Just For Argument's Sake...

Updated: October 19, 2006, 2:31 AM ET
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

From nagging questions to soapbox moments to Heisman hype, here's a look at the hottest topics in college football.

1. Should a lagging conference get its automatic BCS bid rescinded?
Big East I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no. The Atlantic Coast Conference should keep its bid.

The Big East? The conference with three teams in the top 19 (one more than the ACC, not to mention the Big 12)?

So far, it's clear that the demise of the Big East has been greatly exaggerated. The demise of the ACC is just as temporary, although it should be pointed out that Miami never had these behavior issues when it belonged to the Big East.

"It's all a perception issue," Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, Jr., said this week. "You can clearly make a case that every one of our teams is better now than two years ago. We weren't as bad (in 2004) as everyone thought we were. Everyone assumed the teams we were left with were no good."

If No. 4 West Virginia wins at UConn on Friday night, and No. 6 Louisville wins at Syracuse on Saturday, they will have made their game on Thursday, Nov. 2, one of the biggest in the history of the conference, not just the history of newly configured one. This Saturday, No. 19 Rutgers takes its 6-0 record to Pittsburgh to play the 6-1 Panthers in a game that ESPN2 thought enough of to move to 5:45 p.m.

"When you have a one-horse conference," Carparelli said, "you're banking on one thing happening. When you have two, three, four teams that are perceived to be good, the number of quality games multiplies."

The Big East has a new contract with ESPN. With the success thus far this season, the automatic bid to the BCS appears safe. After the shakeup of conferences that took place two years ago, the new Big East asked to be judged over a period of time. Already, it looks as if it's worthy.

"We try not to overreact to how well we're doing," Carparelli said. "You never know in this game. We're not going to have two teams in the top 10 all the time."

The same courtesy should be given the new ACC. I'm sure that, given time, it will prove itself worthy of keeping its automatic bid, too.

2. How did the Clemson line get so big?
Clemson When Tommy Bowden went to Clemson in 1999, he bucked the trend toward big, hulking offensive linemen. He wanted them lean and quick for offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. A couple of them didn't even make 260 pounds.

Fast forward to 2006, when the No. 12 Tigers are 6-1 for only the second time in Bowden's eight seasons. A big reason is a senior-dominated offensive line that averages -- averages, mind you, -- more than 300 pounds per man.

What happened?

"We were a shotgun, fast-paced, no-huddle team," Bowden said of his early teams at Clemson. "Man-blocking. You had to have athleticism. Our offense was ahead of the times. When people caught up, we were kind of mismatched. People caught up with us. I didn't have enough of a running game out of our one-back offense."

When they put another defender in the box, Clemson couldn't account for him. Once quarterback Woody Dantzler graduated in 2002, Bowden didn't have a quarterback whose running skills could keep the defense at bay. Bowden dabbled in Urban Meyer's spread option. But he wasn't, as he put it, "married" to it.

He brought in offensive coordinator Rob Spence from Toledo. The Tigers stopped spreading out so much. They became more of a power team. It's more old-school, more to the liking of a coach, Bowden, who grew up with the I formation.

"I've got three tight ends I can put in the game," Bowden said. "I got another blocker for the defense. Put another guy in the box, I can take care of him. If you did it then, I had to throw. I'm all zone blocking now. You need road graders."

Rodriguez, Bowden said, has stayed ahead of defenses at West Virginia by sticking to a running quarterback.

"With his quarterback (Pat White), he's got three tailbacks," Bowden said. "His quarterback throws it well but nobody can stop his rushing. Until he plays somebody like Michigan or Ohio State who can take his quarterback and make him throw it, they're going to run."

But even Rodriguez has adjusted. His linemen average 287 pounds.

3. What's harder to do -- finish a season without a loss or without a win?
As we ease into the latter part of October, the number of undefeateds and only-defeateds is shrinking at the same rate. There are seven of the former, as one glance at the BCS Standings will tell you: Ohio State, USC, Michigan, West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers and Boise State.

There are six of the latter, although they are not so easily found. You have to comb the bottom of the conference standings, which is where to find Duke, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, San Diego State, Stanford and Temple.
Al Golden
Jim Kirchner/Icon SMI
Al Golden and Temple are among the six winless I-A teams in 2006.

Recent history shows an unlikely symmetry between the two. In the last 10 regular seasons, there have been 18 unbeatens and 19 winless. There has been one year with no winless teams (2002) and one year with no unbeatens (2003). A remarkable 13 of the 18 unbeatens won their bowl game as well, and three of the five bowl losers fell to another unbeaten.

Still, the one extra game, a bowl game against a highly ranked opponent, proves that it's tougher to go unbeaten than it is winless. As for this year's regular season, the fact that Ohio State and Michigan play each other, and that West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers play each other, means that three of the seven unbeatens are guaranteed to lose.

It is difficult to predict that any of the six winless teams will find the answers necessary to win one game before season's end. Florida International has dismissed two players and suspended 16 others indefinitely after last week's brawl with Miami. Stanford just set a historic low for offensive output. Temple has allowed more than 60 points to three of six opponents.

Eastern Michigan, with three losses by eight points or fewer, looks ready to end its schneid. San Diego State's five opponents are 17-9 against the rest of their schedule, which means the Aztecs' schedule only gets easier.

Duke is 0-6 and has been similarly afflicted, but its remaining schedule includes only one team, up-the-street rival North Carolina, with a losing record. The Blue Devils will play at home this Saturday against a Miami team that is 13 players lighter than it was last week because of the aforementioned brawl. Hmmm …

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com