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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Cam Newton news is just the start of a wild weekend

It's the final games before the final BCS standings are revealed and if history is a guide, there figure to be many surprises. At least Newton, Auburn's star quarterback, doesn't have to worry about his eligibility — for now.

December 01, 2010|Chris Dufresne

The NCAA on Wednesday cleared Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for pay. … Sorry, make that play!

What a year, month and last few days it's been, and we haven't yet reached goose bump weekend in the Bowl Championship Series — historically a Coney Island roller coaster with refs.

What happens next?

In 1998, UCLA lost its title game grip at Miami, Kansas State lost to Texas A&M, and Florida State was miraculously airmailed into the first BCS title game.

The hand-wringing continued into 2001, when Nebraska earned a title game shot after a late-season 62-36 loss; and into 2003, when Oklahoma earned one after a 35-7 loss; and into 2007, when Louisiana State woke up No. 7 in the BCS standings on Saturday morning and went to bed No. 2 on Sunday night.

Last year, Texas snatched a title game invitation before one second ticked off against Nebraska.

Nebraska has been ticked off ever since.

Let's ponder, lament and opine on recent developments:

•Auburn declared Newton ineligible on Monday. See? The rumormonger hordes were right. Actually, chalk it up as another huge comeback win for the War Eagles.

The NCAA and Auburn determined Newton was ineligible but had him back in the practice huddle by Wednesday in advance of Saturday's Southeastern Conference title game against South Carolina.

Newton — ah hah! — did break amateurism rules when his dad, through a scouting service, allegedly bartered his son to Mississippi State for upwards of $180,000 before Newton ended up at Auburn …for a paid education.

Auburn had to declare Newton ineligible and ask for reinstatement. The NCAA obliged, merciful outfit that it is, stating there was no evidence "at this time" that the player or Auburn knew of the violation.

Amazing how the NCAA is faster-paced than Oregon's offense when dealing with eligibility cases not involving USC.

What a relief. Newton can now win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide and Auburn is free to win the national title without fear, "at this time," of having it revoked.

•Stanford earns an automatic BCS invitation by holding on or bettering its No. 4 BCS ranking. The Cardinal goes to the Rose Bowl if Auburn loses and Oregon plays Texas Christian for the BCS title.

More likely, Stanford is headed to the Orange Bowl to play the Atlantic Coast champion, Florida State or Virginia Tech.

•The best hope for the Fiesta Bowl is that West Virginia, not Connecticut, wins the Big East title this weekend, and that Virginia Tech wins the ACC.

•It has already been a great week for the BCS, and a bad one for those wanting to destroy it.

Last Friday proved the college regular season is unparalleled and might not be improved by a 16-team playoff.

Auburn's thrilling comeback against Alabama pulled college football's biggest television rating of the year. Without a playoff, Auburn desperately needed the win to stay in the national title chase. In a 16-team playoff world, Auburn had already clinched a spot in the SEC title game a week before the Iron Bowl.

Oregon, in a playoff, would not have had to dramatically rally to beat Arizona to earn a spot in a tournament. Oregon could have lost and wrapped up the Pacific 10 Conference title with a win this week against 5-6 Oregon State.

•Texas Christian made the right choice moving to the Big East: Absolutely … definitely … maybe.

Being a BCS member has its privileges. TCU aligns with a conference whose champion earns an automatic bid to a BCS game every season — even if that champion is 7-5 and answers when you say "Connecticut."

The irony is that TCU is joining Big Brother when its "non-AQ" status has never been brighter.

"Who would have thought five years ago that the guaranteed fallback position is you're going to the Rose Bowl and, one loss, you're in the national championship?" TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte said this week.

Joining the Big East provides TCU long-term security, but not guaranteed BCS-bid success. The same holds for Utah, leaving the Mountain West next year for the new Pac-12.

It will be fascinating to see how many BCS bowls Utah and TCU earn in the coming years.

Utah, as a "non AQ," has been to two BCS bowls — Fiesta and Sugar — since 2004 and TCU is BCS bound for the second straight year.

It is hubris, also, to think TCU is going to dominate just because the Big East is down this year. Cincinnati was one Texas clock tick from advancing to last year's BCS title game. West Virginia was a win over Pittsburgh from playing for the title in 2007.

•The residual winner from Utah and TCU leaving for major conferences could be Boise State, which is set to join the Mountain West next year.

The Broncos are now in position to almost annually earn a "quasi" automatic BCS berth.

Remember, the highest-ranked "non AQ" in the BCS top 12 each year earns entry.

•Auburn does not deserve a BCS title bid even if it loses a heartbreaker to South Carolina on Saturday — at least not if you apply last week's justice in the USA Today coaches' poll.

Nevada, No. 19 by the coaches, shocked No. 3 Boise State in overtime. The coaches dropped Boise State seven spots to No. 10 and elevated Nevada only two positions, to No. 17.

This week, the coaches' No. 16 team, three-loss South Carolina, is playing its No. 2, Auburn.

Using last week's logic, a win should move South Carolina up maybe three spots while dropping Auburn six or seven.

What, you think that's not going to happen?

•And finally …

USC and UCLA should never play at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night … ever.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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