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CBSSports.com Senior College Football Columnist

The Big Picture: LSU-'Bama II may be right call, but a popular one?


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If you were one of the 100,000 people at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, you probably were riveted by what you witnessed Saturday night. Touchdowns? Please. Who needs those to validate what makes an exciting football game? That's such a Big 12 way of looking at things.

No doubt the rest of the nation's college football fans scoffed. They lamented that the "Game of the Century" was a pile of, um, hype and merely exposed two overrated offenses led by underwhelming quarterbacks. And don't get them started about any rematch talk. Who wants to see that again!? Alabama went into overtime with one more point than field goal attempts.

In SEC country, though, they furrow their eyebrows at your lack of understanding and throw out terms like "big boy football," and say if you can't appreciate some nasty defenses, well, you just don't get it and that's why your conference hasn't won five BCS titles in a row. And never will. They'll also be quick to point out, as a few of the writers who cover these teams did late Saturday night: Remember, these were two teams that both averaged more than 39 points per game and were in the top 12 in scoring ... before they had to face each other.

The physical aspect of the game was impressive. LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has spent about 30 years in the SEC, said this was "the most physical, hard-fought game he's ever been involved with."

That is quite a statement given his perspective. One of his star players, loquacious defensive end Sam Montgomery, epitomized the local point a view: "That was a classical game. ..." he said. "That game should've been on pay-per-view.

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"I think the world wants a rematch, honestly. It would be lovely to play such a great team out there again. I think everybody wants a rematch: the media, the people, the fans."

No, not everybody, Sam.

So let's go there now. We're not that far from a scenario where the other undefeateds from the power conferences, Stanford and Oklahoma State, teams with suspect defenses, get knocked off, and then what?

Would Boise State, undefeated and largely untested, get a crack at LSU in the BCS title game? Just in the past few weeks, skepticism about the Broncos' worth seems to be increasing, especially if you turn on your TV and listen to the pundits. Of course, it's worth noting that other top 15 teams keep getting more challenges as the season wears on while Boise hammers away at the UNLVs, Air Forces, Colorado States and Fresno States, who as any SEC fan will tell you, got beat at home by Ole Miss, the worst in the SEC.

That said, there is an intriguing framework in play for the people who potentially will help create the BCS matchup: Do pollsters opt for the matchup they want or reward the most deserving team? My hunch is this year, more than any other, it's not the same thing, and we could drift into some uncharted waters.

Who else along with Boise is jockeying for position with Alabama now?

 Oklahoma, a team that has beaten FSU, which fizzled when it came to living up to preseason hype, a young Texas team and K-State. Problem is, OU also lost at home to mediocre Texas Tech, which has been blown out at home by Iowa State. Would knocking off Oklahoma State be enough? I doubt it.

 Oregon, a team that LSU beat by two touchdowns? OK, let's stop there. That'd be the end of that.

I'll admit I think Alabama is a better team that Boise. The Tide is much more physical and would wear the Broncos down by halftime. Trent Richardson would run all over Boise, which hasn't seen an O-line or a back anywhere near as tough as what Alabama has. But I am very curious to see what Kellen Moore would be able to do against an elite defense, especially one that Chris Petersen's staff would have a month to get ready for. The Broncos, after all, have held up quite well whenever they have gotten on the bigger stage. I also suspect there are a lot of people who feel the same way, and they don't only live in Idaho.

This intrigue has only grown over the past two years. SEC folks hate it, but deep down, some of them probably would love the chance to snuff it out once and for all. But would the pollsters act accordingly and look to craft such a matchup?

We'll see. For now, a few other things would need to happen. Like Oregon beating Stanford next week and OU, which now has lost its top WR (Ryan Broyles) and top RB (Dom Whaley), defeat rival OSU. LSU also has to avoid stubbing its toe, which won't be easy since Arkansas is still on the schedule.

This is the first week where the BCS official rankings will get interesting.

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 My Heisman top five isn't changing from last week although Richardson didn't relent in his pursuit of Andrew Luck. The 'Bama star was impressive, but didn't do enough to take over.

1. Luck; 2. Richardson; 3. Case Keenum; 4. Kellen Moore; 5. Brandon Weeden.

Rick Neuheisel pulls UCLA into the Pac-12 South driver's seat. (Getty Images)  
Rick Neuheisel pulls UCLA into the Pac-12 South driver's seat. (Getty Images)  
 Hats off to Rick Neuheisel and UCLA for bouncing back from that dreadful performance on national TV at Arizona a few weeks back. The Bruins beat a good Arizona State team Saturday night and now are in the driver's seat to win the Pac-12 South. Of course, they'd have to upset archrival USC to do it, but give the Bruins this: They have a lot more fight in them than most of us thought.

Asked just how low, how many feet deep the Bruins were some 17 days earlier, QB Kevin Prince, according to Jon Gold, told reporters after the game: "Five and a half?"

Turning a team around when everyone else around you is saying you're about to get fired is the hardest thing for a college coach to do. The atmosphere becomes toxic, especially since you're dealing with 18- and 19-year-olds. Given the momentum they have now, the Bruins should beat Utah and Colorado to get to 7-4 heading into the game against USC. That may be enough to keep Neuheisel around. Honestly, how many people would've seen that coming after the Arizona game? Not me.

 Texas looks like it's starting to figure things out. Granted the Longhorns have dominated two very shaky teams the past few weeks, but they have become more physical and established an identity on offense, developing a bruising running game. Freshman sledgehammer RB Joe Bergeron who stepped in for the injured Malcolm Brown (turf toe) battered Texas Tech, setting the tone as UT again eclipsed the 400-yard rushing mark, giving Texas back-to-back 400-yard games for the first time in 34 years.

Bergeron has gained 327 yards in the past six quarters.

Over the past two games, Texas has rushed for 880 yards and 11 TDs on 126 carries for a 7-yard average. Meanwhile, Longhorns opponents have gained only 28 yards on 47 carries. Again, the opponents weren't good, but keep in mind, UT is playing 18 true freshmen, more than any other team in the country, and 10 of its 22 starters on the field Saturday were underclassmen, including four of those freshmen.

 Sad to see Oklahoma's great Ryan Broyles' college career end with a torn ACL. Broyles could've left for the NFL last year. Now he has to rehab his knee and this obviously won't help his draft stock, but if you talk to anyone who has even been around the WR, they won't doubt his return.

 As I wrote last week, Texas A&M fans have to be concerned about the prospect of Mike Sherman being the coach as A&M braces for the move to the SEC. The Aggies have had too many second-half meltdowns this season, and the performance Saturday against OU by now was hardly surprising. They were only trailing 13-10 at half, but were outscored 28-0 in the third quarter. This team has too much talent on offense to keep firing blanks like this in the second half. A&M is 5-4 and staring at a possible 1-4 stretch to close the regular season.

 Lamar Miller became Miami's first 1,000-yard back since 2002 (Willis McGahee). That's a long, long time for a program that has cranked out some fantastic RBs in the past 15 years. It also covers a stretch of five different offensive coordinators.

 Stat of the Day: There are 12 teams that are holding opponents below 100 yards rushing per game. All but two have winning records. One of those two is 4-5 UConn. The other is 2-7 Louisiana-Monroe. ULM, which only has one win over FBS competition, is 11th in the nation in run defense. They're also only 80th in scoring defense. That's a pretty odd combo.

Bruce Feldman is a senior writer for CBSSports.com and college football commentator for CBS Sports Network. He is a New York Times Bestselling author, who has written books including Swing Your Sword, Meat Market and Cane Mutiny. Prior to joining CBS, Feldman spent 17 years at ESPN.

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