College Football Wrap-Up No. 6: Upset Special

Boredom is the result of monotony. My friend and I were discussing this concept Friday as we looked ahead to another weekend of seemingly already decided college football games. Surely Wisconsin would have no trouble facing Michigan State on the road. Texas Tech? It will be no match for the mighty Oklahoma offense. West Virginia? It should run right over Syracuse.

I guess that’s why they play the games.

No. 15 West Virginia lost Friday before No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 6 Wisconsin fell to their opponents Saturday. Suddenly, the race for the national championship is much more interesting. Forget the preconceived notion that Oklahoma and an SEC powerhouse are destined for national title-caliber seasons. If this weekend’s slate of games taught us anything, it is that nothing is decided until the games are played in their entirety.

So where does that leave the rest of the national championship hopefuls? LSU and Alabama still have a stranglehold on their fates. The No. 1 and No. 2 BCS teams, respectively, both have off weeks before the de facto national semifinal between the two teams in Alabama. The winner will have every right to play for the national title, barring a loss later in the year. The fact that the two top ranked teams are battling it out in two weeks casts a shadow on the possibility of continued upsets across the board.

Let’s say Alabama beats LSU. The Crimson Tide still play at Mississippi State and at rival Auburn. The Cam Newton-less Tigers would love nothing more than to ruin a shot at glory for Alabama. After that matchup comes the SEC title game against an opponent that will have the same mind-set. Whichever team plays LSU/Alabama for the SEC crown, most likely South Carolina, will also be thinking about the possibility of sneaking in the back door to the national title. Winning out will not be a simple task for either of the top two ranked teams.

Now that Oklahoma will not finish undefeated, finding a potential competitor with an undefeated SEC champion becomes slightly more difficult. The Sooners will still have a chance to beat Kansas State and Oklahoma State to win the Big 12, but without a conference title game, an 11-1 record will probably not be enough to repair the damage done by their loss to Texas Tech.

Meanwhile, Stanford, Oregon and a wild Big Ten continue to entertain college football fans everywhere. For some reason, Stanford is still not impressing voters in the polls and is still ranked No. 6. The back-loaded nature of its schedule will make for quite the second half of the season. Games versus USC, Oregon and Notre Dame loom in the not-so-distant future. If Oregon beats the Cardinal, it will probably take the Pac-12 title, but will not be ranked high enough to earn an invitation to the national championship.

The tight Big Ten race got more cluttered after a miraculous Hail Mary sent Sparty home happy. Wisconsin could not defend the deep ball, and all of a sudden there are no true national title contenders in the conference, but plenty of BCS game hopefuls. It is very likely that we will witness an MSU-Wisconsin rematch for the Big Ten Championship, but plenty of trap games remain for both teams. Wisconsin will be playing on the road at Ohio State and Illinois before facing a Penn State team that has yet to lose in conference play. Michigan State has it a little easier, with one last big hurdle in Nebraska left on the slate.

What about underdogs Boise State, Clemson, Kansas State and Oklahoma State? The outlook for each of these teams improved drastically over the weekend. All are undefeated and will have a strong argument for a national title bid by the end of the year. Unfortunately for KSU and OKSU, they play each other as well as a spoiler-minded Oklahoma. Both schedules are back-loaded as well, so don’t be fooled by early season success. The true tests are down the road. Neither will finish the year with an unblemished record.

Clemson, however, could very well run the table. South Carolina is the only remaining ranked opponent on the schedule, but that game will be one of three remaining games on the road for the Tigers. Even Georgia Tech could come out of nowhere to take down Clemson this weekend.

Boise State has the best chance to finish with a perfect record. TCU is the final test for the Broncos, who are looking to complete a magical four-year run for their seniors. When Kansas State and Oklahoma State implode, Clemson suffers a heartbreaking road loss, and Oregon beats Stanford, Boise State will be up there with the winner of the LSU-Alabama game.

Sorry, Houston, I wish there was a playoff system for your sake. The Cougars have a fantastic chance of finishing the year 12-0 and sending star-crossed senior quarterback Case Keenum off into the sunset on a high note. Unfortunately, that note will not be high enough. The No. 17-ranked Houston squad will not receive respect from any voters in the polls, considering it barely beat a weak UCLA team and has not faced any semblance of a strong program since.

So who will be left if all these upsets occur? Oregon and Stanford will each have one loss, and the Ducks will have a strong case for a national title bid. Michigan State and Wisconsin could finish with one loss, and the Big Ten champion will also be lobbying for a trip to the big game. If Oklahoma regroups and beats rival Oklahoma State and Cinderella-story Kansas State, it will have one loss and will have a decent argument for a national title invite as well. Clemson could come out of the ACC without a loss and still be ranked lower than a one loss SEC team or possible Boise State. If the Alabama-LSU winner loses later in the year, a cluster of one-loss SEC teams will argue their superiority over the others. Could Boise State be the only undefeated team in college football and not receive a national championship invite?? How will a national champion ever be decided?!?!

A playoff seems like a reasonable idea.

But the anti-trust, law-breaking communists that run the Bowl Championship Series would never let anything that rational come to fruition. It’s every team for themselves, and nothing will be decided until the big evil BCS says it is. The end of the season promises to be one for the ages.

Turnovers. Will. Kill. You: A lesson on the importance of ball security

Notre Dame — After driving down to the USC 1-yard-line at the end of the third quarter trailing 17-10, it looked as though the Irish were about to tie the game and completely shift the momentum. Unfortunately, Tommy Rees injured his right knee earlier in the drive, and a cold Dayne Crist was in the game under center. On third down, a fumbled snap was returned 99 yards for a USC touchdown. The Irish would not recover, and chants of “Urban Meyer” rang throughout the student section. I’m a fan of Brian Kelly, and the fans were slightly overreacting, but they have a right to be upset after witnessing another ND loss due to giving away the ball.

Oklahoma — Down 14-7 in the second quarter, Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Texas Tech. On the ensuing Tech possession, a touchdown was scored and Oklahoma fell behind by 14. Then, down 31-14 in the third quarter and in desperate need of offense, Landry Jones threw an interception in his own territory. While the turnover did not lead to a score, the Sooner defense spent extra time on the field, which eventually wore them down. Despite holding on to the ball for the rest of the game and staging a comeback, Texas Tech prevailed 41-38.

Wisconsin — Already up 14-0 in the first quarter, Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson was leading a drive in to Michigan State territory before throwing an interception at the MSU 19-yard-line. After the momentum shift, the Spartans started to click on both sides of the ball and were leading in the fourth quarter 31-24. With the ball back in his hands, Wilson threw another interception, allowing Michigan State to run some time off the clock. After a Wisconsin score, Michigan State had just enough time to get in position for a Hail Mary, which was perfectly executed for a game winning touchdown as time expired. If Russell Wilson doesn’t throw those picks, it becomes very difficult for MSU to come back from the early deficit.

Depression Meter

Colorado — The Buffaloes have only one victory this season, and that was against their little brother, Colorado State. Other than that, the 1-7 squad has been pitiful. With the latest 45-2 loss to No. 10 Oregon, Colorado has been outscored 145-33 in its last three games. Get ready for next year, Buffaloes fans. Depression Meter sits at a 9.

Minnesota — Like Colorado, Minnesota also has one win, this one against Miami (Ohio). After a close loss to USC to start the year, the Golden Gophers have been nothing close to golden. They have been destroyed in Big Ten play, giving up more than 40 points to each of the conference opponents they have faced. Those losses include a 58-0 embarrassment at the hands of Michigan. Depression Meter sits at a 9.

Northwestern — Even though the Wildcats have two victories, the level of depression is at a season high. Quarterback Dan Persa was late in returning from surgery on his torn Achilles tendon, and his Heisman campaign was over before it started. Fans can’t even give up hope, because four of the team’s five losses have been by 10 points or less. Northwestern can still make a bowl game, but an upset of either Michigan State or Nebraska will be necessary. Depression Meter sits at an 8.5.

Houston — The Cougars only have seven victories in seven tries this season. … Wait, what? How can a 7-0 team sit on the Depression Meter? Houston leads the nation in passing yards per game and points scored per game. It has a veteran quarterback in Case Keenum who needs 802 passing yards and five touchdowns to set college football career records in each category. Well, the answer is simple. Even if Houston finishes 12-0, it will most likely be left out of a major bowl game. Without a fair playoff system, non-automatic-qualifying conference champions will never receive a fair share of BCS recognition. The Cougars are fighting a losing battle as they keep on winning.

Games to Watch Next Weekend

No. 11 Michigan State at No. 14 Nebraska

TV: ESPN/ESPN3 11 a.m. CT

Why you should watch — MSU will all but wrap up the Big Ten Legends division with a victory and lock up an appearance in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska also controls its own fate, so a victory would set the stage for an all-important matchup versus Michigan in a few weeks. Both teams feel disrespected by the polls, and this game can serve as a huge statement for both teams. Michigan State rides its momentum from the last-second win over Wisconsin and wins 27-20.

No. 9 Oklahoma at No. 8 Kansas State

TV: ESPN/ESPN3 2:30 CT

Why you should watch — Landry Jones is not happy about losing to Texas Tech. He is not happy that some school called Kansas State is ranked ahead of his Sooners in the BCS rankings. Jones and the rest of the Oklahoma offense are about to slap some sense into the Kansas State Wildcats team that has beaten exactly one ranked team by exactly one point. The Sooners can still win the Big 12, and don’t believe a national title invite is out of the question. Oklahoma rebounds in a big way, winning 56-21.

Navy at Notre Dame

TV: NBC 2:30 CT

Why you should watch — The struggle to regain elite status continues for the 4-3 Irish. One yard away from tying the game against USC, and suddenly a Trojan safety is returning a fumble 99 yards for a touchdown. Notre Dame can be a very good team, but ball security and discipline must be taken care of first. Navy, on the other hand, is well known for its discipline. The service academies regularly lead the nation in penalties per game, which will help the rushing attack pound away at the Irish defense. I expect Brian Kelly to whip the team into shape, and Notre Dame will prevail, 35-17.

No. 13 South Carolina at Tennessee

TV: ESPN2/ESPN3 6:15 CT

No. 5 Clemson at Georgia Tech

TV: ABC (regional coverage) 7 CT

No. 6 Stanford at USC

TV: ABC (regional coverage) 7 CT

No. 15 Wisconsin at Ohio State

TV: ESPN/ESPN3 7 CT

Why you should channel flip between all four games — Four ranked teams, each with something to prove, all on the road playing potential trap games. South Carolina believes it will make an appearance in the SEC championship, but winning games at the end of the season is no cake walk in that conference. Tennessee 17, South Carolina 14. Clemson is riding a wave of momentum and can feel a national title invite with a little luck. They are a few turnovers away from losing momentum, and it will be especially difficult on the road. Georgia Tech 28, Clemson 27. Stanford can silence its critics with a convincing win over USC, if it is not looking ahead to the Oregon matchup that could determine a national title or Rose Bowl birth. Stanford 35, USC 32. Wisconsin needs to rebound in a big way if it wants to claw its way back to the Big Ten title game. Ohio State is not the team of old, but dislikes losing just as much as Jim Tressel’steams. Wisconsin 24, OSU 14.