Unbeatens Michigan State, Mizzou could be wildcards in BCS race
If the season ended today, the BCS National Championship Game would produce an unusually satisfying matchup: No. 1 Auburn vs. No. 2 Oregon. It's not just that the Tigers and Ducks currently sit atop this season's most respected conferences. Oregon's 60-13 beatdown of UCLA last Thursday only intensified our fascination with
But this being the BCS, there's no way we're headed for such a smooth ending. Chances are one or both will go down by season's end -- especially with both ESPN's
And then there are the M&M's.
Many have long expected the title race to devolve into a slew of one-loss contenders, myself included. But amid that prophesying, Michigan State (No. 5 in the latest BCS standings) and Missouri (No. 6) are still quietly lurking, undefeated. Somehow, the Tigers (7-0) were still buried in the low teens of both major polls as of last week, with only the BCS computers (which helped elevate Mizzou to 11) taking notice of their much-improved defense. That same defense held then-BCS No. 1 Oklahoma to 99 rushing yards and intercepted quarterback
The Spartans (8-0) survived a scare Saturday at Northwestern, falling behind 17-0 before rallying to win 35-27, thanks in large part to another
But you won't hear many mentioning the M&M's in the same breath as Oregon, Auburn, Boise State or TCU. Much like Iowa last year and Penn State the year before, both of whom started 9-0 to little fanfare, the M&M's aren't being taken all that seriously, which can be attributed almost entirely to these two factors: 1) Neither has won a title anytime recently (Missouri last won its conference in 1969, Michigan State in 1990) and 2) They both started the season unranked.
As much as I'd like to rip these seemingly lazy perceptions, I can't because ... well, I kind of feel the same way. I do respect the Tigers -- so much so that I
Actually, I'm inclined to think neither will be undefeated this time next week.
Coming off a program-defining win that coach
Michigan State also hits the road to face No. 18 Iowa, which suffered a soul-crushing 31-30 defeat to Wisconsin on Saturday. After the Badgers scored a go-ahead touchdown with 1:06 remaining, Hawkeyes coach
Having said all that ... what happens if they both win?
Saturday's games represent the toughest remaining tests for the M&M's. After Iowa, Michigan State finishes with Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State. The Spartans don't play No. 10 Ohio State this season, which simultaneously helps their chances of running the table while dampening any potential claim they might have for one of the top two spots.
The Tigers close with Texas Tech, Kansas State, Iowa State and Kansas. If they win all those, they would most likely face either a rematch with Oklahoma or a date with No. 20 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 title game. Theirs is a tougher road than the Spartans', but is still not perceived to be as challenging as Auburn's or Oregon's.
It's been six years since Auburn became the first undefeated major-conference team to be left out of the title game. (Technically, it happened to Cincinnati last year, but there was no real outcry.) Asked Sunday what chance Missouri or Michigan State have of jumping undefeated Auburn or Oregon, CollegeBCS.com publisher
"No undefeated major has ever finished behind a non-major," said Palm. "I don't think this year will be the first time."
So, there you have it. Feel free to start salivating over Cam Newton vs.
Thanks to the videographers at Iowa State's official website, Cyclones.com, we get to see what it's like to be inside the victor's locker room after a rousing upset. Last year, coach
But Saturday's 28-21 victory was a much different animal than last year's Nebraska win, which required a staggering eight Huskers turnovers. The Cyclones (4-4) -- coming off drubbings against Utah (68-27) and Oklahoma (52-0) -- went into Austin and took it to the 22nd-ranked 'Horns, jumping to a 28-6 fourth-quarter lead before Texas rallied.
"You get beat and you get beat and you say, 'Enough is enough,'" said Iowa State running back
But as much as I'd like to revel in the Cyclones' feel-good vibe, the real story here is Texas' continuing implosion. Turns out the Nebraska win was an aberration, not a spark, and that Texas' season is quickly turning into a Florida-like debacle. (Crazy, isn't it, that Florida and Texas were the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country most of last season?) Coach
Those are eye-opening words from Brown, who usually defends his players to the death and at times tries almost too hard to shoulder the blame himself. Presumably there's some truth to his claim. Just as Florida is feeling the leadership void left by
Much like Florida's mystifying lack of playmaking receivers, Texas' continued lack of an even semi-potent running back is baffling. The 'Horns ran for 96 yards on the nation's 112th-ranked defense. Just as
After the Nebraska win, I envisioned Texas doing what it's done so many times under Brown: going on a post-Red River hot streak and ending with yet another 10-win season. That's not happening. The question now is whether the 'Horns will even finish in the upper half of a very deep Big 12 South.
As a member of one of the BCS' six founding conferences, the Big East's champion will earn its conference a nice, fat check for approximately $21 million this January. And for the first time in the system's 13-year history, it's looking increasingly plausible that said champion will enter its bowl game unranked.
With Syracuse's 19-14 road upset of then No. 20 West Virginia (a huge win for
Take a look at
And yet, the one thing we know for sure is that one of the league's eight teams will play in one of the five major bowl games, while at least one of three current undefeated teams -- Boise State, TCU and Utah -- will not. While the Mountain West could possibly become the seventh AQ league at the end of the current four-year evaluation period (2008-11), the Big East's spot is contractually secure through at least 2013. Maybe the 'Cuse will be a national-title contender by then. In the meantime ... basketball season begins Nov. 8.
If Oregon wins at USC on Saturday, I swear I'll move the Ducks into the title game (presumably bumping Boise) and keep them there until proven otherwise. I almost made the change this week -- it's tough not to be wowed by a 60-13 win -- but reminded myself that they've beaten just one team with a winning record thus far.
The Big Ten's Rose Bowl race could shake out any number of ways. If Iowa beats Michigan State this week, Ohio State would jump back into the lead based on BCS standings. If the Spartans win, or if they lose and the Hawkeyes then beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 20, Michigan State would win a theoretical tiebreaker with Wisconsin and Iowa. (The Hawkeyes would be eliminated due to their nonconference loss to Arizona.) And those are just two of umpteen possible scenarios.
• Paralyzed Rutgers defensive lineman
Scarlet Knights coach
• Fourteen years of misery have finally given way to smiles at Baylor, which rang in several milestones this weekend. Following a 47-42 win over Kansas State in which
Saturday will bring another rarity: A ranked Baylor team will face an unranked Texas team for the first time since 1986. "I'm just honored and proud to be a part of what happened [Saturday night] and what's continuing to happen at Baylor University," said Bears coach
• In a more dubious milestone, Florida and Georgia will meet as unranked foes this week for the first time since 1979. The Dawgs have quietly dug themselves out of their 1-4 hole, routing SEC East foes Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to return to .500. Running back
• How thoroughly dominant is No. 4 TCU's defense? Saturday against previously ranked Air Force, Horned Frogs running back
• After covering an LSU game, I can now see the "wisdom" in Les Miles' two-quarterback system. The Tigers' offense runs more fluidly with
• In his first start in place of the injured
• It shouldn't be surprising given the direction of the two programs, but Alabama's 41-10 rout of Tennessee on Saturday marked the Tide's most lopsided win ever in Knoxville. After leading 13-10 at halftime, the Tide got their recently struggling offense back in gear, with
• Even in defeat against Nebraska, Oklahoma State (6-1) showed that its high-powered offense is pretty hard to stop, racking up 495 yards in a 51-41 loss. Star receiver
• Virginia Tech's offense is finally rolling. Saturday's 44-7 rout of Duke, in which quarterback
• They're starting to get restless in Tempe after Arizona State fell to 3-4 following a 50-17 drubbing at Cal (4-3). Since a 10-3 debut season in 2007,
• Remember when I picked Connecticut to win the Big East? Umm, yeah. The Huskies lost 26-0 Saturday to Louisville to fall to 3-4, 0-2, after starting quarterback
• It doesn't get much bigger than this in Conference USA (seriously). When East Carolina (5-2, 4-0 C-USA) and UCF (5-2, 3-0) meet Saturday, it will be the latest two teams with undefeated league records have met since Nov. 20, 2001.
• Bizarre factoid: On Saturday afternoon,
• Finally, congratulations to Western Kentucky for ending its 26-game losing streak with a 54-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Only two winless teams remain in the FBS this season: Akron (0-8) and New Mexico (0-7).
When Navy knocked off Notre Dame 46-44 in 2007, ending a 43-year losing streak to the Irish, one could chalk it up to Notre Dame's youth at the time. When the Midshipmen won again in South Bend last season, it came at a time when embattled Irish coach
But there was nothing fluky about Navy's 35-17 rout at the Meadowlands on Saturday. This wasn't a case of Notre Dame's superior athletes "failing to execute." The Midshipmen (5-2) beat the Irish (4-4) because, quite frankly, they're the better team.
When I visited Annapolis in the preseason, the buzz was that quarterback
But as Dobbs got healthier, the Midshipmen won 28-27 at Wake Forest and 28-21 over SMU. On Saturday, their offense finally exploded as Navy switched up its inside blocking schemes and rode fullback
"Our offensive line was whooping up on their defensive line," Teich told the
Predictably, first-year coach
When Weis came in and immediately went to consecutive BCS bowls, it came with the asterisk that he was doing it with
Watching the fourth quarter of Saturday's Oklahoma-Missouri game at an Applebee's on the way back from Auburn to Atlanta, I unintentionally generated an interesting Twitter debate. When
There were a slew of similar-minded responses like
Personally, I don't see why you wouldn't want to keep your team within one score for as long as possible. Whether you get the two there or not, you're still going to need another touchdown. But if you miss, as OU did, you now need a touchdown
"I don't see why that is even a question," Stoops said of his decision.
Despite some persuasive, 140-character arguments, I still believe I'm in the right, and one of the winningest coaches of all time is in the wrong. But I'm willing to listen to a persuasive counterpoint -- preferably one based on quantitative probability statistics.