What if Oregon had not lost its special teams coach, or Colorado had set up for a field goal in August, or the Texas coach had not been stricken with the heebie-jeebies about playing a freshman against Oklahoma?
Would the national title picture look different today?
The "what-ifs" in college football have always made it unique to all the two-bit sports that think a playoff is a better way of resolving on-field differences.
Rest assured, as much as you might look forward to seeing how this year's national title will be won, you might be able to look back and see how it was lost.
It is already fact at least one school with one loss will be playing for the national title in the Jan. 3 Rose Bowl, which will no doubt leave several one-loss schools grumbling about how they got the bowl championship series shaft.
Instead of blaming the BCS, though, some of these schools should look in the mirror.
The margin for error in this sport is Calista Flockhart thin--and often costly. One defeat knocks most teams out of contention while a second ding can send you to a bowl not of your choosing (See Stanford, Seattle Bowl).
So, let's play the what-if game with:
Miami: What if Boston College quarterback Brian St. Pierre's last-minute pass near the goal line on Nov. 10 did not bounce off Hurricane cornerback Mike Rumph's knee into the arms of teammate Matt Walters, who turned the freak play into a 90-yard touchdown that secured an 18-7 victory?
Answer: It was a 12-7 game at the time. Had Boston College punched it in and won, Miami is not likely No. 1 in the BCS, not undefeated and not a cinch to go to the Rose Bowl with a win at Virginia Tech this week.
Texas: What if Coach Mack Brown had played freshman tailback Cedric Benson against Oklahoma?
Answer: Texas might have won a tough game it lost, 14-3, and the Longhorns would be undefeated and playing Saturday's Big 12 title game for a guaranteed berth in the Rose Bowl instead of needing to win and then needing help.
The Benson hedge will long be hashed over in Texas lore. Benson did not get a carry against Oklahoma because Brown feared the freshman was not a good enough blocker in pass protection. Benson made his first start the next week against Oklahoma State and rushed for 131 yards. Then, he rumbled for 100 yards against Colorado, 157 against Missouri, 108 against Baylor, 213 versus Kansas and 79 against Texas A&M.
In the Oklahoma loss, a 7-3 game until the final minutes, Texas backs combined for 27 yards in 25 attempts.
Oregon: What if the Ducks' talented special teams coach Tom Osborne had not been lured away to Arizona State this year?
Answer: The Ducks would be undefeated entering this week's Civil War game against Oregon State and needing a win to clinch a Rose Bowl spot.
Explanation: Flash back to Oregon's only blemish, a 49-42 home loss to Stanford. The Cardinal rallied from a 42-28 fourth-quarter deficit by blocking two Oregon punts and recovering an on-side kick.
Under Osborne's direction, Oregon had boasted the Pacific 10's top special teams units. But Osborne left Eugene this year to join first-year Arizona State Coach Dirk Koetter's staff in Tempe.
Colorado: What if, in August, quarterback Craig Ochs had taken a knee against Fresno State and Coach Gary Barnett had summoned the field-goal team?
Answer: Colorado would be 10-1, looking to avenge its only loss this week against Texas in the Big 12 championship game and well-positioned to make a national title claim.
What happened? In one of this year's most inexplicable decisions, Colorado attempted a pass from the Fresno State two-yard line when a field goal would have given the Buffaloes the lead.
Ochs rolled right on a goal-line option and his pass was intercepted in the end zone by Fresno State cornerback Devon Banks with 3:32 left.
Fresno State held on to win, 24-22.
Tennessee: What if the Volunteers had played a lick of defense down the stretch against Georgia?
Answer: Tennessee would be unbeaten headed into this week's showdown against Florida. Tennessee thought it had Georgia whipped in Knoxville on Oct. 6 when Travis Stephens' 62-yard touchdown with 44 seconds left gave Tennessee a 24-20 lead.
The Volunteer defense, however, folded like Minnie Pearl's hat in the waning seconds, allowing Georgia to score the winning touchdown with five seconds left.
The few schools remaining in national title contention are a needy bunch, and this is what they need to snag one of two Rose Bowl berths (in order of their BCS ranking):
1. Miami. Needs to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday in Blacksburg.
2. Florida. Needs to beat Tennessee in Gainesville this week and win the Southeastern Conference championship game Dec. 8 in Atlanta.
3. Texas. Needs to beat Colorado in Big 12 championship game and Virginia Tech to defeat Miami. Or, if Miami wins, needs the Tennessee-Florida winner to lose in SEC title game. Even though Tennessee is No. 6 in the BCS, many experts think the Volunteers would leapfrog Texas into the No. 2 spot by closing with two wins.