Fresno states case for BCS bid

Thrilling setback against USC raises Bulldogs' profile

Analysis

November 21, 2005|By DON MARKUS | DON MARKUS,SUN REPORTER

College football's annual end-of-season mess known as the Bowl Championship Series teetered on the verge of total chaos late Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Order eventually prevailed, as did top-ranked Southern California with a wild, 50-42 victory over No. 16 Fresno State at the Coliseum.

But here's a thought to fuel a little controversy that typically surrounds the BCS at this time of year: Do the Bulldogs deserve a BCS invitation?

It's unlikely Fresno State can jump into the top six, as Utah did last season. That remains the only way for a team from one of the non-BCS conferences to get a bid to one of the four marquee bowl games.

That said, which team would you rather see, Fresno State or West Virginia - the Big East's likely representative - playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl?

You know that no BCS-conference team wants any part of the Bulldogs after what they did to USC.

"This was a hard night - a really good job by Fresno," Trojans coach Pete Carroll said after his team barely kept its winning streak alive at 33 straight games. "They really made it hard. They're a highly ranked team - they should be in the top 10, easily."

Of course, the argument can also be made that Fresno State had its chance to be in position for a BCS invitation but lost early in the season at Oregon, 37-34. The Ducks are now a top 10 team themselves in search of an an at-large BCS bid.

But are the Bulldogs any less worthy than Oregon's possible Fiesta Bowl opponent, Notre Dame, another two-loss team, or even Florida State, which could lose four games and still get a BCS invitation with a win in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game?

The Irish jumped into the BCS picture with their last-second, 34-31 loss to USC in South Bend, Ind., last month, a game that was called one of the best in recent years. But their performance - at home - was equaled and maybe surpassed by the feisty Bulldogs, who took the Trojans down to the last minute on their home field.

Next year, when an extra BCS game and two more teams will be added to the mix, Fresno State might be able to make the leap into a big-time bowl game with the kind of performance it gave at USC. Unfortunately, we're stuck with the same flawed formula as in the past, and the Bulldogs will likely be going to the Liberty Bowl.

Considering how many obstacles USC faced this season and No. 2 Texas didn't in the downtrodden Big 12, should we take time to mention the dreaded "P" word? How good a first-round playoff matchup would the No. 1 Trojans and No. 16 Bulldogs have been? Of course, then we wouldn't have to look forward to the Mountaineers, champions of the Big Least, playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

Here's a look at what happened this weekend.

Second-best game: -- Given there's no argument as to which was the best game of the week, possibly the best game of the year and one of the best of the decade, how about what happened in two other more traditional end-of-season showdowns? Of course, Ohio State's 25-21 win in the final minute at Michigan will get the vote, but how about The Game? That's what they have long called Harvard-Yale for most of its 122 years, and Saturday's 30-24 victory for the Crimson was the first in that series to go overtime. It went three, adding to the lore of one of college football's greatest, if now antiquated, rivalries.

Best performance by a Heisman hopeful: -- A week after Texas quarterback Vince Young seemingly had picked up more votes with a career-best performance against Kansas to become a close second to USC's Reggie Bush, the Trojans tailback basically locked up the award against Fresno State. Then again, had Bush's late fumble and subsequent personal foul cost his team the game and a title, his 513 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns would have been for naught.

Worst performance by a BCS hopeful: -- No question here. All Miami had to do was beat Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, then win at home against Virginia to get a shot at reversing an opening-game, 10-7 loss at Florida State in a total revenge ACC championship. The Hurricanes, coming off their convincing win at Virginia Tech, basically played themselves into the Gator Bowl by losing at home to the Yellow Jackets, 14-10. One thing could be worse for Larry Coker. He could be Phillip Fulmer.

Worst performance ... period: -- Speaking of Fulmer, Tennessee might be looking for more than just an offensive coordinator after Saturday's 28-24 loss at home to Vanderbilt. The first defeat at home in 30 years to the Commodores, who had lost six straight coming in and hadn't beaten their in-state rival in 22 games, was the icing on the pie-in-the-face season for the Volunteers and their coach. Fulmer's move to demote offensive coordinator Randy Sanders earlier this season has backfired. If Fulmer thought losing to South Carolina and Steve Spurrier was bad, getting beat by Vandy might be a fireable offense.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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