Several title-worthy teams are just working for nothing

Now, more than ever

college

football needs a playoff.

No matter how hard you shake the Bowl Championship Series tree,

nothing good falls from it. For the most part, the fruits of most

every team’s labor will spoil amid a passe bowl season.

There are several championship-caliber teams, and some will not

be afforded the opportunity to rebound from early-season defeats.

Only a handful of teams are in the auspicious position of having

the computers work to their favor at season’s end.

Take defending champion Alabama, for example.

The eighth-ranked Crimson Tide, like a bodacious heavyweight

titleholder, took on three ranked opponents at the time ? No. 18

Penn State, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 7 Florida ? in four games.

Then, No. 19 South Carolina caught them with their guard down and

pinned them against the ropes for a 35-21 TKO.

Yet, Alabama has time to deliver a flurry of blows to reel in

top-ranked Ohio State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Boise State. The Tide

still has on its schedule No. 7 Auburn and No. 9 LSU ? a game that

could decide the SEC West champion.

Despite all the anxiety in Tuscaloosa, the Tide controls its own

destiny. They could get a rematch in the conference title game

opposite the Gamecocks, who will face Florida on Nov. 13, probably

with the SEC East at stake.

This is a familiar scenario to the powers-that-be in

college

football. Remember, LSU lost twice

in 2007 before landing in the national championship game opposite

Ohio State, which survived a stunning upset loss to Illinois in its

final home game. The Tigers and Buckeyes advanced, in part, because

of their strength of schedule.

More dubious, if not curious: Nebraska and Oklahoma played for a

BCS title despite getting manhandled in its respective Big 12

championship games. Colorado wiped out Nebraska, 62-36, in 2001;

Kansas State mauled the Sooners, 35-7, in 2003.

And that’s why Alabama coach Nick Saban hasn’t pushed the panic

button. It, too, is why all of Idaho hesitates to celebrate the

early projections that have the Broncos sitting atop this season’s

first BCS standings on Sunday evening.

Clearly, a lot can ? and will ? happen before the BCS

Championship Game is played Jan. 10 at

University of Phoenix Stadium in

Glendale, Ariz.

Unfortunately, the BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Sugar, Rose and

Orange) aren’t designed to give every would-be contender a shot at

the title. Instead, they’ll have to settle for conference bragging

rights and a hefty multi-million dollar consolation prize.

The Big 12 is likely to begin sorting itself out this weekend

when unranked Texas visits No. 5 Nebraska. It’s not exactly a

must-win situation for the Cornhuskers, but conquering the

Longhorns will go a long way in converting Nebraska’s naysayers

looking for a quality victory ? and not wins against South Dakota

State, Idaho and Western Kentucky ? to move the power-ranking

needle.

If Ohio State can withstand Wisconsin’s best blows in Madison on

Saturday, the Buckeyes and Michigan State could possibly finish the

season deadlocked atop the Big Ten. Unfortunately, the conference

scheduling module doesn’t allow for the two best teams to settle

things on the field.

Then, there’s the Pac-10, where Oregon proved against previously

undefeated, 14th-ranked Stanford that it’s the best in the west.

However, even if they finish undefeated along with Boise State, the

Ducks might be betrayed by computers favoring a one loss team, say

Alabama.

That, of course, is what you get with the BCS. There remain far

more questions than answers when computers are considered a

sufficient substitute for a common-sense playoff system.

Tribune-Review power rankings

1. Ohio State (Last week: 2): The Buckeyes took care of business

against Indiana, while Alabama tipped up against South Carolina.

But the polls can easily be reshuffled if Ohio State goes into

Wisconsin overconfident or ill-prepared.

2. Oklahoma (3): The Sooners received two first-place votes in

the AP poll. It’s hard to distinguish them from Oregon.

3. Oregon (4) : The Ducks received 15 first-place votes. But

it’s hard to imagine they are much better than Oklahoma.

4. Auburn (7) : No one’s paying much attention, but the Tigers

keep on winning. They are as good as their 6-0 record.

5. Boise State (5): Still no respect, but they could be No. 1 in

the first BCS ranking, albeit short lived.

6. LSU (10): This team just doesn’t pass the eye test. They are

winning ugly, but only winning matters.

7. South Carolina (NR): Steve Spurrier has been saying for years

the Gamecocks are title contenders. They finally proved it in

beating Alabama.

8. Alabama (1): Don’t worry, they’re still happy in ‘Bama. All

was not lost in the defeat to South Carolina

9. TCU (8): The Horned Frogs are on their way to a perfect

regular season. They’ll impress everyone except the BCS

computers.

10. Arkansas (6): The Razorbacks got their bad game (Alabama)

out of their system early. They’ve been sharp ever since.

Dropped out: No. 9 Arizona

Others to watch: Nebraska, Michigan State, Arizona, Utah,

Stanford, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma State.

Heisman watch

1. RB LaMichael James, soph., Oregon: James amassed a pedestrian

136 yards and 2 TDs in Oregon’s win over Washington State but

vaulted to the top while others stumbled. His 848 yards and 9 TDs

are too impressive to overlook.

2. QB Cam Newton, jr., Auburn: Newton is a different breed of

Auburn QB. He leads the Tigers in rushing with 672 yards and has

accounted for 21 TDs.

3. QB Denard Robinson, soph., Michigan: Every Heisman winner had

highs and lows. Robinson, who reached 1,000 yards rushing against

Michigan State, must regain his mojo against Iowa.

4. QB Terrelle Pryor, jr., Ohio State: So far, the knock on

Pryor is that, aside from Miami, he’s been unspectacular. He had a

300-yard passing game against Indiana and will need those kind of

numbers at Wisconsin to elevate his standing.

5. QB Kellen Moore, jr., Boise State: Back in the mix, Moore has

been steady leading the fourth-best scoring attack in the country.

He’s 14th in passing with 1,336 yards and has thrown 14 TD

passes.

Others to watch: RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech; QB Taylor

Martinez, Nebraska; RB Mark Ingram, Alabama; CB Patrick Peterson,

LSU; QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas; LB Greg Jones, Michigan State; QB

Russell Wilson, North Carolina State.