Archive for November, 2008

Oh, Canada! Calgary Stampedes to Grey Cup Win

November 24, 2008

by John Furgele

The Calgary Stampeders love playing Grey Cup Games in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.  In 2001, the  Stampeders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 27-19, and last night, before 66,000 plus fans, the majority who were rooting for the hometown Montreal Alouettes, the Stamps rallied from a 13-3 second quarter deficit to beat Montreal 22-14.

Montreal came out charged up by the home fans and on their first possession drove the field, but in a sign of things to come had to settle for a Damon Duval 14 yard field goal.  Montreal stretched its lead to 13-3, but Calgary scored right before the halftime break when quarterback Henry Burris (Temple) hit Brett Ralph in the left corner of the end zone to make it 13-10. 

The second half was all Calgary.  They were able to move the football and outscored the Als 12-1.  As good as the Calgary offense was, they had to settle for four Sandro DeAngelis field goals.  Calgary moved ahead 16-14 and Alouettes QB Anthony Calvillo (Utah State) was hit and his floater was intercepted.  Calgary took advantage and kicked another field goal to go up 19-14.

But, the Als were not done.  They moved the ball deep into Calgary territory, but Calvillo made the crucial mistake.  His pass to the left corner of the end zone was picked off by Shannon James.  Once again, Burris smoothly moved the Stamps into field goal range and the Canadian DeAngelis booted a 50 yard field goal to make the score 22-14.  Montreal had two more chances, but like they did last week in the West Division Final, the Calgary defense had all the answers and won their sixth Grey Cup in franchise history.

The loss had to be tough for Montreal QB Anthony Calvillo.  Since 2000, he has played in six Grey Cups (2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008) and his only win came in 2002, when he led the Als over the Edmonton Eskimos.  At age 36, he had one of his finest seasons, throwing for over 5,600 yards, and garnering league MVP honors, but the only trophy that really matters is the Grey Cup and the Alouette signal caller is now 1-5 in Canada’s Big Game.  He will likely contemplate retirement, but after a stellar season, will likely decide to come back for another try at Lord Grey’s Cup.

MLS Final Goes to Columbus

November 24, 2008

by John Furgele

They were the best team in Major League Soccer all year and now the Columbus Crew have their first MLS championship to prove it.  The Crew defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 to capture the league title at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. 

For the New York Red Bulls, their magical run ends in the championship game.  The Bulls went just 10-11-9 and backed into the playoffs, but it was there where they shined.  They knocked out two time defending champion Houston Dynamo in the Western semifinals, then held on to beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 in the Western final.  And, for the first 33 minutes of MLS Cup, they dominated what appeared to be a slower and more lethargic Crew.  But, this is soocer and things can turn on a dime and in the 34th minute, Alejandro Moreno booted one into the left corner of the net to give the Crew a 1-0 halftime lead. 

New York tied the game at 1-1 on a John Wolyniec goal in the 51st minute and it looked like the Red Bulls might get their form back, but just two minutes later, Columbus would score the game winner.  Game MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s corner kick found the head of Chad Marshall to give the Crew the decisive goal before more than 27,000 sun bathed fans at the Home Depot Center.  Schelotto would set up Frankie Hejduck’s game clinching goal in the 82nd minute.

Both Columbus and New York were charter franchises when the MLS began play in 1996, but for both, it was their first time in the championship game.  New York, born as ther Metrostars, have had 11 coaches in just 13 years.

MLS Cup Final Worth a Look

November 17, 2008

by John Furgele

Soccer will never become the mainstream American sport than it is across the globe, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.  On Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 3:30 PM EST, MLS will stage conclude its 13th season with the MLS Cup Final that pits the Columbus Crew against the New York Red Bulls.  The Crew had the best record in the 14 team league, while the Red Bulls backed into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. 

I certainly don’t expect Americans to start watching soccer regularly, but I get the feeling that Americans like one-off events.  The Super Bowl is the ultimate one-off event, one game for a title.  The BCS Championship Game is another one-offer as is the NCAA National Championship Basketball Game.  Even Game 7s, which in essence are one-offers usually bring in viewers.

Based on the one-off premise, I would think Americans would want to tune in to watch one soccer game, one game for the United States soccer championship.  Is that too much to ask?  After all, the 2006 World Cup Final between Italy and France (Italy won) drew a 14.3 rating and that game was broadcast on a Sunday afternoon at the end of July.  The Super Bowl gets great ratings because people like my lovely wife and her sisters, who watch nary a football game all year, watch this game.  NFL games usually get 12 ratings, 20 plus for playoffs, upper 20s for the championship games, but 40s for the Super Bowl.  The only way that happens is you get the non-fan to watch one time.  So can’t 250,000 to 500,000 non soccer fans tune in to watch this one special game?

Do Americans dislike soccer that much that they won’t tune in for one game, or even the second half of one game?  Soccer has a lot going for it.  First, a game that kicks off at 4 PM will be over by 6 PM, requiring just a two hour committment.  Two, there are no commercials during play.  That makes it hard to get beverages, food or use the bathroom, but the DVR was created for many reasons.  Three, the game has a continous flow to it.  There aren’t delays so the replay official can ruin a call or prolong a game.  There aren’t timeouts that cause the last five minutes of a basketball game to take 45 minutes.  Soccer games move by fairly quickly, and in today’s text message society, you would think that this would play to the short attention spans that most Americans have.  And, four, even though there aren’t a ton of goals scored, if you watch a game, there are plenty of chances to score goals, but unlike some of our sports, it is just plain hard to score in soccer.  A 1-0 soccer game is scoffed at, but a 1-0 baseball game is a pitching gem and a 7-6 football is a great defensive struggle.  Why is there a double standard for soccer?

There you have it.  I will not ask you to like soccer, appreciate it, or by all means, I would never try to convert you to becoming a soccer fan.  But, I will ask the sports fan to give the MLS Cup  a look because….it’s for a championship.

Barack Obama Doesn’t Get It; College Football, That Is

November 16, 2008

by John Furgele

First, congratulations to President-Elect Barack Obama, and here’s hoping that regardless of your politics, we can rally behind our new president.  Things are tough in this country, but if the parking lot at my local mall is indicative of a recession, then we are not in one.  But, we are facing some difficult times, and we need strong leadership for all parties to ensure future success.

Obama, like many college football fans wants a playoff to—8 teams—to determine a national champion.  Most have come up with 8 to 16 teams in their own scenarios.  Most say that the bowls can be used in the playoff games (nonsense) and that the top 8, 12 or 16 teams would qualify, and the non-qualifiers could play in the bowl games, sort of like how the NIT serves teams 66-96.

But, like most, Obama fails to recognize why an 8 team playoff system will not work, and it has nothing to do with the resistance of the college presidents or athletic directors to give up their multi-million dollar BCS bowls.  Let’s review:

1)  There are 11 Division 1 Conferences:  There are 6 BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame totaling 66 schools.  The six BCS conferences—which you know—are the Big East, Big 12, Big Ten (11 schools), Pac 10, SEC, ACC.  But, there are five other non-BCS conferences, led by the Mountain West, WAC, Conference USA, Mid American, and Sun Belt.  If you have a true playoff system, these schools would have to included, meaning that there would have to be at least an 12 team playoff, not a 8 team one.  If there were 8, like Obama suggests, and the non-BCS conferences were excluded, they would file a class action suit, and they would likely win, because Congress or the Supreme Court would threaten to take away tax free exemptions, anti-trust and the like.  Most think that taking the top eight teams on the BCS computer would satisfy, but that would just open up litigation for years, unless the BCS schools relented.  Because of this threat, college football would likely adopt a 16 team playoff because they could give 11 automatic bids and then have room for five at-large teams.  Is the third best Big 12 team better than the Mid American champion?  In most cases, yes, but let me remind you, that the NCAA Basketball Tournament does not take the best 65 teams, so why would anyone expect college football to do the same?  And, most do not want a 16 team, four game/four week playoff system.

2)  The NCAA Does Not Run College Football:  That’s the other misconception that most people have about college football.  In the 1980s, if you watched a college football game with Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles, the scoreboard usually said “CFA Football,” not NCAA Football, that’s because the NCAA does not run the sport, the Bowl Championship Schools (BCS) does.  The BCS basically set up a bowl system that handsomely rewards its 66 members.  It took an threat by Congress to invite non-BCS schools to major bowl games, hence that’s why Boise State, Hawaii, and Utah have played in these bowls in season’s past.  The NCAA runs Divisions 1-AA,  II and III and that’s why those divisions have playoff systems.  In order for Division I to have a playoff, the BCS would have to cede its control to the NCAA, which governs the sports and would best know how to set up a playoff system.  That is easier said than done.  There are four BCS bowls, plus the BCS Championship Game, meaning there are ten spots for 66 schools, perhaps nine if a non-BCS school qualifies for one. I’m nost sure that the big 66 want to give up the $140 million in BCS bowl guarantees.

If there was a NCAA playoff, the playoff money would have to split by all 120 Division I schools, not just 66.  Then, there is the question of the 1-AA schools.  They are Division I schools, they play Division 1 in every sport except football, where they broke off and formed their own Division 1-AA league complete with playoffs.  There are 120 Division 1-AA football schools.  If there was a playoff, would the monies be divided by 66, 120, or 246?  It would not be divided by 66 (see above), but there would certainly be a fight over the number.  The Division 1 schools would argue that since they play Division I, they should divide the money by 120, but the Division 1-AA schools would argue that since they are members of the NCAA, and members of Division 1, that they should also get a cut of the pie.  This would then have to be handled by lawyers, courts, and more of the bureaucracy we live in, something that Obama knows very well.

The Division 1-AA schools might then want to join Division 1 to make sure that they got their slice of the pie, but do we really want to see Alabama playing Presbyterian, Albany or Cal Poly.  Of course, this may lead to many Division 1-AA dropping to Division II, because the NCAA might require these now 1-AA schools to build 40,000 seat stadiums and meet very difficult requirements to move to Division 1.  A 2,500 seat basketball arena might keep you in Division I, but that 8,000 seat football stadium might need millions of dollars in upgrades, something that most schools cannot afford. 

In any event, a Division I playoff would probably lead to the disssolving of Division 1-AA.  Division II would be happy as their division just became ultra competitive, but how does that work out for Villanova for example.  The university is a major Division I basketball school (they won it all in 1985), but would they be allowed to play Division II football and Division 1 in everything else?  We know that Villanova would not drop to Division II for all sports, so there is yet another dilemma.  If there were a Division I playoff, maybe the Division 1 schools would throw a lump sum of cash to keep Division I-AA intact and more importantly, to keep them out of getting playoff revenues.  That might avoid litigation and keep Division 1-AA, which plays some very good football, intact for the future.  As you can see, the “just get a playoff” is not very easy.  You don’t just have a baby, there are many. many steps in the process.

3)  The Happiness of Bowls.  The college presidents like the ideal of the bowl division that is Division 1 football.  They like the fact that 64 teams get invites to bowls.  They like the fact that the Shreveport, LA, which hosts the Independence Bowl, rolls out the welcome wagon, treats the two participating teams like royals the week prior to the game.  They like the fact that the players do community service while in Shreveport such as visiting hopsitals, schools, construction sites.  They like the fact that 32 teams can say that they finished their season with a victory.  They like the fact that can sell “Insight Bowl Champions,” t-shirts and hats at season’s end.  They like the fact that going to bowl games is a way to build a program, which remains the number one focus of all Division 1 football schools.  Buffalo will never win a BCS title, but if they can be competitive in the MAC, play for conference titles and go to bowl games, then a program is built.  They’re not competing for the same players as Ohio State, but if they have a program, the kids will pick Buffalo over Ohio, Tulsa and the other non-BCS schools.  A playoff system might return to college football to the old days, where the Michigans would give scholarships to players to keep them away from the second tier schools, schools that they play in nonconference games.  Think Toledo would have beaten Michigan in 1978? 

Look at college basketball.  It is now a win or you’re nothing situation.  Duke might roll to a 32-4 season, but if they get beat before the Final Four, then their season is considered a waste, an unproductive one.  The NCAA tournament, as good as it is, has ruined the ideal of college basketball and I bet if you secretly asked college presidents—many of whom have socialist tendencies—they might agree that basketball has gotten away from its intended pureness.  Yes, for many schools, making the tournament is like winning it, and for others so is winning a game, making the Sweet 16, or like a George Mason run to the Final Four,  the ultimate underdog story.  But, how important is the college basketball regular season?  Of course it is important, but perhaps a better way to say it is how watched is it.  No regular season is watched and monitored than Division 1 college football, because of what is at stake every weekend. 

And, there is also the drama of trying to qualify for bowl.  How about the 6-5 team needing a win against its rival to make it to a bowl game? The 5-4 team that wins its sixth game to become bowl eligible?  For big-time fans, this is not a big deal, but for those who really love college football, it is pretty cool.  I’m not a fan of sending 6-6 teams to bowl games, so I like it when the 6-4 teams win number seven.  For them, getting to a bowl game, even at 7-5 is a cause for celebration.  A playoff system would keep bowl games, but they wouldn’t be celebrated like they are today.  Do you think teams celebrate getting a bid to the NIT?  That might become the case in college football, and you can bet that the college presidents don’t want to devlaue or diminish that.  Laugh at Notre Dame, but if they improve from 3-9 to 7-5 and a bowl game appearance, that would be considered a good building block, and that is the ideal that the college presidents like about the bowl system currently in existence.

4)  Summary.  Of course, it will all come down to money.  Right now, college football is making lots of it.  I do think that they would make even more if they had a playoff, but I’m not an accountant, so I can’t be precise.  The fans would love it and so would the media which would break down matchups like they do NFL games.  Fox threw big money to take the BCS bowl games away from ABC, so even though there is not a playoff, showing prime time college football games must still be profitable for the networks.  Now, if NBC stepped up and offered to triple the rights fees if the presidents opted for a playoff, who knows what the response would be?  If the networks decided that they didn’t want to bid on the BCS bowls, that might force the presidents to re-think how college football determines its champion.  But, because Americans like watching college football, that will never happen.  In fact, the only ones who really lament that there is no playoff are the media; the fans don’t seem to mind the BCS system that much.

But, why does college football have to cave in to the “American system” of playoffs.  European soccer leagues do not have playoffs, and the fans don’t seem to mind.  But, Major League Soccer has playoffs, because that’s the American way.  I heard Alexei Lalas complain that having playoffs rewards mediocre teams who click at the right time.  Yes, we know that soccer is different, but in America we put up with the regular season to get to the playoffs, but in many cases, the playoffs ruin the regular season.  In some ways, creating a college football playoff system may creat more problems than it solves and the college presidents know this.

That’s why the bowls are sticking around for the foreseeable future.

One Half of MLS Cup Final Set

November 14, 2008

by John Furgele

For the first time in franchise history, the Columbus Crew will play for the Major League Soccer Championship.  The Crew, which had the best record in all of MLS with a 17-7-6 record rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat the visiting Chicago Fire 2-1. 

Chicago struck first and did so by catching the homestanding Crew napping.  After the ball went out of play, Fire midfielder Cuauthlemoc Blanco quickly threw the ball into Justin Mapp, who delivered a beautiful cross to former Crew player Brian McBride who headed the ball home in the 29th minute.  The Fire controlled most of the first half play to the delight of a strong contingent of Fire faithful, but could not add to its lead.

The second half was like watching a different game as the Crew came out aggresively, and quickly tied the score on a Chad Marshall header in the 49th minute on a set piece corner kick.  The goal seemed to energize the Crew and deflate the Fire and the Crew took advantage as Eddie Gaven scored the championship winner in the 55th minute. 

Eventually, the Fire were able to settle down and nearly tied the score with John Thorrington’s shot grazing the crossbar in the 65th minute.  McBride almost notched his second goal but was denied in the 73rd minute. 

Both teams had their chances with Columbus outshooting Chicago 13-11.  The Fire, which won the title in its first year in 1998 went 6-5-4 on the road, but the seventh win was not in the cards. 

Columbus was an original franchise when MLS began play in 1996, and was the first team to build its own soccer specific stadium.  The team is owned by the family of the late Lamar Hunt, one of the founders of the American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs and a known lover and supporter of soccer. 

The Crew will await the winner of the Western Conference Championship Match that will see the New York Red Bulls play at Real Salt Lake.  Both Western Conference finalists are upstarts and Columbus will be favored when the MLS Cup Final is played on Sunday, November 23 at 3:30 PM on ABC.

On College Football: Week 11

November 9, 2008

by John Furgele

For those who read this column last week (there weren’t many, if any), give me credit for saying that it would not be wise to give Penn State three more wins.  And, friends, I was right on.  Iowa surprised Penn State 24-23 to knock the Nittany Lions from the ranks of the unbeaten, killing their chance for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.  Rather than panic, let’s allow the 2008 regular season and conference championship games to play out before getting our panites into a wad.  Let’s remember, the BCS is not going away for a long, long time—if, at all—so let’s be patient. 

1)  Graham Harrell Is the Heisman Frontrunner.  System or not, Harrell has been the best player in college football in 2008.  Texas Tech routed Oklahoma State 56-20 to go to 10-0 and Harrell completed 40 of 50 passes for 454 yards.  His offensive line is great, and yes, he may not make it as an NFL quarterback, but this is college football and this is a college football award.  Harrell’s poise at the end of last week’s Texas game put him over the top in my mind, and yes, a poor perfromance at Oklahoma could ruin his chance at winning, but what if he throws for 450 yards and the Red Raiders lose 49-42?  Are you going to deny him the Heisman because his team lost a game.? The Oklahoma game will be very tough for Texas Tech to win, but they’ll end up with at least an 11-1 regular season record, and Oklahoma is not good defensively, so win or lose, Harrell should have a good day at Norman.

2)  Who’s the Best One Loss Team?  If the season ended today, with apologies to Utah and Boise State, Texas Tech would face Alabama for the BCS Championship, but we know the season is far from over.  That said, which one loss team is the best?  Florida, Texas, USC and Oklahoma are the best BCS teams with one loss, but Texas, because they beat Oklahoma cancels out the Sooners and USC’s terrible loss at Oregon State throws them out of BCS title game consideration.  The one great thing about the BCS is that every game is an audition, a playoff, a beauty contest.  As much as  I would like to see a playoff system, there would be a part of me that would miss the drama of the BCS regular season.  So, by process of elimination, Florida has the inside track to the BCS Championship Game, because they will likely get a shot at undefeated Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.  A win there, and the Gators are heading to Miami. 

If Oklahoma beats Texas Tech and Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech all have one Big 12 loss, I don’t know who would get to play in the Big 12 Championship Game, likely against Missouri.  No matter how you slice it, it comes back even.  Texas beat Oklahoma, which beat Texas Tech, which beat Texas.  I still think if Florida beats Alabama, they would play the Big 12 champion provided it’s a one loss team from the South Division.  An 12-1 Texas Tech team that lost at Oklahoma would still rank better than an 11-1 USC team which lost at Oregon State. 

3)  Utah-BYU Play For BCS Berth.  If Utah can beat BYU on November 22, it is simple;  the Utes will head to a BCS bowl for the second time in school history.  If BYU prevails, would the Cougars make it, or would the BCS take an undefeated Boise State for the second time in their school history?  Ironcially, both Utah and Boise State are 1-0 in BCS bowls.  If life was fair, the BYU-Utah winner and Boise State would go to a BCS bowl, but there’s a better chance of a playoff before that happens.

4)  The Big East May Not Be Great, But It Is Competitive.  Say what you want about Big East play (remember, the basketball league make the NCAA a lot of money), but there are more competitive games in this conference than most of the others.  Cincinnati is 7-2, Pittsburgh is 7-2 and their November 22 game at Pittsburgh might just be for the Big East title and a BCS berth.  And yes, the Big East champion deserves a BCS bid, so stop right there.

5)  Notre Dame Has a Long, Long, Long Way to Go.  I still believe that Charlie Weis was the wrong fit for Notre Dame, and believe all you want about his five star recruits, but the Irish still are slow and still lack playmakers.  Their 17-0 loss at so-so Boston College in the “Holy War,” was further proof that the Irish may never get back to the glory days of yesteryear.  They’re boring, predictable and don’t do anything well.  Texas Tech excels at throwing the ball; Ohio State excels at team defense; USC excels in athletic play.  What does Notre Dame do well?  The Irish really should join a conference; there are 11 teams in the Big Ten for a reason, because Notre Dame isn’t good enough to stand alone anymore.  Ahead for the Irish is 6-3 Navy, who beat them last year and now will be ready when the Irish come to Baltimore next week.   The people who cling to the greatness of Notre Dame are well over 50 years of age and today’s younger fans see Notre Dame as the slow, independent team that has nothing to play for as far as conference championships go.  I won’t say it’s over for Notre Dame, but the last time the Irish won the National Championship in 1988, UPI was still around with its polls and Al Gore was working on inventing the Internet. 

6)  Can Barack Obama Help Create a Playoff?  The president-elect says an eight team playoff is needed for college football, but with 11 Division 1-A conferences that won’t fly, so in order for a playoff to flourish and the integrity of the bowls to remain, a 12 team playoff is needed.  Having a playoff sans the non-BCS conferences would provoke a lawsuit and likely Congressional action—Mr. Obama should have known that.  But, the 12 team playoff system is discussion for another day. 

Until next week.

On College Football: Still a Long Way to Go

November 4, 2008

by John Furgele

The BCS is in a mess with three undeafeated teams, but only two available spots in the BCS Championship Game.  Texas Tech’s epic 39-33 downing of Texas has catapulted the Red Raiders to the number two ranking in the BCS behind undefeated Alabama.  Penn State, of course, remains third and I’m sure there are people in State College, PA in a tizzy right now.  That said, I have one word for everybody.

Relax. 

There is still a long way to go before anything is decided in 2008.  Last November, there were at least five different BCS Championship Game scenarios, but in the end, things were fairly clear with LSU facing, then beating Ohio State.  Unlike most, the college football situation with all the bowls and no playoff doesn’t bother me.  I never call the BCS title game, the “National Championship Game,” because it is far from that.  It is the BCS Championship Game, because the BCS (the six major conferences) artificially rank, then place two teams in the game.  Five years ago, the BCS selected USC and Oklahoma to play for the BCS title, leaving 12-0 Auburn out.  At season’s end, USC won the BCS championship and Auburn finished 13-0.  Was USC the national champion?  No, because if anybody from Auburn said that at 13-0, they were the best team in the country, who could argue with it.  If a team wins all of its games, there is no way one can objectively say that there are not the best team, because nobody beat them. 

So, the BCS Championship Game is what it is.  If Alabama and Texas Tech make it there and undefeated Penn State goes 13-0, they have as much right to claim that they are the best team in the land.  A one loss team cannot do that.  Florida and USC may be playing the best right now, but because they both have one loss, they cannot play for the BCS title, unless several things happen.  A few quick points.

1)  Great Win for Texas Tech:  I still find it tough to take a team that throws the ball on nearly every down that seriously, but Mike Leach’s Raiders finally have that signature victory.  The Raiders offense is for real.  The spread, which has caught on like wildfire is finally slowing down as defenses are seeing it enough to make adjustments, but Tech doesn’t run the spread.  Their offense reminds me more of the old Mouse Davis’ run-and-shoot offense.  Tech is 9-0, but they have to play Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma and then Baylor, and if they win those games, likely Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game.  How many people think the Red Raiders will be 13-0 at season’s end?  Missouri can come into the Big 12 Championship Game at 10-2, and should they win, they get the BCS bowl and that’s still a lot to play for. 

2)  Don’t Automatically Give Penn State Three More Wins:  The Lions are 9-0 and everybody has them running the table, but going to Iowa will not be a picnic and the pundits are giving absolutely no credit to Michigan State, which is 8-2 and ranked 22nd in the nation.  The Spartans are not great, but they’re good and 8-2 is 8-2, despite what the Big Ten criticizers say.  Yes, the game is at Penn State, but doesn’t anybody remember 4-7 Pittsburgh beating West Virginia last year to deny the Mountaineers “an easy trip” to the BCS Championship Game. 

3)  Who Can Move Up?  Is there a one loss team that if things go their way, can make it to the BCS Championship Game?  Certainly Florida, which has been playing well has the best shot.  If the Gators finish 12-1 with a win over Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, the would likely be the one loss team to get a shot.  Should Oklahoma and Texas finish with one loss, you would have to take Texas because they beat Oklahoma head to head and that has to count for something.  As bad as people say the Big Ten is, the Pac 10 is worse.  USC is the only great team in the conference.  Both Washingtons are awful and the Trojans need a miracle to get to Miami.  But, should they play an undefeated Penn State in the Rose Bowl, there would be enormous pressure on Penn State.  The entire reputation of the Big Ten would be on the line in that game.

I will stop now, because it will onlty get more confusing.  After the first Saturday in December, everything will be clear—or it won’t be.