Cory Mccartney
Thursday November 29th, 2007

Saturday evening, AMC will be airing sword-and-sandals flick Troy, while over on CMT they're showing back-to-back-to-back episodes of Trick My Trucker.

Enticing, but Georgia defensive end Marcus Howard has more pressing prime-time viewing plans, like being holed up in center Fernando Velasco's off-campus house for a marathon of their own. The Bulldogs are hoping college football's season-long version of a disaster movie can deliver two more plot twists as No. 1 Missouri plays Oklahoma for the Big 12 title and No. 2 West Virginia hosts rival Pitt.

"I'm going to just be doing what everybody else on the team is going to be doing," Howard said. "We're going to be glued to the TV, just watching the games hoping West Virginia lose and Missouri lose so we get a shot at that natty."

It will be anything but relaxed viewing in Athens. Coach Mark Richt told his players that he doesn't think he can even bring himself to watch the Bulldogs fate being played out in San Antonio and Morgantown.

"The whole team is nervous ... It's not in our hands, so we're a little worried, a little stressed," Howard said.

Nearly 600 miles away, Ohio State offensive tackle Kirk Barton will be taking a much more nonchalant approach to a day that will decide whether he and the Buckeyes are bound for Pasadena or New Orleans.

"I'll probably watch [the Big 12 title] game a little bit, just to see how it's going in the beginning," he said. "I probably won't watch the whole thing, then I'll probably tune in the middle to see if it's close or not."

Consider the levels of attention -- and anxieties -- a testament to their places in the pecking order should either the Tigers and/or Mountaineers fall: Ohio State (11-1), No. 3 in the BCS Standings, is a sure thing to move up to No. 2 and earn a second straight place in the national title game with either losing, while No. 4 Georgia (10-2) would need a cataclysmic event to reach New Orleans.

Though if a season that's seen 12 top-five teams fall to unranked opponents has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected.

When the Buckeyes walked off the Ohio Stadium turf on Nov. 10 after a 28-21 loss to Illinois, a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth looked to be the only things within their grasp. The Buckeyes had been No. 1 since the initial BCS standings, but fell to seventh with their first loss, though they would climb two spots after beating Michigan in the regular-season finale.

Before they left for Thanksgiving, coach Jim Tressel went over the scenarios that would land the Buckeyes in the national title game, as well as the team's travel plans for either destination. One such scenario is playing itself out -- so far -- with former No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Kansas falling last weekend and the Buckeyes jumping to third.

"We knew it was a longshot," Barton said. "We needed a lot of help with a couple of teams to fall by the wayside and it's happened. But we need one more to happen."

They're not banking on it, though. Barton says the Illinois loss looms large in Columbus as the Buckeyes are resigned to waiting for help from Pitt, a 28-point underdog, or three-point favorite Oklahoma.

"You don't hold your breath or anything because we didn't take care of our business," Barton said. "We just have to sit back and hope for a couple of results that could put us in that game."

If Ohio State did climb to No. 1 or 2, it would be the third team in the BCS era to lose one of their last two games but still play for the national championship, following in the footsteps of Nebraska (2001) and Oklahoma ('03). That Cornhuskers team, which went on to lose to Miami 37-14, failed to make its conference title game -- exactly the same spot Georgia is in this season. Though unlike one-loss Nebraska, the Dawgs would be the first two-loss team to ever play for the title.

"You have to look at the fact that we play in the SEC, which is, if not the strongest, then one of the strongest conferences," Georgia senior wide receiver Sean Bailey said. "It's hard to get out of this conference without a loss or two losses."

For these Dawgs, loss No. 2 was a turning point. They went to Knoxville ranked 14th in the AP Poll, but after the 21-point beatdown Georgia was 4-2 and ranked 24th.

"At that point, the team had one of two choices: We could go into the tank and finish with a sub-par season or we could rally together and unify the way we have," Bailey said.

The Bulldogs opened 20th in the BCS, but rattled off six straight wins, including victories over the No. 9 Florida, No. 18 Auburn and No. 22 Kentucky to crack the BCS top 10, then climbed to fourth after last weekend.

"You wish that we could have taken care of business earlier in the season, therefore we'd be able to control our own destiny, but we're still in a great position," Bailey said.

Though the position they'd rather be in is that of the Volunteers, who are opposite former No. 1 LSU in the SEC title game Saturday in Atlanta. Should we see another shakeup atop the rankings, Les Miles believes that his Tigers, who are 7 1/2-point favorites, can make a strong case for a spot in the title game. LSU is currently seventh, below fifth-ranked Kansas, which didn't make the Big 12 title game, and No. 6 Virginia Tech, a team the Tigers beat by 41 in September.

"I certainly think the champion, in that position, should be allowed every opportunity to play in the most prestigious bowl," Miles said. "I would like to envision an opportunity for a team from Louisiana that's fortunate enough to win a conference championship -- and who played the schedule that we did with the victories we've achieved and not lost a game in regulation yet -- to have that opportunity."

The Buckeyes, Bulldogs, Jayhawks, Hokies and Tigers will all be on edge for what could be a fittingly turbulent ending to a turbulent season. Though Missouri and West Virginia could always do what so many highly ranked teams have failed to in 2007 -- simply avoid catastrophe.

In that case, Howard and Velasco can always find solace in clicking over to MTV and catching a marathon of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.

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