Next week marks the first release of the Bowl Championship Series rankings and we can deduce one thing at this point in the season:
Uhhhh, we can’t deduce a blinkin’ thing, really.
Unlike the first two years of the BCS, in which the top two teams were clearly deserving to play in the national championship game, this year is going to be a hog-bellowin’, teeth-gnashing, mother-lovin’ scramble.
Why? In the past two years, the discussion following the initial release of the BCS poll was about the possibility of three major-conference teams going undefeated. This year? Forget it.
Nebraska and Oklahoma face off Oct. 28, guaranteeing an end to one unbeaten streak. Virginia Tech faces Miami and Clemson takes on Florida State on Nov. 4, when at least one team likely will swallow its first loss. Not only that, but the Nebraska-Oklahoma winner still has to tread through the Big 12 Championship game.
Lotta road blocks, those.
Five unbeaten teams remain now: Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Clemson and TCU. Forget about TCU because of a schedule comparable to that of Whitworth.
The point is, don’t be surprised if no major team gets through the season unbeaten.
We said “major team” for a reason.
Permit me to rant: Sure, it’s likely TCU will finish unbeaten. But consider this: The Horned Frogs had a chance to play Nebraska and begged out of the contract, a three-game series starting in 1999. So they play in the WAC, one of the nation’s worst conferences, and don’t try to schedule better teams.
TCU fans are going to scream bloody murder when they have to go to Mobile, Ala., for a bowl. Watch them. “We deserve to be in the title game. Or at least a BCS bowl,” they’ll say.
Bah! Not by beating up on Rice, you don’t.
Anyway, this is the year that ends the string of clear-cut teams playing for the BCS Championship. The BCS got lucky for two years. Fans didn’t have to wade through the maddeningly confusing formula that determines who goes because they didn’t have to.
The deserving teams were obvious.
Not this year.
The outrage will be delicious.
Here’s a look at Saturday’s games:
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Husky Stadium.
TV, radio: Fox Sports Net (cable), KOMO radio (1000 AM).
Stars to watch: Washington – True freshman Rich Alexis will start at tailback for Paul Arnold, hobbled with assorted injuries. Three true freshmen will start for the Huskies. Besides Alexis, Justin Robbins starts at wideout and Derrick Johnson starts at corner in place of Anthony Vontoure, who is nursing turf toe. The Huskies desperately need to give quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo some help. The receivers are dropping passes and having trouble getting open. The offensive line isn’t nearly as dominating as it was last season. The defense, led by nose tackle Larry Tripplett and free safety Hakim Akbar, figures to handle anything the Bears can throw at it.
Cal – Quarterback Kyle Boller has been maligned, but he’s just a sophomore. Tailback Joe Igber ran for 180 yards against the Huskies last year. Punter Nick Harris has a knack for pinning opponents inside the 10. Defensive end Andre Carter may be the best defensive lineman in the conference. He and defensive tackle Jacob Waasdorp likely willl play on Sundays.
Breaking down the game: Much depends on the UW offense. Will it be the efficient, explosive one that put up 33 points against Oregon State, or the six-turnover sideshow it was against Arizona State? On paper, this is a blowout, but not if the Huskies turn the game into one of Hot Potato.
Bottom line: The feeling is that Cal can’t turn in two decent performances in a row and left its game in the three-overtime victory against UCLA last week. If the Huskies’ offense can play that badly and win, it can happen against the Bears.
Pick: Washington, 31-17.
Kickoff: 2 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium, Pullman.
Radio: KJR (950 AM).
Stars to watch: Washington State – Quarterback Jason Gesser threw for 368 yards and six TDs against a very good Arizona defense last week. Tailbacks Dave Minnich and Deon Burnett both are in the top 10 in the conference in rushing. Wideout Milton Wynn has 32 receptions, third in the conference, fir 574 yards and five TDs.
Arizona State – Linebacker Adam Archuleta leads a stout Sun Devil defense that has forced 12 turnovers on Washington in the last two years. Quarterback Jeff Krohn is back after a bout of mononucleosis. Tailback Mike Williams, a true freshman, is among the conference rushing leaders.
Breaking down the game: Scoring is not a problem with the Cougars. Stopping foes is. ASU just may be the cure. The Sun Devils are struggling on offense, with assorted injuries and lack of skill. If the Cougs can take away the deep ball, as Washington did, ASU may be in trouble.
Bottom line: Bombs away.
Pick: Washington State, 44-41.
Arizona at Oregon: Desert Swarm is back, but the overachieving Wildcats face a monumental task at Autzen Stadium. Arizona’s defense could make it close, but how can the offense deal with the deafening din? Pick: Oregon, 21-17.
Oregon State at UCLA: This is a matchup between two teams that have little margin for error. The difference is UCLA’s injuries on both sides of the ball. OSU is a team that makes few mistakes (an turnover ratio of plus-12) and Ken Simonton looks to run wild on a so-so defense. Remember, the Beavers won this one last year, 55-7. Pick: Oregon State, 41-35.
USC at Stanford: This may well be when the Trojans finally break through and snap their three-game losing streak. Sultan McCullough ran for 152 yards against a good Oregon defense and could double that against the Cardinal. What could make it close is the possibility that quarterback Randy Fasani returns for Stanford, but he won’t help that run defense. Pick: USC, 28-21.
Mississippi State at LSU: The Bulldogs are hunting for a big-time bowl game, while the Tigers can see a small bowl within reach in Nick Saban’s first season. LSU recorded an impressive 34-0 win over Kentucky last week, but MSU has the nastiest defense in the country: Pick: Mississippi State, 24-20.
Purdue at Wisconsin: The disappointing Badgers are missing quarterback Brooks Bollinger and need more offense to deal with Drew Brees. It’s a difficult place to win, but Brees has picked up his game in the last two weeks. Pick: Purdue, 24-23.
Notre Dame at West Virginia: The Fighting Irish’s schedule is favorable for a BCS bowl. This one and possibly USC are the only road bumps. However, Notre Dame has lost seven straight on the road, and Morgantown isn’t particularly hospitable. Pick: West Virginia, 28-27.
Sleeper pick of the day: Syracuse 35, Virginia Tech 31.