Fourteen weeks have gone by in a flash for Weekend Watch List. It seemed just yesterday that Boise State had ruined Virginia Tech's season in suburban Maryland. Boise is toast, Tech has the fourth-longest winning streak and Maryland did the state, suburbs and all, proud.
So many games, so many upsets, so many angles, so much money has changed hands.
Talking about scalpers, people -- scalpers, although back on Labor Day we didn't know Cecil Newton from Isaac Newton. There's a difference. Cecil Newton's third law of motion maintains that a father with his hand out tends to keep his hand out -- until he reaches the Auburn, Ala., city limits.
|A loss in the SEC title game may not be fatal to Auburn's BCS title chances. (Getty Images)|
Nevertheless, the decks are cleared for, and the blue field is no longer a factor in, college football's version of the Final Four in this final weekend. In this case it's a final five, maybe six teams, in the running for the BCS title game. With only three undefeated teams left, one of the few certainties is that for every Cameron there is not an equal and opposite Cameron. Auburn's quarterback is one of a kind.
It's his Heisman, SEC and national championship to lose unless ...
Oregon and Auburn both lose: This is the Armageddon scenario that keeps at least five teams in the hunt. If the top two lose, TCU is in the championship game as the only other unbeaten team. After that, it's hard to tell. No. 5 (in the BCS) Wisconsin would be at a disadvantage because the computers can't decide if Badger is a verb, a noun, a mascot, an animal or a liquored-up student enjoying the Fifth Quarter. In other words, Wisconsin could be No. 2 in the polls but the BCS computers don't much care for it.
That could mean No. 4 Stanford would get the nod, but how do you put the one-loss Cardinal ahead of a one-loss Oregon? The Ducks beat Stanford by 21 on Oct 2. WWL is way ahead you. Yes, either Oregon or Auburn could remain in the top two with a loss. But which one? At least Oregon has won its league. The Pac-10 was clinched last week, but the Ducks would be coming off a "bad" loss to 5-6 Oregon State. With a loss to South Carolina in the SEC title game, the Tigers wouldn't have even won their conference. Of course, that hasn't stopped the BCS before (see Nebraska in 2001, Oklahoma in 2003).
Best guess in the Armageddon scenario? Auburn-TCU, especially if the SEC title game is close.
What if just Oregon loses?: Little chance the Ducks stay ahead of TCU with a loss for the reasons mentioned above. Once again, it's Auburn-TCU.
What if just Auburn loses?: As mentioned, if it's a three-point loss in overtime there will be some feeling by the voters to keep the Fighting Newtons close to the top. Almost any other kind of loss and it's a near impossibility to keep the Horned Frogs out of a game against Oregon. Auburn would have lost to a three-loss team it beat by eight points earlier in the season. Call it Oregon-TCU.
The seasons for Stanford and Wisconsin are complete. Their computer numbers will be affected by remaining opponents that have games. The Cardinal have four 2010 opponents playing Saturday (Oregon State, Oregon, Southern California, UCLA). Wisconsin has three (Arizona State, San Jose State, UNLV).
What Gary Patterson will be doing Saturday: The season is over. TCU can't do any worse than the Rose Bowl. It has already been quite a week for the Horned Frogs. First, they join the Big East. Now, they're a loss away from playing for the national championship. The TCU coach will be hosting a handful of recruits during the Oregon-Oregon State and SEC games.
"I'll duck in and watch and be able to keep up," he said.
Wait, is that duck or Duck?
SEC Championship Game: Until the NCAA intervened this week, WWL thought South Carolina had a chance. Spurrier's magic, revenge, all that. Now that a blue whale -- the world's largest mammal -- has been lifted off Cam Newton's back it's time to go chalk.
South Carolina's best weapon, Marcus Lattimore, is meeting a revved-up Auburn run defense that is ranked 10th. You know about Auburn's best weapon -- the NCAA. (Kidding, I think.)
Goodbye, Nebraska-Oklahoma: This is end of the Big 12 as we know it. Oh sure, it will soldier on with 10 teams after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado, but Saturday's Big 12 Championship Game is really it -- the end of the Big Six, Seven, Eight and Big 12.
There are some partnerships there that are more than a century old. The conference had a family feel to it, at least until Nebraska Fan found a new league. Bud Wilkerson made his name in this conference. So did Phog Allen. Don't forget Billy Sims, Mike Rozier and Steve Owens. A giant piece of history is going to end after the state universities of Nebraska and Oklahoma play a game Saturday in Texas.
The OU-Nebraska rivalry defined the old Big Eight. Every late November, the game seemed to decide something. The teams were so good for so long that they actually played twice during the 1978 season, rematching in the Orange Bowl. Huskers and Sooners. Switzer and Osborne. Johnny Rodgers. Brian Bosworth. The 1971 Game of the Century is still just that, even though we've flipped the calendar to a new millennium.
Call this The Game of the 21st Century -- and tell it goodbye. The formation of the Big 12 sucked the life out of the rivalry. After 1997, the game was played twice every four years. This once-great game is the worst fallout from conference realignment. Tom Osborne wanted to keep OU on the schedule, but it seemed to make sense to divide the Big 12 along geographical lines. From that moment on, it became easier to accept conference expansion. Everywhere. It became easier to see traditions and rivalries melt away like paved-over county two-lane road.
The teams are talking about playing 10 years from now but at last check couldn't finalize an agreement. Take one final, long look Saturday at a rivalry that at one time was just as big as Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn and USC-UCLA. You won't see it again for a long time -- if ever.
As for the Big 12 Championship Game: They call him Big Game Bob for a reason. Bob Stoops is 6-1 in these games. No one else is even close. Four times after those games, OU has played for the national championship. So, yeah, the Big 12 has been good to the Sooners. It will be good to them again.
Bo Pelini is talking about playing two quarterbacks because of Taylor Martinez's tender ankle. But even if T-Magic was healthy, Stoops has a more complete team. Tailback DeMarco Murray is going to try to make a go on his injured knee. Jeremy Beal just became the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. The last Big 12 Championship Game ends with the trophy staying in house.
ACC Championship Game: Who knew when the ACC was formed that Virginia Tech would be the biggest breadwinner? This is the Hokies' third ACC title game in four years. Who knew that Florida State would have struggled this long to get back to the top? There is hope as Jimbo Fisher has won nine games in his first season. Who knew the ACC could sell out its championship game? The past three years there has been an average of 28,000 empty seats.
Not so this year in Charlotte, N.C., where the seats will be sold, and few teams are playing better than Virginia Tech. Take the team led by Tyrod Taylor, who has thrown one interception since Oct. 2.
Conference USA Championship Game: SMU's June Jones continues to work miracles. Two seasons removed from a 1-11 debut, Jones has the Ponies in the C-USA title game. If SMU takes out Central Florida, it would be the school's first conference title since 1984. That would be pre-death penalty.
Big Least: The Fiesta Bowl is looking forward (not) to what Astro Bluebonnet Bowl team will come out of the Big East. For those not familiar with the old Bluebonnet (1959-87, the Astro was added in 1968), it would usually match a pair of random 7-4 teams and televise them on the Mizlou Network. Ask your parents, kids. Let's just say it wasn't ESPN. This brings us back to Glendale, Ariz., where five teams are still in the running for at least a share of the Big East. All five have at least three losses. Connecticut needs only to win at South Florida to win the conference's BCS bowl berth. It could still get there at 7-5.
TCU can't get to the Big East fast enough.
Stick to coaching, Jimmy: Stanford's Jim Harbaugh is upset at hearing that the school's fans don't travel well to bowl games. "I keep getting asked about that," he said, calling the fallout a "conspiracy". As of now it's not an issue. At No. 4, Stanford is automatically qualified for a BCS bowl, most likely the Orange. But Harbaugh ought to look up at the stands. Stanford is 62nd in average attendance, barely above Central Florida and behind the likes of Baylor, Indiana and Kansas.