Messy territory for college football

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

I kind of like things messy, which, as understatements go, is akin to saying that Kim Kardashian kind of likes attention.

My declaration of messiness will come as no surprise to my wife, or my co-workers, or anybody who has ever ridden in my car, and it might help explain my feelings about the BCS.

See, I like things messy, so I enjoy the fact that college football went into the third Saturday of November with one unbeaten team and nine one-loss teams. I like the fact that, as the regular season turned toward the homestretch, numerous squads were jockeying for a spot in the BCS title game.

LSU is the lone unbeaten team from a major conference (sorry Houston, but we aren’t impressed) and can boast of wins over Alabama and Oregon. Very impressive, considering the Crimson Tide and the Ducks stood to inherit the No. 2 and No. 3 positions in the BCS rankings thanks to Oklahoma State’s loss Friday to Iowa State.

That is, until Oregon did a face plant against Southern Cal on Saturday night. And moments after that, Oklahoma saw its title hopes dashed with a loss to Baylor.

It was a watershed weekend for college football, one that made the BCS race all messy. It was the sugar in the gas tank that turned this season into a lumpy, sticky, mucky mess.

And it was wonderful.

Yet it simultaneously made the outcome all the more clear.

Get ready for an all-SEC title game. Because if it’s not LSU vs. Alabama, the interloper probably will be Arkansas. The Razorbacks play LSU this coming Friday, giving them an opportunity for a signature victory that could vault them up the rankings.

Yes, the conference that acts as though it owns college football is busy drawing up the deed to the place.

Prior to this weekend, everything had been humming along. It was all neat and pretty and organized, with LSU and Oklahoma State as the only major unbeatens. All they had to do was win the rest of their games and march into a title showdown.

But the beauty of college football lies in the details. It lies in the fact that a single loss can be soul-crushing. It lies in the messiness.

No place right now is more convoluted than the SEC West Division. LSU is undefeated, while Alabama and Arkansas have one loss. And an Arkansas victory Friday would create all kinds of havoc.

According to the SEC tiebreaker procedure, if three teams tie for first place, the one that stands the tallest in the BCS rankings would go to the conference championship game. That would leave the voters and the computers to weigh an Arkansas victory over LSU against LSU’s 9-6 overtime win at Alabama and ’Bama’s 38-14 win over Arkansas.

This brings up the most egregious shortcoming of the BCS: Alabama, because it now will be No. 2 in the rankings, has the clearest path to the national title game. If LSU remains unbeaten, the Tide can roll into the BCS finale without playing in its conference championship game.

When I become the Benevolent Dictator of college football, I will decree that only conference champions can play for the national title.

All of that was particularly relevant to Oregon. Until it wasn’t. By losing to Southern Cal, by failing to make a 37-yard field goal as the clock ran out, the Ducks demonstrated the unique nature of college football. With a playoff in place, Oregon’s loss wouldn’t have harmed its national-title hopes; now those hopes have been ground into fine powder.

The list of contenders has been whittled, and still we’re left with a mess. But that’s really not so bad.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To “Like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne - The Columbian”