Almost there


Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 2:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 2:19 p.m.

(AP) - It's so simple. Southern California and Texas stay undefeated Saturday, receive their Rose Bowl invitations the next day and the Bowl Championship Series falls into place with little consternation.

How cool would that be, BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg?

"I think I'm pretty much a realist about the BCS arrangement," the Big 12 commissioner said this week. "It would be great if we finish the season without a lot of questions about whether we have the right two teams in the championship game.

"But we've seen every year produce some surprises, so I'm not banking on that we won't see some surprises this year."

While one upset would create chaos, No. 1 USC and No. 2 Texas could have the most important BCS matter settled by early Saturday night.

The Longhorns (11-0) play the first of Championship Saturday's big games against Colorado (7-4) in the Big 12 title game at 1 p.m. EST. Vince Young and Texas are about a four-touchdown favorite against a bunch of Buffaloes they beat by about four touchdowns in the regular season.

The Trojans (11-0) should be taking the Los Angeles Coliseum field as the Big 12 game in Houston is winding down, bringing with them a 33-game winning streak. No. 11 UCLA (9-1) awaits.

Pete Carroll's two-time defending champion Trojans are favored by three touchdowns against Karl Dorrell's resurgent, though defensively challenged, Bruins.

With Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush on the USC side and Drew Olson and Maurice Drew on the other, points should be plentiful.

The Southeastern Conference title and a BCS bid will be on the line in the Georgia Dome about an hour and a half after the Battle of L.A. kicks off. No. 3 LSU and No. 13 Georgia meet in Atlanta for the second time in three years.

Either would be a fine BCS representative for the SEC.

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship has another heavy favorite, with No. 5 Virginia Tech (10-1) facing Florida State (7-4), losers of three straight.

Barring one of those surprises Weiberg referred to _ such as UCLA and Kansas State each kicking away a spot in the BCS title game on the last day of the 1998 regular season _ college football's Selection Sunday should shake out this way:

Rose Bowl _ USC vs. Texas.

Fiesta Bowl _ Notre Dame vs. Ohio State.

Orange Bowl _ Penn State vs. Virginia Tech.

Sugar Bowl _ SEC winner (too close to call) vs. West Virginia.

The Notre Dame haters will complain, the Pac-10 people will scream East Coast bias _ though Midwest bias might be more appropriate _ and the Oregon Ducks will take their 10-1 record to the Holiday Bowl, just as California did last season.

But what happens if USC or Texas loses? Or, and wouldn't this be wild, what if both the Trojans and Longhorns go down and there are no unbeaten teams left in major college football, just a group of one-loss teams saying they should play for the national championship?

Let's explore the possibilities:

WHAT IF USC LOSES?

The question has to be answered with another question: Can the Trojans lose to UCLA and still play for the national championship?

"I don't even know how that works," Carroll said. "I'm not even considering that possibility."

So we will.

USC is atop the AP, Harris and coaches' polls. The coaches' and Harris polls drive the BCS standings formula. The final standings come out Sunday, and the top two teams play in the championship game.

For either USC or Texas to remain in one of those top two spots with a loss, they'll need help from the poll voters. USC, which hasn't lost in more than two years, is more likely than Texas to get the benefit of the doubt after a loss and remain ranked ahead of Penn State (10-1), LSU (10-1) and Virginia Tech (10-1).

Despite its 52-14 loss at Arizona, UCLA is a formidable opponent, which helps USC's case. But a loss to the Bruins combined with that closer-than-expected 50-42 victory over Fresno State two weeks ago might make voters perceive USC as a team on the back side of its peak.

And it's rare for a No. 1 team to lose before the bowls and only drop one spot in the polls. The last time it happened in the AP poll was when top-ranked Florida State lost at Notre Dame in 1993.

But most of these Trojans remember what happened two years ago when USC was No. 1 in the polls heading into the bowls, while Oklahoma and LSU were picked to play in the national title game.

"I'd definitely say that if we were to lose this weekend we should still be able to play for a national championship," Bush said. "If you look at two years ago when Oklahoma lost to Kansas State, actually got killed by Kansas State, they still played in the national championship. So I definitely feel like we should still be able to play."

If USC doesn't get the Rose Bowl invite, the Trojans will still be in the BCS as the Pac-10 rep with a spot in the Fiesta Bowl guaranteed and a rematch with Notre Dame a distinct possibility.

WHAT IF TEXAS LOSES

This is a simpler question to answer, because if the Longhorns lose to a Colorado team that was most recently seen on national television getting trashed at home by Nebraska 30-3, it's safe to say the poll voters will not be kind to Mack Brown's squad.

"It's probably not fair because if you lose early, you're in better shape than if you lose late. What does it matter? A loss is a loss," Brown said.

Fair point, but back to reality.

A Texas loss immediately opens the door for Joe Paterno to take the Nittany Lions, third in the last BCS standings, to the Rose Bowl.

It also gives life to LSU, fourth in the BCS standings. If the Tigers could put a hurting on Georgia in the Bulldogs' backyard, LSU might be able to jump over Penn State and on to Pasadena, Calif.

This much is certain, if either USC or Texas loses, there will be more teams with a case to play for the national title than Rose Bowl bids.

A Texas loss also puts Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, and could send Notre Dame to the Orange or Sugar, depending on which team plays for a national title.

Could Texas find itself out of the BCS altogether if it loses? Probably not. More likely the Ohio State or Oregon argument becomes moot and the Longhorns become the other at-large team with the Fighting Irish.

WHAT IF USC AND TEXAS LOSE

Let's just say the BCS will have a really bad day.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top