Originally created 11/24/03

Bubow: Losses by Ohio State, TCU clear up BCS picture



This sure turned out to be a good week for the folks that run the Bowl Championship Series.

Losses by Ohio State and TCU will help quiet much of the controversy that surrounds the BCS now that the matchup between the two top teams is on track for the Sugar Bowl.

If form holds and Oklahoma and Southern California win out, the BCS championship game will pit the top teams in The Associated Press poll in a title game for the fourth time in six years.

For all the criticism of the BCS and its complicated formulas, that happened only seven times in the 26 seasons prior to the BCS.

Michigan's 35-21 defeat of Ohio State on Saturday helped move that potential dream matchup closer to reality.

The BCS was a target of heavy criticism after an unimpressive Ohio State team edged ahead of a dominating USC squad in last week's standings. Those questions are now moot.

What many of the critics of the BCS forget is that the weekly rankings are just a snapshot of one moment in time and aren't necessarily a projection of how they will end up when the bowl matchups are made.

"I don't know how the BCS works, but I do know the maize and blue looked pretty good today," USC coach Pete Carroll said about Michigan. Carroll found out about the Buckeyes' loss just minutes before the Trojans took the field for a 47-22 victory over UCLA.

This week also ended months of talk about whether an undefeated team from a minor conference deserved a spot in one of the four most lucrative bowl games.

TCU became the last of those unbeatens to fall, losing Thursday to Southern Mississippi. That removed the pressure on the bowls to invite an undefeated, undeserving team to avoid the political pressure that would come from a snub.

Now all that stands between the matchup most people had been hoping for the last few months is one game each for Oklahoma and USC.

USC ends the season Dec. 6 against Oregon State (7-4) and Oklahoma will play No. 14 Kansas State (10-3) that night for the Big 12 title.

If the No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup happens, the only complaints can come from Baton Rouge, La., where LSU fans argue they deserve a shot, too.

But because of a weak nonconference schedule, the Tigers could be fourth - behind Michigan - rather than second when the new BCS standings come out Monday.

And LSU still needs to beat Arkansas and win the SEC title game to make the argument.

"We don't worry about all that stuff on the side," LSU defensive tackle Chad Lavalais said.

A matchup between Oklahoma and USC is an intriguing one. The offenses are high-powered, the defenses are athletic and the coaches are willing to take risks.

One thing you can count on is lots of scoring.

The Sooners, behind Heisman contender Jason White, lead the nation by averaging 48.3 points per game.

The Trojans, led by underrated Matt Leinart and playmaker Mike Williams, have topped 40 points for six straight games and are fifth in the nation with 41.3 points per game.

But we have to wait two more weeks to make sure that matchup will materialize.

Here's an early projection of the other BCS matchups:

Rose Bowl: Texas vs. Michigan. Washington State's loss to Washington on Saturday will leave the Rose Bowl without its traditional Big Ten-Pac-10 matchup for a third straight year unless USC loses to Oregon State.

That is why Rose Bowl officials are lobbying for a return to the traditional tie-ins in the next BCS deal with a one-game championship after the New Year's bowls.

Not that Michigan-Texas is a shabby matchup. The first (Michigan) and fourth (Texas) winningest programs of all time have never met.

Fiesta Bowl: SEC champion vs. Pittsburgh or Florida State. With the first choice of teams after losing host Oklahoma to the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl will be happy to tab LSU and its rabid fans if the Tigers can win the SEC. Georgia and Tennessee aren't bad second options, although the Fiesta Bowl could decide on Texas if LSU isn't available.

If Pittsburgh beats Miami to win the Big East, the Panthers could be sent out West, otherwise Florida State will be the likely choice.

Orange Bowl: Miami or Florida State vs. Ohio State. The Orange Bowl always likes to have a Florida team. Miami will be the first choice if it can win the Big East.

Ohio State officials were pushing their case with Orange Bowl representatives shortly after Saturday's loss to Michigan. A two-loss defending national champion with fans that travel provide a good argument.

A Hurricanes' win wouldn't ease the pain of last year's double-overtime loss to the Buckeyes in the Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.

Josh Dubow covers college football for The Associated Press.