Commentary

If The Dash has his way, there will be BCS chaos

Originally Published: October 28, 2008
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football ("Time to Harvest the Great Pumpkin" (1) T-shirts sold separately in Knoxville, Tenn.):

Cheering For Chaos

[+] EnlargeDante Alighieri
Getty ImagesDante Alighieri knows what the afterlife holds for The Dash.
According to Dante -- that's Dante Alighieri (2), the poet from the Middle Ages, not Dante Love (3), the receiver from Ball State -- The Dash is going to Hell. The eighth circle of Hell, to be specific -- luxury suite territory in Satan's stadium.

In Dante's "Divine Comedy," the eighth circle of Hell is where they stash "sowers of discord." And that would be The Dash when it comes to the BCS.

There is no discord more enjoyably sowed than discord related to the Bowl Championship Series. The Dash daydreams of ways the BCS won't work, and of this year's BCS mouthpiece, ACC commissioner John Swofford (4), having to defend it against national outrage.

If you also root for scenarios that will create maximum controversy and criticism of the faulty nonplayoff system college football can't quit, you've come to the right place. Read on, and one day we can tailgate together in Hades.

Doomsday Scenario 1: Nobody in the top three loses. Texas (5), Alabama (6) and Penn State (7) win out. Three teams with perfect records, two spots in the title game, no common opponents. Somebody, most likely Penn State, is left to rail against a system that didn't give it a chance to prove itself worthy or unworthy of a national title. Auburn fans can tell Nittany Nation how much fun that is. Only happy outfit outside the Big 12 and SEC is the Rose Bowl, which gets to keep its Big 10-versus-Pac-10 antiquity going. (The Dash admits, a USC-Penn State Rose Bowl would not suck.)

[+] EnlargeGraham Harrell
Douglas Jones/US PresswireWhere will Graham Harrell and Texas Tech end up if the Red Raiders beat Texas but lose to Oklahoma?
Doomsday Scenario 2: Every unbeaten BCS conference team loses. Texas Tech (8) beats Texas, then loses to Oklahoma (9). Alabama loses to LSU on Nov. 8 or in the SEC championship game. Penn State loses at Iowa on Nov. 8. We're left with one-loss champions of four different leagues, all saying they deserve to play for the title. Servers collapse under weight of fan e-mail bombardments to poll voters, who are tasked with weighing the relative quality of victories over Coastal Carolina, Chattanooga, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern. Oh, and Washington State, too.

Doomsday Scenario 3: A one-loss team finishes ahead of an unbeaten BCS conference champion. That most likely would be an SEC or Big 12 champion outmaneuvering Penn State. The argument (and it's a compelling one) would be that the winner(s) of those leagues went through a tougher conference and a tougher nonconference schedules than the winner of the Big Ten.

Georgia (10) and Florida (11) already have played a tougher slate than Penn State, according to Jeff Sagarin. (Georgia is No. 23 in strength of schedule, Florida No. 24, Penn State No. 64.) That gap wouldn't decrease significantly down the stretch. If Florida is going to reach 12-1, it would have beaten Georgia, Florida State and most likely Alabama; if Georgia reaches 12-1 it would have beaten Florida, Georgia Tech and most likely Alabama.

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Michael R. Sisak/Icon SMIWould Joe Paterno be left out of the BCS mix even with an unblemished record?
Texas (No. 18 schedule) and Oklahoma (No. 41) also have played a tougher schedule than Penn State. Texas Tech (No. 91) has not -- but still has games with the Longhorns, Sooners and Oklahoma State upcoming.

Such a scenario would meet a violent counter-argument from not just Penn State and Big Ten backers, but anyone out there with a soft spot for Press Box Joe Paterno. (Dash's prediction: The USA Today coaches' poll voters would slide heavily into Penn State's corner if it came to that, because their final ballots are public -- and they wouldn't want the backlash of voting down an octogenarian icon in his last great chance at a title. Not saying it would be right, just saying it's easy to foresee.) But computer rankings have no soft spots.

The one-loss power that would not deserve a spot ahead of unbeaten Penn State would be USC (12). The Nittany Lions beat Oregon State by 31; the Trojans lost to Oregon State by six. End of argument.

[+] EnlargeMila Kunis
Jewel Samada/AFP/Getty ImagesThe Dash's max pain: Losing out on Dashette Mila Kunis.
Doomsday Scenario 4: A team that doesn't win its conference -- or even its division -- plays for the title. That could be Oklahoma, lurking at No. 4 in the BCS. If Penn State falls, or Texas loses badly to Missouri in the Big 12 title game, or the SEC cannibalizes itself, the Sooners still have a chance of slipping in. The Big 12 owns the patent on backing into a title game. Last time a team did that it was Nebraska in 2001, and the Cornhuskers rewarded the system by being routed by Miami in an anticlimactic title game. Oklahoma also played for the title in 2003 after being housed by Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

Doomsday Scenario 5: All-out chaos. A bloodletting in the Big 12 and SEC leaves all the top contenders with two losses. USC drops another game. Penn State loses to Iowa or Michigan State. Meanwhile, Utah, Boise State, Ball State and Tulsa all run the table and increase the clamor for a BCS outsider to make the title game. Nobody knows how to vote. Discord is crowned the undisputed champion.

Doomsday Scenario 6: Dashette Mila Kunis (13) dumps The Dash for Lee Corso.

November: A Two-Act Drama

First, a six-pack opening act of crucial games that will help shape where we are heading into Thanksgiving weekend:

[+] EnlargeGeorgia
Jason Parkhurst/US Presswire Perhaps this time around at the Cocktail Party, the teams will wait until after the game to celebrate.
Florida versus Georgia (14) in Jacksonville, Saturday. Urban Meyer and Mark Richt have declared this Amnesia Week, refusing to recollect upon the Bulldogs' 70-man end zone celebration of '07. The un-Richt-like maneuver jump-started Georgia's 42-30 upset that turned around its season. Florida's players haven't forgotten -- but they aren't allowed to admit as much publicly, as decreed by their coach. However, Tim Tebow said at SEC Media Day in July that Meyer would never pull a similar stunt. So, yeah, the past is hovering over this game. But the present is fairly huge by itself -- loser is all but eliminated from the national title chase.

Texas at Texas Tech (15), Saturday. All kinds of star players in this potential pingpong match -- but the most intriguing guy might be Tech's Accidental Kicker, Matt Williams. At the beginning of the season he was eating nachos in the student section, and now he's preparing to kick against the No. 1 team in the country on national TV. Williams has become a college football cult hero after winning a contest to come out of the stands and kick a 30-yard field goal for a free month's rent when Tech played UMass. Williams drilled it, and in a season in which the Red Raiders have missed six PATs and four field goals, eternally unconventional coach Mike Leach turned this guy into a walk-on. Last week against Kansas, he was 9-for-9 kicking extra points. Leach is shielding him from the media with the Longhorns coming up. You wonder whether he'd let the kid kick, say, a 35-yard field goal with the game -- and the season -- on the line.

TCU at Utah (16), Nov. 6. You never know how big this could end up being (see: Doomsday Scenario 5). But the way the Horned Frogs dominated BYU, they might well be the best team in the Mountain West Conference. Both teams play night games on the road Saturday and then must turn around quickly for this Thursday nighter.

Alabama at LSU (17), Nov. 8. The storyline will be Saban Mania, but it will be much bigger for the LSU fans than the current Tigers, almost all of whom were recruited by Les Miles. This is the Crimson Tide's last road game of the regular season -- which is too bad for the Tide, given the performances away from Tuscaloosa thus far. Average winning margin in four road/neutral games: 22.5 points. Average winning margin in four games at home: 13.8.

The Dash's Heisman List

1. Colt McCoy, Texas. There's on fire, and then there's molten-lava McCoy. He completed a school-record 18 straight passes at one point in the Longhorns' 28-24 victory over Oklahoma State. Even a couple of second-half turnovers cannot diminish his current tear.

2. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. All he did was lead the Sooners to 55 points Saturday against Kansas State. In the first half.

3. Chase Daniel, Missouri. Terrific bounce-back game by Daniel, who threw for 302 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 58-0 annihilation of Colorado.

ESPN.com's Heisman Watch | Vote!
Penn State at Iowa (18), Nov. 8. Can a team that lost at home to Northwestern win at home against the Nittany Lions? Well, the Iowa team of the past two games (which outscored Indiana and Wisconsin 83-25) might have a chance. But a Hawkeyes upset would still be on the short list for Shocker of the Year.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma (19), Nov. 22. The Sooners have lost two of their last three meetings with Tech. The Red Raiders will be playing their third straight heavyweight game, this one coming after Texas and Oklahoma State.

Then Act II, the holiday weekend itself. Seven of the top nine teams in the current BCS standings will have a huge, ancient rivalry game on Thanksgiving weekend, in which at least one of the two teams should have national or conference title aspirations on the line. The exceptions are Texas Tech, which hosts Baylor (12 straight wins in that series, 11 of them blowouts), and Penn State, which already will have its regular-season hay in the barn. The latter schedule could potentially set up the Big Ten champ with another cripplingly long layoff before the national title game.

Texas A&M at Texas (20), Nov. 27. The Aggies have shocked the Horns the past two seasons, but this would qualify as one of the biggest wins in A&M history if Texas comes in undefeated and ranked No. 1.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (21), Nov. 29. Could be the biggest Bedlam Series game ever if both come in 10-1 and ranked in the top 10. The Cowboys beat top-five Sooners teams in 2001 and '02, after nearly knocking off Oklahoma during its 2000 national championship season. But Bob Stoops is riding a five-game winning streak in the rivalry now.

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden
Ken McKimm/Icon SMICould Bobby Bowden leave on a high note?
Florida at Florida State (22), Nov. 29. You couldn't draw up a better theoretical exit strategy for Bobby Bowden: beat Urban Meyer for the first time in four tries, derail a potential Gators BCS championship bid and ride off into the dadgum sunset.

Auburn at Alabama (23), Nov. 29. Seems crazy for Tommy Tuberville to be fighting for his job with an 84-37 record on The Plains, but here he is. How does he hang on? Pretty simple. Beat the Crimson Tide for the seventh year in a row. Not even Auburn could fire him then.

Georgia Tech at Georgia (24), Nov. 29. Could be quite an introduction to this rivalry for first-year Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson. He might be in position to try to option the Bulldogs out of the national championship picture.

Notre Dame at USC (25), Nov. 29. If things break right, the Fighting Irish could be 9-2 entering the Coliseum to play the 9-1 Trojans. Then it would be up to a Notre Dame program that has lost six straight to USC -- five of them routs -- to at least keep it entertaining.

Six Bad Seasons Will Get You Canned -- Twice

At this very time in 2002, end of October and heading into November, Ty Willingham (26) was the hottest coach in college football. His first Notre Dame team was 8-0 and ranked fourth in the nation. He'd been trumpeted as "The Savior of Notre Dame" on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He was on his way to winning national Coach of the Year awards.

[+] EnlargeTy Willingham
Nick Doan/Icon SMITy Willingham is well under .500 since peaking in his first season at Notre Dame.
But ever since Nov. 2, 2002, the day the Irish were upset at home by Boston College, Ty W. has been Ty L. His record since that premature peak at Notre Dame: 24-47. He's been fired at two schools.

The first was Notre Dame (27), where the school took the unprecedented step of firing its football coach after three seasons. Now he's out at Washington (28), where it was announced Monday that he will step down at the end of this, his fourth season.

The firing is perfectly justified. The ensuing tap dances of glee from Notre Dame fans (yes, The Dash received your voluminous e-mails of celebration) is not. If anything, it only shows that the obsessive insistence on vilifying Willingham for everything that has gone wrong at Notre Dame is alive and well, and presumably will continue until the man is dead and buried.

Willingham's successor, Charlie Weis (29), was handed a new 10-year contract worth more than $30 million during his first season in South Bend -- which remains indefensible.

Weis has compiled a 27-17 record with the Irish by doing one thing well: he's consistently beaten the bad teams on the schedule. Against opponents that ended the season with losing records or, in the case of 2008, currently own losing records, Weis is 18-1. Against opponents that ended the season with records of .500 or better or currently own .marks of 500 or better, Weis is 9-16.

In his past 14 games against .500 or better competition, Weis is 1-13. And the lone exception -- the 28-21 victory over Stanford earlier this month -- could wind up going the other way by season's end. The Cardinal are 4-4 with games remaining against USC, Oregon and California.

Lip Winner Still Flawless

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin (30) won The Dash's annual Last Interception pool on Oct. 18, when his last competitor, Mississippi State's Tyson Lee, threw his first (and second and third) picks of the season. One week later, Griffin still hasn't thrown one to the wrong team. He put it up 20 times in a 32-20 loss to Nebraska without an oskie, bringing him to 175 interceptionless attempts on the season -- and in the freshman's career.

It's gotten so out of hand that only one other quarterback in the national top 100 for passing efficiency is within one pick of Griffin. That would be North Carolina State's Russell Wilson (31), another freshman. He threw an interception on Sept. 13 against Clemson, but has not had one since.

The Forgettable Four

The Davey O'Brien Award, which goes to the nation's outstanding quarterback, announced its semifinalists Monday. Among the names not on the list are four guys who were highly touted in August but who have not enjoyed 2008:

[+] EnlargeCurtis Painter
AP Photo/Tom StricklandCurtis Painter is finishing his career at Purdue on a low note.
Curtis Painter (32), Purdue. A senior who threw for more than 7,800 yards the previous two seasons has had a nightmarish '08 on a team going nowhere. Painter has gone from 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions last season to six TDs and 10 picks this season, and he's lost snaps to his backups in recent weeks. Joe Tiller isn't the only one going out on a disappointing note in West Lafayette, Ind.

Todd Boeckman (33), Ohio State. It has to be hard for a 24-year-old to lose his job to a teenager, especially coming off a season in which Boeckman helped caretake the Buckeyes to the national title game. Boeckman went the entire month of October without playing, losing his job to freshman Terrelle Pryor. Even with the Buckeyes failing to score a touchdown at home for the first time in 25 years last week against Penn State, Boeckman never saw the field.

Jake Locker (34), Washington. The dynamic sophomore was likely lost for the season to when he was injured in the fourth game, the biggest reason why the Huskies are 0-7 and hopeless. But even when Locker was in the lineup, he hadn't thrown for more than 204 yards or rushed for more than 62 in a game.

Cullen Harper (35), Clemson. Harper can identify with Painter at this point. His senior season has spiraled into the dumpster, with production falling off from 27 touchdowns and six interceptions last season to six TDs and eight picks this season. One of Tommy Bowden's final acts as coach was to bench Harper before the Georgia Tech game, but an injury to freshman Willy Korn gave Harper a chance to play most of that contest. Clemson lost, as it has four times in a season that began in the top 10.

And then there is the Tebow kid (36), who is an O'Brien semifinalist but would have to be considered a long shot to repeat as winner of that award and the Heisman Trophy. Tebow has the Gators in position for greater team success in '08 than they enjoyed in '07, but it has come at the expense of personal numbers. After seven games, he's nowhere near on pace to replicate the staggering 4,100 yards of total offense and 55 total touchdowns he accumulated last season.

Putting Out An APB For ...

Former Georgia wide receiver Lindsay Scott (37). This being Cocktail Party week for the Dawgs and Gators, it seems a fine time to find the guy who might have made the most famous play in the history of the series. In 1980, with undefeated Georgia trailing Florida 21-19 with a minute to play, quarterback Buck Belue scrambled and threw from near his own goal line to Scott, whose 93-yard catch and run is part of Bulldog lore, helping them to the national title. Legendary announcer Larry Munson's call of the final 15 yards of the run: "Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott! Lindsay Scott!" Anyone with information on Scott's whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Utah running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (38), is reportedly alive and well and living in Hawaii. According to a couple of updates The Dash received, after retiring from the NFL Fuamatu-Ma'afala returned to his home state and is working for Army Youth Sports, helping coach and arranging events for the children of military personnel.

Point After

When hungry and thirsty in the most excellent college town of Austin, The Dash recommends the Cadillac all-you-can-eat plate at The County Line BBQ (39). You'll get enough ribs, brisket, chicken and sausage to put you in a meat coma -- but then you'll have to overcome it and this the city's crazily happening bar scene. The Dash recommends grabbing a beer at Six (40), which is partly owned by a local athlete of some renown, Lance Armstrong.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.