Pondering the Imponderable: If the Tide or Noles Lose, Who's Next?
Looking at the remaining Division I schedule, everything points to an Alabama vs Florida State pairing in the BCS championship game.
The Crimson Tide cleared a major hurdle by leaving vapor trails against LSU in the second half at Tuscaloosa last night. Auburn awaits in the Iron Bowl and Missouri is currently Bama's projected opponent in the SEC title game. Still, after blowing a 17-point lead at home to South Carolina, the Tigers have work to do if they want to get there.
Meanwhile, it also looks like the Seminoles will breeze into the ACC title game, starting this week when Syracuse travels to Tallahassee. The Orange are improved, but this one will be over at halftime. The following week, for whatever reason, the Seminoles will host 1-9 Idaho, and well, my old high school football team could beat the Vandals. For all I know, they did. The following week, Florida State plays its rivals, Florida, but the Gators have lost their bite, falling to 4-5 after losing in the Swamp to Vanderbilt.
No matter who the Seminoles meet in the ACC title game, it will be another medicore team, just like most of their schedule. Yes, they buried Clemson at Clemson, but hey, it's Clemson, East Coast masters of the choke. Only one of the Noles' potential opponents has a legacy of stepping up when the occasion calls for it, and that's Virginia Tech. If the Hokies hold serve against Maryland and Virginia, the team that began the season with a 35-10 neutral-site loss to Alabama will take a shot at the other projected BCS title entrant.
Now, should either Alabama or Florida State stumble, who else belongs in the title game?
Ohio State is next on the list, but its remaining schedule is worse than Florida State's. The Buckeyes have not played a Top 15 team and must hope that Michigan State gets to the Big Ten championship game so they can at least attempt one quality win. They haven't lost since Urban Meyer took over -- remember, the Buckeyes were on probation last season -- but that part of the schedule they could control is really embarassing: Buffalo, San Diego State, California, and Florida A&M.
Really? Where did Meyer learn that sort of round-up? When he was in the SEC?
OK, then, what about Baylor and all the points it puts on the scoreboard every week? The Bears have come from nohwere, but its only 'quality' win was against an overrated Oklahoma team last Thursday. Baylor still plays Oklahoma State and Texas, but it won't be enough to vault them over Ohio State in the BCS standings.
Missouri had South Carolina beaten by 17 points in the fourth quarter before blowing the lead and the game for its only loss. If the Tigers can hold on to the SEC East lead and make it to the conference title game, an upset of Alabama would make their case for a BCS berth most compelling.
There is one team kicking itself right now.
Stanford, because the Cardinal lost to Utah for the Utes' only Pac-12 win. Coach Randy Shaw has one quirk, which is that he takes over the play calling in the red zone. The way his offense is built -- ground and pound -- it's inconceivable that Stanford could have a third and two on the Utah 6 with a minute or so left in the game and call two pass plays with the season on the line. It was a classic 'trap' game, as the Cardinal had just beaten Washington and were looking forward to UCLA. Still, they had a chance to scrape through it, but those questionable decisions stuck them with a 26-20 loss that has a worthy team on the outside looking in.
Stanford's strength of schedule is computer-ranked at No 11, far above Ohio State (No 89); for that matter, it also far surpasses those of Alabama (No 62) and Florida State (No 64). If it wins out -- and given that the nine-game Pac-12 schedule makes that a big if -- any pollster with a conscience would be hard-pressed not to favor a one-loss Cardinal over a soft-slate unbeaten like the Buckeyes.
But a school with Stanford's sterling academic reputation realizes how long the odds are of its even being able to make an argument like this. Alabama and Florida State are so heavily favored to run their respective tables that all the Cardinal can do is look forward to being a part of the 100th Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, probably against Ohio State.
A tree vs another tree, if you will. It's ironic that the latter link is found in the Virginia Tech website. That's the school with the best chance of having one or another of them being transplanted to the same field, only one week later.