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Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Race for No. 2 in BCS gets messy

November 20, 2006|Chris Dufresne

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The parking lot outside Ohio Stadium was a post-Woodstock mess.

Top-ranked Ohio State cleaned up Saturday on No. 2 Michigan, 42-39, but not much after itself.

Cans, cups, trash and unidentified liquids made an obstacle course out of high-stepping out of Football City USA.

You couldn't help but think: What a perfect metaphor for this year's Bowl Championship Series.

A year after USC and Texas harmonically converged at the end of what officials called a "peace in the valley" season, the BCS may be back in the dumpster.

This should be a two-week scream-fest now.

Sunday's BCS standings revealed a top six of Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Florida, Notre Dame and Arkansas.

But you had to read between those lines.

USC jumped Michigan into second in both human polls, Harris and the USA Today's coaches, but are No. 3 in the computers behind No. 2 Michigan.

That tenuous difference has Michigan, for now, leading USC by a thin slice of cheese -- .9263 to .9188 -- yet it's hard to fathom that margin will hold if the Trojans beat Notre Dame and UCLA.

So, will it be Ohio State versus Michigan in a rematch for the national title in the Jan. 8 BCS title game?

Maybe.

"My opinion doesn't have a vote," Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel said after Saturday's win.

Actually, Jim, you are a USA Today voting coach and your final ballot will be revealed on Dec. 3.

Ohio State versus USC?

It appears that USC controls its fate.

We have left one undefeated contender, Ohio State, and a casting call for "American Idol."

We have one team in, two weeks to go, and five schools trying to arm-wrestle for the No. 2 BCS position.

A school that goes by the initials "N" and "D" really doesn't have a plausible national title case, but we'll let them play along for now.

One team will play Ohio State for the national title, and four will not. Here are the closing arguments:

* USC.

Case for: Any school that is No. 3 in the BCS standings on Nov. 17 and then beats California, Notre Dame and UCLA deserves a limo ride to No. 2. Michigan got its shot at Ohio State, why not give Pete Carroll's team a chance? The Trojans are the only team in the remaining mix with a chance to beat Ohio State.

Case against: Oregon State 33, USC 31.

* Michigan.

Case for: Michigan suffered its first defeat of the season on Saturday, a three-point loss to the No. 1 team. Why should Michigan get punished because it lost its one game now?

Case against: Michigan didn't win its conference. No one wants to see a rematch, on a neutral site, at night. Ohio State-Michigan should never be played in Arizona, or in temperatures over 70 degrees.

Michigan's vaunted defense gave up 42 points and 503 yards to Ohio State. What makes anyone think 50 days will make the Wolverines any better?

* Florida/Arkansas.

Case for: No one-loss champion from the powerful Southeastern Conference should ever be denied a place in the BCS title game, even though it happened two years ago when Auburn went 12-0 and watched USC and Oklahoma play in the Orange Bowl. Another injustice may encourage calls for secession.

If Florida beats Florida State next week and then Arkansas on Dec. 2, it belongs in Arizona.

If Arkansas beats Louisiana State next week and Florida on Dec. 2, it deserves to go.

Case against: While everyone else was making big-boy statements last weekend, Florida was beating up on Western Carolina. Florida "sounds" like an exciting team but really isn't. What the Gators are really good at is committing penalties, ranking 118 out of 119 schools in most penalties per game.

How, without a big-time Hollywood press agent, does Arkansas explain away that 50-14 loss to USC in September? How does Arkansas make the case it should go instead of Michigan?

* Notre Dame.

Case for: They are Notre Dame, the greatest football program in college football history. Put the Irish in the national title game and watch the ratings soar.

How could you not want Notre Dame?

Case against: We all know how to read a scoring summary. No way Notre Dame, if it beats USC next week in the Coliseum, deserves to jump Michigan for the No. 2 BCS spot for the simple fact Michigan beat Notre Dame, in South Bend, 47-21.

Weekend Wrap

* Anyone remember the Associated Press? Although the AP poll is no longer part of the BCS formula, it has been crowning national champions since 1936 and has no plans on stopping now. That leaves open the possibility of a split champion this year. Example: What if USC is No. 2 in the AP poll but No. 1 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan play a rematch in the BCS title game.

USC was third in Sunday's AP poll, trailing No. 2 Michigan by only nine points.

If USC wins the Rose Bowl, and Michigan pulls off the Ohio State upset, USC might claim the AP title. Sound like a familiar title path for the Trojans?

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