College Football Recap, Weeks 8 and 9

Apologies for the break, but I spent last week laying on a beach and checking score updates on my Blackberry. It’s surprising how little college football one is able to watch in Mexico, apparently people there don’t care about it as much as soccer. Go figure! The national championship picture cleared up a bit over the past two weekends, setting up a huge lineup of games this Saturday. Instead of recapping games that I wasn’t able to watch, instead I will break down how I see the BCS Championship picture shaping up.

Texas: They’ve survived a brutal schedule, beating Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State in consecutive weeks. They get a stern test this weekend as they head to Lubbock to face Texas Tech. After that, their final three games are manageable before the Big 12 Championship, where they would likely face a Missouri team that they led 35-3 at halftime. The outlook is promising if they can get past Texas Tech.

Alabama: The Tide impressed me last week with how easily they handled Tennessee on the road in a game that was a must win for the Vols. They’ll get their toughest test in a couple weeks as they travel to LSU, a team that was no match for Florida or Georgia. The Iron Bowl is always a tough one, but they get Auburn at home. For me, the hardest element of this schedule is going to be the SEC Championship game, where they’ll meet either Florida or Georgia. I wouldn’t expect them to have as easy a time with the Bulldogs as they did last time, and Florida is as scary an opponent as anyone right now. Having said that, if they win out, they’d have to be in the title game. If they are going to lose, they’d be wiser to lose at LSU than in the SEC Championship although I see it playing the opposite different way.

Penn State: After winning a tight one at Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have the easiest schedule going forward and don’t have to play a conference championship game, which is good and bad: If they win out and one of the above teams lose, they’re in, but if Texas and Alabama both manage to run the table, Penn State’s argument doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on. Still, I like their chances, as they’ve already won nine games and only have Iowa, Indiana and Michigan State left on the schedule. Losing any of those three would almost certainly eliminate them from the conversation, but I’d hate to see an undefeated Penn State team miss out on a chance for the title.

Texas Tech: The biggest game in the history of the program takes place Saturday, and is easily the most important game of the entire day. Who would have expected that? I’m not sure how anyone has this team ranked behind any of the one loss teams, but it doesn’t matter, because they should leapfrog everyone except for Alabama and Penn State if they win, and will be out of the conversation if they lose. The trickier scenario is if they win out and have fight it out with Penn State. I’d have to lean towards the Red Raiders if this was the case, as they get Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and the Big 12 Championship if they can get past the Longhorns. This seems like a longshot for now, but certainly becomes relevant if they keep winning and scoring at such alarming rates.

Florida and Georgia: Make no mistake, the winner of this game Saturday moves to the front of the one-loss teams that are still alive for a BCS Championship berth. Whoever emerges from this one will almost certainly play in the SEC Championship, where a win over an undefeated Alabama could propel them into the conversation quickly if no undefeated teams escape the brutal Big 12. I would expect the winner of this game to face Penn State in that situation.

USC and Oklahoma: These teams hold advantages over most of the above mentioned in the current BCS standings, but I have a tough time seeing them in the championship unless all the teams above lose. USC just doesn’t have the schedule strength to keep up with the SEC and Big 12 undefeated and one-loss teams, and to jump ahead of an undefeated Penn State would be an atrocity. They certainly need a lot of help, and won’t benefit from a very watered down Pac-10 so they aren’t in much of a position to help themselves either. Their marquee win over Ohio State lost a bit of luster as the Buckeyes lost at home last weekend.

The Sooners probably have the better chance, although it’s hard to say whether they benefit more from an undefeated Longhorn team or from beating an undefeated Texas Tech team later in the season, so I’m not sure who they’ll be rooting for on Saturday. Either way, Texas would need to lose twice in order for Oklahoma to jump into the Big 12 Championship, and that is a very unlikely scenario. And it goes without saying that it is tough to imagine Oklahoma leapfrogging a one-loss SEC champion without playing in their conference title. The Sooners need to win a massive tiebreaker to get into the Big 12 Championship, which they would have to win and then fight it out with the SEC Champ, unless of course said Champ is undefeated.

These two teams need Penn State to lose first and foremost, and then need a two-loss SEC champion to have any reasonable chance in my opinion. (And right now, a two-loss SEC champion is a difficult scenario to concoct).

So, having said that, here’s how I see it playing out:

  • Texas loses at Texas Tech
  • Florida beats Georgia
  • Alabama wins at LSU
  • Penn State and USC win out
  • Texas Tech loses at Oklahoma
  • Texas/ Texas Tech/ Oklahoma tiebreaker winner beats Missouri in the Big 12 Championship
  • Florida beats Alabama in the SEC Championship

This puts Penn State against Florida in the National Championship. The scenarios are endless, but this is my prediction for now.

TOP 25 OF THE MATTY:

  1. Texas (8-0)
  2. Alabama (8-0)
  3. Penn State (9-0)
  4. Texas Tech (8-0)
  5. Florida (7-1)
  6. USC (6-1)
  7. Georgia (7-1)
  8. Oklahoma (7-1)
  9. Oklahoma State (7-1)
  10. Utah (8-0)
  11. Boise State (7-0)
  12. Ohio State (7-2)
  13. TCU (8-1)
  14. Missouri (6-2)
  15. BYU (7-1)
  16. Florida State (6-1)
  17. LSU (5-2)
  18. Ball State (8-0)
  19. Tulsa (8-0)
  20. Maryland (6-2)
  21. Oregon (6-2)
  22. Minnesota (7-1)
  23. California (5-2)
  24. Michigan State (7-2)
  25. South Florida (6-2)

HEISMAN WATCH:

  1. Colt McCoy, Texas
  2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma
  3. Tim Tebow, Florida
  4. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
  5. Knowshon Moreno, Georgia

TWO REALLY BIG GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:

#5 Florida vs. #7 Georgia, 2:30 CST, CBS: The World’s Greatest Cocktail Party will have a lot on the line and should be as entertaining as ever. Florida’s offense is really starting to click, and Georgia’s all-world running back Knowshon Moreno looks like he’s finally getting in gear. This one will come down to defensive line play, with the team most able to pressure the quarterback and stop the run earning a trip to the SEC Championship and a strong shot at a national championship berth. I like the Gators narrowly here because of their recent form and multi-dimensional offense, but it should be a classic.

#1 Texas at #4 Texas Tech, 7:00 CST, ABC: How can the Cocktail Party not even be the biggest game of the day when it looked like the biggest game of the year in the preseason? Crazy college football. Mostly, it’s thanks to the surprising Big 12 and the play of Colt McCoy and Graham Harrell, both Heisman hopefuls for their respective teams here. For the Red Raiders, they’ve never had a game this big, nor ever had a team this good, and they get to be at home at night. McCoy is due for a off night, as he’s been playing completely out of his mind up to this point, and a jacked up Texas Tech defense may be the one to stop him. I like Texas Tech here in an upset, and then things get really interesting.

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