5 Thoughts - The Mother Of All Debates
This could be fun. What will happen if Derrick Williams and Penn State go unbeaten and the Big 12 and SEC champions have one loss? Who'll play for the national title? This, along with the Texas - Texas Tech game and praise for TCU in the Latest 5 Thoughts.
5 Thoughts ... Nov. 3
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Eh, Screw It. Just
Send Ball State and Boise State To Miami
For media types who deal with politics, or comedians who
need material, there’s always a part of them that has to
root for their careers over their loyalties. Of course
Rush Limbaugh wants John McCain to win, but career-wise,
it’s better if Barack Obama pulls it off. The flip-side
is true for a Keith Olbermann or a Bill Maher, who are
more relevant with a McCain administration, even if they
really want Obama to win. For college football writers,
99% of the time, any and all loyalties go right out the
window in the name of good material.
So on behalf of the college football media, no matter
what any of our personal allegiances might be, I beg to
you, the gods of all things college football mayhem, for
1) Penn State to win out, 2) a one-loss Big 12 champion
with a superpower name, like Oklahoma or Texas, and 3) a
one-loss Florida or Alabama to win the SEC title.
While there are a million crazy Pitt-over-West Virginia
things that could happen (I sort of think Penn State
could have trouble at Iowa, but I don’t want to disturb
this groove), most likely, we’re about to be in for the
mother of all college football debates.
First of all, there’s no way, no how an undefeated Penn
State doesn’t play for the national title if Texas Tech
and/or Alabama loses. No way. That would create debate
number one, because no one thinks the Big Ten is any
good, while everyone respects and loves the SEC (even if
it’s not warranted this year, but that’s for a later
column) and the Big 12. If it were, say, Minnesota, or
even Wisconsin, there would be a chance for an
undefeated Big Ten team to be passed over for a one-loss
champion from the Big 12 or SEC, but not Penn State.
This has been too good a big game program, and yes, it
actually has a win over the SEC in recent years.
On the other side, if Alabama and Texas Tech win out,
Penn State is out. No question, no debate. It’s not
fair, and I do think Penn State could beat anyone in a
one game shot, but if one team has to be left out of the
three, you have to take the undefeated Big 12 and SEC
champions this season.
But let’s say Penn State goes unbeaten, Oklahoma or
Texas wins the Big 12 title with one loss, and a
one-loss Florida beats an undefeated Alabama for the SEC
championship. Then what?
Try coming up with the right answer to this one. In
2004, when Auburn was the odd team out in the
USC-Oklahoma-Auburn debate, at least there was the game
against The Citadel that was just enough to be the
difference maker, considering that something was
needed to break the tie.
The unbeaten Nittany Lions are in (yes, really, they
would be, and it wouldn’t be close), and then it comes
down to the politicking. Oh sure, the BCS computers
would weigh in, but it would be the human pollsters who
would ultimately decide the matchup, just like they
chose last year to leave out Georgia and two years ago
to put Florida in over Michigan.
Down year or not for some of the big names on the list,
how do you leave out Florida if it beats Miami,
Tennessee, LSU, Georgia, Florida State and Alabama,
especially considering the way the offense is destroying
everyone lately and the way the SEC has played in the
last two national championships? How about Alabama, if
it loses to LSU but rebounds to beat Florida in the SEC
title game? It'll have ruined Clemson's season before it
began, whacked Georgia at Georgia, and the one loss
would be in Death Valley; no real shame there, even if
the Tigers are struggling. So the Florida/Bama winner is
in playing Penn State, right?
But how do you leave out a one-loss Big 12 champion?
Let’s say Texas ends up winning the Big 12 title. That
would mean the Longhorns will have beaten Arkansas,
Oklahoma, Missouri (twice, most likely), Oklahoma State,
and Kansas at Kansas, while the one loss came on the
road on a miraculous last second play. Florida’s loss
came at home to a good, but not elite Ole Miss. Or what
if Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title? It’ll have
obliterated Cincinnati and TCU and it would’ve also
beaten Kansas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Missouri
(most likely). Does the 57-2 win over Chattanooga come
And don’t even start with USC, who might not play anyone
and has been dismissed since the loss to Oregon State,
but that defense, at the moment, has pitched three
shutouts and has allowed 10 points or fewer in every
game but one. And by the way, what’s Penn State’s one
big win? Ohio State. How did the Trojans do against the
So please, oh merciful god of all things college
football, let your chaos wash over our 2008 season so we
might take another baby step to a plus-one. (Sorry, I
can’t resist. For this year, SEC Champion vs. USC in one
game, Big 12 Champion vs. Penn State in the other, the
two winners play the week later … heavy sigh.)
But Please, Not Oklahoma In Another
This past weekend, I saw top-rated
Texas rally valiantly in the second half, only to
fall short on a one-for-the-ages finish in Lubbock.
I saw Texas Tech hand the ‘Horns their first loss of
the season, remaining unbeaten and authoring its
biggest win in school history. Around the same time,
I watched Oklahoma dismantle Nebraska in every
imaginable way, en route to a 62-28 rout and an 8-1
start. A little earlier in the day, I marveled at
the short memory of Oklahoma State, which also got
to 8-1 by shredding Iowa State, 59-17. Four top 10
teams with national championship aspirations. One
division of the Big 12. A bevy of offensive stars,
including Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, Colt
McCoy, Sam Bradford, and Dez Bryant. And just two
available spots in the five BCS bowl games.
The rule capping the number of BCS representatives
from one conference at two never made much sense.
This year, the Big 12 South is capable of making it
look ludicrous. Yeah, I recognize the spirit of the
rule and the quest for balance, but when there’s
this much depth from one league, don’t you wish
there was a provision that allowed for exceptions? I
certainly do. While I realize there’ll be a lot of
attrition taking place in November, there’s still a
good chance that more than two teams from the Big 12
will be worthy of playing in one of the five marquee
games. Heck, if Missouri or Kansas upsets the South
winner in December, you could have four teams that
warrant a bid.
It doesn’t happen often that one league houses so
many national title contenders in the same year.
When it does, those programs should be rewarded with
a chance to play on the biggest stage. It’s good for
the schools and great for the sport. Given a choice,
do you want to see Ohio State in a BCS bowl game or
Oklahoma State? Some Big 12 team is going to feel
robbed when invites are announced in December.
That’s a shame because when it happens, the bowl
season is the biggest loser. If you want evidence,
cue up last year’s Rose Bowl between USC and Big Ten
Please, Not Against Oklahoma In The Fiesta Bowl
starting to become convinced that TCU is going to be the
first non-BCS team in history to earn a BCS bowl bid
with one loss.
The Horned Frogs are rolling into this Thursday’s
showdown with unbeaten Utah, arguably the biggest game
in Mountain West history. Since getting outclassed by
Oklahoma 35-10 on Sept. 27, they’ve been on a
tear, winning the last five games by an average score of
44-8. The defense is as good as any in the Big 12,
leading the country in run defense and sacks, and
ranking third in points allowed. The unit is solid in
every phase of the game, and junior DE Jerry Hughes is
having a George Selvie-like breakthrough season with 17
tackles for loss and a nation’s best 14 sacks. TCU’s
signature win of 2008 may have come a few weeks ago
against then-unbeaten BYU, but Saturday’s 44-14 rout of
UNLV in Las Vegas was almost as telling. The Rebs are a
decent team that could have easily caught the Frogs
napping, especially at Sam Boyd Stadium. Heck, Utah
struggled with New Mexico over the weekend in its
lead-up to this week’s game.
If you watch only one Mountain West game all year,
invest the time into this week’s battle for first place
between TCU and Utah. The Horned Frogs are the team with
the loss, but they’re playing as if that’s the only one
they’ll suffer this season.
Rocky Needed Apollo Creed
4. It takes two teams to
make a classic, so before anyone thinks that the following remarks
represent a way of minimizing Texas Tech's massive achievement on
Saturday night, it's actually a way of magnifying the Red Raiders'
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of witnessing the greatest
tennis match ever played: the 2008 Wimbledon men's singles final, in
which Rafael Nadal beat Roger Federer in five sets.
The rain-delayed epic took four hours and 48 minutes of on-court
time, but nearly eight hours in real time. It's the kind of sports
moment that never leaves the memory, and endures into old age (the
good Lord willing and the creek don't rise).
That match proved to be unforgettable for many different and very
compelling reasons, but the foremost aspect of the seminal struggle
was that the loser gained an incredible amount of respect, almost as
much as the winner. Federer, at the time a winner of 12 major
championships, had defeated his opponents on grass and cement courts
so consistently that his unreal excellence had been taken for
granted. It was only when he suffered a crushing and heartbreaking
defeat that his quality began to be appreciated at a higher level.
It was only then, in the aftermath of his most agonizing moment as a
tennis player, that Federer's humanity and heart could be seen by
the wider populace. Always admired for his brilliant technical
expertise and clinical skill, Federer finally received warmth and
affection when he lost that match to Nadal. The man who, on one
hand, lost so much in a match--$700,000 plus a coveted
championship--actually gained great riches at the same time. He
finally found love from the sporting public, the kind of embrace
that doesn't come easily.
So it also is, then, that the Texas Longhorns earned a similar
amount of respect and love from college football fans across the
country after their heartstopping loss to Texas Tech. When you're
No. 1 in the land, and everyone--particularly in places such as
Lubbock, Norman, Tuscaloosa, and State College--wants to see you
fall, you're not loved.
After Saturday night, it's impossible not to love the Longhorns with
your whole heart and soul.
Bodies were flying off the field and into the infirmary for
Texas. Reliable receivers and dynamic defenders were being carried
to the bench. Up front and on the edges, Mack Brown and his staff
were quickly being drained of reserves. Yet, they raged against the
dying of the light, fighting into the night with remarkable resolve.
They didn't play better than Tech. They didn't hit harder than Tech.
They didn't execute at a higher level. But after 58 minutes and 31
seconds, they led. By one. Don't try to figure it out. Just
comprehend how gutsy and gritty the Longhorns were, up and down
their depleted roster, before Mr. Harrell and Mr. Crabtree survived
a dropped interception with eight seconds left to win seven seconds
Texas Tech won the biggest game in the history of the program. More
will be made of that in the coming days, and deservedly so. But keep
in mind how gallant Mack Brown's team proved to be in defeat. It's
only because of the courage with which Texas played that Tech's
triumph can be seen as the epic accomplishment it genuinely is.
Much as Rafael Nadal's Wimbledon title became that much greater
because of his opponent's unflagging determination, so it also is
that Texas Tech's awesome achievement is ten thousand times more
impressive because Texas made the Red Raiders sweat until the very
last second ticked off the clock. If you want to lose a perfect
season, lose it the way Texas did. Longhorn fans should be mighty
proud of their boys. Moreover, every college football fan should
feel the same sense of grade-A admiration.
For McCoy, He Showed Blood And Guts
By Steve Silverman
In Saturday night's spectacular confrontation with Texas Tech, Texas
showed more guts and competitive fire in a 39-33 defeat than it had in
almost all of its previous eight wins. And so did Texas Tech.
Falling behind 19-0 only steeled the Longhorns' resolve and Colt McCoy
brought them all the way back to take a 33-32 lead with 1:29 to play.
That would have been enough in year's past against Texas Tech. The Red
Raiders have always been a questionable entity in the biggest games
under Mike Leach in the past, but this time around they had the gumption
to survive the Texas challenge. After building the big lead and watching
it slip away, Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree worked their magic on
the final play from scrimmage of the game to steal the win with the
now-classic 28-yard TD pass. Texas Tech never would have had the resolve
to do that in the past, and that's because of experience. This is a
veteran team that got justabout everyone back on the defensive side, and
10 starters back on offense. Young teams come up with wins like this
over teams like that. The Red Raiders still have a tough schedule ahead
with Oklahoma State (home) and Oklahoma (road) and a potential date in
the Big 12 championshp game, but they have clearly grown up quite a bit.
And so did Texas.