5 Thoughts - The Mountain West & The BCS
BYU RB Harvey Unga
After BYU, Harvey Unga and the Mountain West destroyed the Pac 10 this weekend, where should the league be ranked? After what happened, does USC winning the Pac 10 title mean anything? What might be in store for the Trojans, dreaming of OU vs. USC, and more in this week's 5 Thoughts.
5 Thoughts ... Sept. 15
Get Started With The East Carolina Scenarios
early and a million things are going to happen over the
next two months, but right now is when opinions are
formed when it comes to the national title discussion.
Work with me here.
If all things are equal, the SEC champion will play for
the national title. Period. That’s a given after the
last two championship games and with the respect the
league is given.
It’s also a given that USC will play for the title if it
wins out. No way, no how does the No. 1 team in the
country fall out of one of the top two spots if it’s
unbeaten. However, that might not be fair.
At the moment, I think USC is No. 1, you think USC is
No. 1, and just about everyone outside of Athens,
Gainesville, Norman and Baton Rouge thinks USC is No. 1.
However, the BCS race is about who deserves to be
in and not who we all think should be in.
Right now, the SEC and Big 12 are the top two
conferences and there’s a 37-mile wide difference
between them and everyone else. The Big Ten might be
maligned, but it’s probably No. 3 in the pecking order
(the conference is 25-6 so far, even if the wins aren’t
all that great), and after last weekend, you might have
to put the Mountain West in the number four slot. At the
very least, the Mountain West has to be ahead of the Pac
10 after going 5-0 in head to head in matchups. If
you’re not prepared to go that far, then you at least
have to admit that the Pac 10 isn’t all that great.
Let’s say Ohio State loses two more games. It wouldn’t
be a shocker if the Buckeyes lost at Wisconsin and/or at
Michigan State and/or at Illinois and/or against Penn
State. All of a sudden, the USC win over OSU wouldn’t be
that big a deal, while winning the Pac 10 title would
inspire little more of a yawn. This year, it's not like
winning the Big 12 or SEC title.
So if all things are equal, should USC deserve to be
playing for the national title over an unbeaten BYU or
Utah? How about over an unbeaten Oklahoma or Missouri?
Again, it’s not about what we believe, it’s about what
we can prove. Remember, 94% of the world handed USC the
2006 Rose Bowl and forgot about Texas, and 97% of the
planet had Ohio State walking over Florida to win the
2007 BCS Championship game.
I know, I know, this is all looking a thousand steps
ahead, and as last year proved, just about everyone will
screw up at some point, so let’s look at a more
BYU or Utah goes unbeaten. The SEC champion has one
loss, but let’s say it’s a really good loss, like
Georgia losing at LSU or LSU losing at Florida. The Big
12 champion has one loss, but let’s say it’s a really
good loss, like Missouri at Texas or Oklahoma to Texas
in overtime. Now let’s say USC trips up in a
Stanford-like shocker. NOW what do you do?
Sorry for the mind-melt, but this could be a problem.
This is going to be a really, really interesting ride,
and there could be a really, really interesting
I promise, I won't pick Ohio State in the rematch (unless the Ohio State
coaching staff wakes up and plays Terrelle Pryor full-time)
know what’s going to happen.
You can tell USC what’s going to happen, and it’s still
going to happen.
An argument could be made that Oklahoma is every bit as
good as USC, and Georgia, Florida and LSU would
certainly like to take their cuts, but right now the
Trojans have to be ranked No. 1. That win over an Ohio
State team that’s going to litter the NFL draft with
talent was amazing, dominant, and thorough. Book the
tickets to Miami for January 8th … maybe.
We’ll start hearing all the same Greatest Team of
All-Time stuff, and we might even see another ESPN
showdown of this USC team in some historical tournament.
But remember, this is USC. There will be a loss, maybe
two, and it’s going to come when we least expect it.
It’s not going to happen against Oregon, California or
Arizona State, and it sure as shoot isn't going to come
against Notre Dame. No, it’s going to come against a
team like Arizona, a jacked up UCLA, or a
Washington-like team when USC is a 31-point favorite.
You scoff, but remember, Stanford 24, USC 23. Remember
Oregon State of two years ago.
USC has only gotten through a season unbeaten once under
Pete Carroll, and that 2004 team needed everything in
the bag to get by Stanford and a mediocre UCLA. The even
better 2005 team needed the Bush Push to get by Notre
Dame and survived a classic against Fresno State before
losing to Vince Young’s Texas team in the Rose Bowl. The
2006 team was going to the national title game against
Ohio State before choking against UCLA.
You know exactly how this is all going to play out,
because we've seen this movie before. USC will lose one
game in the final moments and will be passed over by a
one-loss SEC champion for a spot in the BCS
Championship, while Oklahoma, Missouri, or some
relatively out-of-the-blue team like Wisconsin or an
unbeaten BYU will get in. USC will beat Ohio State in
the Rose Bowl by 45, will finish second in the rankings,
with many screaming that Pete Carroll would be hoisting
the trophy if there was a playoff, and we’ll all be
politely asking the powers-that-be for a plus one.
Of course, the Trojans know this and will say it's
focused for every game. They said that last year, too.
The Mountain West's Big Weekend
Message to Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson: Today would be
a great time to turn up the heat on the powers-that-be and start
campaigning for an automatic BCS bowl berth for the conference when
the current contract comes up. Without much warning, the Mountain
West has clearly passed the Big East in the express lane to the Bowl
Championship Series thanks to the most incredible weekend in league
history. Heck, it might be sneaking up on the Pac-10, which went a
miserable 3-7 since Friday, including a shocking 0-4 versus the
The body of work in less than 24 hours is a little hard to
digest...or believe. BYU handed UCLA its most lopsided loss in
almost 80 years. UNLV and New Mexico stunned Arizona State and Arizona, respectively. TCU easily disposed of Stanford. And Utah
remained in the Top 25 with an easy win over in-state rival Utah
State. In all, the conference went an unexpected 7-1, surpassing in
the pecking order a Big East Conference that got a key South Florida
win over Kansas and little else since the season began. Program for
program, the Mountain West is better than the Big East and is
closing the divide on the other Big Six conferences, something
commissioner Thompson should be shouting from the mountaintop over
the next few months.
Or Maybe I Was Looking Ahead To The Next
4. Last week, I remarked that anyone who felt Ohio State would
lose to USC, based specifically or centrally on the Buckeyes'
performance against Ohio University, didn't know anything about college
Let me re-explain.
I've been saying for more than seven years that mental toughness is the
most underreported and least-appreciated aspect of big-time college
football analysis. So when I heard some Ohio State fans express
considerable disappointment and panic after the Ohio U. game, it needed
to be explained that the Bobcat game wouldn't have anything to do with
the USC result, for better or worse. Why? The realm of things
psychological, of course.
Any mature college football fan should know that 19- and 20-year-old
male members of the human species will not show the same level of
interest in every game on the schedule. This is why we have look-ahead
games... and sandwich games... and trap games.... and hangover games...
and other kinds of games that, in their own way, pose a significant
psychological challenge to a given team on a given weekend.
If Ohio State played Ohio University 10 times, just how often would the
Buckeyes have needed two huge special-teams plays to scratch out an
uncomfortably close win at home? The likely answer is one ... and two
weeks ago was it. But since Beanie Wells was out with an injury--and
since USC loomed a week later--of the course the Buckeyes were going to
be: A) emotionally depressed; and B) unwilling to open the playbook or
do anything special. Therefore, assigning any extra weight (or even
normal weight) to the Buckeyes' performance against Ohio would fly in
the face of common sense.
Saturday night in L.A., the Buckeyes got their butts kicked... but not
before starting strong in the game's first quarter. In those first few
moments against USC, the Buckeyes played with far more emotion than they
did against Ohio. Jim Tressel opened up the playbook, and the team that
played competitively against the Trojans for the game's first 25 minutes
would have throttled Ohio by 35 points.
Ohio State didn't get crushed by USC because of anything that happened
in the Ohio game. OSU lost because USC had a better team; because Beanie
Wells didn't return; because OSU didn't play up to its talent level, and
because OSU made untimely mistakes.
And oh, as for those look-ahead games, such as Ohio-Ohio State: Anyone
notice the UNLV-Arizona State upset? If anyone thinks that ASU's
stunning loss is an accurate reflection of the Sun Devils' overall level
of quality and competence, then Georgia should walk into Tempe and win
by 30 next week.
Safe to say, you're going to see a different ASU show up... just as a
different Ohio State team showed up for the first quarter and a half
against USC... before the Trojans' talent and Beanie Wells' absence
proved to be too much for the Buckeyes.
55-19 ... 55-19 ... 55-19 ... 55-19
Is it too early or can I start dreaming about a USC-Oklahoma
national championship game? I Don't mean to sell Georgia
short and there are tons of games to be played, but I see two
super teams when I see USC and Oklahoma, and two that are
playing at the absolute tops of their games. Oklahoma may have
more offensive weapons than USC and the Sooners will get tested
more than USC during the conference season, but Bob Stoops has a
team that should be able to go the distance if its head is
screwed on straight. The talent level and execution have been
jaw-dropping, but the good games are coming up soon. Of course,
a Georgia vs. USC game wouldn't be bad, either.