One step away from a BCS disaster

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

It can’t be LSU vs. Oklahoma State. It just can’t be. Our lives just aren’t that easy and the college football world is overdue for complete and utter chaos.

The problem is that it's clear who deserves to play for the national championship: LSU and Oklahoma State. If either one of them blows it, then we get the perhaps the ugliest debate in BCS history, as the reality that nobody seems willing to acknowledge will be unavoidable: None of the one-loss teams deserves to play for the national championship, much less win it.

This won’t be like 2004, when USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all were unbeaten and all worthy of playing for the championship.

This won’t be like 2003, when there was a fight among three tremendous one-loss teams — USC, Oklahoma and LSU — for two spots.

This won’t even be like 2007, when LSU had two overtime losses because it was banged up, but everyone sort of knew it was the best team in the country, and it was just a question of the undeserving teams falling by the wayside.

No, when (not if) LSU or Oklahoma State loses, it’s going to be a debate among the mediocre with the winner the most undeserving No. 2 team in the history of the BCS title game.

Let’s say LSU wins out and Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma.

Alabama should move up from its current No. 3 spot to No. 2, right? Wrong. We just did this and Alabama lost to LSU at home. The Tide don’t deserve a rematch.

Fine, so Oregon should go from its No. 4 spot and play for it all, right? Wrong. It’s easy to say the Ducks are better than they were at the beginning of the season, but not playing LSU after Week 1 had a lot to do with that. We did this already and LSU won by 13. The Ducks don’t deserve a rematch.

OK, so if Oklahoma beats the No. 2 team in the country on the road, the preseason No. 1 team in the country should take its cuts at LSU, right? Oklahoma State just thumped Texas Tech 66-6 in Lubbock. Three weeks ago, Texas Tech beat Oklahoma in Norman, and then went on to lose its next three games to Iowa State, Texas and OSU by a combined score of 159-33. Unless the Red Raiders upset Missouri at Missouri or Baylor at a neutral site, they’re not going bowling and their second-best win of the year will have been over Nevada — by one.

In other words, Oklahoma will have the worst loss of the one-loss contenders by a 10-mile margin, and because of that, the Sooners don’t deserve to play for the national title.

No. 8 Virginia Tech got blasted by Clemson at home 23-3, but that’s among the most acceptable of losses this year. The Hokies might have a bit of a claim if they finish 12-1 with a revenge win over Clemson in the ACC championship game, but that would be their only win over a team currently in the BCS top 25. The anti-Boise State/Houston argument doesn’t quite apply, but it’s close. The Hokies don’t deserve to play for the national title.

Realistically, No. 9 Stanford is out of the BCS title chase now after getting blown out by Oregon, and No. 10 Boise State was never really in it.

With this in mind, what does each one-loss contender need to get to the title game?

No. 3 Alabama

If Oklahoma State loses and Alabama blows out Georgia Southern and Auburn, it’ll then come down to Oklahoma vs. Alabama in the debate. If LSU loses to Arkansas, and if there’s a three-way tie for the SEC West title, LSU would likely slip down a few spots in the human polls and Alabama would win the three-way tie-breaker by being the highest-ranked West team in the BCS.

But it gets tricky: If the top two teams in the BCS are within five spots of each other, the tie-breaker is head-to-head, and then it all depends on where LSU would fall. If the Tide play for the SEC championship and win, they will play for the national title.

The argument for: Alabama is probably second-best team in the country, and lost to LSU in OT.

The argument against: The Tide already lost at home against LSU. If the loss came at LSU, Alabama would have a better case.

No. 4 Oregon

It’ll take a lot more work than it might seem. Oklahoma State has to lose and, most likely, Oklahoma has to lose to Baylor or Iowa State. At the very least, the Sooners have to underwhelm and the Ducks have to obliterate USC, Oregon State and the Pac-12 South representative in the conference title game. Appearances count in the beauty contest and Oregon has to look a lot prettier than Oklahoma. The SEC teams, LSU and Alabama, probably don’t matter much in the equation, but it wouldn’t hurt if the Tide lost to Auburn.

The argument for: Oregon had a dinged-up LaMichael James in the first game against LSU, losing on a neutral site. It could be argued that the game in Dallas gave more of the advantage to the Tigers. Blowing out the Cardinal at Stanford is one of the strongest wins this season.

The argument against: It was 30-13 LSU going into the fourth quarter. It’s not like the Ducks lost in overtime on a missed field goal.

No. 5 Oklahoma

If the Sooners win out, especially if they do so impressively against Oklahoma State, they’ll bypass Oregon and should move by Alabama to play for the national title. There’s plenty of time between now and the Dec. 3 game with the Cowboys to get the hype going. And beating the BCS No. 2 team on the road would give the Sooners (preseason No. 1 by the pollsters) a huge boost in the standings. If LSU loses, then an 11-1 Oklahoma is in without a blink.

The argument for: If the Sooners run the table, they’ll have beaten Florida State in Tallahassee, Texas in Dallas, Kansas State in Manhattan and Oklahoma State in Stillwater. They’ll have beaten five teams currently in the BCS top 25 (having beaten Baylor, as well), not including Tulsa, which could end up beating Houston and is in the thick of the Conference USA title chase.

The argument against: The home loss to Texas Tech is the worst defeat of any of the national title contenders by far. Oklahoma State beat the Red Raiders 66-6 last week.

No. 6 Arkansas

A dominant win over LSU is a must. The three-way tie-breaker between LSU, Alabama and Arkansas would be the BCS standings, and the Hogs wouldn’t get the nod unless they were so awesome in Death Valley that the human pollsters forgot about the 38-14 loss to the Tide. Still, it would likely take Alabama being ranked lower than LSU and Arkansas for the Hogs to get the tie-breaker. In reality, it’ll probably take wins over Mississippi State and LSU — and an Alabama loss to Auburn — to move the Hogs into a top-two slot.

The argument for: There wouldn’t be any better win this year than at No. 1 LSU. The loss to Alabama was ugly, but it was on the road. Because the games against LSU and Alabama were on the road, and the other two teams had home games in the three-team series, the Hogs would’ve had the most difficult path.

The argument against: Alabama 38, Arkansas 14. It’s not like it was close. A win over LSU would be phenomenal, but beating Auburn, Texas A&M, South Carolina and Tennessee this year isn’t as impressive as it might seem.

No. 7 Clemson

The Tigers need everyone to start dropping. Oklahoma would have to lose before beating Oklahoma State. Alabama would have to lose to Auburn and LSU would have to lose the SEC championship. Blowing away South Carolina and, most likely, Virginia Tech to finish 12-1 would make it close.

The argument for: Beating Virginia Tech 23-3 in Blacksburg is the nation’s third–best road win this year behind LSU’s win over Alabama and Texas Tech’s win over Oklahoma. If Clemson beats the Hokies in the ACC title game, technically, it’ll have two wins over top-eight BCS teams. By winning out, the Tigers would have wins over Auburn and South Carolina from the SEC.

The argument against: The two-touchdown loss to Georgia Tech. Overall, the ACC is just too soft and doesn’t get enough respect from the pollsters.

No. 8 Virginia Tech

Like Clemson, Virginia Tech needs almost everyone in the top six to implode. There’s too much traffic to move into the top two without a slew of big upsets. Blowing away North Carolina, Virginia and Clemson in the ACC title game is a must.

The argument for: If the Hokies win out, they’ll have avenged their only loss to Clemson.

The argument against: The schedule. Virginia Tech doesn’t have a win over a top-25 BCS team.

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