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Chris Dufresne / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Weekend results sit well with West Virginia and Louisville

October 30, 2006|Chris Dufresne

Outrageous New York tabloid headline: "Headless woman found in topless bar."

Outrageous college football wrap-up headline: "Temple wins, USC doesn't."

Anything else you need to know about a wacky weekend, other than how much USC's loss helped the WAC?

Yes.

Saturday turned out to be a fantastic day not to play.

By sitting on its duff, West Virginia took one step closer to playing for the national title, and Louisville, incredibly, took three steps.

West Virginia moved one spot to No. 3 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and Louisville, ashore on a weekend pass, went from No. 8 to No. 5, setting up Thursday night's huge Big East Conference showdown on that 24-hour sports cable network.

California, while on holiday, seized sole possession of first place in the Pacific 10 Conference and idle Boise State only enhanced its hearts-and-minds campaign for inclusion in a BCS game.

All because those schools didn't play and USC quarterback John David Booty had a pass knocked down?

You are Corvallis correct.

There might be tidier ways to conduct a sport -- 65-team tournaments, a 16-team playoff, wild-card entries, first-round byes -- but none is more diabolically interesting than what college football serves up on its annual platter.

The thud from USC's timber fall, in fact, shook up the entire BCS Department of Forestry.

It was a great treetop view for:

* West Virginia. This whole crazy, drawing-to-an-inside-straight premise for any Mountaineers national title run was going 12-0 with a suspect schedule and hoping enough teams lost to allow them a chance to snag the No. 1 or No. 2 position in the BCS.

Well, right now, in this game of pigskin poker, West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez is holding a decent hand.

With USC falling out of the No. 3 BCS spot, West Virginia moved in and now has football fans glued to Thursday's season-defining game at Louisville.

A victory puts West Virginia in position for an undefeated year and a possible war for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings, assuming the Ohio State-Michigan winner on Nov. 18 locks up the No. 1 spot.

The battle for No. 2 might come down to a BCS computer judgment call as to whether a 12-0 team with a soft schedule deserves the championship-game nod over a glossier one-loss team from a power conference: Florida, Auburn or Tennessee from the Southeastern, Texas from the Big 12, independent Notre Dame, USC or Cal from the Pac-10 or even the loser of Ohio State-Michigan.

* Louisville. If the Cardinals win Thursday, they sub for West Virginia as the Big East's national title hopeful. Without taking a snap, Louisville took three huge BCS steps toward that end.

Auburn, meanwhile, has to be asking why it bothered to tee it up. The Tigers beat Mississippi and dropped in the BCS, from fifth to sixth.

* California. Coach Jeff Tedford says he does not pay attention to the BCS standings and he was out recruiting last weekend, but it can be assumed he received word via Western Union of USC's toe-stub.

The USC defeat supported what many surmised weeks ago: that Cal, not USC, was really the team to beat in the Pac-10.

"There's no time to dream about this, that or the other thing," Tedford said last week.

USC's loss left Cal, at 5-0, as the only team undefeated in Pac-10 play. The Bears, who were arm-wrestled out of a Rose Bowl berth by Texas two years ago, can take the BCS politics out of the equation by winning out and earning their first Rose Bowl berth since 1959.

Cal, at 11-1, might still have a shot at the BCS title game, although it would take considerable chaos for those pieces to fall into place.

* Boise State. Boise who? Boise what? Boise where?

The Broncos' case for national legitimacy got an adrenaline shot Saturday for the simple reason that the same Oregon State that dominated USC for three quarters and eventually won by two points was thoroughly thrashed by Boise State last month, 42-14.

Boise State has nothing more to prove.

Oregon State's victory over USC solidified Boise State's case that, if it finishes unbeaten, it shouldn't have to beg for a BCS bowl berth.

Under new rules this year, a school from a non-BCS conference needs to finish in the top 12 in the BCS standings to earn an automatic bid.

With Boise State left dangling at No. 15 in the BCS last week, it appeared this berth might come down to the final ballot.

Boise, though, moved up to No. 14 this week.

It should be no mystery now, voters: The BCS should LBI (Let Boise In).

Weekend Wrap

* USC's loss to Oregon State probably dooms the Trojans' national titles hopes -- although anything's possible. The Trojans fell from No. 3 to No. 8 in the BCS standings, which leaves a lot of climbing to do with perhaps only one BCS title-game spot up for grabs.

In 2003, USC rallied from a Sept. 27 loss to Cal to win a share of the national title. The Trojans fell from No. 3 to No. 10 in the polls after that Cal loss, but had more time to recover. USC ultimately rose to No. 1 in both polls but finished No. 3 in the BCS.

* How the (once) mighty fell. On Saturday, the BCS national champions from 1999 (Florida State), 2001 (Miami) and 2004 (USC) all lost on the same day, and last year's champion, Texas, needed to rally from a 21-0 deficit to beat Texas Tech by four points.

* Keeping things in perspective: USC Coach Pete Carroll has lost three games since the start of the 2003 ... by a total of eight points.

* Meanwhile, in the Big 12 Conference, assuming anyone is paying attention, this week's game between Nebraska and Missouri could determine something called "the North Division champion."

*

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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