10 unbeatens left, tidy outcome for BCS unlikely

Favorites fall in the Big 12, Florida swamps LSU and the end of result of Showdown Saturday was this: college football seems headed toward another impossible predicament when it comes time for the BCS to pick national championship game participants.


And to think, there's still half a season left.

The Big Story

Take a look at the top of the polls. See No. 1 Texas, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Penn State. There's a good chance none of those teams will be playing for the national championship.

The 2008 season might not match 2007 for unprecedented unpredictability, but it's already become obvious that it'll take a minor miracle for the race to the BCS title game to have a tidy outcome.

After the second weekend of the season in which three top-five teams lost, there are 10 undefeated teams left in major college football.

Three (Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State) play in the same division, and the best of those three - the Longhorns - have a murderous remaining schedule to navigate.

Congratulations on beating Oklahoma 45-35 and being No. 1, coach Mack Brown. Now go get your team ready for No. 11 Missouri, No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 7 Texas Tech, the Longhorns' next three opponents.

Five of the unbeaten teams (BYU, Utah, Boise State, Ball State and Tulsa) are from conferences without an automatic Bowl Championship Series bid, which means they don't really even apply to the topic at hand... or do they?

BYU and Utah meet to end the season, a game the Mountain West is praying will essentially be for a BCS bid. Keep an eye out for the ninth-ranked Cougars. They're already way ahead of the pace in the rankings of previous BCS busters. If '08 reverts back to '07, and the two-loss teams start piling up, talk about unbeaten BYU getting a shot at the national title will heat up.

That leaves Alabama and Penn State as the only perfect teams from BCS leagues without another undefeated team left on its schedule.

Out of the Southeastern Conference contenders, the Crimson Tide have the most favorable schedule - for whatever that's worth these days. Alabama is at LSU on Nov. 8. Its other road game is against unraveling Tennessee. Then there's that SEC title game.

Penn State plays at Ohio State in two weeks, by far it's toughest remaining test. And with no conference title game, the Nittany Lions are probably in the best shape to stay unbeaten and reach the national championship game in Miami.

And if you listen closely, you can hear fans in the SEC and Big 12 groaning about the mere thought of having another Big Ten team playing for the national title.

Bad timing for Tubby

Auburn couldn't have picked a worse season to have a bad season, one that took another ugly turn Saturday when Arkansas beat the Tigers 25-22 on the Plains.

That came after the firing of Auburn offensive coordinator Tony Franklin last week.

Alabama coach Nick Saban had already taken a huge step toward regaining control of the state from Tommy Tuberville and Auburn during last recruiting season, when the Tide cleaned up.

Now the Tigers seem on their way to a wasted season and Alabama is No. 2 in the country, pushing the pendulum further toward Tuscaloosa.


Wisconsin (3-3, started season ranked No. 13) - The lack of a passing game, even by the Badgers' modest standards, has snarled the offense and led to three straight losses, including a 48-7 humiliation in Madison against Penn State.

Arizona State (2-4, started No. 15) - Even during last year's 10-3 run, there were hints the Sun Devils were fraudulent - i.e. USC and Texas beating them senseless. Those suspicions were confirmed again in a pathetic 28-0 loss to the Trojans.

Tennessee (2-4, started No. 18) - Another inept offensive performance by the Volunteers in a 26-14 loss to Georgia has the fire Phillip Fulmer segment of Vols nation foaming at the mouth.

Grohing up

No reason anybody outside Charlottesville, Va., would be paying attention, but Virginia has put together quite a turnaround in recent weeks.

The Cavaliers, who figured to be in rebuilding mode this season, lost their first three games against major college opposition by a combined 128-20, including a 31-3 loss to Duke which pretty much defines hitting rock bottom.

Then a funny thing happened, Virginia beat Maryland 31-0 last week and East Carolina 35-20 on Saturday.

"It's about growth," coach Al Groh said. "We're into the tunnel and we're seeing some real progress."

Quick hits

-Army has won two straight, virtually abandoning the pass. The Cadets did not complete a pass in a 17-13 victory against Eastern Michigan on Saturday.

-Vanderbilt could only hide it's terrible offense for so long.

-The best turnaround in the country? Minnesota is 6-1, after 1-11 in Year 1 under coach Tim Brewster. The Gophers have beaten four teams they lost to last season.


Josh Freeman, Kansas State, went 21-for-26 for 234 yards and ran for 86 yards and four touchdowns in a 44-30 victory at Texas A&M.


Missouri's 28-23 upset loss at home to Oklahoma State takes some of the shine off the Tigers' visit to Texas, but it's still the game of the week.

Also, Penn State tries to snap a nine-game losing streak to Michigan, coming off a 13-10 loss to Toledo. Looks good for the Nittany Lions.


Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrussoap.org.



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