5 Thoughts - Why Not Penn State?
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno
Posted Nov 23, 2008

Why isn't Penn State being considered among the one-loss teams in line for the national title? A thank you to the Big 12 South for saving the season, praising Oregon State, and making the case for Texas in the latest 5 Thoughts. PLEASE NOTE: All the game reviews to be up throughout the day. We had a technical difficulty.

5 Thoughts ... Nov. 25

Five Thoughts: 2007 Thoughts | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4
- Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11
Week 12

Also, a nod to Oklahoma State and, from the North, Mizzou

By Pete Fiutak   

1. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Blake Gideon for dropping the sure interception that would’ve sealed a Texas win over Texas Tech, and a brownie basket and big smiley face balloon to both Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree for hooking up on that last second touchdown pass to come up with the win over the Longhorns three weeks ago. If Texas Tech didn’t come up with that victory, this might be the most boring college football season ever.

To the merciful gods of all things college football, thanks for giving us the Big 12 South. Without it, there’d be nothing, absolutely nothing, to talk about.

Think about it. Had Texas pulled off the win in Lubbock, we’d be in the midst of a six-week pregame show for the SEC title game. The Heisman race would’ve been over, with Colt McCoy’s name being put on the prize already. Texas would be No. 1, Alabama would be No. 2, and all of our focus would be on the ACC and Big East races. While that would’ve been fine by me, and it would be a dream for long-suffering fans of both leagues who have been dying for more attention and respect, the rest of the college football world would’ve treated this season with a collective yawn.

The SEC sucks this year. The Big Ten sucks this year. The Pac 10 really sucks. No, it’s not parity; it’s bad football. There are bad teams, bad conferences, and bad coaching jobs being done up and down the board. Believe me, I'm Mr. College Football and I see the good in everyone and every game, but we're in a holding pattern before getting to a good 2009 and great 2010. Without the Big 12 South, we’d be gabbing about Charlie Weis and Notre Dame and we’d be spending all our time on the coaching vacancies ... zzzzzzzzz.

Of course, it’ll all change; these things go in cycles. The SEC will soon be the dominant league in college football again, the Big Ten really isn’t as bad as it appears, and the ACC and Big East really are entertaining (really, you should be watching those leagues, too). But for this year, it’s all about Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma. Thanks for the help.

And then comes the rematch with Penn State

By Richard Cirminiello     

2. To understand what makes this year’s Oregon State team so special, all you had to do was watch the team battle back to beat Arizona, 19-17, to stay ahead of USC in the Rose Bowl race. However, a comeback win on the road doesn’t even begin to tell how the Beavers were able to deal out some redemption, Corvallis style.

The quarterback who calmly led Oregon State to a pair of scoring drives in the final four minutes was backup Sean Canfield, who was summoned from the bench when starter Lyle Moevao was scratched with a sore shoulder. That’s the same Canfield, who was booed repeatedly last season and had lost his starting job before in August. The quarterback’s favorite target on those two pivotal drives was Sammie Stroughter, the same receiver, who’d nearly given up football last season, battling depression and a lacerated kidney. Yet, there he was, getting behind the Wildcat secondary to set up the winning kick and loving life with his teammates. Picking up the tough yards was Ryan McCants, who’d been anointed the next big thing at running back before getting upstaged by Jacquizz Rodgers. Unfortunately, Rodgers was lost in the first quarter to a shoulder injury of his own, forcing McCants to log his most carries of the year.

And then there’s Justin Kahut, the goat-turned-hero, who popped the game-winning field goal just a few minutes after hooking the potential game-tying extra point. That’s the Beaver way, something they know plenty about in the Pacific Northwest. Resiliency. Brotherhood. And a slew of capable, well-coached players in lieu of a bunch of stars. The formula is obviously working for head coach Mike Riley and Oregon State, which has gone 8-1 since opening 0-2, and is a Civil War victory away from earning a Rose Bowl trip for the first time since 1965.

But who's the new Elway?

Richard Cirminiello   

3. If Bernie Kosar had a more polished, slightly more athletic offspring, he’d be Sam Bradford.

Every time I watch Bradford in action for Oklahoma, it conjures up images of Kosar, the former Miami Hurricane and NFL quarterback. Honest, that’s a compliment not a knock, so spare the hate mail. I understand that Bradford has a higher upside and isn’t nearly as gawky dropping back to pass, but some of his characteristics are unmistakably Bernie. His poise in the pocket and leadership skills of a national power at such a young age. His throwing motion and arm strength, which are plenty effective, but not exactly picture perfect by scout’s standards. The way he stands up to pressure and burns opposing defenses that dare to blitz him. His ability to read defenses, check down when his primary receiver is covered, and limit his unforced errors.

In two seasons, Bradford has thrown 78 touchdown passes and just 14 interceptions. Against teams that’ll bowl in December or January, he’s tossed 26 scoring strikes while getting picked just five times, including a nearly flawless effort in the Sooners’ demolition of Texas Tech Saturday night. Is it possible he’s being taken for granted because he makes everything look so easy? Heck, you can argue he’s had one of the best first two seasons by a quarterback in college football history. Tim Tebow won a Heisman Trophy and was part of a national championship team before the end of his sophomore season. Kosar led Miami to a national championship as a freshman and finished fourth in the Heisman voting as a sophomore. Bradford has a chance to equal or surpass those accomplishments this year because no one has ever won the Heisman and been the starting quarterback on a national champion in his first two years.

All together now ... 45-35 ... 45-35 ... 45-35

By Matthew Zemek

The early verdict from the talking heads is that Oklahoma should be rated higher than Texas. The reason? The Sooners are playing better right now. They're hotter right now. They're catching fire late in the season. The Sooners are the team "you don't want to play" at this point.
All of the above statements are hard to refute. They're not objectively true, mind you--one can't "prove" those statements in the same way one can prove that two plus two equals four--but they possess a lot of what I like to call "subjective heft." (Hence, The Subjective Heft Show in most editions of the Weekly Affirmation.) I wouldn't want to argue against the contentions made by Mark May, Lou Holtz and--I suspect--most other TV types across the country.
What I will--and should, and must--argue against is the claim that you rank a team based solely on present-day factors.
In the first half of a typical college football season, before conference collisions come across the calendar, the nation's top teams can more easily leapfrog each other, because they're not falling like flies in their respective leagues. A Big 12 team ranked sixth can and should leapfrog a third-ranked team in the SEC if it bags enough biggies. This is basically how Texas Tech went from No. 7 to No. 3 and then to No. 2 in the BCS standings.

But when we get to the end of the season, and inter-conference comparisons need to be made, limits must be applied to the leapfrogging.
There have been fewer more ardent defenders of the Oklahoma Sooners than this writer. While many have used the disparaging terms "Choke-la-homa" or "Joke-la-homa" to refer to OU's recent Fiesta Bowl losses, this correspondent has chosen to focus on the Sooners' remarkable display of championship consistency over the past several seasons. Bob Stoops never lost his big-game ways; terrific Texas teams merely proved to be better in recent seasons. Moreover, Stoops has never lost what one could call a five-star game at home in his OU career. His only losses came in stunners, a sleepy season-opener against TCU (2005) and a rivalry game against underdog Oklahoma State (2001). After drilling Texas Tech, Stoops is still perfect in big-time battles in Norman's Memorial Stadium (formerly Owen Field).  

But for all the love that deserves to be lavished on OU, it needs to be said that the Sooners shouldn't be allowed to leapfrog Texas in the national rankings and the BCS standings that (partly) flow from them.
Yes, OU is hotter and more imposing right now. In the first half of a football season, that kind of detail matters. But at the end of a season--and OU is just one game away from completing its 12-game slate; ditto for Texas--one has to include early-season evidence along with late-season facts and figures. All in all, when one compares the body of work compiled by both Oklahoma and Texas, the Longhorns deserve a narrow edge.

Yes, a playoff system would (more) fairly deal with this kind of conflict, but since we're now stuck with the BCS through 2014, thanks to ESPN, we have to regrettably make this--sigh!--a beauty contest. If so, Texas has the body with fewer blemishes.
OU's biggest argument is the pair of fine non-conference wins over Cincinnati and TCU. Texas, though, has a superior Big 12 record of achievement for two primary reasons: 1) Texas had to play Missouri, whom the Longhorns summarily throttled; OU didn't tackle the Tigers. 2) Texas beat OU on a neutral field, which should carry a lot of extra weight when comparing two teams. Had Texas won that game in Austin, and not Dallas, OU would enjoy a great deal of additional leverage in this debate. But with the facts at hand, Texas--whose one loss came on the road, with one second left--has endured more to achieve what is likely to be an 11-1 record. "Who would win on a neutral field?" is the ultimate argument-settling question in any meaningful debate, and UT has that question squarely on its side. The Longhorns also had to play four superb ballclubs--OU, Mizzou, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech--in succession, and nearly survived the entirety of that grueling gauntlet. Oklahoma's closing stretch--with back-to-back games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State--is terrifically tough, but it's only half of the four-game fire through which Texas had to walk.
The non-conference side of this debate goes to Oklahoma, but the Big 12 portion of the OU-UT clash just as clearly goes to the Longhorns.
To be honest, no fully fair decision can emerge from all this. Since the Big 12 doesn't use a more sensible tiebreaker system, the BCS standings just might have to determine far more than they ever have a right to. Given the lousy system we have, though, it would be unfortunate and inappropriate if Texas got vaulted by Oklahoma just because the Sooners caught fire late, and seduced pollsters for that reason alone.
Part of the human body, after all, involves the eyes, the window into the soul. Look at OU's eyes, one would be charmed, yet left with the sense that "Miss Sooner USA" lacks the centeredness needed to win the beauty pageant. Texas--just as sexy as the Sooners--would have the eyes of a woman worthy of the crown.
Both Texas and OU are drop-dead gorgeous girls in this beauty contest known as the BCS system. But when choosing between two beautiful bodies, The Eyes of Texas have the better claim to fame.
It only stands to reason, anyway: The team nicknamed the Sooners can't begin to argue for the BCS Championship Game based on its superior play LATER in the season.
You should have gotten started SOONER, Oklahoma. Texas, though, cut you off at the pass, and that--when all is said and done--should settle what is currently the central debate in the college football world (and will remain so if OU beats Oklahoma State next week).

Yeah, yeah, Florida vs. Penn State might be ugly, but ...

By Pete Fiutak   

5.  I've been screaming for weeks that Utah at least has to be considered for the national title if you're going to include USC. I'm really not anti-Trojan (this has nothing to do with the team or the program; it has everything to do with the process and the research voters and talking heads are, or aren't, doing), but why, if you're going to include USC among the one-loss teams still in the mix for the national title, why aren't you going to include Penn State?

Why is it a natural assumption that the Nittany Lions should go to the Rose Bowl? They will, there's too much traffic in front to get into a top two spot, but this isn’t that crazy …

If Missouri beats the Big 12 South Champion, this thing goes haywire. OR, if Oklahoma loses to Oklahoma State, then Texas Tech is in the Big 12 title game. Would you take Texas Tech, even if it beats Missouri, in the national championship at this point over Penn State? Not after what happened in Norman you wouldn’t. Could you put in Texas? Not if Texas Tech wins the Big 12 title because that would mean Texas didn’t even win its own division. If you have a problem with 2001 Nebraska playing for the national title, then you can't put Texas in if Texas Tech wins the Big 12 South.

If Oregon State beats Oregon, then could you put USC in the national title game over Penn State? How? Penn State blew out Oregon State and beat Ohio State in Columbus. USC lost to Oregon State and beat Ohio State at home. Besides, USC, in this scenario, doesn’t even earn the top spot in the Pac 10, even if it does win a share of the Pac 10 title.

So who’s left? Utah? It’s not going to happen. It deserves to be in over USC, but it’s not going to happen. It's not fair, but the anti-BCS league bias is too great.

If a one-loss Oklahoma beats Missouri in the Big 12 Championship, it’s a done deal; it’s OU vs. the SEC champion for the national title, unless Florida loses to Florida State and then beats Alabama. Again, a Missouri win in the Big 12 championship or an Oklahoma loss at Oklahoma State … that’s all it would take to get the party started, yet ESPN doesn’t even put Penn State on its screen when of possible one-loss teams that could play in the national championship. Ohio State made the rise last year, and it has to be considered that Penn State should be in the mix to do the same.