What We Learned: As top of BCS holds, bottom may lead to armageddon


Five things we learned with one Saturday to go in the regular season:

BCS armageddon possible, thanks to MAC

Here's one of the things that drives you absolutely crazy about the BCS. Just when you get the top of the standings figured out and things seem to be going chalk, you forget about the bottom of the standings. And the bottom of the BCS is where the action was on Saturday because these teams all lost:

No. 15 Oregon State, No. 16 Texas, No. 17 UCLA, No. 18 Rutgers, No. 19 Michigan, No. 20 Louisville, No. 21 Oklahoma State.

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Why do we care? Trust me. If you're an Oklahoma fan, you care. Because all those losses have opened the door for the Kent State Golden Flashes (11-1) to take one of the BCS at-large spots that is usually reserved for one of the big boys.

It's pretty simple: Because of all those losses, Kent State jumped from No. 23 to No. 17 in Sunday's BCS standings. If it beats Northern Illinois in the MAC title game and gets to No. 16 in the final BCS standings this Sunday, and it finishes ahead of the Big East champ (there is no Big East team in the Top 25), then Kent State, Nick Saban's alma mater, gets one of the coveted at-large bids. Kent State either will be in the Sugar Bowl, where it will likely play No. 4 Florida, or the Orange Bowl, where it will play the ACC champion (probably Florida State).

Yes, this is the same Kent State team that lost to Kentucky (0-8 in the SEC) by 33 points in September.

I won't get too deep into the weeds on this but if Kent State gets in, I have Oklahoma (10-2) getting left out. And if Rutgers beats Louisville on Thursday and claims the Big East championship, the Sugar Bowl's choices to play Florida will be Rutgers and Kent State.

Oh my. My buddy Tim Brando loves to have such a fly in the ointment to create utter chaos in the BCS. Well, Kent State ain't a fly. It is a 600-pound elephant that could have some bowl reps hemming and hawing come Sunday night.

Let's just say a lot of people are going to be pulling for No. 21 Northern Illinois in that MAC Championship Game in Detroit.

O'Brien is my coach of the year

Remember when Penn State started 0-2, with losses to Ohio and Virginia? It looked like Penn State's football team might win 2-3 games at best. But after Saturday's win over Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions are 8-4. A big part of coaching is holding things together when it looks like the whole world is trying to pull you apart. Getting those players to believe in themselves and to keep playing hard week after week is what coaching is all about.

There have been a lot of great coaching jobs this year. What Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M has been remarkable. Will Muschamp has the Florida Gators at least a year ahead of schedule. Urban Meyer went 12-0 in his first season at Ohio State when nobody thought that was possible. Mark Richt held his team together after a 35-7 loss to South Carolina and now the Bulldogs are one game away from a shot at the national championship.

But Bill O'Brien is my coach of the year.

Irish earned BCS title game

I am on record many times saying Notre Dame would never win another championship unless the school joined a conference. But the Fighting Irish are within one game of proving me dead wrong. That goal-line stand against USC on Saturday night was nothing but guts personified and it put the perfect exclamation point to Notre Dame's regular-season march to the BCS title game. I have seen a lot of teams over the years where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts and the players just simply find a way to win. Notre Dame has done it 12 times this season. It's simple: Brian Kelly's team is just really, really tough.

If Bama were 6-6, Chizik would still have job

I have a lot of Auburn friends and it was tough watching them suffer through what has been a historically bad (3-9, 0-8 SEC) season. But Auburn's suffering is made exponentially worse by the fact that Alabama is now one victory (against Georgia) away from playing for its third BCS national championship in four seasons.

It is painful to be on the losing end of that rivalry in that state. It is painful to turn on the Paul Finebaum Show and listen to the Alabama fans pound on you and make fun of you day after day. It's painful to hear them call you "Little Brother." It's painful when Alabama's Nick Saban takes a knee at the five-yard line (as he did last Saturday) because he feels sorry for you. So you fire the coach, who won a national championship two years ago, and hope somebody new can alleviate the suffering. Good luck with that.

Johnny Football may have locked up Heisman

There is a first time for everything. Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007. Sooner or later a freshman was going to have to win it. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M might as well be the first. Manziel, a redshirt freshman, completed 32 of 44 passes for 374 yards against Missouri. He was responsible for five touchdowns. He came back from a knee injury and never missed a beat. Tebow broke the SEC record for total offense in a season with 4,181 yards in 2007. He won the Heisman. Two years later Cam Newton broke that record with 4,327 yards. Newton won the Heisman.

Now Manziel owns the SEC record with an even 4,600 yards (3,419 passing, 1,181 rushing). How can he not win?

Watch the Tony Barnhart Show on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on the CBS Sports Network.

Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.

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