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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Top college football teams getting closer to the end zone

Undefeated schools have Saturday off, setting up what could be the biggest little game in Reno on Friday. And no, Gary Danielson, one loss won't cut it.

November 20, 2010|Chris Dufresne

With two weeks left before Decision Sunday, here's a recap of Saturday's exciting action involving the four undefeated teams competing for this year's national championship:

Oregon: Did Not Play. Auburn: Did Not Play. Texas Christian: Did Not Play. Boise State: Did Not Play.

OK, that's not going work, let's try something else.

For weeks, our story budget for the 11 o'clock news hasn't budged. We lead with Oregon and Auburn and try to finish strong with a cute pet story. This week's feline closer featured the Northwestern Wildcats playing Illinois in football at Wrigley Field, a baseball park in Chicago. Because of a configuration flaw that involved the back line of the east end zone, a wall, and liability concerns, both teams were required to use the west end zone.

"We're kicking it old-school," was how ESPNU announcer Mark Jones opened the broadcast, failing to mention any old-school games where one end zone was effectively cordoned off with yellow caution tape.

Illinois won a wild one, 48-27. The wind must have been blowing out.

This was just one juggling act being performed on a day of sideshows.

Oregon and Auburn, resting comfortably at home, proved last week they can wobble, bobble, stumble, fumble and tumble — so long as they win.

You don't need style points as the leaders of the Pacific 10 and Southeastern conferences.

A week after No. 1 Oregon narrowly escaped at California with a harrowing 15-13 victory, Stanford crossed the bay and crushed the Bears, 48-14.

The residual damage to Oregon was nil, because the Ducks already have the win over Stanford they need to box the Cardinal out of the Pac-10 title and a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

Stanford is 10-1 but needs Oregon to lose its last two games.

No. 2 Auburn didn't look great last week, either, spotting Georgia a 21-7 lead before rallying to win.

Big deal. Auburn doesn't need emphatic SEC victories or even CBS' Gary Danielson to carry its mail. It just needs to beat Alabama and South Carolina. Danielson exists now only to forward the narrative in case Auburn loses or Cam Newton is declared ineligible.

Danielson waxed pathetic Saturday about a one-loss SEC champion, no matter what, really, deserving a BCS title-game bid.

Never mind that Louisiana State, No. 6 in the polls for inexplicable reasons, trailed Mississippi until the final minute before eking out the win.

"You tell me another team that has faced a 4-6 [now 4-7] team like this Ole Miss team!" Danielson lectured.

LSU is 10-1, remember, but can't even win its own division in the SEC. Also remember that Ole Miss opened the season with a home loss to Jacksonville State. The Rebels' four wins are against Tulane, Fresno State, Kentucky and Louisiana Lafayette.

It was a huge problem for TCU, however, that the Horned Frogs did not play Saturday.

TCU is currently No. 3 in the BCS, slightly ahead of No. 4 Boise State. If Oregon and Auburn win out, the team that finishes third is guaranteed a trip to the Rose Bowl this season. If Oregon or Auburn loses, No. 3 could end up playing for the BCS title.

Think of TCU as a car winning the Indy 500 until it runs out of gas. With 11 victories in the bank, and only lowly New Mexico left to play, TCU is dangerously low on petrol.

It must hope Boise State loses next week at Nevada, because Boise isn't going to lose the following week to Utah State.

Boise State didn't play Saturday, either, but had a stand-alone moment Friday night against Fresno State. It was a 51-0 beat-down that should muzzle at least some of the mashers.

After the game, shell-shocked Fresno State Coach Pat Hill said. "I'll take Boise State against anyone in the country."

If it wasn't clear before, it is now: Boise State, if it wins out, will jump TCU in the BCS standings.

Boise State had two more good things happen Saturday. The Broncos' opening-night win against Virginia Tech was upgraded again when the Hokies defeated Miami to win their ninth straight game.

Naysayers who have used Virginia Tech's loss to James Madison against Boise State have become TCU in a sense: They're running out of gas. Virginia Tech will finish 10-2 with a home win over Virginia next week.

Boise State also got the expected, but needed, 10th victory from No.19 Nevada. The Wolf Pack defeated New Mexico State, 52-6, assuring they will be ranked in the teens when Boise State comes to Reno on Friday.

The scene is set now for, arguably, the biggest game in the history of Boise State football. If Alabama beats Auburn earlier in the day, the Broncos probably will be playing Nevada for a spot in the BCS title game.

That is, again, unless Gary Danielson files a discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the one-loss SEC champion.

"It's a war in this conference, every game, every week," Danielson declared as LSU was holding off mighty Mississippi, which this year allowed Fresno State only 38 points in Oxford.

If you're not in the SEC, obviously, you're only in boot camp.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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