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AROUND THE COLLEGE NATION
November 11, 2004

BCS 1-2-3

The big discussion about the BCS continues to be the ranking of the nation's top three teams. USC has been in the top spot since the first BCS ranking came out, and no one has really disputed that. The controversy seems to come in the crucial number two spot. That's where Oklahoma currently resides, but Auburn is banging on the door at number three.

So if these three teams were to all go unbeaten for the entire season, which two should get the nod to play in this year's BCS title game? In my opinion, that decision has to be made by looking at each team's non-conference schedule. Why? Because while they are not equal, the PAC 10, Big XII, and SEC are fairly even across the board. All three have top 25 teams (California and Arizona State in the PAC 10, Texas, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State in the Big XII, and Georgia, Tennessee, and LSU in the SEC) as well as their share of teams pulling up the rear. No, the three conferences are not entirely equal. But they are close enough that we should concentrate on the aspect of the schedule that each team has control over: the non-conference games.

The best non-conference schedule of the three is undoubtedly that of the Trojans. USC has played Virginia Tech on the road, Colorado State at home, BYU on the road, and will host Notre Dame later in the season. That four-game schedule includes two BCS teams that will be bowling this year as well as two teams from the Mountain West, one of which is likely to see postseason action this winter. The four teams have a combined record of 21-15 (.583) to date.

The battle for second place is not as clear, but the edge does go to Oklahoma. The Sooners' three-game non-conference slate consists of three home games against Bowling Green, Houston, and Oregon. That's one BCS team that will go bowling as well as a MAC team that's on the bubble and a CUSA team that will be spending the winter at home. The Ducks are in the top half of the PAC 10 standings, while BGSU is tied for the lead in the West Division of the MAC. UH is sitting at .500 in CUSA play but just 3-6 overall. The combined record of OU's three OOC opponents is 15-12 (.556).

The least impressive non-conference slate belongs to Auburn. The Tigers have hosted Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, and D-IAA The Citadel. Both Louisiana Tech and ULL are in the top half of their respective league standings, but neither team is in a BCS conference. The Citadel is just 2-6 this season, meaning AU's OOC opponents have a combined record of just 10-16 (.385) this season.

So what am I saying? Who knows... But I think the point is this. While some continue to wonder how an undefeated team from the SEC could be left out of the national title game, I think the BCS standings have it right at this point. USC and OU have both played more difficult out-of-conference schedules in addition to their respective conference slates. Therefore, unless something changes in the next month, look for a Trojan/Sooner matchup in this year's Orange Bowl...and rightfully so.

MAURICE SPEAKS

By now, you've seen the allegations of former Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett against his old school. He claims he was given large amounts of cash, free use of vehicles, paid for jobs he didn't do, given grades for classes he didn't attend, and more. The OSU administration immediately denied any and all wrongdoing, with the athletic director in Columbus citing the source as unreliable.

While that may be true, this will almost certainly require an NCAA investigation. Or will it? The NCAA has already been in Columbus once and claimed to have found nothing. If they return again, they will be telling the world there's a chance they didn't get the job done the first time. And if they find wrongdoing with this investigation?...

The NCAA is notorious for making a decision as long as it goes against conventional wisdom. Since common sense says serious allegations like those presented by Clarett deserve a little look-see, expect the NCAA to ignore the situation completely. It would be par for the course in Indianapolis.

HOOPS IS HERE!

The college hoops season tips off on Thursday with the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. The winners of each of the four regions will meet in New York City for the tournament finals next Thursday and Friday. Below is a list of Thursday's matchups. The winners and losers meet on Friday.

BIRMINGHAM, AL REGION:
Alabama A&M vs Birmingham Southern
Fairfield vs (10) Mississippi State

SYRACUSE, NY REGION:
Princeton vs Bucknell
Northern Colorado vs (8) Syracuse

MEMPHIS, TN REGION:
George Mason vs IPFW
Savannah State vs (14) Memphis

BERKLEY, CA REGION:
St. Mary's vs Belmont
UC-Riverside vs California

I'VE GOT MAIL

Q : "How good is Ted Ginn Jr, and can OSU beat Michigan if they get by Purdue?"

A : Starting with the freshman at Ohio State, Ginn obviously has the talent and credentials to be a star in the Big Ten. The Cleveland native was named the national high school player of the year by TheInsiders.com after his 2003 senior season at Glenville High School. So far this season, Ohio State has had the true freshman do a little bit of everything: run, receive, return punts, and return kicks. While he has scored one TD on the ground and two through the air, his real gift seems to be on special teams. He has taken three of his eight punts back for TDs. If that doesn't tell you how gifted this guy is, I don't know what would.

Turning to the Buckeye team as a whole, Jim Tressel's club seems to have finally gotten things back on track after a mid-season three-game losing streak. After an impressive road win at Michigan State a week ago, the Buckeyes stay on the road and visit the only team in the Big Ten more disappointing than themselves: Purdue. OSU could (and maybe should) be able to win in West Lafayette. If that happens, State will be on a serious roll and have tons of confidence. The Ohio State/Michigan rivalry is arguably the nation's best. While Michigan is clearly one of the nation's best teams, there is absolutely no guarantee they can win in the Buckeye Nation.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH IN WEEK ELEVEN

(1) The matchup on the Plains between Georgia and Auburn is one of the most interesting games of the entire season. The Tigers have yet to lose this season and are sitting in third place in the BCS standings. Georgia, meanwhile, is not in the national title picture but does seem to have a knack for getting the job done this season. David Greene is a senior QB who has been steady throughout his career. Jason Campbell has struggled in the past but has been the key to AU's success in 2004. Which QB plays better is important, but the difference will likely be Tiger RBs Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown.

(2) Two of the remaining unbeatens in Divison I hit the road on Saturday. Though neither Wisconsin and Utah are in the BCS title hunt right now, their BCS chances may ride on winning out. Just one loss could cost the Badgers and/or Utes a spot in one of the four BCS bowl games. Barry Alvarez's Badgers are in East Lansing to take on Michigan State. MSU was not able to knock off Ohio State last week at home. Utah, meanwhile, will be paying a visit to Wyoming. The Cowboys knocked off Mississippi in Laramie earlier this year. Can either or both of these teams keep their records free of the big L?

(3) The Big XII North just keeps getting nastier. Iowa State upset Nebraska in Ames last week and is now tied with the Cornhuskers atop the division heading into the final few weeks of the season. With a NU loss at Oklahoma likely this week, things could get really interesting. ISU is idle this week but still has games remaining at Kansas State and vs Missouri. Colorado, as well as the Wildcats and Tigers, are all just one game behind NU and ISU. The winner of this week's CU/KSU matchup stays in the race, while MU, like Iowa State, takes the week off.

WHAT WE WATCHED LAST WEEK

(1) For the second straight week, it was a close call for the Oklahoma Sooners. After surviving thanks to a missed field goal at Oklahoma State two weeks ago, OU rallied from a deficit to pick up a one-touchdown win in College Station, Texas. The Aggies jumped out to an early lead but couldn't hold, allowing the Sooners to stay in the BCS and national title races. Oklahoma hosts Nebraska this weekend before finishing their season against Baylor.

(2) North Carolina attempted to pull a huge home upset for the second consecutive week but came up just short last Saturday against Virginia Tech. That loss now leaves UNC needing to win their final two games of the season to go bowling. A road trip to fiesty Wake Forest is on the schedule this week before the Tar Heels finish up the season on the road at Duke.

(3) We said CUSA's top two teams heading into last week would face tough tests, and did they ever! Louisville, playing on the road at Memphis, struggled throughout the contest on defense but was able to outscore the Tigers and remain unbeaten in the league. That win actually vaulted UL into the CUSA driver's seat because Southern Miss was demolished at home by Cincinnati on Saturday. The Bearcats have now picked up three straight impressive wins over TCU, Memphis, and USM.

 > Talk about it in The College Corner...

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