Bowl season begins with the unheralded and unranked, but features several tight pre-Christmas matchups.
22 Nov 2007
by Russell Levine
Rarely has college football entered its final two weeks with so little decided. Only Ohio State has officially locked up a BCS bid, and the Buckeyes are on the sidelines, waiting to learn their fate. Most likely they'll be heading to the Rose Bowl to face the Pac-10 champs, but if the season-long run of upsets continues, Ohio State could find itself right back in the national championship game.
What's at stake this weekend? Oh, just the following:
Only the Pac-10 will still be up for grabs following this weekend's action. To avoid any confusion, here's your two-minute guide to the BCS:
ACC: Boston College has won the Atlantic Division and will face the winner of Virginia Tech-Virginia in the conference championship next week in Jacksonville.
Big East: The winner of Connecticut-West Virginia wins the conference and the BCS bid.
Big Ten: Regular season complete. Ohio State is the champion.
Big 12: Missouri plays Kansas for the North title. Winner faces either Oklahoma (if Sooners beat Oklahoma State) or Texas (if Oklahoma loses) in the conference championship next week in San Antonio. If both Oklahoma and Texas lose, Longhorns win the tie-breaker for the South title.
Pac-10: The wild west. Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Oregon State, and even UCLA remain alive to win the conference title. Arizona State has a one-game lead in the loss column and will win the conference with a win over USC and one Oregon loss.
SEC: LSU has won the West. Tennessee will win the East if it beats Kentucky. A loss by the Vols sends Georgia to the conference championship next week in Atlanta.
Other conferences: Hawaii and Boise State are the only mid-major teams still alive for an at-large BCS bid. The winner of their game Friday night in Honolulu is not guaranteed a spot, but the loser will be eliminated.
National Title picture: LSU will reach the championship game with two more wins, as will Kansas. Missouri is almost certain to get there if it wins out. If both Kansas and Missouri lose, West Virginia is probably the next most likely team, followed by Ohio State, then Arizona State. I don't want to think about what happens if everyone loses. It makes my head hurt.
Well Bruce Feldman fits the bill perfectly. He's a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine and he also blogs about college football on ESPN.com Insider. Bruce is a Miami graduate who wrote a book about the Hurricanes program a few years ago. He's also spent a lot of time around the USC program, living in Southern California. Most recently, he spent a year on the recruiting trail with Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron and the result is the book Meat Market. Bruce secured terrific access to Orgeron and his staff and the book reads like a piece of investigative reporting.
In addition to talking about the book and the world of big-time recruiting, here are the games that Bruce and I discuss this week:
People were quick to declare the USC era over after they lost to Stanford and Oregon, but the Trojans could well end up in the Rose Bowl or with an at-large bid to a BCS game, but only if they can get past the surprising Sun Devils.
Arizona State is all alone in first place in the Pac-10 after Oregon's season crumpled along with Dennis Dixon's knee last Thursday night.
These two teams produced a classic last year, with LSU beating Arkansas after the Hogs had already sewn up the SEC West title.
The tables are turned this time around -- LSU is heading to Atlanta, win or lose. But the Tigers have their eyes on a much bigger prize: the national title. LSU sleepwalked through last week's win over Ole Miss, allowing the normally punchless Rebels to run up and down the field on its vaunted defense.
Both head coaches are in the crosshairs of the rumor mill. One media outlet has already reported that Arkansas's Houston Nutt will be fired. That seems premature, but he has picked up an awful lot of baggage to offset last seasons's success. Miles, of course, is candidate No. 1 in Ann Arbor to replace the retired Lloyd Carr.
Both these teams have a shot at an at-large bid to the BCS, most likely to the Sugar Bowl. Hawaii has been living on the edge all season. They've won twice in overtime, and last week needed a field goal at the gun to beat Nevada on the road.
The Warriors hope to have Colt Brennan back and at full strength after he sat out all but two snaps last week with a concussion. Brennan's not going to win the Heisman, but he could still earn an invite to New York with big performances this week and against Washington. He'll need them if Hawaii is going to get to 12-0 and hope for a few more upsets to propel them into the BCS.
Boise is a seasoned team that hasn't dropped a game since losing to Washington in September. They won't be intimated playing in the Islands, nor will they panic if Hawaii puts up some points early.
To the winner goes the ACC Coastal Division (because when I think of "coastal," I think of Blacksburg) and a date with Boston College.
Virginia has been scraping by all year, until the Cavaliers blew the doors off Miami, 48-0, in the 'Canes' final game at the Orange Bowl two weeks ago. Suddenly, they look like a legitimate threat to get to the BCS -- and this after coach Al Groh was all but fired following a season-opening spanking by Wyoming.
Virginia Tech also was a victim of an early rout (by LSU) then collapsed late against Boston College, but can earn a rematch against the Eagles with a win here.
Tennessee is one of the toughest teams to figure this season. They've lost three games, all on the road, all by blowout margins. The three teams to beat the Vols have combined to lose 13 games.
Then there's Kentucky, which is the only team to beat LSU, but also lost to South Carolina and Mississippi State.
Tennessee's pass defense has been torched in those losses, which has to make Kentucky's Andre' Woodson smile.
Oklahoma finds itself in the same position that Texas faced last year: needing a win over a rival to go to the conference title game. Texas lost that game, in part because quarterback Colt McCoy got hurt. Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford is already hurt, having sustained a concussion in the loss to Texas Tech last week.
If Bradford is healthy, Oklahoma should be able to put up plenty of points of the porous Cowboy defense -- which they might need, because Oklahoma State's offense is plenty explosive on its own.
Connecticut can't really go into West Virginia and come out with a Big East championship, can they? Not when West Virginia is playing for a bigger prize, right?
Yet the Mountaineers haven't exactly been overwhelming the last two times out in wins over Louisville and Cincinnati, both of which were in doubt until the final minutes.
Connecticut has enough defensive team speed to run with West Virginia, but probably not the offensive weapons to outscore the Mountaineers.
You know a game is big when the trash talk starts to involve the Civil War.
It's probably safe to assume neither school imagined what this game would become when they agreed to move it to the neutral venue of Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. But rather than a border war battle for third place in the Big 12 North, Missouri and Kansas will face off in a de facto national quarterfinal that will get the full Gameday treatment from ESPN.
This should be a fun one. Both teams are capable of scoring 50 and giving up 30. They run very similar offenses with similar quarterbacks in Kansas's Todd Reesing and Missouri's Chase Daniel, both of whom are undersized throwers from Texas who generated no interest from that state's marquee programs.
It's not overstating it to say this is the biggest game in the history of this rivalry, which dates back a Big 12-best 115 years.
Or, alternately, download the MP3 by clicking on the icon below:
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
|Visitor||Spread||Home||Bruce Says||Russell Says|
|Boise State||+3.5||Hawaii||Boise State||Boise State*|
|Virginia Tech||-3.5||Virginia||Virginia Tech||Virginia Tech|
|Connecticut||+17||West Virginia||Connecticut||West Virginia|
(Yes, I forgot to secure a Freddy pick from Bruce. I also forgot to mention mine in the Podcast. I'll go with Boise State.)
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
|Last Week||Season Total|
189 comments, Last at 27 Nov 2007, 2:20am by David