MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There was a dislocated thumb, an inaccurate news report, a hastily called press conference, a Mizzou meltdown, a Hokie revenge, a Sooner stunner, a Pitt uprising, a Les Miles redemption, a Mountaineer gag job and overwrought fan bases in all directions.
In the strangest college football season in years, the last day went according to the chaotic script.
Now it is anyone's guess what is next – which two flawed teams emerge from this flawed system to meet in the BCS title game Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
A two-loss team is likely to play a team that hasn't played in two weeks. An unbeaten team and a one-loss team apparently have no chance. A team that, according to ESPN, was about to lose its coach, might leap from No. 7 into the big game. At least unless the No. 9 team doesn't leap them and everyone else. And the team that might be playing the best of them all right now, can't seem to get any consideration.
Confused? Try crunching numbers, predicting votes and calculating the absurd and it gets even worse.
Sadly, somewhere a BCS suit will lie and claim this makes perfect sense, that this was the plan all along.
It won't be Mike Tranghese, the commissioner of the Big East, that's for sure. After lowly Pitt upset No. 2 West Virginia 13-9 here, an inside hit on his conference's title hopes, he probably went to find a holler to holler into. Or throw up.
He certainly isn't alone.
The contenders for the BCS title game are as follows and we'll do our best to break it down with clear efficiency heading into Sunday's 8 p.m. announcement – Ohio State, LSU, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Kansas, Hawaii and Southern California.
Don't blame us for the analysis, we're as impartial as you'll ever find.
Ohio State (11-1) entered the weekend at No. 3 and looks like it's in, essentially because it only lost once. Sure it only played 12 games (to most team's 13), took on a weak non-conference slate, beat no really good teams, lost three weeks ago at home to Illinois and didn't play anyone in two weeks, but in this season … hey, step on up you're a winner, please try to play better than last year.
After that, who knows for sure?
"I'm leaning toward Ohio State-LSU," said Jerry Palm, publisher of CollegeBCS.com and an expert on these things. "But it could be OSU-Virginia Tech. Probably 3-1 chances it's LSU over Va Tech."
This is based on the prediction that Oklahoma might beat out LSU in the polls (two-thirds of the BCS formula), but trail in the computers (one-third) so the Tigers will hold off the Sooners. And while Virginia Tech might beat out LSU in the computers, it will trail in the polls, leaving the Tigers in the middle to take the second spot.
LSU besting Virginia Tech would actually make sense because in a sport with so few direct comparisons, there is one here: LSU whipped Tech 48-7 back in September.
But would it make sense that 11-2 LSU, ranked No. 7 heading into Saturday, could skip ahead of five teams to get into the title game? LSU lost just last weekend to unranked Arkansas after all. In a sport that loves to bogusly promote itself as "every week is a playoff", that was supposed to be it.
Well, not so fast my friend.
The Tigers have been resurrected after winning the SEC championship Saturday and boasting the argument that, yes, sure, it lost two games but both came in triple overtime. That's about as close as a two-loss team can be to perfect.
That could allow them to leapfrog Georgia (10-2), currently ranked No. 4 in the BCS but incapable of even reaching the SEC title game (Tennessee won the East).
That might be enough to cause the Bulldogs, winners of six consecutive games, to become the anti-Ohio State. Rather than rise in the polls when not playing, Georgia could drop.
The assumption is the voters will push LSU ahead of Georgia since it seems unfair that a team that couldn't even play for its league championship could play for the national one.
Of course, that actually happened back in 2001 when Nebraska didn't win its division in the Big 12 and still made the BCS title game.
For Georgia, the frustrating part might be that voters will penalize it because of the memory of Nebraska using its reprieve to get pounded by Miami that year. Not that one has anything to do with the other, but, then again, nothing has to do with anything around here.
"LSU will jump Georgia and Georgia can't jump anyone," Palm predicted.
In a similar, although less impressive, vein, 11-1 Kansas couldn't win its division of the Big 12 but entered Saturday at No. 5 – four spots above league champion Oklahoma, which decisively beat No. 1 Missouri 38-17. However, Kansas played a terrible schedule – the teams it beat had a .417 winning percentage – and lost just last week to Mizzou, which OU beat twice. So count KU out. It just isn't happening.
It isn't going to for Hawaii either. The Warriors finished the season 12-0 but its schedule was not particularly strong. Not only is that reflected in a weak computer number but voters are unlikely to give them the benefit of the doubt, even here in a year where you could argue giving a team like a Hawaii a shot at the title might actually make sense.
That brings us to Oklahoma, 11-2, which sure looked tough on Saturday night. The Sooners won just as many games as Ohio State, lost just as many as LSU and their only two losses were on the road, albeit both to unranked teams.
In a season where last impressions might mean so much, Palm expects the Sooners to get a major bump in the rankings. LSU did beat Tennessee 21-14 Saturday afternoon, but didn't look as good as the Sooners. So OU might move all the way to No. 2 in the rankings, which would be an incredible jump but, even more incredibly, might not be enough.
"I could see them emerging as No. 2 in the polls," Palm said. "But I don't think they are good enough in the computers."
A team that might be good enough in the computers is Virginia Tech (11-2), champions of the ACC after beating Boston College. The Hokies would certainly be a feel-good story, considering the memories of the massacre that occurred on their campus last spring. They entered the weekend ranked No. 6 in the BCS, ahead of the LSU team that pounded them way back when.
Palm said that Tech should also have an advantage in the computer segments of the BCS formula.
But, again, won't voters recall that head-to-head score and reshuffle LSU ahead of the Hokies?
"Virginia Tech is probably the better computer team," Palm said. "But I'm assuming LSU is better in the polls."
Of course, assuming is where this gets crazy. No one knows what the voters will do. The coaches have one poll and they are often either disinterested, sloppy participants or admitted partisans who normally vote first and foremost for teams in their league (unless they are Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Michigan is an option). Who knows how many even recall Tech and LSU played?
Meanwhile, the Harris Poll is made up of a huge unwashed mass of football observers ranging from former players to media and administrators. Who knows what they will do?
What could tip the balance is a surge for some unexpected candidate, such as say Southern California (10-2) which might be playing better than anyone right now. Yes the Trojans lost to a sad Stanford team, but if your criteria is choosing the top two teams right now, then they'll get some consideration. It probably won't be enough to make the title game, but it could be enough to affect it.
Meanwhile, what if Missouri and West Virginia don't drop that far and clog things up? What if, apropos of the season, nothing goes as expected? Anyone want to vote for Appalachian State?
No one really knows in a situation this fluid, which even by the soap opera standards of this sport – reality TV for the alpha male – is something to behold.
But if we have to make a prediction, then we'll listen to Palm and call it Ohio State and LSU – two teams that were left for dead in late November only to come alive on the first day of December.
Whether this sounds strange or not, it isn't nearly as strange as ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit – a former Ohio State quarterback – declaring Saturday morning that Miles was headed to Michigan – the Buckeyes' blood rival – to become the Wolverines next coach.
Almost immediately other news organization started refuting the report. But it was enough to force a defiant Miles to hold a rare pre-SEC title game press conference to shout down the rumor in hopes of keeping his team focused. Who knows, it might have even been the final bit of motivation they needed.
"I am the head coach at LSU," Miles said. "I will be the head coach at LSU."
Indeed he will. Perhaps even in the national title game.
- Virginia Tech
- Ohio State