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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No ballot bailout for Texas this time

December 01, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

Texas Coach Mack Brown learned Sunday that no two campaigns are alike.

In 2004, his lobbying on behalf of Texas for a Rose Bowl berth may have helped swing enough votes away from California to deny the Golden Bears their first trip to Pasadena since 1959.

Texas deprived Cal by claiming the coveted No. 4 spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings by a minuscule margin of .0129.

Cal lost points in the final coaches' and media polls after a 26-16 win at Southern Mississippi in which Coach Jeff Tedford ordered quarterback Aaron Rodgers to take a knee at the end rather than try to tack on another score.

Cal still hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since 1959.

Minutes after Sunday's release of the BCS standings, an e-mail hit my in-box that read, "I hope you remind readers that Texas, now crying foul, didn't seem to have a problem with the BCS when it jobbed Cal in the same fashion a few years ago. This Thanksgiving, Mack Brown is getting a karma cookie for dessert."

The 1st Amendment thrives in Berkeley.

This year, not for any lack of effort or eloquence, Brown's second campaign fell a few stump speeches short.

The release of the next-to-last BCS standings was bad news for Texas.

The 'Horns got hooked.

Alabama came in first, as expected, but Oklahoma jumped Texas for the No. 2 spot.

This was crucial because Big 12 Conference rules dictate the BCS standings be used to break a three-way tie in the South Division among Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech.

All three teams are 11-1, but only one could advance to next week's Big 12 championship game against Missouri.

The winner of the BCS bake-off was Oklahoma, which, if it beats Missouri, has the inside track to face the Southeastern Conference champion, Alabama or Florida, in the BCS title game on Jan. 8.

Of course, had Texas been forwarded by the BCS standings, the Longhorns would have the inside track.

"It is what it is," Brown said in a statement Sunday. "We don't like it, we don't agree with it or think it was fair, but, like anything else, we'll handle it and move forward."

Brown has never apologized for campaigning on behalf of his employer.

"What I want is obvious, that's what's best for Texas," Brown said.

Brown offered himself to numerous media outlets last week to speak to the merits of a Texas team that defeated Oklahoma, 45-35, in October.

It was a compelling argument.

And it almost worked.

Texas, which began the weekend trailing Oklahoma in both the USA Today coaches' and Harris polls, closed considerable ground.

Texas moved ahead of Oklahoma in Harris and came within a whisker of catching Oklahoma in the coaches' poll. The Sooners prevailed by a single point, 1,397 to 1,396.

Oklahoma, though, jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in the BCS computer index while Texas stayed at No. 2.

The voting coaches and Harris pollsters were allowed to hide under the cover of anonymity because only their final ballots next week are required to be made public.

So here's what it means:

With one week left, the BCS top five is Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and USC.

Florida figures to jump to No. 1 or No. 2 with a win over top-ranked Alabama in the SEC title game.

If Oklahoma defeats Missouri, the Sooners are positioned to grab a BCS title-game spot.

Texas will sit at home, at 11-1, hoping Missouri can pull off the upset that allows the Longhorns to claim the BCS berth.

These are the likely scenarios.

There is no predicting what happens if Alabama suffers its first loss on a last-second field goal. Might the Crimson Tide drop only to No. 2 and earn a rematch with Florida?

What if Oklahoma looks horrible in beating Missouri? Might voters, knowing their ballots are going to be public, reconsider Texas when the final BCS standings are released this Sunday?

Mystery, as much as percentage points, is part of the equation.

Texas also might have a shot at claiming the Associated Press crown. Texas is No. 3 behind Alabama and Florida in that poll, which the AP pulled out of the BCS after the great Texas-Cal fiasco of 2004.

Texas could move to No. 2 in place of the Alabama-Florida loser and stake its national-title claim from there.

USC won the AP title in 2003 after it was snubbed from the BCS title game despite finishing No. 1 in the coaches' and media polls.

Here, in my opinion, is how the BCS bowls are most likely to shake out:

National title: Florida vs. Oklahoma.

Rose: USC vs. Penn State.

Fiesta: Ohio State vs. Texas.

Sugar: Utah vs. Alabama.

Orange: Cincinnati vs. Boston College.

For Texas, it might take time for the pain to subside, but the BCS standings don't always break your way.

In this sport, shift happens.

Did Texas deserve the BCS nod this year?

Probably.

The Longhorns beat Oklahoma, fair and square, on a neutral field.

But you could understand how voters and computer components might factor in Texas Tech's defeating Texas but then getting crushed by Oklahoma.

"None of us put together the system, but that's the way it is," Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops said.

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