Unbuckling the mailbag:
Question: Why wasn't Oregon punished for a close win like Texas Christian was?
Wells Branch, Texas
Answer: Because Ducks are higher on the food chain than Horned Frogs. Major college contenders always get the benefit of the doubt versus "non-AQ" schools.
It's the performance mulligan you earn for playing in one of the top conferences — and it's fair.
What's not fair is to say schools such as Boise State and TCU get free rides because they play in weaker conferences.
The reason neither team has come close to making a BCS title game is because they are held to a different standard by BCS voters and computers.
Boise and TCU only worked their ways into the title chase because they rode undefeated regular seasons last year into high preseason rankings.
Boise State, because it beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, started No. 5 in this year's USA Today coaches' poll. TCU was No. 7.
That gives you a fighting chance to compete for the national title, although Boise and TCU have a much smaller margin for error than BCS schools. Boise State and TCU, unlike Oregon and Auburn, can't afford close wins in conference games.
The difference between conferences has always been mitigated by the electorate.
Thus, it is ridiculous to suggest Boise State and TCU would not deserve a title bid if they finished No. 1 or No. 2 when, in fact, no teams in BCS history would have deserved it more given the built-in roadblocks against them.
Oregon can overcome a 15-13 win over California, yet Boise State might not be able to survive a 15-13 win over Nevada, which scored 52 against Cal.
Q: Were Auburn to have to forfeit games, it would take them out of the national championship game. But what if the ruling comes after the games are already set? Is there any procedure by which they could be awarded the game and then removed?
A: This is everyone's worst nightmare, and the reason the NCAA's investigation into Cam Newton's eligibility needs to be expedited. It wasn't a good answer when the Southeastern Conference said it had Newton's file months ago but it took time to get around to it.
I don't care what's going on in Vanderbilt's coed lacrosse program; the Newton case should have been top priority.
This case needs to be resolved, one way or another, before the BCS title-game participants are determined on Dec. 5 — unless Auburn loses to Alabama next week. In that case, take your time because at least it won't affect this season's national title.
However, if Auburn makes the title game and Newton is declared ineligible on Dec. 10, well, then you have a big problem.
The Heisman Trophy ceremony show is going to be awkward enough, with ESPN hosts tiptoeing around Newton's back story.
Q: I am curious what you think might be a good solution to the mysterious leg cramps that Stanford and Cal players exhibited while playing Oregon.
A: Very strange. These cramps tend to afflict only defensive players trying to slow down Oregon's breakneck offense.
Doctors are calling it "Oregonitis."
My solution would be to supply all Oregon opponents 10 sideline hot tubs and nine or 10 professional masseuses.
I would also prescribe truth serum for the coaches who say these "injuries" are just coincidental. An Oregon player told me earlier this year that a Tennessee player confessed to him after the game in Knoxville that the Vols even designated a "fall" guy against Oregon.
You can question the ethics of feigning injuries as a tactic, but it would be unconscionable and ill-advised for officials to deny medical care to players.
My guess is coaches, um, know this.
Q: The most clever thing you can come up with about this weekend's football game at Wrigley Field is a Steve Bartman reference?
Give it a rest.
A: Well, at least it was more "clever" than the football configuration at Wrigley Field for Saturday's Northwestern-Illinois game, which left only a few feet between the back of one end zone and a padded wall.
Officials on Friday, for safety reasons, decided to let the schools use only one end zone.
This is about as funny as running next year's Indianapolis 500 in the opposite direction.
But I bet the television ratings are huge.
Q: Could there just be a moratorium in the Tribune on Steve Bartman references?
. . . I don't know Steve Bartman, but it seems like he has been unfairly portrayed as the bogeyman for way too long.
Let it drop.
A: If only he had let it drop, Charlie.
Q: Oregon is a far superior team than Boise State and I think you know it. So, what's the problem? I agree the ideal national championship game would pit Oregon against Boise State because payback can be a . . . well, you know.
A: If Oregon was "far" superior to Boise State how come the Ducks lost to Boise State in 2008 and 2009?
It's funny that you would need to "pay back" a team that really doesn't belong on the same field as your team.