Commentary

BCS race could get ugly

Originally Published: October 27, 2010
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

With Election Day right around the corner, campaign ads are getting downright nasty.

It might not be long before college football's BCS national championship race gets a little ugly, too.

With seven undefeated teams left, BCS title contenders are starting to jockey for the final two spots in the BCS standings.

Here's what their campaign slogans might look like:

Auburn

Pro: "Cam is the Man"
Does it really matter that Auburn's defense leaves something to be desired? With Cameron Newton directing a high-octane offense, the Tigers seemingly can outscore any team they play. Auburn ran for 440 yards in last week's 24-17 victory over LSU, which came into the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense and rushing defense. Newton had 217 rushing yards with two touchdowns and set a school record for total touchdowns in a season. Auburn has beaten four teams ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings and its eight opponents have a combined record of 37-23.

Con: "Remember the Iron Bowl"
If Auburn beats Ole Miss on the road Saturday and then defeats FCS foe Chattanooga and Georgia in consecutive home games, the Tigers will still have to beat rival Alabama in the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 26. The defending BCS national champion Crimson Tide throw the ball well enough to take advantage of Auburn's porous secondary.

Oregon

Pro: "Have You Seen Our Offense?"
The high-scoring Ducks lead the country in scoring with 55.1 points per game and they've scored 42 points or more in every game this season. Oregon is coming off a 60-13 drubbing of UCLA on Oct. 21, in which they gashed the Bruins for 582 yards of offense. Running back LaMichael James, who might be Newton's biggest threat in the race for the Heisman Trophy, has rushed for 971 yards with 11 touchdowns.

Con: "Have You Seen Their Schedule?"
The Ducks haven't exactly played a murderers row of opponents this season, beating only one opponent (No. 13 Stanford) with a winning record. In fact, Oregon's six FBS opponents have a combined record of 15-28. New Mexico is 0-7. Washington State is 1-7. Tennessee is 2-5. Oregon's schedule strength will improve down the stretch, starting with Saturday's game at USC. The Ducks also play No. 15 Arizona at home on Nov. 26.

Boise State

Pro: "Weren't We Great?"
The Broncos had a chance to impress voters across the country when they played Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night. While the Broncos walked off the blue turf of Bronco Stadium with a 49-20 victory, it was hardly their best effort of the season. Still, Boise State won the game by 29 points, which hardly looks like a struggle in the end. The Broncos, who have won 21 games in a row, will need a better effort Nov. 6 when they host Hawaii at Bronco Stadium, where they've scored 143 points in three home games.

Con: "It Was Louisiana Tech"
Fair or not, the Broncos probably aren't afforded the same concessions as teams from BCS conferences. They're supposed to steamroll teams like Louisiana Tech. The Broncos don't play enough statement games to endure a mediocre performance if they're going to impress voters. The good news? Boise State's 33-30 victory over Virginia Tech on Labor Day night is looking better every week. The bad news? Boise State's 37-24 win over Oregon State doesn't look quite as impressive as it once did. Boise State's seven opponents have a combined record of 21-32, and Virginia Tech and Toledo are the only foes which have winning records.

TCU

Pro: "We're Your Best Defense"
The Horned Frogs walloped Air Force 38-7 last week, the fourth game in a row in which they allowed seven points or fewer. TCU leads the country in scoring defense, allowing 9.0 points per game, and they've surrendered only 10 points combined in their last four games. We'll find out how good the Horned Frogs really are in two weeks. After playing at UNLV on Saturday night, TCU plays at No. 8 Utah on Nov. 6.

Con: "So You Beat Baylor"
The Mountain West isn't as good as it was in recent seasons, primarily because BYU is limping through a 3-5 season. The bottom of the MWC is really bad, too, with four of its teams having already lost six games or more. TCU will get some unexpected help from its 45-10 rout of Baylor on Sept. 18. The Bears are 6-2 and lead the Big 12 South with a 3-1 record in league play. The Horned Frogs also beat Oregon State 30-21 on Sept. 4.

Michigan State

Pro: "Did You See That Comeback?"
The Spartans became the comeback kids -- and the new kings of trickeration -- in last week's 35-27 victory at Northwestern. Michigan State trailed the Wildcats 17-0 at the half but used a fake punt for a first down to rally after intermission. It's the second time a fake kick has helped the Spartans win; they threw the winning touchdown on a fake field goal in overtime in a 34-31 victory over Notre Dame on Sept. 18.

Con: "Where's Ohio State?"
The Spartans don't play No. 11 Ohio State during the regular season, which might end up hurting their schedule strength. Michigan State has defeated four teams with winning records (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Northwestern) and it plays at No. 18 Iowa on Saturday. Its seven FBS foes have a combined record of 29-21.

Missouri

Pro: "We Just Beat No. 1"
The Tigers are coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, defeating then-No. 1 Oklahoma 36-27 in Columbia, Mo. The Tigers scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Sooners, who had won seven straight games against Missouri. The Tigers, who have also defeated Illinois, San Diego State and Texas A&M, are 7-0 for the first time since 1960.

Con: "Oklahoma Should Have Never Been No. 1"
Missouri exposed Oklahoma's deficiencies, which really weren't that hard to find throughout the season. Missouri also had to come from behind in the final minute to defeat San Diego State 27-24 on Sept. 18. If Missouri wins at No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday, it might have a legitimate case to be included in the BCS race.

Utah

Pro: "We're the Best in the Mountain West"
The Utes are 7-0 and we'll find out how good they really are when they host No. 4 TCU in Salt Lake City on Nov. 6. Utah is scoring a lot of points (No. 3 nationally in scoring with 47.7 points per game) and is not allowing many (No. 3 nationally in scoring defense with 12.9 points per game). The Utes defeated Iowa State 68-27 on Oct. 9, and the Cyclones just won 28-21 at Texas.

Con: "Your Schedule Is Worse than Boise State's"
Right now, the Utes are hanging their hats on a 27-24 overtime victory over Pittsburgh in their Sept. 2 opener. The Panthers are 4-3. Five of Utah's seven opponents have won two games or fewer and they have a combined record of 14-39. UNLV is 1-6. New Mexico is 0-7. San Jose State is 1-7. Wyoming is 2-6. Colorado State is 2-6.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoir, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book is available in stores and can be ordered here. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.

Mark Schlabach | email

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