On College Football: Still a Long Way to Go

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.

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