5 Thoughts - Why Not Penn State?
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno
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
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nod to Oklahoma State and, from the North, Mizzou
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
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.
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
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,
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.
the new Elway?
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 ...
4. 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
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
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
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
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 ...
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.