Sunday, November 23, 2008

Around the Nation Week 14

Two of America’s greatest traditions come together once again on the final Thursday of November.

Football and Thanksgiving go together like turkey and dressing.

From the playgrounds to the professionals, we love to pass around the pigskin and work up an appetite to pour on the giblet gravy. Playing football on Thanksgiving revives images straight from a Norman Rockwell painting.

Another tradition seems to be developing too … but this one conjures up thoughts of a different Norman. Try Bates.

Every year around Thanksgiving, the BCS bowl selection process for choosing the two teams that will play in the National Championship Game (NCG) gets tougher to swallow than a third plate of holiday leftovers.

The Texas Tech-Oklahoma game is a culprit for a second consecutive season.

Last year, the #4 Sooners lost to Tech on the same weekend that #2 Oregon fell to Arizona. Those losses sent the BCS careening into a selection process that would see the eventual national champion (LSU) lose on the last weekend of the regular season.

This year, #5 Oklahoma may have triggered more tumult by thrashing the #2-rated Red Raiders 65-21. The game was not as close as the score indicates.

The outcome means there is a three-way log jam atop the Big 12 South between Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. If all those teams win out, the one with the highest BCS rating at the end of the regular season will play in the Big 12 Championship game and – with a win there – probably advance to the BCS NCG.

Texas coach Mack Brown argues that since Texas beat Oklahoma head-to-head, the Longhorns deserve to be ranked highest. Bob Stoops of Oklahoma responds that by using similar logic, Texas cannot be ranked higher than Texas Tech since the Red Raiders handled the Horns.

And on it goes.

So, what now in the national title race?

#1 Alabama is now the only team to truly control its destiny.

The Crimson Tide plays Auburn in the fabled old Iron Bowl rivalry this week, then Florida in the SEC Championship game the following Saturday. Win both and Bama is in the NCG.

Florida should also be in good shape. The Gators must beat Florida State on the road and Alabama in the SEC title. Win those two and the Gators ought to earn the NCG berth.

Who would face the SEC champ in the title game?

Probably the survivor of the Texas-Oklahoma political battle, but who could argue against USC or Penn State being just as deserving as any of the other one-loss teams?

Here is a rundown of the BCS conferences with bowl projections following.

ACC: The Atlantic Division winner will be either Boston College or FSU. If Boston College beats Maryland, the Eagles are going to Tampa. Should BC lose, the Seminoles advance. In the Coastal, Virginia Tech can take the division with a win at home over visiting Virginia. If the Hokies lose, Georgia Tech wins the crown. Projected champ: Virginia Tech (but watch Georgia Tech)

Big East: Cincinnati controls the conference and can secure a BCS berth by beating Syracuse. If the Bearcats stumble, West Virginia could slip in by taking the backyard brawl with Pitt. Projected champ: Cincinnati

Big 12: Missouri has won the North and will play the South champ. Just a hunch, but Texas coach Mack Brown is a master politician and will milk the UT win over OU … while conveniently brushing aside the Longhorn loss to T-Tech. Bob Stoops is no smooth operator like Mack the Knife, but if his Sooners pound OK State this week, that could be a sufficient answer. Projected champ: Oklahoma by (this much ---) over Texas

Big Ten: Joe Paterno adds to his legacy with a Big Ten title and trip to Pasadena. Champ: Penn State

Pac-10: Oregon State won a great game with Arizona to maintain the conference lead. The Beavers can make their first trip to Pasadena in more than forty years by beating in-state rival Oregon next week. If State loses, USC will take the crown by beating UCLA in two weeks. The PAC-10 is pulling for OSU so a second BCS slot could go to USC. Projected champ: Oregon State

SEC: Alabama and Florida must get by in-state rivals to keep national championship hopes alive. Projected champ: Florida

BCS Bowl Projections heading into Thanksgiving:

NCG: Florida vs. Oklahoma/Texas Runoff Winner
Fiesta: Texas/Oklahoma Runoff Loser vs. USC
Sugar: Alabama vs. Utah
Orange: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
Rose: Penn State vs. Oregon State

A big loser right now?

The Big Ten's Ohio State. The Buckeyes will not get to a BCS bowl if Oregon State and USC win out.

A big winner?

Georgia fans might get to see the Dogs play those Buckeyes in the Capital One Bowl (they much prefer that matchup to one with Michigan State).

Enjoy the games and our wonderful Thanksgiving Day tradition!

Around the Nation

The Big 12 Network … I mean ABC … will televise the Bedlam game between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State Saturday night. The stakes will be huge for the Sooners.

On Thanksgiving night, Mack Brown and his Texas Longhorns have an opportunity to get the jump on OU in the politicking when they face the Aggies of Texas A&M.

Out West, Notre Dame visits USC, and Hollywood may be the final script in the Charlie Weis saga with the Irish. The Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State will decide the Granddaddy.

Around the South

The Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama is the nation’s toughest game.

The #1 ranked Tide will be trying to break a six-game losing streak to the Tigers.

Georgia hosts Georgia Tech in the Good Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry. Tech can still win the ACC and advance to the Orange Bowl.

For the Yellow Jackets to have a chance, visiting Virginia must travel to Blacksburg and beat the Hokies of Virginia Tech. It’s never easy to handle a live gobbler around Thanksgiving.

In C-USA, congratulations to Skip Holtz and East Carolina for winning the East. Houston wins the West with a victory over Rice. If Rice wins, Tulsa takes the crown by whipping Marshall. If Rice wins and Tulsa loses, the Owls are heading to the title game. Got that?

See you at kickoff!