College football always manages to surprise us. The talking heads on ESPN or CBS convince you that an elite team will continue to dominate atop the rankings every week, but then an upset for the ages happens and everyone is left dumbfounded at what just happened.
Last weekend appeared to follow that trend. Wisconsin and Oklahoma were the latest to fall from the ranks of the unbeaten. Wisconsin’s biggest test of the year came against Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich.
Although the Badgers were favored, the Spartans featured a stingy defense that caused trouble for opposing offenses.
Unfortunately for the Badgers, they failed that test. Turnovers plagued them.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, was a four-touchdown favorite over Texas Tech, a program that has been out of the limelight since Michael Crabtree starred there as an All-American wide receiver.
Not even the wisest of seers could have predicted the Red Raiders to come out on top, but they did and left Sooner nation in a zombified state of disbelief.
College football, more than any other sport, is renowned for its upsets. One week, a team could be in contention for the national championship, and then the next week be knocked out of contention with a loss.
These two pitfalls have paved the way for some other teams that still have a shot to make it to New Orleans to play for all the marbles.
Only eight teams remain undefeated—LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Boise State, Clemson, Kansas State and Houston.
Realistically, Boise State, Kansas State and Houston have a long shot of making it. Houston, led by the nation’s top passer in senior quarterback, Case Keenum, is off to one of the best starts in the program’s history, sitting at No. 17 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. It’s hard to imagine the Cougars losing any of their remaining games, but they would still need every undefeated team to lose to have a fighter’s chance. And even then, it might not be enough.
Kansas State is in an interesting situation. The Wildcats still have yet to dive into the meat of their schedule, but junior quarterback Collin Klein has the football program looking like their basketball program in terms of the success they are having. The schedule they have coming up looks like this: Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and at Texas.
If the Wildcats somehow pull through clean out of that tunnel looking like Tim Robbins in “The Shawshank Redemption,” then they might have a legitimate shot at making the national championship. After all, the BCS does favor wins over high-ranked opponents.
Boise State may not have the toughest schedule, which could hurt or help them, but they do have some charm to sway voters in the coaches’ and media poll.
It seems like every year the Broncos get left out of the discussion and every year they have to settle for a consolation prize after having an undefeated season. This year may be their best chance to get to the promised land. However, they, like Houston, would need a lot of help because of their soft schedule.
Clemson is off to an 8-0 start for the first time since 2000. The Tigers might not have the most national exposure, but they might just have the most explosive offense in the nation right now. Sophomore quarterback Tajh Boyd and freshman wide receiver Sammy Watkins have this year’s squad in solid position to make it to New Orleans.
Only a road meeting against rival South Carolina on Nov. 26 might get in their way of having an undefeated season. They would likely need both Stanford and Oklahoma State to lose one game, and then that road might be cleared for a showdown against one of the SEC teams in the “Big Easy.”
Heisman-hopeful Andrew Luck and Stanford still have a lot of work to do, but they might be one or two wins away from controlling their own destiny depending if more upsets happen.
However, a crucial game lies just ahead on Nov. 12 at home against No. 7 Oregon in what could be the Pac-12 game of the year. If the Cardinal could get past that game, Luck could be playing for more than just a Heisman.
Oklahoma State, sitting at No. 3 in the BCS standings, probably holds the best chance outside of LSU and Alabama to make it to the title game. All they need to do is to simply win the rest of their games. But that’s easier said than done when they still have Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma left on their schedule.
That leaves Alabama and LSU. Whoever wins the Nov. 5 matchup between the two puts themselves in the driver’s seat. Like it or not, both the coaches’ and media poll have a favorable view of the SEC and will definitely put an undefeated SEC team ahead of any other unbeaten team.
Although unlikely, it’s possible a one-loss SEC team could make it to New Orleans. But both teams should stick to the easy road: win and you’re in.
Whichever two teams do make it to the national championship, the ride to New Orleans won’t be without drama. As with every college football season, it appears that BCS bedlam will ensue in the next couple of months.