Saturday in Atlanta for the SEC championship.
The winner will advance to the national championship game in Miami on Jan. 7 against the Fighting Irish, who locked up their spot Saturday with a 22-13 victory against Southern California.
Florida (11-1) is fourth in the standings, but with no games left, looks stuck behind their SEC rivals.
One way or another, the SEC will get a shot at its seventh consecutive BCS championship.
The BCS is in its second-to-last season. It will be replaced by a four-team playoff in 2014.
LEACH IN THE RUMOR MILL
The coaching carousel is working overtime as the college football season winds down, and past and present coaches at Washington State are making the news.
Cougars coach Mike Leach shot down a FootballScoop.com report that North Carolina State representatives had contacted him about their opening. Later, FootballScoop.com and CBSSports.com both reported that Leach had informed them by text the report was inaccurate.
“They haven’t talked to me and I’m really happy here,” CBSSports.com reported Leach as saying via text message.
Two weeks ago, Leach gave an emphatic “Yes” when asked if he definitely will coach the Cougars next year. At that time, Leach said he had not been contacted in regard to other jobs.
Leach could not be reached for comment Sunday. He joined school president Elson Floyd at midfield to accept the Apple Cup trophy after the game Friday.
Gene Chizik, Frank Spaziani and Danny Hope got news that many expected was coming. All were fired after disappointing seasons.
North Carolina State getting rid of Tom O’Brien took more than a few people off guard. So did Colorado letting Jon Embree go after two seasons.
Sunday was a tumultuous one around college football, with five coaches losing their jobs to bring the total openings in FBS to 12 — including four in the SEC.
Chizik was fired by Auburn after one of the most stunning and dramatic falls in college football history. The Tigers won the second national championship in program history behind Cam Newton in 2010. This season, Auburn finished 3-9 and did not win an SEC game. The Tigers lost the Iron Bowl to rival Alabama, 49-0.
Chizik was 33-19 in four seasons and 15-17 in SEC games.
More than 6-6 was expected from Purdue this season, but Hope and the Boilermakers needed a late rush just to get bowl eligible.
Hope won’t get to coach Purdue’s latest bowl game. He went 22-27 in four seasons.
Spaziani’s Boston College teams have had progressively worse records in each of his four seasons. The Eagles went 2-10 this season. He finished 22-29 as the coach.
North Carolina State finished 7-5 this season, and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, including an upset of Florida State. Not great, but not all that far away from expectations.
Still, it wasn’t enough to get O’Brien a seventh season. He went 40-35 after coming to Raleigh from Boston College. He took the Wolfpack to three bowl games, but won’t coach in a fourth when N.C. State receives its bid next week. He went 22-26 in ACC play.
Athletic director Debbie Yow said O’Brien’s buyout would be $1.2 million over four years.
Colorado finished this season 1-11 and Embree was 4-21 in his two seasons.
DEFENSIVE END OUT
Defensive end Tank Carradine will miss Florida State’s final two games of the 2012 season with a torn knee ligament. Florida State plays the ACC championship game Saturday against Georgia Tech, and will play in a bowl.