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HORNED FROG NATION RISES UP AS BCS PICTURE CLEARS
November 11, 2010

SCS.com The showdowns for Boise State and TCU turned out to be clunkers as both made huge statements against quality teams in Hawaii and Utah. Although the statement victories were impressive enough, the biggest boon to both of these teams was happening simultaneously in Baton Rouge. The Mad Hatter Les Miles was up to his usual tricks, sneaking his way past an Alabama team that seems a lot more mortal than they looked just a few weeks ago. Just like that, the primary problem in the Iron Bowl was eliminated as now Alabam can knock out Auburn without making the SEC Championship game and ending up with enough of a bump to jump TCU and Boise State at the end of the year. The current crop of one-loss teams is highly flawed for various reasons and will not jump TCU no matter how they end the season. So the table is finally set and the path is clear. TCU and Boise State will earn one of the two slots in the BCS Championship if one more team loses, that being either Oregon or Auburn. Considering the strength of the reamining schedules for both the top two teams, it is highly likely one or both of them will fall, and the dream will become reality for one of the non automatic qualifiers.

With one week of November games gone, it is finally time to go through the BCS projection process for the first time. Although every season has the potential to become a crazy 2007-esque season, the sheer reality is that there are only five teams fighting for the two BCS Championship slots, and more than likely just four. Obviously the two teams in a win-out and get in scenario are Auburn and Oregon. If one of those two teams fall, then either TCU or Boise State will jump into the open slot. The debate between Boise State coming off a win over Nevada and two BCS victories (including over TCU last season) versus a TCU team with a more impressive resume this year one huge victory against Utah a month before the decision must be made. One would figure TCU now needs to be upset for Boise State to get in, but you can never count out the voters making a change if TCU struggles in their last two games against inferior competition. The fifth and final potential BCS Championship contender is Nebraska as a one-loss champion of the Big XII, but this seems incredibly unlikely. A one-loss Auburn may actually get back in over Nebraska as long as Auburn is the SEC champion. So perhaps it is a four team race after all.

Before jumping into the BCS selection procedures and break down, I will briefly explain why all the one-loss teams are not real BCS contenders. There are nine one-loss team left, and moving from the bottom up in the BCS Standings...#21 Nevada is buried and cannot jump 19 spots with one win over Boise State at home, #14 Utah just lost by 40 points at home in November, #11 Michigan State suffered an unforgettable 30 point loss at Iowa and does not have Ohio State to strengthen their computer ranking, #10 Oklahoma State could end with two nice wins against Oklahoma and Nebraska, but the Cowboys are coming from too low a BCS position and would not outclass any SEC champion, #9 Ohio State has a terrible computer profile that gets no better without Michigan State on the schedule, #8 Nebraska has an inexplicable bad loss to Texas that looks worse every day, #7 Wisconsin is too weak in the computers and will have no big wins in November to keep in the minds of voters, #6 Stanford cannot win the Pac-10 and thus cannot pass a team that beat them by 21 (Oregon) without two losses for the Ducks which will not happen, and #5 LSU is all but assured of not making the SEC Championship which all but precludes them from having a case for a shot at the big prize. Therefore, none of the current crop of one-loss teams has any right to get into the BCS Championship, unless some crazy happenings occur in November to the top 4 and only remaining undefeated teams.

The BCS Championship takes the top two teams in the final BCS Standings, which I project will be Oregon at 12-0 and TCU at 12-0 after Auburn loses on the road in the Iron Bowl but still ends up in the SEC Championship. Auburn will rebound to win the SEC and end up in the Sugar Bowl, Iowa will defeat Ohio State and give Michigan State the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth, Virginia Tech will continue rolling to the ACC title, Nebraska will take the Big XII title and the Fiesta Bowl berth, and Pittsburgh will take the Big East title. The three at-large berths will likely go to a one-loss LSU team left out of the SEC Championship, a one-loss Wisconsin out of the Big Ten, and the final spot will be chosen between Stanford and Boise State. The Rose will get first selection to replace Oregon and there's little doubt they will go with tradition and stick Stanford in to play the Spartans. The Sugar Bowl gets the first remaining pick and will grab Wisconsin, which leaves LSU for the Orange Bowl and Pittsburgh will certainly fall to the Fiesta. That leaves the games as follows:

2011 BCS Bowl Projections - 4 Weeks To Go

Rose - Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. Stanford (at large)
Fiesta - Nebraska (Big XII) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East)
Orange - Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. LSU (at large)
Sugar - Auburn (SEC) vs. Wisconsin (at large)
BCS Championship - Oregon (Pac-10) vs. TCU (at large)

As is the custom here, these projections will be revisited every week through the end of the season and hopefully we will be as accurate as the past two seasons when the last projections have been 85% correct. Congratulations go out to Joe Paterno who delivered right on time for win number 400 last weekend against Northwestern. Few thought he would reach the mark after the Nittany Lions started 3-3 and then lost starting quarterback Rob Bolden a week later, but the Nittany Lions have rebounded from all problems including a 21-0 deficit against Northwestern. The youngest coach in division I-A football Pat Fitzgerald lost to the winningist old coach in the land, and you never know if this game will be looked back upon in many years if Coach Fitzgerald goes on to 300 or more wins himself with a super-long career. While Penn State does not have any time to enjoy the victory before heading to Columbus Ohio this weekend, Penn State fans and alumni need to enjoy the moment because it definitely seems like Joe will hang it up after this season or next. His dream of an expanded Big Ten is made and the program will be in good hands with his team of long-term assistants, so going out on a New Year's Day bowl victory or a similar fate will be the way Joe will want to go. A great story to lead us into a November without much to remember at least on paper.

November has a shocking dearth of big showdowns, as the remaining big games appear to be limited to the Iron Bowl, the civil War, a BCS elimination game between OSU and Iowa, and the conference championship games. Although everyone pointed to Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, and Florida as the likely cream of the crop at the beginning of the season, the reality is that none of those teams have a chance to even make a run at a championship now. Although just when it looks boring on paper, that's whenthings get crazy and good in college football. So keep your nose to the ground as there are bound to be some exciting under-the-radar games coming down the pipeline. One final note from the week that was is how quickly you can lose a job in college football. The answer is 11 minutes as Colorado managed to blow a 28 point fourth quarter lead at lowly Kansas, leading to the firing of Dan Hawkins mid-season. While I am never a fan of mid-season firings, the writing was long on the wall for Hawkins and this may be the easier way to begin the transition with the Pac-12 on the horizon next year. Colorado has a lot of work to do to avoid the fate of the Washington schools in the Pac-12, and that work must begin now.

The first game of the week is a battle for the SEC East division championship as South Carolina heads into the Swamp to play Florida. South Carolina will be trying to relive Steve Spurrier's history in the Swamp (122 victories as Florida coach) and forget their own 1-19 streak in the series with no wins in the Swamp ever. The Gamecocks come in scuffling a bit after being beaten by two of the three west division teams this season including losses at Auburn three weeks ago and against Arkansas last week. Talented RB Marcus Lattimore may have a dinged up knee and if he gets knocked out, look for the opportunistic Gators defense to eat up QB Stephen Garcia, already snagging 17 interceptions on the season. While the Gamecocks are struggling, the Gators are back in stride with wins over Georgia and Vanderbilt. The most crucial development of the season may have come last week when Urban Meyer made QB John Brantley split time with freshman TE Jordan Reed. Reed is a player in the mold of Tim Tebow, and he managed over 200 yards of total offense against a weak Commodores defense. Look for Reed and Brantley to continue to split playing time in the mold of Chris Leak and Tebow in 2006. Brantley may still be the guy for the Gators down the road, but right now he will have to earn the right to start and that is a good thing for Florida. This year looked like a special one coming in for South Carolina, but Lattimore being banged up changes the whole equation and gives Florida all the edge they need. Expect this game to be very close, but Florida finds a way to sneak into the SEC Championship with an astounding three losses after a 3 point win.

The second game of the week is Penn State at Ohio State. Although Joe Paterno hit milestone win number 400 last weekend, he is eager to continue his streak of one straight win in columbus after not managing a win there in his previous ten tries. The 2008 game came down to a Terrelle Pryor fumble late, and the 2009 version was locked up by a clutch second-half touchdown pass by Pryor to put the game away. Once again, expect the kid from Jeanette PA to be the focal point as Penn State's defense has really shut down a couple prolific offense when the game was one the line the past two weeks (Michigan and Northwestern). Ohio State is scoring 42 points per game and has achieved excellent balance on offense with 257 yards passing per game and 212 rushing. Expect RB Daniel Herron to be a primary focus this week as the Buckeyes will look to establish the running game and wear down the tough young linebackers of the Nittany Lions led by Michael Mauti. Just like the 2009 version of this game, expect Herron to open up some major throwing lanes for Pryor, and a lot of points for OSU. When Penn State has the ball, look for backup QB Matt McGloin to continue having some success through the air against a really banged up Buckeye secondary. However, the Bucks do have their three starting linebackers at the same time for the first time since the Wisconsin loss, which can only help the replacements who have stepped up at safety. Evan Royster has been running well against weak defenses, but he has struggled mightily against solid defenses like Illinois. Unless McGloin continues to surprise with some big plays, the Nittany Lions will lose this game in the third quarter in all likelihood as OSU has too many guns, especially at home, to keep up with. Buckeyes by 24.

The third and top game of the week is Oregon at California. Although much has been made of Auburn's final three game stretch run, Oregon also will not have it easy with a tough Arizona team sandwiched by road tests at Oregon State and California. California may look easy at 5-4, but the Bears are 4-0 at home and have by far the best defense in the Pac-10. Oregon brings the best offense in the country in to test the Bears defense, led by QB Darron Thomas. The real key is stopping the run, as the Ducks have fast-paced their opponents into the ground with over 300 yards per game on the ground. If the Cal defensive line can stop the gaps and keep RB LaMichael James contained, the Bears will have a chance. Expect the Ducks to run away from DL Cameron Jordan, who has been dominating all offensive linemen he has faced this season. The underrated aspect of this game will be the battle between a mediocre Cal offense against a Ducks defense that is prone to get into shootouts despite the killer offense. Starting QB Kevin Riley was knocked out for the season two weeks ago and Brock Mansion does not appear to be his equal quite yet. Thus, the Ducks may get a bit of a reprieve thanks to Cal's likely offensive struggles. While Cal will stay conservative to keep Oregon's offense off the field and try to eliminate any mistakes, that is not the way to beat the Ducks. Cal keeps it close for a half but falls for the first time at home this season. Oregon by 13.

This week, we have a bonus game of the week! In honor of the fine editor of this here website, the honorary game of the week is Mississippi State at Alabama. Although both of these teams are out of the SEC Championship sweepstakes with two losses, Mississippi State is a mere breath away from being 8-1 with a win over Auburn. Although the Bulldogs have played in some tight contests, six victories in a row speak for themselves. Although the names may not be as recognizable as Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Julio Jones, and Greg McElroy, the Bulldog offense has succeeded using Alabama's well-used formula of a strong running game, a strong defense, and few mistakes. QB Chris Relf will test Alabama on the edges with his running ability, while RB Vick Ballard will look for the same holes Marcus Lattimore used to run roughshod all over the Crimson Tide a few weeks ago. The Tide will have a point to prove on offense though after only breaking out against Tennessee in the last four weeks. Bulldogs linebacker Chris White will need to sniff out Ingram and Richardson, or else the Crimson Tide may run too far away in their home stadium. Every time MSU is underestimated, they seem to reach and exceed the expectations. But with Alabama coming off a loss, this is just a bad time to have to play the Tide. Even with a bye week, the Bulldogs fall short in a tight one by 6.

Other Games of the Week - Week 11

(4) Boise State defeats Idaho
(2) Auburn defeats Georgia
(3) TCU defeats San Diego State
(5) LSU defeats LA Monroe
(6) Stanford defeats Arizona State
(7) Wisconsin defeats Indiana
(8) Nebraksa defeats Kansas
(10) Oklahoma State defeats Texas
(13) Iowa defeats Northwestern
(14) Utah defeats Notre Dame
(15) Arkansas defeats UTEP
(16) Oklahoma defeats Texas Tech
(24) Kansas State defeats (17) Missouri
USC defeats (18) Arizona
North Carolina defeats (20) Virginia Tech
(21) Nevada defeats Fresno State
Baylor defeats (25) Texas A&M

2010 GOTW Record: 20-10
Last Week: 1-2
2010 Overall Top 25 Record: 156-41
Last Week: 11-7

Fitz Top 10 - Week 11

1. Oregon (8-0)
2. TCU (9-0)
3. Boise State (7-0)
4. Auburn (9-0)
5. Wisconsin (7-1)
6. Stanford (7-1)
7. LSU (8-1)
8. Ohio State (8-1)
9. Nebraska (7-1)
10. Michigan State (9-1)

Just Missed: Oklahoma State, Alabama, Iowa, Arkansas, Virginia Tech

Watching the Miami of Ohio and Bowling Green game on Wednesday night, the most interesting thing about the game (which was very competitve) was how the television guys had to deal with rolling fog that basically knocked out visibility beyond 40 yards or so. Kickoffs and punts became very interesting on the field, but the res tof play seemed unaffected. It makes you wonder though without beign able to really see the fans, what would college football be like without the fans there? Would the play still be as competitive without the extra motivation from the crowd? While I suspect college football players are competitive enough to play without a crowd, I think it would be an interesting case study to watch a couple of well-oiled machines such as Oregon and Auburn take on silence and empty stadiums. I suppose the query is no different than "if a tree falls in a forest with nobody around...", but I think the fans are undervalued sometimes. After going to a professional football game this week, I remembered why college football is the best sport in America. The fans are passionate enough, but the pagentry and magic is just not there with professional sports teams. With that in mind, enjoy what looks like perhaps the last good weather weekend for much of the country before the chill of winter swings in.

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