December 04, 2011
In a perfect world, the Doc would be given carte blanche to publicly torch the Bowl Championship Series in effigy and institute the elaborate, double-elimination battle royal of his dreams. But we live in the world we live in, so each Sunday the Doc looks at what the new BCS numbers mean for the rest of the season. Rooting interest: Chaos. Always chaos.
You didn't want it, America, but you've got it: Bring on the rematch. Or, as they say in New Orleans: Let's have a field goal time.
As feared, Alabama and LSU are officially set to play for the BCS championship on Jan. 9, reprising their hard-hitting, low-scoring field goal fest on Nov. 5. Mike Gundy's eleventh-hour appeal on behalf of offensive touchdowns has failed. Oklahoma State will finish arguably the best season in school history in the Fiesta Bowl. Chaos engaged.
The Cowboys' 44-10 win over Oklahoma was impressive enough to lift them ahead of Alabama in the computer polls, and to significantly closed the gap in both human polls: OSU finished just 32 points behind the Crimson Tide in the Coaches' poll and 69 points back in the Harris, among the narrowest margins in either poll. But it wasn't close, in the sense that Alabama's place behind LSU was ever in serious doubt. There's no out-of-touch coach out there whose low opinion of the Cowboys was enough to singlehandedly thwart their destiny. Oklahoma State was a decisive number three.
And lo the BCS has bestowed unto college football this essential match of two teams from the same division in the same conference, the first game between them already in the books, one of which is neither a division nor a conference champion. If LSU rolls back the Tide a second time, the Tigers — already boasting wins against three of the top six teams in this week's standings — will go down as one of the greatest champions in SEC and college football history. If Alabama wins, there's already a simmering movement to split the championship, ensuring LSU gets its just desserts via the Associated Press poll. (Here's guessing the Tigers would be slightly more receptive to that idea this time around.) But they're going to play this thing, and you're going to like it.
At least where the BCS is concerned, we can always be certain about one thing: Every game counts. Some of them just count more than others.
• Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford (Jan. 2). As consolation games go, you could do a lot worse: The winner will likely finish No. 2 in the final polls, which would be Oklahoma State's best finish ever and match Stanford's best finish since 1940. With prolific, record-smashing quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden bidding adios for the NFL in Jan. 3, Cardinal and Cowboy fans alike are encouraged to enjoy life at (or near) the peak while it lasts.
• Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin (Jan. 2). Oregon's third consecutive conference championship quashed any doubts about its status as Pac-12 overlord, but it also means the Ducks are no longer just happy to be here: After back-to-back BCS losses against Ohio State and Auburn, a third will follow Chip Kelly for another 365 days, or however long it takes him to get off the snide. Then again, after last year's loss to TCU, Wisconsin's not exactly breezing into the game, either: Since the Badgers' last Rose Bowl win on Jan. 1, 2000, the Big Ten's record in Pasadena is 1-7.
• Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech (Jan. 3). Yes, that would be the same Virginia Tech that failed to defeat a ranked team and was annihilated by Clemson in its only two opportunities, including a 38-10 rout at the hands of the Tigers in Saturday night's ACC Championship Game. No, the Hokies' presence here does not make much sense.
Not that there were many attractive options for the final at-large bid: With the first three at-large slots set aside for Alabama, Stanford and Michigan, the only eligible teams for the fourth were Boise State, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma — no slam dunks in the lot, under the circumstances. But Virginia Tech over Kansas State is a mystery: In the 13-year history of the BCS, the ACC has never earned an at-large bid for its second-best team. Unlike Hokie fans, who are used to the BCS routine and were just blown out of their biggest game of the season, K-State hasn't been to a BCS bowl since 2003 and vastly exceeded expectations during a climb into the top ten, capped by a three-game winning streak to close the season.
The Wildcats are also ranked higher than Virginia Tech in both human polls and all six computer polls, as if anyone still cares about that sort of thing. Since they don't, Kansas State is off to the Cotton Bowl — a more attractive matchup, frankly, against Arkansas — and Brady Hoke gets another winnable game to finish his wildly successful "This Is Michigan" tour.
• Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. West Virginia (Jan. 4). Well, they're here, god bless 'em, and both sides actually seem fairly thrilled about it: Clemson is ACC champion for the first time since 1991, and West Virginia is finally back in a big-money game under first-year coach Dana Holgorsen after a three-year hiatus spanning the Bill Stewart administration. It may look like a gussied-up Gator Bowl based on the records, but with Holgorsen and Chad Morris calling plays on opposite sidelines — that is, if Morris hasn't been plucked for another job in the meantime — it's certainly not going to be boring.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.