With five more teams (highlighted by LSU and Cal) exiting the ranks of the unbeaten last Saturday, the chances of one or even two single-loss teams sneaking into the BCS championship game keeps improving. The one-loss clubs best positioned for a run at the national championship? Let's start with Oklahoma, which debuted at No. 5 in the BCS rankings released on Sunday. Aside from his hiccup in a 27-24 loss at Colorado, redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford has been superb, directing one of the nation's deepest, most talented offenses. With the exception of a Nov. 17 date at Texas Tech and the Big 12 title game, the Sooners' toughest games are behind them. The same can't be said for Oregon, which still must face Washington, USC, Arizona State and Oregon State, last seen knocking off No. 2 Cal. But the Ducks, coming off a 53-7 whipping of Washington State, are on fire. And, unlike Oklahoma, they won't have to play in a conference championship game if they win out.
Also very much in the running: LSU. The Tigers weren't severely punished in the BCS for their triple-overtime loss to Kentucky in Lexington -- and rightly so. By season's end, pointed out LSU linebacker Darry Beckwith, "
But some losses are worse than others. Sorry, USC. It says here you can't lose to Stanford and play for the national championship in the same season.
After Florida spanked them in the national title game last January and after they had eight players taken in the NFL draft, the Ohio State Buckeyes were expected to recede into the woodwork for a season or two, or until they learned how to defend the spread option. No such luck.
The Buckeyes have returned to their familiar perch atop the BCS thanks to a simple template for success:
• Line the early schedule with patsies (Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State).
• Play swarming, hard-nosed defense.
• Take care of business in conference.
It doesn't hurt Ohio State that the Big Ten hasn't been able to get out of its own way this season. While the going gets much tougher for Jim Tressel's crew from here on out (an Oct. 27 trip to Penn State looms), the odds are excellent that when the Buckeyes visit Michigan on Nov. 17, they will be playing for a berth in the national title game. Again.
The upheaval in the Top 25 has been mirrored in the most wide-open Heisman race in memory. A snapshot: