We're less than a week away from the release of the first official BCS standings of the 2012 season, and the national championship race is beginning to come into focus. There are still 16 undefeated teams, most of which will be part of the title conversation throughout the home stretch. Even if they falter, they'll have an opportunity to play spoiler in the months ahead.
There are eight games still scheduled to be played between those undefeated teams -- all but Notre Dame, Ohio and Ohio State will face a current unbeaten at some point in the next few weeks.
There will be pitfalls outside of those featured showdowns, of course. We've had a number of surprises at the top of the polls already this year, and we've seen how almost anyone can lose in an upset in any given week.
But we're also entering the heart of conference play, and several teams are about to run into a particularly tough gauntlet. Surviving a difficult stretch of the schedule won't be easy, but each of the following teams has a chance to emerge stronger than ever.
Two-game stretch: at LSU, at Florida
Likelihood of survival: 24.4 percent
The Gamecocks completely overpowered and overwhelmed Georgia last weekend, but there is no time to rest on their laurels. Back-to-back trips to two of the toughest destinations in the SEC are coming up. South Carolina pounded the Bulldogs for 230 yards on the ground last weekend, but it will be much more difficult to have that kind of success against LSU this Saturday or Florida a week later. South Carolina ranks 70th nationally in avoiding three-and-outs (35.5 percent of drives), but LSU has the nation's top defense in that category (57.7 percent of opponent drives) and Florida ranks No. 12 (43.9 percent of opponent drives).