'Bama, Georgia sit behind Notre Dame in BCS poll

Notre Dame has essentially punched its ticket to Miami, and the release of the penultimate BCS standings on Sunday indicated the winner of the SEC Championship Game will likely join the Fighting Irish in South Beach.

Alabama (11-1) and Georgia (11-1) were both No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the poll last week and remained in the same positions following blowout wins against rivalry opponents. The pair will square off next Saturday in Atlanta in the SEC title game in what amounts to a de facto national semifinal.

The BCS champion has come from the SEC each of the past six years.

While the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs still have work to do, the Fighting Irish finished off their 12-0 regular season with a victory at Southern California on Saturday night to stay atop the BCS poll.

Notre Dame, which vaulted into the top spot last week thanks to losses by Kansas State and Oregon, is No. 1 in both human polls and in the computers for a near perfect 0.998 BCS average.

The Irish are all but assured to play for the national title on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium, where they could meet the reigning champs or the streaking Bulldogs.

Alabama had its run as No. 1 stopped as a result of a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M two weeks ago, but fell just behind the then-unbeatens to stay a threat in the title race. The Tide rolled over Auburn, 49-0, in the Iron Bowl on Saturday and currently has a 0.924 BCS average.

Georgia has not lost since its lone blemish at South Carolina on Oct. 6, a six-game run that includes a pivotal 17-9 win over the Florida Gators, who upended Florida State on Saturday but stayed at the undesirable No. 4 spot despite the computers having them ranked second.

The Bulldogs hold a just a 0.003 edge over Florida, and because the Gators can't improve their resume, they will likely be on the outside looking in.

However, Florida stands a good chance of vaulting ahead of the SEC championship loser into third place in next week's poll, which would guarantee the Gators a BCS bowl as an at-large entry.

Oregon is currently fifth, followed by Kansas State, LSU, Stanford, Texas A&M and South Carolina.

The BCS poll is computed by averaging the percentage totals of the Harris Interactive poll, USA Today poll and computer rankings.

Since 1998, the top two teams in the poll following the conference title games squared off for the BCS Championship. In two years, a four-team playoff system goes into effect.