With BCS, strange things can happen on final weekend

December 02, 2010|By Chris Dufresne

The NCAA on Wednesday cleared Auburn quarterback Cam Newton for pay.

Sorry, make that PLAY!

What a year, month and last few days it has been, and we haven't yet reached goosebump weekend in the Bowl Championship Series — historically a Coney Island roller coaster with refs.

What happens next?

In 1998, UCLA lost its title-game grip at Miami, Kansas State lost to Texas A&M and Florida State was miraculously air-mailed in to the first BCS title game.

The hand-wringing continued into 2001, when Nebraska earned a title-game shot after a late-season 62-36 loss, and into 2003, when Oklahoma earned one after a 35-7 loss, and into 2007, when LSU woke up No. 7 in the BCS standings on Saturday morning and went to bed No. 2 on Sunday night.

Last year, Texas snatched a title bid before one second ticked off against Nebraska.

Nebraska has been ticked off ever since.

Let's ponder, lament and opine on recent developments:

•Auburn declared Newton ineligible on Monday. See? The rumor-monger hordes were right. Actually, chalk it up as another huge comeback win for the Tigers.

The NCAA and Auburn determined Newton was ineligible but had him back in the practice huddle by Wednesday in advance of Saturday's SEC title game against South Carolina.

Newton — ah-hah! — did break amateurism rules when his seeming scoundrel of a dad, through a scouting service, bartered his son to Mississippi State for upwards of $180,000 (allegedly) before Newton ended up at Auburn … for a paid education.

Auburn had to declare Newton ineligible and ask for reinstatement. The NCAA, merciful outfit that it is, stated there was no evidence "at this time" the player or Auburn knew of the violations.

Newton can now win the Heisman Trophy in a landslide and Auburn is free to win the national title without fear, "at this time," of having it revoked.

•Rooting interests for Stanford fans and the BCS. The Cardinal earns an automatic BCS spot by holding on to its No. 4 BCS ranking. Stanford goes to the Rose Bowl if Auburn loses and Oregon plays Texas Christian for the BCS title.

Stanford is more likely headed to the Orange Bowl to play the Atlantic Coast champion — Florida State or Virginia Tech.

Best hope for the Fiesta: West Virginia, not Connecticut, wins the Big East title this weekend. And Virginia Tech wins the ACC.

•It already has been a great week for the BCS and a bad one for those wanting to destroy it.

Friday proved college football's regular season is unparalleled and might not be improved by a 16-team playoff.

Auburn's thrilling comeback against Alabama pulled college football's biggest television rating of the year. Without a playoff, Auburn desperately needed the win to stay in the national title chase. In a 16-team playoff world, Auburn had already clinched a spot in the SEC title game a week before the Iron Bowl.

Oregon, in a playoff, would not have had to dramatically rally to beat Arizona to earn a spot in a tournament. Oregon could have lost and wrapped up the Pac-10 title with a win this week against 5-6 Oregon State.

•TCU made the right choice moving to the Big East: Absolutely … definitely … maybe. Being a BCS member has its privileges. TCU aligns with a conference whose champion earns an automatic bid to a BCS game every season, even a 7-5 champ.

The irony is TCU joining Big Brother when its status as a non-automatic qualifier has never been brighter.

"Who would have thought five years ago that the guaranteed fallback position is you're going to the Rose Bowl and, one loss, you're in the national championship?" TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said this week.

Joining the Big East provides TCU long-term security but not guaranteed BCS-bid success.

cdufresne@tribune.com

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