More chaos in store for Week 13
Last Monday night, SiriusXM radio host Scott Ferrall and I went through every game of the Week 12 college football slate and came to a joint conclusion: "Week 12 was made up of a bunch of duds. There wasn't a single upset in the batch."
We, then — in what must now sound like someone's panicked report about Y2K from 1999 — had a five-minute conversation killing the various conference schedule makers for the lack of "good" matchups this late in the season.
Yeah, so about that ...
There were not only a plethora of shocking upsets and thrilling finishes last weekend, but the entire BCS picture was shaken up, too. Dominoes fell left and right, leading to the most bizarre week in college football since the BCS era began in 1998. How odd was it? No. 2 Oklahoma State lost to an unranked Iowa State team on Friday night, were all but considered eliminated from the BCS Championship Game picture on Saturday morning, and were back on top, ranked No. 4 — the highest ranking for any non-SEC team — by Sunday night.
Word out of Las Vegas on Sunday was that a three-team, $100 moneyline parlay on Iowa State, USC and Baylor last weekend would have netted you a cool $100,000. Not bad if you are into that kind of thing.
After the dust cleared early Sunday morning, the rubble of last weekend revealed a BCS standings with a rather distinct Southern flavor. LSU 1. Alabama 2. Arkansas 3. The AP rankings showed the same 1-2-3 SEC West-dominant lineup. The only other time in the 75-year history of The Associated Press rankings that the top three teams all came from the same conference was the final regular-season poll of 1971, when Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado from the Big Eight were 1-2-3. And that time, it was three teams from the same conference. This time? It's three teams from the same division. That's a first.
Right down the list, teams that were even on the periphery of the BCS picture lost games last weekend. Southern Mississippi, ranked 22nd in the BCS and considered a major obstacle in Houston's path to a BCS bowl berth, lost a head-scratcher to UAB. No. 7 Clemson — though a longshot, but still alive for the BCS Championship Game — got blown out by a 5-5 North Carolina State team. Three of the top five teams lost, but so did everyone else.
So, with the sport's wildest weekend in decades now behind us, it's safe to assume things will go back to "normal" this weekend, right? All the top teams got those losses out of their systems.
If anything, we're just getting started.
Throw the point spreads and everyone's crystal balls away, because if we learned anything last weekend, no wins are guaranteed in November. In fact, I think this weekend could make for another wild one. If the BCS got shaken up in Week 12, it can be blown to bits in Week 13.
Let's go game by game.
No. 8 Houston at Tulsa: Case Keenum's hotel room and dinner plans may already be reserved in New York City, but any chartered flights for Houston fans to a BCS bowl destination should be delayed until at least after this one. Since their loss to Boise State in late September, the Golden Hurricane won seven straight games, and have scored 59 and 57 points in their last two games. Both teams can score in bunches. With the home field and the potential of Kevin Sumlin's squad getting tight in the collar with a BCS bowl within their grasp, I can see Tulsa scoring more.
No. 3 Arkansas at No. 1 LSU: Sure, LSU's undefeated, and yeah, the Tigers haven't even been challenged in Baton Rouge this year. But Arkansas has been in this position before — double-digit underdogs vs. LSU on the Friday after Thanksgiving in 2007 — and toppled the then No. 1-ranked Tigers. Arkansas enters this one as winners of seven straight, and though some of those — including comebacks over Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt — haven't been aesthetically pleasing, the Hogs are playing their best football of the season. Over the past three weeks, Arkansas has outscored its SEC opponents 137-52. LSU's good, but they're not unbeatable. If any team has a mental edge over the Tigers, it's the Razorbacks. Arkansas has won three of its last four against LSU, including two of three games coached by Bobby Petrino. The Razorbacks beat LSU 31-23 last year, catapulting them to a BCS bowl for the first time in school history. This one would have just a bit more riding on it.
No. 2 Alabama at No. 24 Auburn: Auburn had a shot to ruin the Tide's national title hopes in '09, failing to knock off Saban, Ingram and Co. in the final minutes. Alabama escaped that Iron Bowl battle with a 26-21 victory, but might not be so lucky this year. Though Auburn's lost four games this season, they haven't lost at home. In fact, Auburn hasn't lost at home in 14 games, dating all the way back to, well, that '09 Iron Bowl. That 2009 team entered the Iron Bowl with a 7-4 record, a punishing defense and a solid ground game. This version is awfully similar. Jordan-Hare will be bumping, seniors will be playing in their final home games and a national audience will be tuning in. Why not?
No. 22 Notre Dame at No. 6 Stanford: Shh … Don't look now, but the Irish are a win over Stanford away from sneaking into a BCS bowl game and stealing one of those precious BCS at-large bids. Though the Irish didn't look great Saturday night vs. Boston College, they could be catching Stanford at the tail end of a downward spiral. The Oregon loss two weeks ago was terrible, and they didn't look much better Saturday vs. Cal. Notre Dame — relatively quietly — has now won four straight games and eight of nine. The running game took a hit with Jonas Gray going down for the year on Saturday, but there's a lot of buzz about replacement Cierre Wood. Though Stanford's BCS bowl dreams are all anyone will talk about heading into this one, Notre Dame's are still alive, too. This isn't the same Stanford team from the beginning of the year, and it certainly isn't the same Notre Dame squad from that South Florida game.
UCLA at No. 18 USC: USC's riding high after a season-making win over Oregon on Saturday night. But with no bowl game in sight and no Pac-12 Championship Game spot to play for, the Trojans are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from the Bruins on Saturday night. UCLA has everything in the world to play for. Win and the Bruins go to the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. Lose and they're pegged back down in the standings, headed to a no-name bowl, and quite possibly done with the Rick Neuheisel Era. UCLA has lost 11 of the last 12 games to the Trojans, including the last three under Neuheisel, and the Bruins find themselves as double-digit underdogs at the Los Angeles Coliseum on Saturday. This one's for more than a mere Pac-12 Championship Game berth. Back in 2008, Neuheisel said his goal was to get where USC was in a few years. This offseason, the marketing department revealed a marketing campaign around the slogan, "The College Football Monopoly in Los Angeles is Over." The Bruins are 6-5, but can salvage another disappointing season with a win over the Trojans on Saturday. It can very well save their coach's job. It can also back up that "Monopoly" schtick.
Five games. Five huge upsets. I can see 'em all happening.
What would be the result of such madness? Well, it'd be pure chaos. Again.
Arkansas would be a win over Georgia away from a BCS Championship Game berth, Oklahoma State would likely be a win over Oklahoma away from its first spot in the title game, and the at-large bids would be a complete crap shoot. And if the Hogs and Cowboys lost those games?
Well, I don't even know what that would mean. They'd pick teams out of a hat to play in New Orleans on Jan. 10?
That Iowa State, USC, Baylor moneyline parlay that netted $100,000 last week? That one was pretty good.
Roll the dice with a Tulsa, Arkansas, Auburn, Notre Dame, UCLA one this weekend. Call it Chaos Theory.
And when it hits? Call me from Tahiti to say "Thank You."