On college football

Fitting ending will be an upset

Email|Print| Text size + By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / November 9, 2007

If the regular season plays out without any more upsets involving teams in the top 5, the Bowl Championship Series national championship game in New Orleans Jan. 7 will likely pit Ohio State and Louisiana State.

Big Ten vs. Southeastern Conference. Power vs. speed.

Do we really want to see that? Didn't we see that a year ago, when an Ohio State team loaded with more talent, including Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Troy Smith, roared into the BCS title game looking to go undefeated and was routed by Florida, the once-beaten SEC champion?

On paper, such a matchup is appealing. Unbeaten Big Ten champion with a stout defense and an opportunistic, aggressive offense, a team that has been on top in the rankings since mid-October, against once-beaten LSU, its only loss coming in triple overtime at Kentucky.

But let's look closer at the teams. Find a quality win for Ohio State outside the Big Ten. Ohio State's biggest remaining obstacle is twice-beaten Michigan, which, as much as Wolverines fans want to say, "That was then, this is now," lost to a playoff division team (Appalachian State) in a thriller, and at the time an unheralded team (Oregon) in a rout.

If Ohio State beats Michigan next week in Ann Arbor, the Big Ten is likely to have only one BCS-eligible team - the Buckeyes.

Before Boston College stumbled at home against Florida State last week, the Eagles were dismissed as unworthy to be in the top 5 because of a nonconference schedule that included wins over Army, Bowling Green, Massachusetts, and a Notre Dame team that is on its way to one of the worst seasons in school history.

But if you compare BC's schedule to Ohio State's, the Eagles' opponents have a better combined record than the Buckeyes'. But BC's loss to Florida State eliminated it from national title game contention.

The suspicion remains that the Buckeyes will stumble like their Big Ten brethren. But unless it happens soon, Ohio State will be back in the BCS title game against an LSU team playing in its home state, and which appears quicker and more talented.

Where the Buckeyes would have the edge is on the sideline, where coach Jim Tressel has proven his credentials at every level, something LSU's Les Miles has yet to do, with the Tigers sometimes winning despite their coach rather than because of him.

Once Ohio State gets through the Big Ten regular season - at home against Illinois tomorrow and at Michigan - it can relax.

LSU, meanwhile, must get past Mississippi and Arkansas, then deal with a team such as Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia in the SEC title game in Atlanta Dec. 1.

Which could spell danger. While the Tigers have beaten South Carolina and Florida, winning a rematch could prove to be a tough task.

Going by appearances, Oregon and Oklahoma, ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the Associated Press poll, are just as worthy of BCS title consideration as the Buckeyes. The Ducks (in the final seconds at home to California) and the Sooners (on the road at Colorado) have each lost once, which is why they are just off the top of the leaderboard.

But unless Ohio State and LSU stumble, we are not going to see Oregon or Oklahoma in the BCS national championship game.

What we might see, however, is a repeat of last year's title game rout, which would be a tough way to end what has been a spectacular season.

Globe Top 10
1. Ohio State
2. Oregon
3. LSU
4. Oklahoma
5. West Virginia
6. Kansas
7. Missouri
8. Boston College
9. Arizona State
10. Georgia

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