Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Latest Fallout of a Wild Season

Another week, and yet another reshuffling of the rankings in college football. After this week's slate of upsets, it has become abundantly clear that if your team is hovering around the Top 10, it will have a chance to contend for the national championship. This week, 4 Top 10 teams lost - Louisville, Texas, Auburn, and Cal - opening the door right back up for teams like USC and Notre Dame, whose championship hopes were seemingly dashed after their sole losses. And other one-loss teams who seemed like longshots to be title game contenders, Arkansas and Rutgers, are now #5 and #7 respectively in the AP rankings. It wouldn't take much for either of those two to get into the national championship game. Here's why:

- USC and Notre Dame (at #4 and #6 respectively) still play each other, meaning that one of those two is guaranteed to have 2 losses.

-Besides playing Notre Dame, USC has 2 more tough games left, with Cal and archrival UCLA. At least one more loss is not unreasonable for the Trojans.

- The loser of Ohio State-Michigan is likely out of the running (despite the fact that the loser still might be the second best team in the country, but that's another matter).

- And for Arkansas, if things continue the way they are right now, a matchup with Florida in the SEC title game is on the horizon. Florida is at #3, but if the Razorbacks win, they will certainly pass them in the BCS standings.

Arkansas would appear to have the inside track on a title game spot if they take care of their own business and USC loses one more time. Rutgers needs more help to get in. They also need to win out - no small task considering West Virginia is still on the schedule - and they need Arkansas, Florida, USC, and Notre Dame to lose.

The fact that we're talking about these two teams as viable opponents to the Big Ten winner in the championship game is probably the most prominent story in this season full of surprises and oddities. Other highlights of the season:

- Two 1 vs. 2 matchups in one year. Ohio State and Texas squared off early in the season, and now the Buckeyes and archrival Michigan are ready to do battle this Saturday in the certainly the most anticipated regular season game of the year - perhaps of the millennium.

- The lack of a dominant player in Heisman discussions. Unless he goes belly up against the Wolverines on Saturday, Buckeyes QB Troy Smith likely has the trophy wrapped up. And despite his acheivements - quarterbacking the #1 team in the country, solid stats, and his playing his biggest game of the year against his toughest opponent so far in Texas - he has not had that transcendent year that you often see from a Heisman winner. It's certainly a big change from last year, when you had uber-talents Reggie Bush, Vince Young, and Matt Leinart at the top of the ballots.

- The resurgence of the Big East. This year, the top three teams - Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia, have all been mentioned at one point or another as national championship contenders, with the Scarlet Knights garnering the talk now.

- The major thud of the long-time giants, Florida State and Miami. Remember when the mathup between these two teams to start off this year was considered a gem of an early season game? Yeah, seems like a long time ago to me too. The 5-5 Hurricanes have a had an absolutely retchid season, with their very average performance on the field just one of their lowlights that include the past week's shooting death of D-lineman Bryan Pata and the infamous brawl against Florida International. The Seminoles, another 5-5 team, have had to endure calls for legendary coach Bobby Bowden to resign.

The ups and downs of the year have made for an amazingly interesting season, one of the most unique in recent memory. Here's hoping the excitement continues on into the bowl season.

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