Several title-worthy teams are just working for nothing
Now, more than ever
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.