After a 2011 season that has gone by at warp speed, we could be headed to one of the mother of all finishes. With one more Saturday to go, these burning questions remain to be answered:
Will we have an LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS Championship Game? If the No. 1 Tigers beat Georgia in the SEC title game, it sure looks that way. It will come down to the voters in the human polls, and they will fall into two camps:
Camp No. 1 will just use the old-fashioned eye test and say: "I don't care if they are from the same division of the same conference. I don't care if they've already played this season. Alabama and LSU are the best two teams in the country and I'm voting them in. I think the coaches are more likely to do that."
|More on college football|
Camp No. 2 doesn't want a rematch for the national championship game, period. And they sure as heck don't want two teams from the same conference playing for the title. And they sure as heck don't want two teams from the SEC playing for that championship. They are sick and tired of the SEC. So if No. 3 Oklahoma State beats No. 10 Oklahoma and gives them a logical alternative, they will change their votes late Saturday night.
But will there be enough of them?
And if that happens, how large will the nuclear explosion be that comes from the state of Alabama? Those questions will finally be answered, gentle readers, on Sunday night.
Here is what we learned during Rivalry Week:
1. Keep an eye on the points, not the rankings: As expected, Oklahoma State (10-1) moved up to No. 3 when the new BCS standings were released Sunday night. When you're trying to gauge whether Oklahoma State can catch Alabama, look at the total points in the two human polls. Last week Alabama had 4,171 combined points in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris interactive poll. Oklahoma State had 3,423 points, so Alabama had an advantage of 748 points.
In Sunday's polls, Alabama's margin over Oklahoma State had shrunk by 240 points to 508. That is still a pretty good gap.
Alabama is No. 2 and Oklahoma State is No. 3 in the computer polls. But if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma and just one of the computers flips and moves the Cowboys to No. 2, then the two teams will be in a dead heat.
Saturday is going to be very, very interesting.
2. With all due respect to Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley is the best quarterback in the Pac-12 right now.
Barkley, the Southern California junior, has just played lights-out in the second half of the season.
Saturday night Barkley completed 19 of his first 20 passes and finished with a school-record 35 completions in 42 attempts in a 50-0 thumping of UCLA.
In the last six games of the 2011 season, which could be the last six games of his college career, Barkley threw 23 touchdown passes with just two interceptions while completing 70 percent of his attempts.
Selfishly, I'd love to see him come back to college football, but his stock may never be higher than it is right now.
3. College football is just a better game because of kids like Matt Roark: If this story doesn't make you all feel warm and fuzzy, then you have no heart.
Kentucky was having a miserable season as it prepared for its last game against Tennessee. At 4-7, the Wildcats knew their six-year streak of bowl appearances was coming to an end. Second-year coach Joker Phillips was already starting to get some heat. And to top things off, Kentucky's top two quarterbacks had bad shoulders and could not answer the bell against Tennessee, which had beaten the Wildcats for 26 consecutive years. But offensive coordinator Randy Sanders and wide receivers coach Tee Martin (who led Tennessee to the 1998 national championship) hatched a plan. Wide receiver Matt Roark had not played quarterback since he was a senior at North Cobb High School in Acworth, Ga., where Tee Martin was his quarterbacks coach. Over the course of a day and a half, Sanders and Martin put together a bare-bones offense of stuff they knew Roark (pronounced RORK) could do.
"We just decided not to make it too complicated," Martin said.
On Monday Sanders told Roark to be ready to play some quarterback against Tennessee and on Tuesday Martin told Roark he would probably start the game. Roark had only 51 plays on his wrist band when the game started. Roark rushed for 124 yards without turning the ball over. Kentucky beat Tennessee (10-7) for the first time since 1984. Roark's last college game was his only college start at quarterback. And when it was over, he was carried off the field by his teammates.
"It was one of the most unbelievable things I've ever seen," Martin said.
4. I've got Trent Richardson at the top of my Heisman list: Back in August I picked the junior running back from Alabama to win the Heisman Trophy. I can't see anyone else more deserving after watching Richardson go for 203 yards against Auburn, which included a breathtaking 57-yard run where he literally hand-chucked Auburn defensive back Neiko Thorpe out of his way. With 1,583 yards in 12 games, his numbers are ahead of the pace Mark Ingram set in winning Alabama's first Heisman Trophy in 2009. Ingram had the benefit of playing in the SEC Championship Game. Richardson will not. It will be a close vote with Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffith III.
5. Clemson is really limping into the ACC Championship Game: Once upon a time Clemson was 8-0 and ranked No. 6 in the BCS. Now the Tigers are 9-3 after losing three of their last four to Georgia Tech, North Carolina. State and non-conference South Carolina. Clemson could be on a four-game losing streak, and in its only win (31-28 against Wake Forest) in November, the Deacons had a 14-point lead; Clemson had to kick a field goal on the last play of the game to win. The current stretch, which has been marked with porous defense and too many turnovers on offense, does not engender a whole lot of confidence as the Tigers go to Charlotte to face No. 5 Virginia Tech (11-1) in the ACC title game. Virginia Tech's only loss was 23-3 to Clemson in Blacksburg on Oct. 1. It is fair to say the Hokies will be favored this time around. Frank Beamer's bunch will be going for its fifth ACC championship since joining the conference in 2004.
Watch the Tony Barnhart Show on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network.