Reliable insight into the BCS end of a season that shocked all the experts.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
We really should have seen this coming. The moment triple zeros appeared on the scoreboard, signaling the conclusion of Appalachian State’s upset of the University of Michigan, we should have known that this would be a college football season where the inconceivable would be commonplace.
Michigan boasts 42 Big Ten titles, nine national championships, and a total enrollment three times larger than the entire population of Boone, N.C., the sleepy mountain town where Appalachian State is located. This contest was to be an exhibition of backyard bullying, a maize-and-blue bulldozer slamming into a crash-test dummy. But Appalachian State’s victory made abundantly clear that while bullies can dish out the punches, they can’t always take them.
And it was only the first week of the season. It served as a fitting prologue, no doubt, to a season where chaos became law, and shocking upsets piled up like freshmen fullbacks running at Oklahoma’s D-line. Stanford, fresh off a 1-10 season in 2006 – and with some odds-makers pegging them a 41-point underdog – toppled USC’s mighty Trojan empire. On the road. And USC was just one of teams ranked in the Top 5 at some point during the season to lose against unranked teams.
This season has seen a revolving door of seemingly worthy contenders evaporate the instant the spotlight shined upon them. (Hello Kansas, bye bye, Kansas. Cal, where have you gone?) For the first time in 10 years, the #1 – and #2-ranked teams lost during the same weekend. Then it happened this year. The last three weeks of the season featured three different teams occupying the top spot.
So, who’s number one? Who knows? Fortunately the here with some handicapping help to try and make sense out of a season that was about as predictable as an ADD-toddler after three cups of coffee. Ironically enough, normalcy atypical in 2007 will dominate the BCS schedule.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 2:10pm
Illinois went 2-10 last year. Now they’re Big Ten champs, thanks to RB Rashard Mendenhall, whose 1,500 rushing yards earned him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. USC had its most disappointing season in recent memory and still ended up in the Rose Bowl.
>>The Pick: USC. Sure, Illinois’ resurgence is a nice story and all...but USC is 14-2 in their last 16 bowl games. If not for that freak accident against Stanford, the Trojans would be playing for their third national championship in five years.Sugar Bowl, Jan. 1, 5:30pm
Even after Boise State’s instant-classic upset of Oklahoma in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, people are still hesitant to give any respect to teams from the Western Athletic Conference. Hawaii, this year’s WAC champs, went a perfect 12-0 and yet barely cracked the Top 10. Critics point out that the only major conference team the Warriors beat this season was Washington, who finished dead last in the Pac-10.
>>The Pick: Georgia. Even though Hawaii’s QB Colt Brennan, with nearly two-dozen NCAA records to his name, won’t have trouble exploiting Georgia’s suspect secondary, it won’t be enough to beat those big, bad, battle-tested Bulldogs and their star freshman RB Knowshown Moreno. Expect one of the more exciting matchups of the BCS sequence.Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 2, 4:30pm
One’s hot, one’s not. West Virginia was ranked number two heading into the final week of the season, only needing a win over sad-sack Pitt to solidify their spot in the BCS Championship game. They choked, big time. That same day Oklahoma knocked off the top-ranked Missouri Tigers to become Big 12 Champs.
>>The Pick: Oklahoma’s run defense is airtight, ranked eighth in the nation. That’s bad news for WVU, who relies on RB Steve Slaton for the bulk of their offensive output, and whose QB, Pat White, gained almost as many yards rushing (1,185) as he did passing (1,548).Orange Bowl, Jan. 3, 5pm
January is usually basketball season for Jayhawks fans. In fact, you’re forgiven if you forgot that Kansas even had a football team. But the facts speak for themselves – the Jayhawks’ balanced offense ranked second in the nation in points scored, and sixth in total yards. Virginia Tech stumbled early in the season, but rebounded just in time to hoist the ACC trophy.
>>The Pick: Virginia Tech by a country mile. Their defense is barbed-wire tough, and should put the clamps on a Kansas offense whose impressive numbers came against a Downy-soft schedule ranked 109th in the country.BCS Championship, Jan. 7, 5pm
The real story here is the desperate need for a tournament-style playoff system. Both LSU and Ohio State lost their last home game. OSU didn’t even win their conference. A half-dozen teams could make legitimate cases for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.
>>The Pick: LSU is the obvious pick. Even though it would be the first time in history that a two-loss team won the national championship, both of LSU’s losses came against quality teams in triple overtime. Besides, Ohio State is 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games. Look for that trend to continue.
Final Score: The champion should be decided on the field. Cinderella can’t become queen if she’s not invited to the ball. Simply picking two teams to compete for the championship, and categorically eliminating all the others, neutralizes the most beautiful aspect of competitive sport – the ever-present possibility that the implausible can take place – just as Appalachian State demonstrated on that crisp autumn afternoon in Ann Arbor.