General thoughts and observations form Saturday
It was a wild day in college football, starting with Houston blowing their shot at a BCS game appearance and culminating in a spectacular Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis. Now that the conference champions are crowned, here are five questions as we wait to learn who will be playing in which bowl games.
1. Oklahoma State or Alabama?
Alabama entered the week as the second ranked team in the BCS and many presumed they would be playing in the BCS championship game regardless of what happened this weekend. The assumption was that Oklahoma State needed to have a dominant performance against rival Oklahoma to even have a shot at jumping the Crimson Tide.
Well, the Cowboys got the memo and blasted Oklahoma, 44-10. We knew that Oklahoma State had an offense but they needed to show some defense in order to sway any voters. They did just that recovering five turnovers and holding Oklahoma out of the end zone until late in the game. Based on their entire body of work an argument could be made that Oklahoma State has done more to earn the second spot in the BCS Championship against LSU. The Cowboys have beaten eight bowl-eligible teams compared to Alabama’s six wins against bowl eligible teams. Many consider the Big 12 to be a deeper conference than the SEC is this season, but Alabama plays in the toughest division in college football with LSU and Arkansas.
Oklahoma State’s lone loss this season came to an unranked Iowa State, on the road in double overtime. There was also the emotional story line surrounding the Oklahoma State program, although realistically it is somewhat unconvincing to suggest the players on the team were truly affected by the tragedy of Oklahoma State losing their women’s basketball coach and assistant in a plane crash the day before the game. Still, Oklahoma State had to be taken to double overtime to be defeated in the worst game they played all season, on the road.
Alabama’s only loss of course came at home at the hands of the nations’ top-ranked LSU Tigers. In a clash of #1 vs. #2, Alabama came up short and multiple missed field goals allowed LSU to force overtime, which they won. Alabama may be one of the best two teams in the country, but whether you want to see a rematch or not the question is how to distinguish between these two programs?
In my mind, quality wins over the course of a season should trump worst loss in any argument. Does that favor Oklahoma State? In my mind it does, but I certainly cannot make an argument to say that Alabama should not be in the BCS championship game because as I already said, I think they are one of the two best teams in the country.
2. Houston’s bubble bursts, TCU rejoices
Maybe all of the Kevin Sumlin coaching rumors played a role in the loss, but Southern Mississippi went in to Houston and roughed up the Cougars in the Conference USA championship game, 49-28. Houston trailed 21-14 at halftime and really had the game slip out of their hands in the third quarter when the Golden Eagles put 21 more points on the scoreboard, which started with a blocked punt being returned for a touchdown.
Houston just needed to win the game to lock up a spot in the BCS as the highest ranked non-AQ conference champion in the BCS top 16. Houston’s loss may be TCU’s gain. If the numbers are crunched the right way, the Horned Frogs will be heading to a BCS game for the third straight season after clinching the outright Mountain West Conference championship. TCU needed to move up just two spots in the BCS rankings to clinch the automatic spot. It’s going to be close, but it is not out of the question.
If TCU secures a spot in the BCS, it could also mean that Boise State, despite being ranked in he BCS top ten, could be left out of the BCS. If TCU fails to crack the top 16, then Boise State would have a shot at being selected as an at-large, but it is far fro a guarantee.
3. Big Ten Championship Game Delivers the Goods
The Big Ten Championship Game debuted in Indianapolis this weekend and while it may not have featured the heavy hitters the national media or casual college football fan may have preferred, Michigan State and Wisconsin were certainly up to the task of playing a game every bit as exciting as their regular season encounter. Wisconsin claimed the conference’s first championship game, 42-39.
Unfortunately this round did not end on the same adrenaline high as the Hail Mary from earlier this season. Wisconsin jumped on the Spartans early with 21first-quarter points, and Michigan State responded with 22 second-quarter points. In the second half the Badgers and Spartans traded blows, and Wisconsin got the final punch. Michigan State forced the Badgers to punt with a little over a minute to play but a running in to the kicker penalty on fourth and three against Michigan State gave the Badgers a free first down, and with no timeouts remaining Michigan State could do nothing to prevent the inevitable.
Despite the ending, the Big Ten Championship Game set the bar high for the conference championship game moving forward, and easily was the most exciting conference championship game played this weekend.
4. West Virginia likely heading to BCS
If there is one team who has no issues with the BCS system this weekend (besides LSU) it may be West Virginia. The Mountaineers will likely be awarded the Big East’s automatic BCS berth thanks to the highest BCS ranking in a three-way tie with Cincinnati and Louisville. With the three teams splitting the head-to-head-to-head competition this season, the tiebreaker used by the Big East to determine which team goes to the BCS will be BCS standings.
With West Virginia the only team in the BCS top 25 last week, the Mountaineers should feel very confident in knowing they will be representing the conference in a BCS bowl game.
How about a BCS game between West Virginia and TCU? It would probably be the match-up the Big East would least want to see, with the Mountaineers and conference in a legal dispute to determine when West Virginia can begin play in the Big 12 and TCU taking back their commitment to join the Big East in 2012 to join the Big 12 next season.
5. But wait, there’s one more!
Is there a better way to wrap up the college football regular season and bridge the gap to the bowl season than with Army and Navy? It is one of the best traditions in college football and it continues next weekend with the annual match-up. This year the game will be played in Washington D.C. instead of Philadelphia but no matter the location or venue it will prove to be a great day for college football because the Army Navy Game represents everything that is good about college football.
There may be more intense rivalries in the game, but none bring the sense of pride and pageantry as Army-Navy. Neither of these service academies will be participating in a bowl game this season so this is also their bowl game.
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