LOS ANGELES -- Southern California believes it should be in the BCS.
"I hope everyone was paying attention and saw the score," said Trojans quarterback Carson Palmer after his team's 44-13 demolition of Notre Dame on Saturday. "They need to know that we're for real now. We are definitely worthy of being a BCS team."
|Dodd's Power Poll|
|(week of Dec. 1)|
|2. Ohio State|
|6. Washington State|
|7. Kansas State|
|9. Penn State|
|13. Notre Dame|
|15. North Carolina State|
|16. Florida State|
|17. West Virginia|
|18. Virginia Tech|
|21. Boise State|
|23. South Florida|
|Non-BCS Top 10|
|1. Boise State|
|2. South Florida|
|6. Colorado State|
|7. Northern Illinois|
Stop the stumping, for now. The Trojans are a BCS bowl team. Locked in, as a matter of fact, unless Miami loses its season finale to Virginia Tech. The new BCS ratings Monday will most likely show the Trojans have moved up to No. 4. If Miami wins, that position will hold, and the Trojans will clinch a BCS at-large berth.
Oh, but the horror that looms. Some team(s) or some bowl(s) is/are likely to be more than disappointed when the final BCS ratings are released next Sunday.
Start with the fact that the New York Times rankings have the Trojans (10-2) No. 1, ahead of undefeated Miami and Ohio State and one-loss wonders Georgia and Iowa.
"This is worse," BCS expert Jerry Palm said Sunday, "than the nightmare scenario with four unbeaten teams."
While they are sitting pretty at USC, they're sweating big time, or should be, at Iowa. The Orange Bowl is involved. So is the Rose Bowl. That 800-pound bowl gorilla -- you know it as Notre Dame -- might be in the best shape of all.
"I can make a case for us going to a BCS bowl," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said Saturday night, still stinging from the USC defeat. "This one game cannot be a true indicator."
True, but at what cost? Tearing asunder the traditional Rose Bowl matchup? Sending a four-loss team 3,000 miles to play in a game next to no one wants to see (Washington State vs. Florida State)?
The Fiesta Bowl seems set with Miami facing Ohio State. But below that, a case can be made for the BCS being as confusing -- and uncomfortable for certain participants -- as at any time in its five-year history.
|Tyrone Willingham can make a case that his Irish deserve a BCS bid.(AP)|
That's where some tough decisions have to be made. If the Orange picks Notre Dame (10-2), then the other at-large team has to be USC if Washington State defeats UCLA to clinch a Rose Bowl berth. That means there is no place in the BCS for the Big Ten co-champ, Iowa.
Two weeks ago, they were tossing around Roses in Iowa City. Right now, the Hawkeyes' fate might lie in the Citrus Bowl.
That scenario would no doubt anger Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-10 officials, who will have seen their traditional matchup go away for the second year in a row. Two years ago, the Pac-10 threatened to pull out of the BCS if Oregon State wasn't invited to a BCS bowl.
If Washington State beats UCLA this week -- no tap-in for the injury-riddled Cougars -- then the Rose is looking at an opening that could be filled by Oklahoma, Florida State or Notre Dame.
Really, it wouldn't matter if the 1966 Packers were available to the Rose Bowl. Breaking up the holy Pac-10/Big Ten alliance is akin to staining a wedding dress. Remember, there were Rose traditionalists last year that were peeved the national championship game was held in Pasadena.
That's how revered the game is by those who hold it dear.
"I understand the traditional matchups, and how that plays a part in it," said Keith Tribble, executive director of the Orange Bowl. "I think when we signed on to this four years ago, we all knew that some of those traditions that we once had would be taken away. We had (many) years where we had the Big Eight champion. We had to give up that. We knew going into this that sometimes you might not get that exactly, quote -- "tradition" -- and I can understand that."
How did it all happen so fast? First, USC should give thanks to Oklahoma. By tanking against Oklahoma State for the second consecutive year, the Sooners allowed the Trojans to move up to No. 4. BCS rules guarantee that any conference non-champion rated No. 3 or No. 4 is guaranteed a BCS bowl. USC, finished with its season, has done all it can.
On one hand, it's rooting for UCLA to beat Washington State so it would win the Pac-10 and go to the Rose Bowl. Short of that, a Miami victory over Virginia Tech would probably clinch an at-large berth. But where?
Tribble, whose selection committee will meet on Monday, is saying all the right things as of now.
"The only thing that has changed at this point is an 11-1 Notre Dame would have been a real good selection, almost an absolute," Tribble said. "Right now, I think because of the loss, they're in the same picture as the other 10-2 teams in the country. A lot of things can happen. We're going to put them on the board just like the other 10-2 teams."
The best thing for the Orange Bowl is that it is still in the same position it was before Saturday. Notre Dame is still available. In years when it doesn't have the national championship game, the Orange struggles to fill seats. The bowl can be thankful that, despite the 31-point thrashing, the Irish didn't drop out of the BCS top 12 and out of BCS bowl eligibility.
Key questions seem to be hanging in the air. Does the Orange take Notre Dame and its legion of fans and national television appeal or appease the Rose Bowl? USC officials visited both the Sugar and Orange bowls last week making a case for their program. It was wise marketing. No Pac-10 team has ever played in the Sugar Bowl. Only one, Washington, has ever played in the Orange.
Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday his conference would kick in $500,000 to "subsidize" the Trojans' trip to South Florida. The assumption is that the money would be used to make up for any ticket shortfall the Orange might suffer by not picking Notre Dame.
"You want a team that is going to sell tickets, have a lot of fans, bring a lot of interest," Tribble said, "a team that is going to have good media appeal. If you get all those wrapped up in one, you've got an ideal team."
So the Orange, Sugar and Rose could become a mish-mosh of last-minute dealings in order to get the right matchups for everybody. In that respect, not much has changed from the pre-BCS days. Remember this: Amid all the BCS rules and exceptions is the fact that BCS officials -- after the national championship game -- reserve the right to do whatever they want to get the best games.
The backroom deals of the past might be back. One source close to a BCS bowl theorized that a bowl could agree to take a less desirable team this year in return for a promise of favorable treatment from commissioners the next time BCS bowls bid on participating in the system.
What is benefiting USC right now is hamstringing the BCS and potentially screwing Iowa (11-1). The so-called "Kansas State Rule" was adopted after the 1998 season. The then-undefeated Wildcats went to the Big 12 title game, lost to Texas A&M and found themselves shut out of a BCS bowl. It played in the Alamo Bowl at 11-1. After that, it was decided that any team rated No. 3 or No. 4 that didn't win its conference outright could grab a BCS berth.
"It took away the flexibility of the bowls," Palm said. "Why should Kansas State have to go? Why does USC have to go. They don't have to go."
As always, there are many possibilities before the regular season ends on Saturday:
What if UCLA beats Washington State?
The BCS fathers are praying for that result, because it would make everything nice and tidy. USC would go to the Rose Bowl as the outright Pac-10 champ. The Orange Bowl would be free to pick Notre Dame without a bit of controversy. The Rose would then pick Iowa to keep the traditional matchup intact.
Notre Dame most likely would play Oklahoma. Florida State would play Georgia in the Sugar.
What if both Miami and Georgia lose on Saturday?
This is the most interesting scenario. There is the possibility that the No. 1 Hurricanes could still make it to the Fiesta Bowl after losing . It depends on how far they would drop in the polls.
The double loss most probably would create a three-way race for the Fiesta Bowl between Miami, USC and, believe it or not, Iowa. All hope is not lost for the Hawkeyes.
"It depends on how far Miami falls," Palm said, "(but) I couldn't tell you who would be in second or third place?"
What if just Miami loses?
This is the one USC should be worried about. If Miami falls in the polls between Iowa (No. 3 in both polls) and USC (No. 5 in both), then the Trojans could be knocked out of the No. 4 BCS spot.
Assuming Georgia wins, the Bulldogs would move up to the Fiesta Bowl to play Ohio State. Miami stays an at-large team, most likely in the Sugar. The Rose, with the first pick, would take Iowa to match against Washington State.
After that, the three remaining holes would be filled by some combination of Florida State, Notre Dame, USC and Oklahoma (if it wins the Big 12).
What if Oklahoma loses the Big 12 title game?
Colorado pulled the upset last year, so don't count it out, especially against what at this point seems to be a rudderless Oklahoma program. Win or lose against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma would have been out of the BCS rotation if it loses to Colorado in the Big 12 championship game. So nothing has changed there.
But Colorado is the poison pill that no BCS bowl wants. It doesn't travel well and would hold little national appeal at 10-3. The Buffs were a sexy Fiesta pick last year because they beat Nebraska and could have made a claim for a national title game berth.
This time? Colorado-Notre Dame in the Orange is mildly interesting. So is Colorado-Florida State. But now that Chris Brown has ceased to be a Heisman candidate, what little appeal Colorado had as ticket and TV draw is gone.
What if Miami wins and Georgia loses the SEC title?
Arkansas would bring a load of fans to New Orleans or South Florida, so not much is lost there. In fact, having the Razorbacks in the BCS would be a feel-good story that matched LSU's run last season.
This scenario, however, doesn't resolve the Notre Dame-USC-Iowa problem. Either Notre Dame or Iowa would be left out.
"Unfortunately, I think that's going to happen every year," Tribble said, echoing the inherent flaw of the BCS, "somebody is going to be left out."
What about rematches?
Because Notre Dame already has played Florida State and USC in the regular season, that makes it more difficult to place all three teams neatly. While there is not specific language in the BCS against it, regular-season rematches are despised in the bowl community.
Among the BCS "criteria" for moving teams is "two teams that played against one another in the most recently completed college football season."
That means Washington State-USC (Rose), Notre Dame-USC or Notre Dame-Florida State games (both Orange) are highly unlikely.
This week's very tenuous BCS projections:
- Fiesta: Miami vs. Ohio State.
- Orange: Notre Dame vs. Georgia.
- Sugar: Florida State vs. USC.
- Rose: Washington State vs. Oklahoma.
Scoping the nation
The Big 12 coaches decided to release their all-conference team last week. On it were two Oklahoma first-teamers, Derek Strait and Brandon Everage. The coach of the year is Bill Snyder of Kansas State.
In their mad rush to get the team out, the coaches and conference might have done a disservice to fans and athletes. The Oklahoma secondary played a horrible game Saturday, getting beaten by long passes all day in the Sooners' inexplicable 38-28 loss to Oklahoma State.
Because of that result, a good case could be made for Oklahoma State's Les Miles being coach of the year. The Cowboys beat Texas A&M, Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same season for the first time. Since 1946, the Cowboys have won a total of eight games against Oklahoma and Nebraska. Miles has three of those victories.
As much praise is heaped on Bob Stoops, Miles seems to have his number. The Cowboys have a load of talent coming back next year, including receiver Rashaun Woods, who caught three touchdown passes from Josh Fields.
It was Woods who was left off the all-Big 12 first-team last year after the team was released before the Cowboys' 16-13 upset in Norman. He made it this time before catching 12 balls for a school-record 226 yards.
"We are on the rise," Woods said. "It's obvious now we are a program on the rise."
The assumption is that the coaches wanted their team out early in time for recruiting. But what does it matter when the wrong players (and possibly coach) are being selected? ...
Saturday was an embarrassment for Brent Musburger. He spent three hours on Miami's national telecast pumping Ken Dorsey for the Heisman, often with sarcastic comments for Heisman voters who would not vote for him.
Check yourself, Brent. Even within that game, an argument can be made for running back Willis McGahee being the best player on the field (14 rushes, 134 yards). After completing his first 10 passes, Dorsey connected on only six of his next 15 in a 49-7 rout of Syracuse.
Here we go again, making a case against the superb Dorsey by using one of his own teammates as evidence.
Yeah, it's sometimes ridiculous, but not as ridiculous as Musburger's short-sighted analysis. Later that night, on his own network, Carson Palmer had a better game and made a bigger Heisman statement.
Memo to Heisman voters: Dorsey might well win the Heisman, but wait until after Saturday's games to make your decision. Despite the breathless exhortations from Brent, the race is still close. ...
Maybe there is something to this West Coast bias thing. Dorsey did his thing against the second-worst pass defense in the country. Palmer threw for 425 yards, the most ever against Notre Dame, against the nation's No. 5 defense.
Palmer has a better arm, more yards and more touchdowns. If you want to bring up the career achievement thing then consider this: Palmer is the Pac-10's all-time leading passer, too.
What's worse is that a large portion of the country didn't see Palmer. The USC-Notre Dame game was seen by only 75 percent of the country. Even if shut-out viewers in the Eastern time zone could have seen Palmer's magic, the game ended 45 minutes before midnight back East.
The other 25 percent got Florida-Florida State.
"I was flipping around, flipping around trying to find it," said Byron Putnam, a producer for the Carolina Panthers radio network in Charlotte, N.C. "I had guys calling me saying, 'Man, where is the USC-Notre Dame game?' What's worse is, when they found out it wasn't on, they were so mad they didn't watch anything. They turned it (television) off." ...
As long as we're talking the Heisman being a career achievement award, Marshall's Byron Leftwich became the MAC career passing leader with 401 yards against Ball State. ...
If Notre Dame is shut out of a BCS bowl it most likely will play North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. ...
One of the most inconsistent teams of the season had to be Louisville (7-5). The Cardinals beat Florida State in that famous Thursday night game but concluded their season Saturday by losing to Houston (5-7) 27-10. The Cougars lost their coach (Dana Dimel, fired) during the week and were muddling through a horrible season before rising up to beat Louisville.
Cardinals coach John L. Smith remains a candidate to take over at Baylor. ...
Pencil in West Virginia (9-3) in the 2003 preseason top 25. The Mountaineers clinched second place in the Big East with a 24-17 victory at Pittsburgh. It marked the eighth time in the past 11 years, West Virginia has won the "Backyard Brawl." A case can be made for Rich Rodriguez being Big East coach of the year. ...
All this stuff about Florida State (9-4) not deserving a BCS berth? Forget it. The rules are set up to reward conference champions. The Seminoles might have stumbled along the way but they had the best record in the ACC. They could win 10 games (again) after a turbulent year with a victory in their BCS bowl game. ...
You keep the drunks off the sidelines and Hawaii loses a lot of its "intimidation factor." Alabama rolled 21-16 against the Warriors, clinching its 27th 10-victory season. ...
Despite their team getting waxed by Texas on Friday 50-20, Texas A&M boosters are torn on the fate of coach R.C. Slocum. After the death of a player last week, it would be beyond heartless to fire Slocum immediately after the season. Let's hope R.C. gets another chance. ...
Larry Coker's explanation of the fake punt called late in the game against Syracuse should be accepted for what it is: honest. With the Hurricanes leading 35-7, Miami punter Freddie Capshaw threw a 47-yard scoring pass to Sean Taylor out of punt formation.
The remaining crowd of 45,679 booed, thinking Miami was trying to run it up.
"That was regrettable coming at that time in the game," Coker said. "It was an automatic that we had in our game plan, that if the receiver is not covered, we go to him. But, unfortunately, I had forgotten to call it off."
Instead of worrying about running it up, Syracuse fans should worry about getting better players.