BCS Chase Ready to Rachet Up in October
Unfortunately, in these financially-motivated times, it takes the first weekend of October to roll around before college football in general actually gets serious.
Thankfully, the upcoming weekend features a solid slate of interesting matchups that will have both conference and BCS implications.
The action starts Thursday with an intruiging Pac-12 tilt between unbeaten UCLA and 3-1 Utah. The Utes' only loss was a 51-48 overtime heartbreaker to Oregon State, but they rebounded the following week to nail arch-rival BYU 20-13 in the Holy War on the road. This game is in Salt Lake City, as is the following week's game against No 5 Stanford. The Utes are still upgrading their roster to Pac-12-type depth, so if they're going to remain a factor this season, they'll need to win one of these two home games. Gonna be tough.
We'll also see the start of the Ed Orgeron era when USC hosts Arizona. It may give us an indication as to how much of an Ed Orgeron era there will be.
Then there's the start of the Pac-12 North well and truly feeding on itself when Washington travels to Stanford in a battle of unbeatens. Oregon joins in the ruck the following week by traveling to Seattle after their scheduled dismantling of Colorado. Nobody out West will be surprised if these three teams all get hit with at least once conference loss by doing it to each other.
Florida State struggled to beat Boston College last week, and next up for the Seminoles are the suprising and undefeated Terrapins in the ACC. Maryland raised eyebrows when they blew out West Virginia in their last game, and when the Mountaineers defeated Oklahoma State last week, it made the Terps' victory look even better. Clemson, the other ACC power, travels to Syracuse, where the Orangemen will play their first ever ACC game. The 'Cuse has beaten Wagner and Tulane this season. Those two teams together could not beat Clemson ... or each other.
With Oklahoma State losing, Oklahoma assumed the Big XII favorite's mantel with a big non-conference triumph at South Bend. The Sooners took advantage of Nôtre Dame mistakes to pop the Irish, 35-21 and now look forward to playing TCU and Texas back-to-back. Both schools have struggled this season, while another Texas school -- Baylor (3-0) -- doesn't look like a sleeper anymore. The Bears are for real.
In the AAC -- you know, the Protestant division of the old Big East -- Louisville is still the clear-cut favorite, but Rutgers' upset of Arkansas two weeks ago makes next Thursday's game a tune-up to watch. If the Cardinals beat Temple this week -- the Owls are coming off a loss at Idaho; yes, Idaho -- and if the Scarlet Knights can get by SMU, ESPN will have a dramatic match to show on the following Thursday. Don't sleep on Central Florida, however, as the Knights have already defeated Penn State and could have knocked off South Carolina on Saturday. Their issue is depth, and they get Louisville on the road.
The gauntlet is down everywere in the SEC, which now should feature a game of the week every week for the balance of the season. Last Saturday's Georgia victory over LSU was a classic, and now the Tigers must rebound at Mississippi State; no easy game. Mississippi comes off its loss to Alabama and now has to travel back to that state to face Auburn, which has only one loss, to LSU. Georgia journeys to Tennessee after its emotional win, and another SEC power, Florida, hosts Arkansas, which is coming off two straight losses.
Remember, it's the Harris poll that combines with the USA Today coaches' poll and a few computers to determine the actual BCS rankings. It actually waits until mid-season to determine a team's ranking, and that's in mid-October. It's just another reason why the intensity picks up a notch right about now.
So the preliminaries are over. October is when the race to the BCS title game begins in earnest.