Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

Unless something wacky happens in the next few weeks, some unlucky BCS-conference team is going to get stiffed come Dec. 6.

We're conditioned to accept that an undefeated TCU or Boise State will be left out of the national title mix because they weren't members when the BCS cartel was created in 1998. We'll be a little more surprised if an undefeated Big East team (Cincinnati) gets left out, and quite a bit more surprised if an undefeated Big Ten team (Iowa) does.

In fact, the programs expecting to get stiffed have already mounted propaganda campaigns in an effort to avoid that fate. In Iowa's case, the campaign is quite convincing. The headline on the football page of the Iowa athletic department's Web site reads "Get the correct facts about Iowa football," and the page contains the following persuasive nuggets: Iowa leads the nation in vanquished opponents with winning records (six). The teams Iowa has beaten on the road boast a combined 23-12 record. Iowa has beaten three opponents (Arizona, Penn State, Wisconsin) ranked in the current BCS Top 25. Texas has beaten two (Oklahoma and Oklahoma State), Florida has beaten one (LSU) and Alabama has beaten one (Virginia Tech).

The problem is Iowa still doesn't pass the eyeball test, which is why computers -- which don't have eyeballs -- love the Hawkeyes more than the human voters. Of course, if college football used even a plus-one system, the Hawkeyes wouldn't have to worry about impressing eyeballs. Either Alabama or Florida will lose once, so an undefeated Iowa probably would finish third in the BCS standings. In a plus-one, the Hawkeyes would face the SEC or Big 12 champ for a berth in the BCS title game.

But let's not forget who threw up the tallest roadblock to the plus-one when SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford proposed it in 2008. That's right. The Big Ten.

If Iowa gets shut out of the title game, the Hawkeyes need not complain in the media. They should just call their conference office.

Further down in the rankings, I must apologize to TCU, LSU and Penn State, which all fell one place because of Oregon's win over USC. To bring the Ducks into the middle of the top 10, I had to elevate Boise State, which has a better record and a head-to-head win against Oregon. I'm still not sure Boise State should be ranked that high, but I have to respect the head-to-head victory.

The Broncos rolled the dice with their schedule this season, betting on Oregon to roll to an 11-win record and filling the rest of the slate with slop. The computer polls may keep Boise State from cashing in, though. As long as TCU keeps winning, the Horned Frogs won't drop below the Broncos. TCU will go to a BCS bowl, and Boise State will celebrate its WAC title in the Humanitarian Bowl. The computers, which value schedule strength above all else, probably would select Boise State if the Broncos had just one more BCS-conference team on their schedule.

And so, this season could well end in the same lesson for Boise State and Iowa: You reap what you sow.

NCAA Football Power Rankings
1Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 1
If the Longhorns hadn't put the hammer down on Oklahoma State, they probably would have dropped to No. 2. But Texas looked fantastic, and the Longhorns deserve to sit atop the poll again. I mentioned the following statistic in my Snap Judgments piece on Saturday, but it bears repeating. Through eight games, the Texas defense has forced 26 turnovers. That's 10 more than it did all of last season. The Longhorns are playing against complacency from now through championship week.
Last game: Beat Oklahoma State, 41-14
Next game: Saturday vs. Central Florida
 
2Florida Gators
Last Week: 2
In just about any other week, the Gators would have moved to No. 1 after dominating all three phases against Georgia, but Texas looked too good to leap. Still, Florida has to be encouraged by the two-touchdown first quarter from receiver Riley Cooper, a baseball prospect playing college football who may wind up deciding between the Majors and the NFL.
Last game: Beat Georgia, 41-17
Next game: Saturday vs. Vanderbilt
 
3Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 3
The Crimson Tide had a week off to analyze why they struggled against Tennessee on Oct. 24, but it remains to be seen if they've made the necessary corrections. If Alabama doesn't play its best game Saturday, LSU might make the national title race a little more complicated.
Last game: Beat Tennessee, 12-10
Next game: Saturday vs. LSU
 
4Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 4
Quarterback Tony Pike still hasn't completely recovered from damaging the plate in his non-throwing arm on Oct. 15. That's OK, because backup Zach Collaros has thrown for seven touchdowns and run for two in Pike's absence. Collaros won starts against Louisville and Syracuse, but the path to 12-0 gets much tougher this week. Pike may play, but no matter who starts, expect Connecticut to challenge the Bearcats more than anyone so far.
Last game: Beat Syracuse, 28-7
Next game: Saturday vs. Connecticut
 
5Iowa Hawkeyes
Last Week: 6
The Hawkeyes never win pretty, but they win. At the end of the day, that should be all that matters. Unfortunately for Iowa, the Hawkeyes decided to be good in the rare year when more than two teams are undefeated and winning prettier. If college football were a real sport, Iowa would have a chance to compete for the national title. Unfortunately, it's a beauty contest, and the homely-but-mighty Hawkeyes won't get their shot unless someone else grows a pimple.
Last game: Beat Indiana, 42-24
Next game: Saturday vs. Northwestern
 
6Boise St. Broncos
Last Week: 10
Broncos players aren't responsible for their horrible schedule, and they're doing everything they can to earn respect. After a scare at Tulsa, Boise State has beaten its last two opponents by an average of 41.5 points. The Broncos will have another chance Friday to show a national TV audience they can dominate.
Last game: Beat San Jose State, 45-7
Next game: Friday at Louisiana Tech
 
7Oregon Ducks
Last Week: 11
Oregon would be mixing it up with Texas, Florida and Alabama right now if not for the Boise State loss on Sept. 3. But by that same token, the Ducks might not have grown into the juggernaut they are now without the lessons they learned that night in Boise. If they learned to respect every opponent, they should have no problem Saturday in Palo Alto. If drubbing USC made Oregon the least bit cocky, Stanford (4-0 at home) could shake up the Pac-10 race.
Last game: Beat USC, 47-20
Next game: Saturday at Stanford
 
8TCU Horned Frogs
Last Week: 7
The Horned Frogs are victims of circumstances out of their control this week. Fortunately for them, the computers still love them, and they can control how badly they beat San Diego State. TCU will have to concentrate on the Aztecs and not worry about Utah, which comes to Fort Worth next week.
Last game: Beat UNLV, 41-0
Next game: Saturday at San Diego State
 
9LSU Tigers
Last Week: 8
No other team this far down has a legitimate shot to play for the national title, but LSU can play its way into the mix by winning in Tuscaloosa this week. Tigers safety Chad Jones introduced himself to the college football world two years ago at Bryant-Denny Stadium with a sack-strip of Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson that set up a game-winning score. The Dreadlocks of Doom and the rest of the LSU defense will have to force more turnovers this week, because LSU's offense probably won't have much luck against Alabama's defense.
Last game: Beat Tulane, 42-0
Next game: Saturday at Alabama
 
10Penn St. Nittany Lions
Last Week: 9
If the Nittany Lions can beat Ohio State this week, Penn State players and coaches should invite the Buckeyes to stay an extra day. That way both teams can brainstorm strategies to help Ohio State beat Iowa next week. Penn State didn't have many answers for the Hawkeyes when the teams met in September, but the Nittany Lions need Iowa to lose, so they should offer any assistance they can provide.
Last game: Beat Northwestern, 34-13
Next game: Saturday vs. Ohio State
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