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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Clarity's a rarity in Bowl Chaos System

Oklahoma's rout of Texas Tech makes BCS picture fuzzier than ever as season careens toward fractured finish.

November 23, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

Saturday's action was not as results-oriented as a certain president-elect might like to see it but, for Oregon State, it sure was a kick.

There won't be an eight-team playoff at season's end, yet a soon-to-be 82-year-old coach, coming off hip replacement surgery, will likely be leading Penn State to the Rose Bowl.

And because a sophomore kicker found redemption with a game-winning field goal, the Beavers of Corvallis are one home victory over Oregon next Saturday from clinching their first Rose Bowl bid in 44 years.

And the team Oregon State may displace in Pasadena, USC, which had the weekend off, may move up in the polls and keep its faint national title hopes alive thanks to a wipeout Oklahoma win over previously unbeaten Texas Tech that could leave the Big 12 South with three 11-1 teams.

Could anything be clearer?

And fans went nuts in Salt Lake City after Utah, which won't play in the national title game, secured a 12-0 regular season and clinched its second major bowl bid in four years with a win against arch-angel-rival Brigham Young.

And Boise State, with a win over Nevada in Reno, is one victory from a 12-0 season that won't earn it a national title bid, either.

And there was a snowball fight in South Bend.

Another day in a fabulously fractured sport rendered at least five story lines that were somehow connected, or oddly interwoven, or at least tangentially tied.

In Norman, the Bowl Championship Series national title race got messier and more clearly defined.

Oklahoma handed Texas Tech a first loss so ugly it may require plastic surgery.

The Sooners' 65-21 Lubbock-kicking was so thorough it probably knocked Texas Tech completely out of the national title picture.

What happens now?

If Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech win next week, there will be a three-way tie at 11-1 in the Big 12 South. The highest-rated team in the BCS standings will win the bid to play Missouri in the conference title game.

If that team is Oklahoma, which is the betting favorite, Texas will holler foul only because it defeated Oklahoma earlier this season in Dallas.

How wrong is that?

But if Texas holds tight, and Florida State upsets Florida next week, and then Florida routs No. 1 Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game, Texas may get a rematch against Oklahoma in the national title game.

Are you still with me?

In State College, Penn State mashed Michigan State to win the Big Ten's automatic BCS bid.

The Nittany Lions are Rose Bowl-bound unless they somehow work back into the national title mix.

That isn't likely, but neither was Louisiana State last year moving from No. 7 in the BCS standings on the final Saturday to No. 2 on the final Sunday.

Some speculated the Rose Bowl might be Paterno's last game, but Saturday, at the height of power, he said he plans to return in 2009.

How brilliant, politically, was that?

In Tucson, hearts skipped as Oregon State kept its Rose Bowl dreams alive when Justin Kahut kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired only minutes after he botched the extra point that would have tied it at 17-all.

If Oregon State wins next week, it goes to the Rose Bowl to play Penn State in a rematch of a game that didn't go so well for Oregon State in September.

If Oregon wins, USC is Rose Bowl-bound to play Penn State so long as the Trojans beat UCLA on Dec. 6.

If USC doesn't make the Rose Bowl, but finishes 11-1, it is probably headed to the Fiesta Bowl.

Got it?

With Texas Tech getting so thoroughly dismantled, USC might jump the Red Raiders and move up a spot to No. 5 in the BCS.

The Trojans might get to the national title game from there if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State next week, Texas wins the South but loses to Missouri in the Big 12 title game and one-loss Florida trounces No. 1 Alabama in the SEC title game.

See how easy it is?

In Salt Lake City, Utah's win over Brigham Young assures the Utes of a major bowl berth, we're guessing in the Fiesta.

It's looking like 2004 all over again. That year, Utah finished No. 6 in the BCS and Boise State finished undefeated and No. 9.

Boise State could end up 12-0 this year, be ranked in the top 10, and get left out again.

And guess what: The Western Athletic Conference champion is contracted to play in the Humanitarian Bowl, which is played in Boise. What a thrill that would be for the Broncos.

In 2004, though, a deal was cut that allowed Boise State to upgrade and play Louisville in the Liberty Bowl.

"We're always going to look for the best game possible and the best opponent possible," WAC Commissioner Karl Benson said this week of that possibility.

Benson will also lobby that a 12-0 Boise State deserves a major bowl bid, although it's doubtful two schools from non-BCS conferences will be considered.

And, just to wrap a final bow around Saturday, consider this:

Had USC not lost at Oregon State on Sept. 25, the Trojans today would be 10-0, ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS, and two wins against schools with a combined record of 10-11 from clinching a title-game berth.

Because that didn't happen, though, the next president's eight-team playoff plan can't get here soon enough.

--

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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