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Every week counts in college football, especially in BCS title chase

CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Each Saturday has a game or games that should affect the national title picture. It starts on Sept. 1 when Alabama begins its title defense against Michigan in Arlington, Texas.

August 01, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Alabama's Kenny Bell can't corral a pass in the end zone in front of LSU's Brandon Taylor (18) and Tharold Simon during last season's regular-season showdown.
Alabama's Kenny Bell can't corral a pass in the end zone in front… (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images )

College football has the best regular season in sports. It says so right there on Page 5 of the Bowl Championship Series propaganda manifesto (a.k.a., media guide).

"Every game counts," a printing company typed out for the BCS.

Guess what, though, it's true.

If every game counts in baseball, why did the Angels wait until almost May to call Mike Trout up from Salt Lake City?

The NBA has 82 regular-season games, 75 of which former Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal used to get in shape for the playoffs.

The NFL is a league where 7-9 teams are playoff-bound if they win the NFC West.

Last season's Super Bowl champion, in December, had a record of 7-7. College coaches who finish 7-7 are fired.

Vancouver worked hard all season to secure a No. 1 seeding in hockey only to be hip-checked in the first round by the eighth-seeded Kings, who became Stanley Cup champions.

College football is different: Defeat is a near-death experience. Oregon opened last season with a loss against Louisiana State and had to reset sights on winning the Rose Bowl — which it did.

We are here to prove at least one game each Saturday potentially affects this season's national title race to South Florida:

•Sept. 1, Michigan vs. Alabama at Arlington, Texas: How's this for an eye-opener? Alabama begins defense of its national title with a game it could lose. Michigan is coming off an 11-2 season and returns Heisman Trophy contender Denard Robinson at quarterback.

•Sept. 8, Georgia at Missouri: Georgia won the Southeastern Conference East last year and is a popular choice to repeat. Georgia misses Louisiana State, Alabama and Arkansas on the schedule, but this SEC kick-starter at new-kid Missouri is no cinch.

•Sept. 15, Alabama at Arkansas: This could be a BCS elimination game for Alabama if it carries a loss to Michigan into Fayetteville. Arkansas, also a contender, will be 2-0 after wins against Jacksonville State and Louisiana Monroe.

•Sept. 22, LSU at Auburn: Notice how these early marquee games are dominated by SEC schools? LSU was the clearest-cut No. 1 in BCS history last season before its toothless title-game loss to Alabama. With the addition of Zach Mettenberger at quarterback, LSU in 2012 could be better.

•Sept. 29, Wisconsin at Nebraska: Let's hope Badgers back Montee Ball is up and running after being hospitalized this week following an alleged assault in Madison. These Big Ten powers can make a statement heading into October. Defeat probably drops the loser into the Rose Bowl derby.

•Oct. 6, LSU at Florida and Georgia at South Carolina: LSU plays Towson on Sept. 29 in advance of a gantlet that includes Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State. Georgia and Steve Spurrier, South Carolina's coach, have a long history — you could look it up.

•Oct. 13, Texas vs. Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl: Texas' defense should be one of the nation's best this year. Coach Mack Brown thinks his Longhorns are poised to win a national title in the next two or three years. You don't do that by losing to Oklahoma in the Red River Classic.

•Oct. 20, South Carolina at Florida and Florida State at Miami: Spurrier returns to the place where he won the 1996 national title with another team that may have a chance to win one. And when, except nearly always, has Miami ever derailed a Florida State title run?

•Oct. 27, Notre Dame at Oklahoma and Florida vs. Georgia: Are the Irish back in the title fight or simply playing spoiler? Down South, is this the year the cocktail party means more to ... Georgia?

•Nov. 3, Oregon at USC and Alabama at LSU. These teams could be ranked 1-2-3-4 headed into the weekend.

•Nov. 10, Arkansas at South Carolina: Another week Verne Lundquist spends on the seat of his SEC pants.

•Nov. 17, Oklahoma at West Virginia and Stanford at Oregon: Oklahoma, if it's still standing in the BCS standings, gets a severe test against a new Big 12 member. Stanford lost its last two games against Oregon with Andrew Luck at quarterback.

•Nov. 24, Auburn at Alabama, Florida at Florida State, Michigan at Ohio State, Notre Dame at USC and Oklahoma State at Oklahoma: Plop yourself down on a couch. Would it be just like Notre Dame to knock undefeated USC out of contention?

•Dec.1, Oklahoma at Texas Christian and Texas at Kansas State: With no more Big 12 title game, George W. Bush might call these games "the deciders."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

Friday: Remember Boise State vs. Oklahoma? Conference realignment and a new playoff format may bring an end to that kind of classic matchup.

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