National championship should excite, but this year’s BCS lineup is a snoozer

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As far as the BCS championship is concerned, viewers are going to get the game they want: Alabama vs. Notre Dame.

You couldn’t pack more hate or intrigue into a single game. In one corner, you have the Tide appearing in its third title game in four years. A win would instantly bring about the term “dynasty” and there simply is no other team that represents the face of SEC dominance in college football like Alabama right now. And the insufferable “S-E-C!” chants? You better believe they’ll be loud and clear if Alabama hoists another crystal football.

In the other corner, you have the Irish. What bass-ackwards, Twilight Zone do we live in where Notre Dame — you know, the irrelevant yet extremely relevant program with its own TV deal and privileged bowl agreement — can be the team to give the SEC its comeuppance?

You can understand why any college football site *ahem* would be giddy about such a match-up for the next four weeks (hint: page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and page views and…).

Or, Jan. 7 will roll around and the game could be a total bust. Nobody in the right mind hopes that it is, but with the rest of the BCS slate looking rather ehhhhhh, the national title can have season-defining qualities.

Oh sure, there are other intriguing storylines. The Fiesta Bowl pits Kansas State and Oregon, two teams that could have met in a nonconference game that wasn’t and at one time last month looked to be on a collision course for the national title. But some other BCS games? Not as much.

Take the Rose Bowl for example. Wisconsin blew the doors off Nebraska in the Big Ten championship and made us all wonder where in the hell that was all season, but the Badgers are still a five-loss team. Even UConn didn’t have five losses when it went to the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago and got stomped by Oklahoma.

#EvenUConn

Speaking of the Sooners, they have to be all kinds of mad that they got bumped from the Sugar Bowl because Northern Illinois made it into the BCS top 16 (No. 15 in fact). Now, Florida will face Louisville in New Orleans and the Huskies will try to upset Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Compelling? Not overly unless you enjoy the possibility of major upsets. For some reason, that’s lost more on college football than it is in, say, college basketball. There were people who hated Boise State once the Broncos started winning consistently on the national stage.

But don’t be mad at NIU for altering the BCS lineup and start spouting off about how the Huskies don’t “deserve” to be in an upper-echelon game. Deserving went flying out the window and smashed into your car on the street years ago. Did Georgia Tech deserve a shot at the Orange Bowl this year after backing into the ACC title game? Did Michigan or Virginia Tech deserve bids to the Sugar Bowl this past year? Did Oklahoma deserve the right to get manhandled by USC while fellow undefeated Auburn sat back and watched following the 2004 season?

The answer is sort of; what ties those cases together is that each team took advantage of what the system provided them. Northern Illinois played it just like everybody else this year. When Vanderbilt coach James Franklin casts a coaches’ poll ballot — those are used in determining the BCS standings — where he ranks undefeated Notre Dame fourth and his own 8-4 Commodores 16th, there shouldn’t be a problem with NIU getting a little love.

The BCS is tragically comical, like a circus clown trying to jump through a hoop of fire on a tricycle with one busted wheel. You know that clown’s not going to make it, and it’s going to be awful when he doesn’t, but the thought of a flaming clown running around with dudes trying to extinguish him is too tempting.

In that spirit, we’ll all still watch the BCS games this year. I’ll watch because my job requires me to keep track of all kinds of football no matter how fugly it is. Remember the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” when Malcolm McDowell‘s character has his eyes pried open for the Ludovico technique? Yeah, like that was last year’s Orange Bowl for me. And you’ll watch because no matter how busted the system is, we’re all hoping that the BCS affords us some good games.

Even if it doesn’t look so good now.

Eight divisions remain up for grabs heading into last week of regular season, including two from Power Fives

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Not surprisingly, there’s still a helluva lot to play for as we get set to embark on the last week of the 2018 regular season.

After 12 weeks of play, 10 divisions across nine FBS conferences (the 10th, the Big 12, lacks a divisional setup) have already been settled and the winners are set to play in their respective league championship games the week after next:

AAC EAST: UCF
ACC ATLANTIC: Clemson
ACC COASTAL: Pitt
BIG TEN WEST: Northwestern
CONFERENCE USA WEST: UAB
MAC WEST: Northern Illinois
MWC WEST: Fresno State
PAC-12 SOUTH: Utah
SEC EAST: Georgia
SEC WEST: Alabama

That means that eight division titles will be settled as teams take the field throughout a Week 13 that again stretches from Tuesday on into the final Saturday of the regular season. With a couple of exceptions, most of the clinching scenarios are very straightforward and don’t take a mathematical savant to figure out.

AAC WEST: The winner of the Houston-Memphis game will face UCF in the conference championship game.

BIG TEN EAST: The winner of the Michigan-Ohio State game will face Northwestern in the conference championship game.

CONFERENCE USA EAST: The winner will be either Florida International or Middle Tennessee State, with both teams sitting at 6-1 in conference play.  FIU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over MTSU, which means all it has to do is beat Marshall at home next Saturday to face UAB in the league title game.  To earn a berth in the same game, MTSU needs to beat UAB at home AND have FIU lose to Marshall.

MAC EAST: Buffalo (6-1), Miami of Ohio (5-2) and Ohio (5-2) all remain in play for a divisional title.  First, the head-to-head.

  • Buffalo: beat Miami, lost to Ohio
  • Miami: beat Ohio, lost to Buffalo
  • Ohio: beat Buffalo, lost to Miami

Buffalo could make this easy on most everyone involved by beating three-win Bowling Green (two wins in conference play) Friday night, although there are obviously a couple of other scenarios that could play out.  A Buffalo loss AND an Ohio win over Akron AND a Miami loss to Ball State would hand the division to the Bobcats.  A Buffalo loss AND an Ohio loss AND a Miami win would leave the RedHawks as the divisional winner based on the conference’s three-way tiebreaker rules.

MWC MOUNTAIN: The winner of the Utah State-Boise State game will face Fresno State in the conference championship game.

PAC-12 NORTH: The winner of the Washington-Washington State game will face Utah in the conference championship game.

SUN BELT EAST: The winner of the Troy-Appalachian State game will face the West winner in the conference championship game.

SUN BELT WEST: Arkansas State, Louisiana and Louisiana-Monroe, all at 4-3, remain in play for a divisional title.

  • Arkansas State, which lost to Louisiana but beat Louisiana-Monroe, wins the division if it beats Texas State AND Louisiana-Monroe beats Louisiana.
  • Louisiana wins the division if it beat Louisiana-Monroe regardless of what Arkansas State does.
  • Louisiana-Monroe wins the division if it beats Louisiana AND Arkansas State loses to Texas State.

As for the division-less Big 12?  Click HERE for the three different scenarios that could play out in determining that conference’s two championship game participants.

Utah win, Arizona State loss gives Utes first-ever Pac-12 South title

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Despite a couple of injuries to significant contributors that could’ve been crippling, Utah instead traversed those obstacles and made some program history in Week 12.

At 5-3, Utah came into Saturday with a half-game lead on a pair of 4-3 Pac-12 South teams in Arizona and Arizona State.  Utah, in its last league game of the regular season, helped its own cause in the early-afternoon television window as they easily took care of Colorado in a 30-7 romp in snowy Boulder.  In the final viewing window of the weekend, Oregon jumped out to a 28-13 halftime lead en route to routing Arizona State XX-XX in Eugene.

The combination of Utah’s win and Arizona State’s loss — Arizona needed Colorado to knock off Utah to remain in contention — means that the Utes have claimed the football program’s first-ever Pac-12 South championship.  Utah will face the winner of the Apple Cup rivalry game between Washington and Washington State in the conference championship game Nov. 30 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

The Utes will be seeking their first conference championship of any kind since winning the second of its back-to-back Mountain West titles in 2004.

Utah also becomes the last of the six members of the South to win a division title.  UCLA won the first two in 2011 and 2012; Arizona State won in 2013; Arizona won in 2014; USC won in 2015 and then again in 2017; and Colorado won in 2016.

No. 8 Washington State destroys Arizona for 10th win, sets up Apple Cup for the Pac-12 North

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There’s Pac-12 After Dark and there’s Pac-12 gone dark. Given what No. 8 Washington State did to Arizona on Saturday night, safe to say the latter applied to one of the last games of a snoozy Saturday.

The Cougars scored a touchdown eight times in the first half as they routed the visiting Wildcats 69-28 in chilly conditions on the Palouse, setting up an Apple Cup that will once again be for all the marbles next week and perhaps clinching a trip to New York for the team’s star quarterback.

That would be Gardner Minshew, who should be no worse than third on every Heisman ballot in the country in the next few weeks. In an effortless performance, he threw for 473 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns (five in the first half). Perhaps the mustachioed maestro of the Air Raid’s best accomplishment was just how well he got everybody involved against a defense disinterested in defending, with some 11 different players catching a pass for the Cougs. Wideout Calvin Jackson caught two scores, Tay Martin had 124 yards and a score through the air, tailback Max Borghi was once again stellar out of the backfield with six catches for 65 yards and James Williams recorded 79 total yards.

It was such a dominating effort for Wazzu, that they even accomplished something rarely seen by a Mike Leach-coached team in winning the time of possession battle.

His opposite number in Kevin Sumlin did not enjoy his return to Pullman, where he first got his start in college coaching. The Wildcats were playing behind the eight-ball all night long and added to their misery time after time. They fumbled at the one-yard line for example and even allowed a muffed kick return to be recovered in the end zone for a touchdown the other way. It was one of those ‘it rains, it pours’ nights for the visitors from the desert.

That said, quarterback Khalil Tate did dazzle at times in throwing for 294 yards and four touchdowns (one INT) while rushing for another 25. JJ Taylor chipped in with another 69 on the ground and wideout Shawn Poindexter continued a streak of his last six catches all resulting in scores. If there is one silver lining for UA, it’s that the game doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things as the team can still become bowl eligible next weekend against rival Arizona State and wash away any memories of this trip to the Pacific Northwest.

Wazzu, meanwhile, can turn their attention to what is shaping up to be yet another epic Apple Cup with plenty on the line. Facing off against rival Washington, the winner of that game will clinch the Pac-12 North and a trip to the league title game. The Cougars still have an outside shot of making into the playoff if they can get a little help and run the table along the way.

Those are thoughts for another day though, as Cougars fans no doubt will revel in that thrashing of Arizona just a bit longer.

Big 12 title game contenders down to Oklahoma, Texas, West Virginia

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And then there were three.

Entering Week 12, four teams were still alive for the two spots in the Big 12 championship game — Iowa State (5-2), Oklahoma (6-1), Texas (5-2) and West Virginia (6-1).  Oklahoma held serve after holding off stubborn Kansas to move to 7-1; West Virginia was upset by Oklahoma State in Stillwater to fall to 6-2; and Texas took care of business in whipping Iowa State, with the Longhorns improving to 6-2 and the Cyclones dropping to 5-3.

Add it all up, and the Cyclones are the only one of the four to be eliminated this weekend even as they could still end up in a three-way tie for second in the conference (point differential among the tied teams would knock them out).

Thus, in Week 13, Oklahoma and West Virginia square off in Morgantown while Texas draws perpetual-conference-doormat-turned-pesky-out Kansas on the road in Lawrence.

The scenarios for the league championship game are relatively straightforward:

  • Texas beats Kansas, would face the winner of the Oklahoma-West Virginia game in the Big 12 title game.
  • Texas loses to Kansas, Oklahoma beats West Virginia: UT-OU in the Big 12 title game.
  • Texas loses to Kansas, West Virginia beats Oklahoma: OU-WVU in the Big 12 title game

Regardless of which teams are involved, the Big 12 championship game will be played Saturday, Dec. 1, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.