Monday, October 22, 2007

The More Things Change...

Years from now when we look back on the 2007 season in college football we will no doubt remember it for the absolute carnage that started in the season's first week when Appalachian State ripped the heart from the chests of Michigan fans everywhere.

What we may forget however is how certain the experts were prior to the season that the two best teams without a shadow of a doubt were USC and LSU. Certainly each had it's challenges to overcome along the way, but few thought anything would come between those two powerhouse programs and a trip to the BCS Championship Game.

Yet here we are in late October and both LSU and USC have suffered losses and find themselves on the outside looking in at Ohio State and Boston College who are currently #1 and #2 respectively in the BCS standings.

If there's one thing this season has taught us it's that anything can happen and everyone can be beaten. With that knowledge in hand I can come to only one conclusion; USC and LSU will play for the National Championship come January.

Nonsense you say? Never fear, I'll explain.

As it stands right now, LSU is third in the BCS standings which puts them in prime position to move into the top two should either Boston College or Ohio State slip. With BC on the road this Thursday night in Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech, LSU's ascension to #2 could happen as early as this week.

Not to mention the fact that even if BC gets past the Hokies they have to play several dangerous teams down the stretch like Clemson, Florida State and Miami, I just can't see them staying among the undefeated much longer.

LSU's remaining schedule includes one more tough test at Alabama this weekend, but gets much easier after that with games against Louisiana Tech, Ole Miss and Arkansas before the SEC Championship game. My guess is that they're more focused than ever on the fact that they are still in the hunt and the Tigers will not be denied the rest of the way.

So that takes care of LSU's part of the national championship picture. As for USC, well suffice it to say they're going to need a little more help. Help that I think they're going to get.

Yes, the 24-23 loss to the lowly Stanford Cardinal hurt the Trojans' chances greatly at getting back in the title game, but it did not kill them altogether. Should USC win out, as I think they will, they will have beaten three teams in the BCS top-25 (Cal, Oregon and Arizona State) as well as as tough UCLA team.

Those wins should be enough to propel the Trojans up the BCS standings, but that won't be enough on its own. There are several teams in the way of Pete Carroll's bunch, but all of them have it tough down the stretch and I think they will all lose.

West Virginia has games left against Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati and UConn and I can't see them getting through unscathed which would give them two losses and drop them from contention.

Oklahoma is a popular pick to be among the teams left standing, but despite a soft schedule the rest of the way, they have the Big 12 Championship to play in early December, a game I believe they will lose to a Missouri team looking for revenge.

The aforementioned Virginia Tech Hokies currently sit at #8 in the BCS, but games against Boston College, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami and Virginia will prove too much for true freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies to overcome. Welcome to the two-loss club Blacksburg, see you next year.

Kansas has been a great story all year, but the ride will come to an end in the season finale against a very tough Missouri squad who will have eyes on the Big 12 Championship with a win over the Jayhawks. Kansas finishes with just one loss, but they're weak overall schedule will hurt them too much to reach the title game with one loss.

The season's other great story is of course South Florida and their run at a possible Big East Championship. However after a deflating loss to Rutgers last Thursday night I think they are in line to lose one more time with games against UConn, Louisville and Cincinnati left.

The defending champion Florida Gators reside one spot ahead of the Trojans in the BCS, but that won't last. Not only do the Gators already have two losses under their belts, they've got several difficult tests ahead of them against teams like Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State. Even if they win out in the regular season their reward will be an SEC Championship Game meeting with LSU.

All of that brings us to The Ohio State University and their current status as the number one team in the country. So far the Buckeyes have beaten pretty much nobody, but the real tests start this week as they travel to Happy Valley to take on Penn State.

I believe they'll take care of business against Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions and go on to beat their next two opponents, Wisconsin and Illinois. Should they win those games it'll mean a young and relatively inexperienced Ohio State team will have to travel to Ann Arbor and beat their bitter rivals, the Michigan Wolverines, in order to play for all the marbles.

With their season destroyed almost before it even began, you know the Wolverines and their trio of senior stars have had this game circled as their last chance at glory. I can't see Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Jake Long allowing the resurgent Wolverines to lose on their home field to their most hated rival, so I'll call it right now:

Michigan 27 Ohio State 23

The outcome of that game, combined with the fact that I believe USC will have risen to the #3 spot in the BCS by then will inexplicably return the college football world right back to where it all started, with USC and LSU battling for the ultimate prize.

It seems outlandish, improbable and downright confusing I know, but what would be a better finish to one of the greatest seasons in college football history? They say the more things change, the more they stay the same. And in a season of ultimate change no truer words have ever been spoken.

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