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Senior College Football Columnist

Weekend Watch List: On big Saturday, no team has more to lose than La. Tech

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Before arranged TV marriages were commonplace in college football, it was Beano Cook who helped convince Texas and Arkansas to move their game in 1969 so it could become the "Game of the Century" in 1969. The man was ahead of his time and as old-school as they get. We'll miss you, Beano ...

Hold Louisiana Tech close to your heart. That is, if you love the BCS. And let's be honest, who doesn't?

The BCS' days are numbered. The same could be said of the BCS buster.

Louisiana Tech is ranked this week for the first time since 1999. An upset of Texas A&M on Saturday would solidify the Bulldogs' spot in the first BCS standings that will be released Sunday. This is important, because Louisiana Tech is about the only BCS-buster left.

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No. 24 Boise State? Part of the establishment now as an annual Top 25 team that has played in two BCS bowls. No. 20 Rutgers? Maybe, but they have a spot reserved if they win the Big East, much like 8-4 UConn did in 2010.

Louisiana Tech may be the last of the Cinderellas. Its conference, the WAC, will be gone after this season. The BCS will be replaced by a playoff in 2014. The way that playoff is being structured, it looks almost less inclusive than the BCS. In certain years, 10 of the 12 spots in the six-bowl structure could be spoken for.

In short, there will be no BCS to bust. The major conferences reshaped the postseason model, "owning" their bowls beginning in 2014. That leaves the so-called Group of Five (Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt, Conference USA, Big East) to market themselves. A seventh bowl may be added to accommodate the highest-ranked of the Group of Five beginning in 2014, but nothing is guaranteed.

With a playoff, the drama of Boise State beating Oklahoma almost certainly will be diminished. In that seventh bowl, the Group of Five participant would be matched against a second-through-fourth selection from the Pac-12 or Big 12. Marshall vs. Washington State anyone?

The refrain from the power brokers is that going to a playoff bracket (top four) will offer more access for the unwashed. Maybe. Using the past 14 years of BCS standings as a guide, it would have happened twice (TCU in 2009 and 2010). TCU is now in the Big 12. Even if you include Cincinnati in 2009 -- the Big East champion has a guaranteed spot only through 2013 -- that's a 5.3 percent success rate (three of a possible 56 spots).

The Bulldogs, then, are in a familiar spot. They have impressive road wins over BCS schools Illinois and Virginia. (Even Boise State didn't knock off BCS opponents in consecutive weeks.) Beating No. 22 Texas A&M would put the Bulldogs within sniffing distance of the top 16 it would take to get to a BCS bowl (if it is ranked higher than a BCS-conference champion).

After A&M, the schedule strength gets worse -- a lot worse -- because of the WAC affiliation. After the Aggies, the Bulldogs will play only one team in the current top 50 (No. 49 San Jose State) in the Sagarin Ratings.

Boise State knows the criticism La. Tech will hear. Nice team but who have they played? The Bulldogs, at 5-0, are legit. They have scored at least 44 points in each game and have won 12 straight regular-season games. Sonny Dykes is one of those up-and-coming coaches who will next be seen in an offensive-minded league like the Pac-12 or Big 12.

"I don't think you can slow them down," Virginia coach Mike London said.

So keep the Bulldogs in your heart. More than that, keep them in the rankings when the BCS standings debut Sunday if they beat the Aggies. No matter what the result, it is not only the beginning of the end for the Bowl Championship Series, but of the BCS buster.

Seasons on the brink

LSU: A week after its 18-game regular-season winning streak ended at Florida, the Tigers (vs. South Carolina) may see their SEC chances end with a second conference loss. The Tigers, though, aren't out of it. If the offense is tweaked just a little bit -- touchdowns instead of field goals -- LSU has the schedule to get back into the championship race with South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State and a possible SEC title game.

Texas and Oklahoma: The Red River Rivalry is somewhat off the radar, with both teams coming in with a conference loss for the first time since 2007. National title hopes for each look all but over.

Instead, this is a really cool, tense, hate-filled, beer-fueled Big 12 elimination game. This is only the third time in the 15 years since Mack Brown came to Texas that that both teams come into the game with a loss. The loser faces the prospect of playing for pride in the Big 12.

Notre Dame: Almost halfway through the season we have to accept that the Irish are for real. Stanford, too. A Cardinal offense that successfully rotates three freshmen through the offensive line takes on the No. 13 defense.

Wisconsin: A 10-2 season is still a possibility. But if the Badgers lose at Purdue, suddenly the Boilermakers have the upper hand in the Leaders Division. This is so only because Ohio State and Penn State can't go bowling.

Louisville: The Cardinals play their first Big East game in the season's seventh week at Pittsburgh. This has been a year of renewal for the Cards and ultra-hot coach Charlie Strong. Why does WWL get a nagging upset feeling?

Kansas State: Iowa State has upset a ranked team in three consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. Kansas State's BCS bowl (and Big 12) hopes may go pfft if the Cyclones make it four in a row. K-State has won the past four meetings by no more than eight points. It's the nation's least-penalized team (Wildcats) vs. Iowa State's stout defense (115.8 yards per game).

Geno Smith: The Heisman front-runner (at Texas Tech) proved he could take a punch last week vs. Texas. WWL was wondering when a defense was going to smack West Virginia's quarterback in the mouth. It happened against the Longhorns as the Mountaineers allowed as many sacks (four) as they had all season. Smith persevered to lead the Mountaineers to a three-point win in their first road game. The Texas Tech defense, filleted last week by Oklahoma, takes another step up in class. The Red Raiders are looking revenge from the last meeting: 7-6, West Virginia in the 1938 Sun Bowl.

Texas A&M: The La. Tech game was moved from opening week because of Hurricane Isaac. That meant the Aggies have to play 12 consecutive weeks. This one comes in Week 6 of that slog between an emotional win at Ole Miss and a home game against LSU.

"I don't know how [this can be] a trap game to us," Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said. "We haven't really accomplished anything."

Halfway hot seat

Remember when you won a national championship and earned some sort of lifetime pass? Not at Auburn, where it's a weekly soap opera with Gene Chizik, if nothing else because Big Brother in T-Town is applying constant pressure. The Tigers are 1-4, the SEC's second-worst record, heading to Ole Miss. They are trying to overcome the "shame" of losing at home to Arkansas. Back away from the talk show, Tiger Fan, and listen to some sense. You have neither the money nor the right timing to make a move. It would take at least $10 million to buy out Chizik and install a new staff.

If Bobby Petrino is your favorite, you deserve everything you might get. Everything. That's a volatile package.

Take a deep breath and ride it out Aubie. There isn't a team on your schedule you can't beat until the Iron Bowl. That includes home games against Texas A&M and Georgia.

Other coaches who should watch their backs as the halfway point approaches:

John L. Smith, Arkansas: A given. Start tracking AD Jeff Long's search on flightaware.com.

Joker Phillips, Kentucky: Only slightly more secure than Smith. Arkansas could get two SEC coaches fired if the Wildcats don't beat the Hogs this week.

Jeff Tedford, Cal: Just 2-4 in his 11th season heading to what might be -- for him -- a must-win at Washington State.

Derek Dooley, Tennessee: Will coach from the press box after hip surgery. He could use a speedy recovery and an upset at Mississippi State.

Go-to (quote) guy

If you're worrying about the state of Missouri heading into Saturday's clash with No. 1 Alabama, best to go to Tigers receiver/spokesman T.J. Moe. Missouri is 0-3 in its first year in the SEC. After losing to Vanderbilt, it faces the prospect of not wining a conference game as a rookie in the nation's toughest league.

"How many people get an opportunity to play a team like Alabama?" Moe said. "The way our season is going, it's our opportunity to be an Iowa State of last year. Somebody does it every year, knock off the No. 1 team. It would definitely be an upset."

Moe was referring to the Cyclones' upset of then-No. 2 Oklahoma State last season. So Missouri is the Iowa State of the SEC?

BCS preview

No doubt, you know that the first BCS standings will be released Sunday. Now be prepared for them to mean little.

In the previous 14 first-week BCS standings, the teams that debuted 1-2 finished that way exactly twice (Southern California-Texas in 2005 and LSU-Alabama in 2011). Only six times did the initial 1-2 contain the eventual BCS champion. Five other times the first set of 1-2 teams contained the championship game loser.

Here's how Jerry Palm sees it going into Saturday.

Stat package

Baylor (vs. TCU) has scored at least 45 points in eight straight games and gained 500-plus yards in total offense in 10 consecutive games. ... K-State's Collin Klein has passed and rushed for at least one touchdown 13 times in the past two seasons. ... Who needs Geno Smith for Heisman? West Virginia receiver Stedman Bailey is No. 1 nationally in scoring, No. 2 in receiving yards per game and No. 3 in receptions per game. ... Congratulations to Oregon State, in the AP top 10 for the first time in 11 years. Now the Beavers have to go to BYU without injured quarterback Sean Mannion. ... Since Jan. 8, 2010, there has been a unanimous No. 1 in AP seven times. Those seven occurrences are divided between Alabama and LSU. ... If Alabama beats Missouri, the Tide could have their seventh week ranked No. 1 in the BCS. That would tie for fifth all-time with Florida, Miami and Florida State. ... The SEC, ACC and Big 12 each have placed 11 teams in the BCS standings all-time. ... Florida (at Vanderbilt) is the only FBS team not to allow a fourth-quarter point this season (41-0). The Gators allowed 86 fourth-quarter points last season.


Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.
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