Commentary

Don't expect a BCS Sunday surprise

Updated: December 6, 2009, 3:37 PM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Unless someone hacks into the six BCS computer programs or enough of the 173 combined Harris and coaches' poll voters flip their ballots, Sunday night's BCS selection show will be as exciting as Ken Burns' newest documentary: "Cardboard Boxes -- The Early Years."

Alabama will play Texas for the BCS national championship on Jan. 7 at the Rose Bowl. This we know. We know this because Bama left elephant hoof prints on Florida in Saturday's SEC title game. And later Saturday night, Texas beat, if you can call it that, Nebraska in the Big 12 championship. How, I have no idea.

What we don't know is whether the BCS national championship is the same as a national championship.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireMack Brown and Texas edged Nebraska to claim the Big 12 title.

Alabama and Texas finished the regular season with identical 13-0 records. But so did Boise State. And Cincinnati and TCU each went 12-0.

And let's be honest: Nobody, not even those with burnt orange Bevo tats, can say the Longhorns are better than the WAC champ Broncos, the Big East champ Bearcats or the Mountain West champ Horned Frogs. Not after Texas needed a Thanksgiving Day escape hatch against Texas A&M and not after the Longhorns bumbled around against Nebraska -- The Team That Offense Forgot.

If Hunter Lawrence's 46-yard field goal hadn't ducked inside the left upright as time expired, the Longhorns would've been lower than Bevo doo-doo. But it did. Texas won 13-12, and Longhorns coach Mack Brown declared his team California-bound.

"We're excited about being Big 12 champs, and we will see you in Pasadena," he told the Cowboys Stadium crowd during the postgame trophy presentation.

Brown is probably right. According to Brad Edwards, ESPN's BCS expert, about two-thirds of the voters would have to drop Texas below TCU or Cincinnati on their final ballots. Fat chance.

But just because it won't happen doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. Brown's team scored exactly one touchdown against Nebraska, rushed for a grand total of 18 yards and watched its Heisman Trophy candidate throw three interceptions and its offensive line give up nine sacks. This is the other BCS title game team?

Still, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy did maneuver the Longhorns into field goal distance in the final two minutes, although it helped that they got 55 yards in gift yardage from Nebraska. A kickoff that rolled out of bounds put the ball on the 40-yard line to start the drive. A horse-collar tackle later added another 15-yard penalty. And Lawrence's field goal wouldn't have happened unless officials had correctly put a single second back on the clock after an incomplete pass by McCoy appeared to end the game.

But if you're Cincinnati and TCU, you hope for a Sunday ballot miracle. You hope enough voters think that a 13-12 Texas win over a Nebraska team ranked 92nd in total offense isn't BCS-worthy. You hope enough voters think that the Dec. 6 versions of the Bearcats and Horned Frogs are better than the Dec. 5 version of the Longhorns.

"I don't think there could be a better matchup than Texas and Alabama," Brown said.

There could if you're Cincy coach Brian Kelly or TCU coach Gary Patterson.

Bama or Florida was going to Pasadena no matter what. But a Texas loss would have created a BCS tsunami. That's why Kelly, in the aftermath of his Bearcats' 45-44 last-minute win over Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, openly rooted for the red and white.

"Go, Nebraska!" Kelly said to ESPN's Holly Rowe. "Go, Cornhuskers!"

If I saw Kelly cheerlead for the Huskers on the hotel room flat-screen, so did the Longhorns, who were staying in the same Dallas-Fort Worth Airport hotel. They knew Nebraska was the last and only hope for either Cincinnati or TCU to squirm its way into the No. 2 spot of the final BCS standings.

Maybe it was a coincidence (doubtful), but the mammoth Cowboys Stadium big screen quit showing the Bama-Florida game shortly before the Longhorns took the field for warm-ups. Somebody (Brown?) didn't want the Longhorns sneaking peeks at their potential Citi BCS National Championship Game opponent.

Didn't matter. Texas still played tighter than a face-lift. It needed a muscle relaxer just to make it to the locker room for halftime.

Of course, Nebraska's defense had a lot to do with that. Huskers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (4½ sacks, 12 total tackles) spent so much time in Texas' backfield that he established in-state residency. The Longhorns' offensive line was hoping he'd declare for the NFL draft -- before the start of the third quarter.

Nebraska can play D, but it'd have trouble scoring a touchdown in its own spring game. The Cornhuskers, facing an accomplished Texas defense, finished with five first downs, 39 passing yards and 106 total yards.

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesCincinnati coach Brian Kelly might need another hug after the final BCS standings are released.

So the Crimson Tide and Longhorns will play for the crystal trophy. Cincy will play for Kelly, who says he'd "entertain" a discussion with Notre Dame officials about its job opening. TCU will play to show everyone it should have been the Texas team selected for Pasadena. And Boise State will play for the same number of total victories as the winner of the BCS championship.

If nothing else, the BCS and its propaganda machine lucked out and don't have to explain why Boise State got screwed out of a BCS bowl. Instead, the Broncos, fresh from euthanizing New Mexico State 42-7 on Saturday, might end up in a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against TCU. Iowa is also in the Fiesta equation.

For what it's worth, Fiesta president John Junker was here in all his yellow-jacketed splendor just in case Nebraska beat Texas. It didn't, but guess what -- TCU is just down the road in Fort Worth. Think Junker made the short drive?

Cincinnati is expected to play Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Oregon will administer the now-annual Rose Bowl beatdown to the Big Ten, this time to Ohio State. And, oh, the FedEx Orange Bowl will have a game, too -- not that anybody outside the campuses of Georgia Tech and either Iowa or Boise State will care.

Saturday was supposed to be a day that would clarify and simplify a postseason. To some extent it did.

It started with Cincinnati overcoming a 21-point, first-half Pitt lead in a game that ended with Bearcats star wide receiver Mardy Gilyard bawling like a newborn on the UC sideline. Tears of joy.

It continued with Bama ending the Gators' hopes of a BCS championship repeat -- and with Florida quarterback Tim Tebow crying on the sideline. Tebow's eye-black strips read John 16:33. But the Georgia Dome scoreboard read Tide 32-13.

Meanwhile, Boise beat New Mexico State, Arizona beat USC, and Georgia Tech beat Clemson in the ACC championship game.

But Saturday also threw the Heisman race into chaos. McCoy entered the day as the favorite, but that was before he completed 20 of 36 passes for 184 yards and threw no touchdowns and three interceptions. (He ran 2 yards for a second-quarter touchdown.)

"I think Colt played great," Brown said. "We didn't help him at times."

No, Suh played great; McCoy didn't. Now Heisman voters have until 5 p.m. Eastern on Monday to decide between McCoy, Suh, Stanford's Toby Gerhart, Florida's Tebow, Bama's Mark Ingram and others.

In the end, Saturday night in Arlington almost turned Sunday night into BCS bedlam. Lucky for Texas, almost doesn't count.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter

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