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THE SHORT LIST OF BCS TITLE CONTENDERS
November 8, 2007

SCS.com Although we did not lose a single team from the zero and one loss club this past weekend, a couple of teams seriously jeopardized their championship chances with first losses (Boston College and Arizona State). Twelve teams remain in the mix for BCS bowls and it is time to discuss the chances for each and every one. Before getting to that, there were a couple notable things in Week 10.

First, congratulations to Navy. No matter how poor of a recruiter or motivator Charlie Weis is at the college level, the Irish still have much more size and talent this year. When 240-lb defensive linemen are trying to bust through 320-lb offensive linemen, it seems like a major mismatch. That did not stop Navy from stepping up to the challenge and breaking the longest losing streak against one team in college football. Charlie Weis will get 1-2 more years to turn things back around, but it appears that things are not so peachy after all in South Bend. Next on the clock is Kentucky against Tennessee, but it will take another two decades of Wildcat futility to reach these proportions.

One interesting point about Notre Dame: while I have always thought the Big Ten would never offer a coveted 12th conference spot to ND after the Irish turned them down in the mid-90’s, this might be the right time to start discussions again. Notre Dame has a huge national following, but NBC cannot be thrilled about showing one of the most pathetic college football teams every week. Notre Dame needs a conference to gain a little credibility and to tone down the schedule a bit. Notre Dame fits geographically in the Big Ten and already plays four Big Ten games a year. The deal finally makes sense for the Big Ten also. Even if the Irish survive as a mid-level conference team, the Big Ten gains a lot of credibility still by adding this program. The Big Ten Network also needs one final push or else it will fall to the cable company demands, and Notre Dame could bring that extra kick. Both sides win, and perhaps the door will open now that Notre Dame will not be able to back into the BCS with 10-2 records every year.

Another interesting game over the weekend brought one of the best stories of the year to the biggest disaster in a few years of this sport, Kansas at Nebraska. The Cornhusker program needs a house cleaning, and it should be done immediately. Here’s guessing Nebraska would be OK with those Frank Solich 10-3 seasons now, but he’s moved on to the promised land of Ohio University and will not be coming back. Nebraska has even more talent than Notre Dame, and the results are shockingly worse. Bill Callahan needs to go restart somewhere else, as there’s nothing more to do to this program. It must really hit home when the Cornhuskers cannot stop Kansas and gives up 76 points, but Kansas is one of three undefeated teams left now. Speaking of that…let’s take a quick look at the BCS Title possibilities for each team on the “short list” of contenders.

Arizona State

Oh, how the dream falls apart so fast. The best news for Arizona State is that Oregon already lost a game to Cal earlier and may drop another, opening the door for the Sun Devils to return to the BCS for the first time in a decade (before there was a BCS applying to the Pac-10 anyway). The downside? How’s a road game at UCLA followed by USC and Arizona at home for you? The Bruins play up to the level of their competition, so the Sun Devils will likely not run the table. Even if they did, they are almost the lowest team on the totem poll, especially if Oregon wins out.

Chance of BCS Title Game: 3%

Boise State

The primary threat to derail Hawaii for the BCS express is last year’s Cinderella, the Broncos. The road loss at Washington was so early that it is nearly forgotten. Outside a 69-67 crazy game against Nevada, Boise State has held the line defensively and blown out most of their opponents. The BCS Title game is an even farther possibility than it was last year, when the Broncos had a legitimate claim to the position. The closing schedule is 0-9 Utah State and 1-9 Idaho to prepare for Hawaii. BSU could sneak in to the BCS with a big win over Hawaii and few breaks in the middle of the BCS standings. Still, no title game hopes.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 0%

Boston College

The Eagles just dropped their first game of the year, and this probably ended all hopes of a national title. The remaining schedule is rough, with road games at Maryland and Clemson followed by Miami and a possible ACC title game against Virginia Tech. If they run that gauntlet, the Eagles will deserve consideration and may get in if things break their way.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 2%

Connecticut

Here’s the shocker of the season, if it's not Kansas. The Huskies are another basketball school that has to wait to turn their full attention to the hard-court. Losing a one point game at Virginia is not too embarrassing, but Connecticut does not have enough street credibility to jump all the other one loss teams. The road game at Cincinnati will be a tough test this week, but the real test will be the closer at West Virginia. No matter how Connecticut does against the Bearcats, the game against WVU will be for the BCS berth. That would be amazing, but the Big East is just that way.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 1%

Hawaii

The Warriors have to be given credit for staying undefeated in the face of adversity. Playing on the US mainland and then converting back to home Pacific time is tough every season. Colt Brennan is unstoppable, but decent teams have been able to keep with the Warriors due to a porous defense. Hawaii comes off their bye week this week and enters the meat of their schedule. Fresno State, Boise State, and Washington are all tough tests, but each has to go to Hawaii. A real trap game might be the Nevada road game between the Bulldogs and Broncos. The schedule is dangerous, but even if Hawaii goes undefeated they will be lucky to just be in a BCS bowl at all, let alone a title game. No chance here, but I doubt Hawaii cares about that. Boise State was certainly OK with last season.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 0%

Kansas

Rock Chalk Jayhawk. All of a sudden basketball is not the only game in Lawrence. As one of only two undefeated teams left (in BCS conferences), there will be a lot of support for them if they get to 13-0. A road game at Oklahoma State might be tricky this weekend, but Kansas should have enough offense to roll the Cowboys and Iowa State next week. Then comes Missouri and Oklahoma, both on neutral fields. With this two wins to close the season, Kansas actually is probably in control of their own destiny in the BCS race instead of LSU and Oregon. That being said, it is hard to win those two games in consecutive weeks.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 25%

LSU

The Bayou Bengals are as close as you can come to being undefeated, losing in triple overtime on the road in the SEC. Still, close calls will make the Oregon-LSU debate too close to call right now and work must still be done to convince voters. Kansas could also steal a spot here, but the Jayhawks have a tough schedule. Arkansas and the SEC title game are the only real threats left on the schedule for LSU, and I expect the Tigers to have a little trouble down the stretch. Still, LSU can thank Florida for beating OSU so badly last year that the SEC has all kinds of credibility and the only one-loss team left in the conference currently sits at #2.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 37%

Missouri

Taking care of business if what got Missouri to this point. A road loss to Oklahoma is more than acceptable, and the Tigers face the same opportunity in front of Kansas, that being closing against two Top 5 teams (Kansas and Oklahoma). Unfortunately for Missouri, the difference between them and Kansas is the one loss. Even by going 12-1, Missouri would lose a debate against Oregon or LSU, and perhaps even West Virginia. Therefore the chances are slim. Closing schedule is A&M followed by K-State and Kansas.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 5%

Ohio State

The Buckeyes certainly know how to take care of business. The reason Ohio State is in the pole position for the second straight year is that OSU just does not lose regular season games against lesser opposition. Only Illinois and Michigan remain on the schedule, and with Mike Hart injured these might not slow the Buckeyes. Any game in Ann Arbor is risky and the Wolverines are on a roll, but with only two games left, you have to like the Buckeyes chances of returning to avenge last season’s embarrassing BCS title game loss.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 70%

Oklahoma

The Sooners lost a shocking game at Colorado, but other than that it has been the expected smooth sailing. A test at Iowa State may actually help them down the road. Baylor and Texas Tech should not be a problem, but the Bedlam game is always tough. Whether Missouri or Kansas shows up in the Big XII title game, Oklahoma should be favored and should win. If they do, LSU and Oregon may have some competition.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 15%

Oregon

Now here’s a real contender, especially after dismantling Arizona State and beating USC. The Ducks have been helped by a favorable home schedule in conference, but don’t discount the huge 39-7 road win at Michigan early in the year. This team can score a lot of points, and they will be able to compare themselves to Ohio State after the Buckeyes go to Ann Arbor in just over a week. Despite the SEC being a slightly better conference than the Pac-10, Oregon should still get the nod if both are fighting for the number two spot. The vote would be very close (and closing with Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon State should make the Ducks 11-1), but LSU gets a couple more percentage points right now for conference affiliation.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 35%

West Virginia

The Mountaineers may be hurt by losing to South Florida, but when both your Heisman candidate skill players are out with injuries in a road conference game…a loss can be understandable. WVU closes with Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut, and Pittsburgh. With only Cincinnati on the road and the Morgantown advantage in the other three, the Mountaineers should be 11-1 come December. That will only be enough if they get some serious help, and there’s always the possible WVU choke that comes anytime national titles get within reach. The BCS should happen, anything else would be disappointing.

Chances of BCS Title Game: 20%

Moving onto this week’s slate of games, there are a few gems out there. The first game of the week is Kansas at Oklahoma State. While WVU-Louisville might get headlines for a lack of defense, this game should be another scoring showdown as both teams are in the Top 10 for yards per game nationally. Jayhawk QB Todd Reesing has been scary-efficient this season, and don’t expect OSU to stop that. Both teams run the ball well, and the key will be whose defense steps up for a stop or two. Kansas has more playmakers on that critical side of the ball and Oklahoma State will still be reeling from the collapse against Texas, so Kansas stays undefeated with a 14 point win.

The second game of the week is Connecticut at Cincinnati. This game does not really affect UConn’s chances for the conference title, as only Syracuse and WVU remain for the currently undefeated Huskies. That does not mean this game is not important to UConn, who has something to prove to the nation. Cincinnati is still somewhat in the mix for the conference title, but most beat the Huskies and WVU to have a chance. The Huskies offense and passing game is not great, but the combo threat tailbacks Andre Dixon and Donald Brown will test the Cincinnati front seven. Bearcats QB Ben Mauk leads a confident UC offense, who will need to be efficient to stay with Connecticut. Cincinnati plays very well at home, and this will be a game to expose UConn. Cincinnati wins a big one by 17.

The top game of the week comes from the SEC, and I’ll wait a moment for that shock to wear off. This week’s featured showdown is giant-killer Auburn visiting SEC East leader Georgia. Each team needs a little bit of help in knocking out Tennessee and LSU from the conference championship game, but this game will be crucial as one team gets knocked out of the race. Auburn has been tough defensively, especially against the pass. Georgia QB Matthew Stafford is high quality, but the Bulldogs will need to dominate the battle of the trenches and run the ball successfully to win this game. Auburn is just tough on the good teams, and Tommy Tuberville will not let his boys look ahead to Alabama in two weeks. Tigers by 3 with a fantastic finish.

GOTW Record to Date: 18-15 (.545)
Last Week: 2-1

Fitz Top 10 – Week 10
1. Ohio State (10-0)
2. Kansas (9-0)
3. Oregon (8-1)
4. Oklahoma (8-1)
5. LSU (8-1)
6. West Virginia (7-1)
7. Hawaii (8-0)
8. Missouri (8-1)
9. Arizona State (8-1)
10. Boston College (8-1)
Just Missed: Michigan, UConn, Georgia, Boise State, Texas

I get to see two games this week, and two national title contenders. WVU-Louisville should be interesting on Thursday night, and OSU-Illinois could be a trap game for the Buckeyes. It’s the best time of year to be a college football fan outside of the end of bowl season, so go out there and enjoy it! See you next week.

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