On College Football: Week 11

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.

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