In the wake of last week's top-five upset-a-palooza, Nebraska blog Big Red Network is pickin' up the pieces and attempting to separate the teams that are out from the teams that are merely down. My best stab at classifying them follows:
Q. Of the four presumed national title contenders to go down this past week -- USC, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin -- which team has the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year?
Don't kidnap, rape, torture and/or kill the messenger, but if only by process of elimination, it's the Trojans. Dr. Saturday may be right that, without a guaranteed rushing threat in the mold of a LenDale White or Reggie Bush on the roster this year, the Trojans may be due for one more inexplicable face-plant in conference play before all is said and done, but anyone who saw Georgia or Florida play last week knows they're not exactly problem-free themselves at the moment. And considering that both of them may have another conference loss in store -- in addition to the fact that one of them has to take the other out in Jacksonville on Nov. 1 -- their odds grow even longer.
As long as nobody else in the Pac-10 has any running backs shorter than 5'7", USC will be all right.
As for Wisconsin, we'll know more about their chances after seeing what they're able to do against Ohio State on Saturday, but if they can't hold a 19-0 lead against Michigan's struggling offense, it's safe to say they've probably got another loss ahead of them, too. Which is particularly damaging when you consider that Big 10 teams probably aren't going to get a lot of benefit of the doubt in any BCS discussions thanks to the Buckeyes' back-to-back national-title implosions.
Q. But what does this mean for Ohio State? Are they back in?
In theory, yes, but the Bucks have to run the table in the Big 10, period, no exceptions, to have a chance. And even then there's no way that they'd get the invite over a one-loss SEC team, nor would they get a nod over the Trojan team that lambasted them a few weeks ago. (They might even get stuck behind a two- loss SEC team if the poll voters are feeling particularly vindictive.) So not only do Buckeye fans have to be rooting for an 8-0 conference run, they've also got to pray that Alabama, LSU, and Southern Cal all crap the bed at least once in the next couple months. Rotsa ruck with that one, fellas. So I guess the short version of my answer is "not so much."
Which, after the last couple years, might come as more of a relief to Buckeye Nation than anything else.
Q. Did the week that was open the door for any of the undefeateds out of some of the non-BCS conferences like the Mountain West or the Big East? (Yup, that's a cheap shot. Thanks, Virginia Tech, for not allowing me to make it about the ACC.)
Not as far as the national championship game is concerned, no. I'm still reasonably confident that someone out of the BYU/Utah/Boise State triumvirate will find a way to go 12-0 and sneak into a BCS bowl, but when it comes to the big game, any undefeated mid-major is still going to be waiting in line behind a one-loss champion from the SEC, Big 12, Pac-10, or Big 10. Consider that Hawaii went 12-0 in the regular season last year, yet they barely got mentioned as a national-title contender in a BCS season where a two-loss SEC champion got tapped for The Show -- and nobody (in the lower 48, at least) saw anything wrong with that at all. The three teams I mentioned all play tougher schedules than Hawaii did in '07, certainly, but they're all still lacking the kind of marquee upset over a major-conference team that they'd really need to be seriously considered for the national title.
On that note, it's kind of interesting that just a few weeks ago, we were all marveling at how the Mountain West had just completely eaten the Pac-10's lunch, yet that weekend o' domination might ironically make it harder for an undefeated MWC champ to make its case for a national-title bid. "We deserve a shot at the national championship!" "Oh, really? Did you beat any major-conference teams?" "Uhh, yeah, Washington and UCLA!" "Oh, pffft, the Pac-10, they suck." I guess what I'm saying, Cougar/Ute/Bronco fans, is take solace in the fact that your trip to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl will be relatively short; there won't be any need to book tickets to Miami.
It's hard out there for a mid-major. And a Mormon, for that matter.