The Bowl Championship Series (BCS), which decides (among other things) the two teams that will play in college football’s national title game, is starting to show its cards.
Another normal Fall 2009 Saturday morning passed last weekend, as America woke up to find a top-five college football team struggling mightily. This time, No. 4 Iowa was down 21-7 at halftime in Iowa City to 17.5-point-underdog Indiana. Iowa QB Rickey Stanzi went on to throw four interceptions in the third quarter, and the Hawkeyes went into the final quarter down ten points—but they still somehow survived. Those of you who slept all the way through brunch could have woken up to see an impressive 42-24 win in the box-score for the BCS computers’ second favorite team.Remember when Iowa, ranked No. 6 at the time, needed a last-second TD pass to beat Michigan State, No. 1 Florida struggled mightily against Mississippi State, No. 2 Alabama needed two blocked FGs at home to beat unranked Tennessee, No. 7 USC barely held on at home against Oregon State, and No. 10 Miami lost at home in OT to Clemson?
Yeah, that was only two weeks ago.
A whole season’s worth of near disasters and inept performances—and that was only one week of it. This season has had a slew of disastrous performance by the teams ranked in the Top 25.But after last weekend, the BCS picture started to become more clear.
To many, this college football season has understandably been a disappointment. With more big names choosing to return to college over the NFL in years, expectations were justifiably high. But those high hopes have left us with a bunch of Heisman hopefuls not performing up to snuff (Jahvid Best), injured (Sam Bradford), or absolutely imploding (Jevan Snead). These problems have been compounded by the existence of a bunch of mediocre teams.
The mess only continued this past weekend: Iowa, Penn St, and Miami struggled, and Ole Miss and USC lost again.
Boy, did USC lose again; this was supposed to be ABC’s huge primetime showdown between The Men of Troy and the Mighty Ducks of Eugene, which would likely decide the PAC-10. Not much of a showdown. Pete Carroll’s defense was absolutely exposed by first-year head coach Chip Kelly’s spread attack. The Ducks put up 613 yards of total offense (including 339 on the ground) and beat USC by 27 points, both worsts for Carroll since he took charge of the USC program in 2001. Another behemoth down.
The BCS picture is clearer now.
If your hangover-induced afternoon nap kept you sleeping from 12:30 to 4, and your local ABC affiliate prevented you from watching the other primetime match-up, you missed something special and cathartic for this year’s college football season—the reemergence of two powerhouses: the Florida Gators and the Texas Longhorns.
Florida faced Georgia in their annual rivalry game, the game that used to be the best-named game in sports—“The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”Florida’s offense was finally looking like what the Florida offense of 2009 was supposed to be—or at least something closer to it—as they took down the Bulldogs 41-17.Senior QB and 2007 Heisman Trophy Winner Tim Tebow threw for two scores and ran for two more, the first time he has done so this season (and 11th of his career). After looking sluggish and predictable on offense the last few weeks, Florida let it loose. Georgia’s defense is hardly stout, but the Gators made serious offensive adjustments. The misdirection plays made Georgia look silly, the passing game was finally in rhythm, and the outside running game, at long last, became a part of the offense.
Brandon Spikes’ eye-gouging of Georgia RB Washaun Ealey aside, the defense was its usual dominant self. Giving up 286 yards to Georgia dropped the formerly top-ranked Florida defense behind TCU in yards allowed, but second ain’t too bad (236 yards/game).
Meanwhile, the University of Texas Longhorns went into Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. and absolutely crushed the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys 41-14.
Colt McCoy threw for a touchdown and only threw five incompletions. He did not have a huge game, but he did not make any mistakes and, besides, he did not need a huge game. The Longhorn defense forced five turnovers including four Zac Robinson interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns. The Cowboys never stood a chance.
Texas may have the best defensive coordinator in the country in Will Muschamp, and he is definitely coaching ‘em up: the defense has a bunch of relatively unknown players, but as a group, people are starting to take notice. Statistically, the Longhorns have the fourth-best defense and the best rushing defense in the country. They have picked off opposing quarterbacks 16 times—returning three for scores—and have forced 21 fumbles. This defense is big, fast, strong, and well-coached, and the players have a nose for the football.
Remember 2005? Tennessee and Michigan were ranked No. 3 and No. 4 to start the season, but both finished the year out of the top 25. You know what else happened that year? USC and Texas began at No. 1 and No. 2 and ran the table, giving us an uncontroversial and unbelievably well-played title game. This year, nearly every preseason poll had Florida at No. 1 and Texas right behind them at No. 2. If these two teams can win out (and Texas certainly should), we might all get to see the title game we wanted to see, and the game that many people wanted last year.
Florida still has to play No. 3 Alabama in the SEC title game Dec. 5. Alabama had a bye this past week, but if the Crimson Tide can beat LSU this weekend, we should see two undefeated teams in the SEC title game, with the winner playing an undefeated Texas in Pasadena Jan. 7.
No need to be disappointed. The finish will make up for it. There are five more weeks of chaos left, so anything can happen, but it seems as if what is likely to happen is what people expected all year: teams ranked 4-25 will be a mess, but the top dogs will keep winning, giving us a satisfying and, hopefully, unbelievable finish.