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College Football Notes
by Larry Ness - 11/03/2010
Each CFB 'weekend' in November will open on Tuesday, although we rarely get a significant contest until Thursday. That's the case this weekend as the lone pre-Saturday game of any consequence will be No. 20 Va Tech (22nd in the BCS) hosting Ga Tech on Thursday night. The Hokies have made a remarkable resurgence, after losing their showdown game with Boise State way back on Labor Day night and following that heartbreaking loss with a 20-16 home loss to James Madison, an FCS school. Va Tech trailed 27-21 in the mid-third quarter of its next game as well (home to East Carolina), but scored four TDs in a little less the nine minutes to win, 49-27 (and cover). That contest sparked a six-game winning streak both SU and ATS for Va Tech.
Boise State will be rooting for Va Tech to "run the table" and go on to capture the ACC title, a feat which will allow the Hokies to climb the BCS standings and in the process, give the Broncos' some help with their computer rantings in the BCS formula. Boise State (No. 2 in the AP but No. 4 in the BCS) is one of just five unbeaten teams remaining, joined by consensus No. 1 Oregon (both in the polls and latest BCS standings) and Auburn (No. 2 in the BCS but No. 3 in the AP) plus two MWC schools which will be meeting in that conference's biggest-ever game on Saturday (in Salt Lake City).
There has been a different team atop each of the first three BCS standings this season, as Oklahoma garnered its 20th all-time No. 1 ranking in the year's initial BCS standings back on October 17 but lost that coveted spot when the Sooners lost the very next Saturday at Missouri, 36-27. Auburn climbed to the No. 1 spot in the October 24th standings, claiming the top spot for the first time in school history. The Tigers had previously been best-remembered for going 13-0 and winning the 2004 SEC title but being left out of that year's BCS title game, a meeting between No. 1 UESC and No. 2 Oklahoma (also both unbeaten that regular season).
Auburn would win at Ole Miss 51-31 last Saturday but the victory was not enough for the Tigers to kept their No. 1 ranking in the BCS, as Oregon (No. 1 in all the human polls but No. 2 in the BCS standings for the first two rankings) took over the top spot on October 31. The Ducks routed USC 53-32 last Saturday night and after moving from a No. 8 ranking in the computers the previous week, the team's current No. 2-ranking in the computers gave the Ducks their first-ever No. 1 ranking in the BCS standings. Auburn became just the fourth school to drop from the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings, despite winning. Oregon can feel Auburn's 'pain,' as the Ducks were No. 2 in both human polls back in 2001 but finished No. 3 in the BCS standings, losing out to Nebraska (which had lost its final regular season game 62-36 at Colorado, not even qualifying for the Big 12 championship game) for a spot in the national championship game vs then-No. 1 Miami-Fla.
The BCS takes a lot of criticism but as I always say, it's not as if CFB had a better system in place in the past. Until there is a playoff, the BCS is no worse (I'd argue it's actually better), than what came before it. If Oregon and Auburn win out, there may be some 'crying' from Boise St, as well as from the winner of Saturday's TCU/Utah showdown, but there wouldn't be much to argue about. Unbeaten Oregon and Auburn teams would deserve their spots in the BCS championship game, come January 10. Boise State will almost assuredly be unbeaten on December 5, the day the final BCS standings will be released. The Broncos would also own the nation's longest active winning streak (would have reached 26) and Kellen Moore would be 38-1 as a starter.
The other "BCS Buster" would be the winner of Saturday's TCU/Utah contest. It shouldn't go unmentioned that TCU ranks 3rd in the current BCS standings, Boise State 4 and Utah, 5. It marks the first time that three non-automatic qualifying schools were each ranked among the top-five and while TCU does not own a BCS bowl win, Boise State (2006 and 2009) and Utah (2004 and 2008) each own two. Saturady will TCU's best chance to 'crash the party,' as the Horned Frogs' game with the Utes in Salt Lake City, marks the first-ever MWC game in which both teams own top-10 rankings in the AP (TCU ranks 4th and Utah, 6th).
TCU is favored by 4 1/2-points (as of 2:00 ET on Thursday) but Utah owns a 21-game home winning streak, the third-longest active streak. The winner stays 'alive' in the BCS bowl 'picture' and with some help, the BCS championship game picture as well. TCU/Utah is not the only game this Saturday with important implications, as No. 6 Alabama is at No. 10 LSU, No. 13 Stanford hosts No. 15 Arizona, No. 17 Oklahoma St host No. 21 Baylor and No. 18 Arkansas is at No. 19 South Carolina (all rankings are that of the BCS). Will an 'outsider' make this year's BCS title game?
There have been 12 BCS championship games (first was in 1998) but only 12 schools have participated. In case you think I'm wrong, here's the list (in order of most appearances). Oklahoma (4), Florida St (3), Ohio State (3), Florida (2), LSU (2), Miami-Fl (2), Texas (2), USC (2), Alabama (1), Nebraska (1), Tennessee (1) and Va Tech (1). That history tends to suggest not. However, take a close look at the current BCS standings. While five former BCS championship game participants rank among the top-11 in the standings (No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 Nebraska, No. 8 Oklahoma, No. 10 LSU and No. 11 Ohio State), none are among the top-five.
History tells us that finding oneself outside of the top-five 10 weeks into the season doesn't bode well for a school's chances at reaching the "ultimate" game. Only three schools have climbed from outside the top-five 10 weeks into the season and made it into the national championship game. That list includes No. 8 Florida in 2008, No. 7 Florida in 2006 and No. 9 LSU in 2003. Note that all three would go on to win the championship but that should come as no surprise for followers of the SEC. After all, four SEC schools (Alabama, Florida, LSU and Tennessee) have combined for a perfect 6-0 record in BCS title games, including capturing the last four (Fla in '06, LSU in '07, Fla in '08 and Ala in '09). There are five CFB weekends remaining and much can happen.
Heisman update I've had some major DSL problems the last week and I skipped my Heisman watch this past Monday. It will return next Monday (November 8, as scheduled). While Oregon leapfrogged Auburn in last week's BCS standings, no one seems on the verge of leapfrogging Cam Newton, who is the overwhelming Heisman front-runner at this point. We know things change quickly but Newton will be tough to beat. Oregon's LaMichael James and Boise State's Kellen Moore have the best chance with Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor now a long shot. Michigan's Denard Robinson was CFB's MVP in September and while he continues to post spectacular numbers, his team has lost three straight games, as the Michigan defense has allowed 37.7 PPG and 451.3 YPG in those losses (can Robinson sue?).
Free play for CFB on Saturday, take the points with Rice (349) against Tulsa at 2:00 ET.