If cleanliness is next to godliness, the 2010 college football season is about to get unholy. The 2007 season is the greatest example to date of just how deficient the BCS can be when choosing a champion.
If cleanliness is next to godliness, the 2010 college football season is about to get unholy.
The 2007 season is the greatest example to date of just how deficient the BCS can be when choosing a champion. It’s accepted that LSU won the national title that year, beating Ohio State by two touchdowns in the Louisiana Superdome.
The Tigers, however, had two losses heading into that game, while the Buckeyes had one. When it was over, every one of the top six in the final AP and USA Today polls - the USA Today poll being the one that determines the final BCS champion - had two losses, while Kansas, a Big 12 team, had just one loss but was ranked seventh in both polls.
Each of those six were from the six power conferences - Georgia, USC, Missouri, Ohio State and West Virginia. So while LSU was the team chosen by the system to oppose Ohio State for the national title, then beat the Buckeyes, it’s not as though the Tigers did anything to distinguish themselves from plenty of others.
That year was a mess. This year there’s a scenario that could emerge to make 2007 look just about spotless.
Already the top-ranked team has lost each of the last two weeks, Alabama falling at South Carolina and Ohio State dropping at Wisconsin. Oregon - which played last night after this column was filed - is the new No. 1 in the human polls, and Oklahoma sits atop the initial BCS Standings (the Ducks are No. 2).
Both could certainly go unbeaten the rest of the way and be the two who play for the crystal football in University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 10.
But Oregon plays at USC next weekend. And the Ducks still have improving Washington, proven Arizona and archrival Oregon State on the schedule. Oklahoma is at undefeated Missouri on Saturday night, then must survive Oklahoma State the final weekend of the regular season and the Big 12 title game (most likely against Nebraska) to stay perfect.
It’s very possible both will lose before all is said and done.
Now imagine every one of the other remaining unbeaten teams from the six conferences whose champions automatically qualify for BCS bowls lose between now and the regular season. There are five - Oklahoma State, Missouri, Michigan State, LSU and Auburn.
Either Missouri or Oklahoma will have one loss by the end of the day on Saturday, as will either LSU or Auburn, who play on the Alabama plains at 3:30 on Saturday. Michigan State is at a decent Northwestern team on Saturday and a very good Iowa squad next week, and Oklahoma State has to play an angry Nebraska team on Saturday.
When it’s time to pick the two teams to play for the national championship, there’s a very good possibility that no team from the six major conferences will be undefeated. It could look a lot like 2007.
There will likely be two undefeated teams from outside the Big Six.
Boise State, currently third in the BCS Standings and second in both the AP and USA Today polls, does not play a single ranked team the rest of the way. TCU, meanwhile, sits fifth in the BCS Standings and fourth in the human polls. The Horned Frogs have to play undefeated Utah, but if the Utes win that game they could simply slot into the spot currently occupied by TCU.
The system could spit out a national championship game matching Boise State against TCU (or Utah). The system could spit out a national championship game matching teams who will have beaten a combined one currently ranked team - Boise State over Virginia Tech, which is 25th in the BCS Standings - by two points.
It’s pointless to rail against the BCS and plead for a playoff. The system is what it is until contracts expire in a few years. But that doesn’t make it any less stupid and frustrating.
Every weekend we revel in the beauty of games that feature powerful teams going head to head, thrilling in the upset pulled by South Carolina two weeks ago and the one executed by Wisconsin last week. We hope another underdog will rise up and take down the new No. 1, or another highly ranked team (as long as it’s not our favorite).
We’ll watch with fascination as Auburn’s irresistible offense crashes into LSU’s immovable defense, surprising Michigan State faces its stiffest road tests over the next couple of weeks and steadying Oklahoma puts its lofty perch on the line at Missouri.
But what is beautiful in the moment could lead to something ugly in the end.
It’s possible the system will put a one-loss Alabama or Oklahoma or Oregon or Iowa in the title game over an unbeaten Boise State or TCU or Utah. But it’s also possible it won’t.
There’s no question the Broncos, Horned Frogs and Utes are very good teams, and maybe could beat Alabama or Oklahoma or Oregon or Iowa. But if there’s a reward for maybe, for going undefeated but proving nothing on the field against teams that have proven themselves, why bother having conferences that provide stiff competition week in and week out? Why shouldn’t Nebraska go independent next year rather than join the Big Ten, and then schedule a bunch of patsies to ensure a perfect record?
If Boise State and TCU - or Utah - wind up playing each other for the national title, it will simply be another example of just how ludicrous it is to choose a champion with a combination of votes and computer formulas rather than play on the field. It will also be the most striking example.
If Boise State and TCU - or Utah - wind up playing for the national title on Jan. 10, hopefully there will be a good basketball game on TV that night.
What We Learned
There’s nothing in sports as horrible as seeing a motionless person strapped to a backboard and taken to a hospital to see if perhaps the person will move their limbs again - not a brawl on the field or showboating or silly ways of picking champions, and certainly not a favorite team’s loss.
A lot of wonderful football happened last weekend.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton shot to stardom, if he wasn’t a star already, evoking images of Vince Young with his mixture of size, speed and grace as the Tigers scored 63 points in a win over Arkansas. Texas showed that reports of its demise may have been premature with its win at Nebraska, while reports of Florida’s fall are perhaps right on time after the Gators lost their third straight.
Wisconsin got one of the great wins in its history, beating a No. 1 team for the first time in nearly three decades, since taking out a Bo Schembechler-coached Michigan team in 1981.
Some of the seamy side of big-time college athletics was also brought to light last week in a level of detail we’ve never before seen. Former NFL agent Josh Fuchs’ first-hand account of paying players - much of it corroborated by athletes named by Fuchs - in Sports Illustrated is a must-read.
It’s an issue that brought down USC, greatly hampered North Carolina’s season, and is affecting many more schools.
But what dwarfs all that is what happened to Rutgers defensive tackle Eric LeGrand in the fourth quarter of the Scarlet Knights’ overtime win over Army. He was involved in a violent collision on special teams. He hit the ball carrier with his head down, crumpled to the ground and lay in an awkward position.
He underwent emergency surgery Saturday night to stabilize his spine.
Since then there have been stories written about 72-hour windows - the period during which some doctors reportedly feel it’s crucial for victims of spinal cord injuries to show movement if there’s to be any hope of recovery. There have been stories written about him being aware of what happened, and him being in good spirits.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano has been with LeGrand every day, seeing if there’s progress.
“I have seen him every day,” Schiano said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “He is in good spirits. There is nothing I can give you one way or another. ... He goes through different periods. There is medications that have to be administered and there is those kind of things. He has been very responsive at times and very aware.”
Since then, there have been no new updates.
Thankfully, it doesn’t happen frequently, and the word thankfully can’t be said with enough force. But every so often it does happen that a young man, probably still just a boy in many respects, suffers a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed.
Some, like Penn State’s Adam Taliafaro, recover. Others - Mississippi’s Chucky Mullins and The Citadel’s Marc Buoniconti come to mind - don’t.
Their injuries are stark reminders that college football is merely entertainment, a game, that as much as we like to say we bleed maize and blue or garnet and gold or crimson and white, we bleed red, and so do the kids out on the field.
Be well, Eric LeGrand.
Game of the Week
It was unlikely the team atop the human polls will lose for the third straight week. Oregon, the new No. 1 after losses by Alabama and Ohio State the last two weeks, hosted UCLA Thursday night in a game that took place after this column was filed.
There will be a hugely important game in the SEC - LSU at Auburn - but only in the Big 12 could a No. 1 team could still fall this week.
Oklahoma is the top team in the BCS Standings - the ones that actually count - and travels to play undefeated Missouri on Saturday night.
The Sooners looked shaky throughout much of the first half of the season, struggling to beat Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati by a touchdown or less. But they also crushed a Florida State team that’s gone on to a 6-1 mark including a blowout win over Miami, and they handled a Texas team that last weekend went into Lincoln and dominated previously undefeated Nebraska.
They also crushed Iowa State last weekend.
The time to beat Oklahoma may have passed. The Sooners may be getting better and better.
“We know they’re a great team,” Missouri cornerback Kevin Rutland said this week. “They have a really balanced attack, they have great receivers and running backs and a great defense. Oklahoma believes they are a great team so this week we have to prepare to play our best.”
But as good as Oklahoma now looks, Missouri could trip the Sooners.
While Oklahoma is playing for its spot in the BCS race, the Tigers are out to prove something - and play themselves into the championship discussion. They haven’t beaten a ranked team, but they’ve easily whipped everyone, including a 30-9 beat down of Texas A&M in College Station last weekend.
Three years ago, Missouri was one of those teams amid the mess at the end of the year, led by quarterback Chase Daniel and scoring at a ridiculous rate. The Tigers’ only two losses that year were to Oklahoma, the seventh week in Norman and again in the Big 12 Championship Game.
But that team had no defense. What makes this team interesting, and perhaps a more legitimate challenger for the Sooners, is Missouri is allowing just 10.8 points per game - second-fewest in the nation.
“They’re a fast, athletic defense,” said Oklahoma receiver DeJuan Miller on Tuesday. “They fly around to the ball. I saw a little of the (Missouri-Texas A&M) game last week and they looked really good on defense. We’re going down to a hornet’s nest. ... Missouri is a formidable opponent. They’re really good. We have to go down there and make no mistakes.”
One by one over the past two weeks undefeated teams have fallen. Two that remain will meet Saturday night in Columbia, Mo. Just one will walk away with a perfect record and control of its destiny.
If I Had a Ballot ...
1. Oregon (7-0): USC next weekend could be the downfall of the Ducks.
2. Oklahoma (6-0): The margins of victory may not be impressive, but the list of victims is.
3. Auburn (7-0): The defense is a concern, but the Tigers should outscore LSU on Saturday.
4. Boise State (6-0): Every week, as the Broncos beat patsies, they get help as undefeateds fall.
5. TCU (7-0): Every week, as the Horned Frogs beat patsies, they get help as undefeateds fall.
6. Michigan State (7-0): Road games at Northwestern and Iowa the next two weeks will test the Spartans.
7. LSU (7-0): At Auburn on Saturday and home against Alabama next week should be the Tigers’ reality check.
8. Alabama (6-1): If any one-loss team plays for the national title, this is the one with the best shot.
9. Stanford (5-1): This week should be easy with Washington State visiting The Farm.
10. Iowa (5-1): With Wisconsin and Michigan State visiting the next two weeks, the Big Ten race will be shaped at Kinnick Stadium.
Contact Eric Avidon at 508-626-3809 or email@example.com.