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BCS (Bob's College Summary)
By Bob Cunningham
November 19, 2003
 

Interesting weekend regarding the teams with a chance to qualify for the Sugar Bowl against No. 1 Oklahoma.

USC, my No.2 team but no longer that of the real BCS, rolled over porous Arizona, 45-0. Ohio State, pitted against a dangerous Purdue team at home, survived in overtime, 16-13, to move past USC into second. And LSU, a club I've been touting virtually all season, completely shut down Alabama on the road, 27-3.

Oh, and TCU improved to 10-0 by whipping Cincinnati, 43-10... but fell from sixth to eighth in the BCS.

How 'bout a quick comparison of the three primary one-loss teams, to see who really should be nestled alongside the Sooners (assuming you don't favor the Horned Frogs as I do)?

USC's lone defeat was in overtime against California, Ohio State's loss was a close one at Wisconsin, and LSU's stumble was at home to Florida. Based on their overall performances this season, I'd say that Florida would rank as the best of the three, followed by Wisconsin and then Cal. LSU's loss was at home but against a tougher foe. USC's defeat came against a comparatively weaker Cal team, but it was on the road in overtime. If this were a decade ago, USC would be unbeaten with a tie and clearly No. 2. So for my money, this is all essentially a wash.

In terms of quality wins, defined by me as victories over strong opposition (not one-sided wins over also-rans), Ohio State has four compared to two apiece for USC and LSU. Certainly, that means an advantage to Ohio State, but it should be tempered a bit that the Buckeyes got all four of those quality triumphs at home.

A separate factor worth consideration is overall dominance. Both USC and LSU have posted lopsided victories in all the games each should, plus the Trojans' two quality wins were by hefty margins as well, as was one of LSU's. Ohio State has among its victories a three-point squeaker over San Diego State at home, an OT win over North Carolina State, again at home, and a one-point victory at lowly Penn State. Neither the Trojans nor Tigers have had any such struggles against weaker opposition.

I'm not trying to pick on Ohio State here. The Buckeyes are the defending national champs who have lost only once in the last two years, an incredibly impressive streak that deserves respect and acknowledgement. But despite the fact they've faced a more difficult schedule, it can be argued with validity that they haven't played as consistently well throughout the season as either USC or LSU. Therein lays the debate, for which there is no clear-cut correct answer.

And to many, that's the very beauty of it all.

Bob's Top 10

1. OKLAHOMA (11-0) Sooners are so dominant that I would consider keeping them at No. 1 even if they stumble once between now and the Sugar Bowl.
2.

TCU (10-0)

Thursday game at Southern Mississippi is no gimme, but then it doesn't matter to those who have the Frogs still ranked in their second 10.
3. USC (9-1) I've been pulling for the Trojans because I felt they had the best chance to defeat OU, but I'm intrigued by a Sugar Bowl featuring LSU.
4. LSU (9-1) To those who still aren't convinced about the Tigers, this week's SEC West showdown against Mississippi and QB Eli Manning will tell.
5. OHIO STATE (10-1) An impressive performance against Purdue by the Buckeyes' defense, but their run for a repeat national title in jeopardy at Ann Arbor.
6. MICHIGAN (9-2) Wolverines' offense has been awesome -- great balance of running and passing that not even Ohio State's D will be able to cope with.
7. TEXAS (9-2) Came very close to losing against Texas Tech, but that aside the Longhorns have proven themselves worthy since romp by OU.
8. WASH. STATE (9-2) Some consider Apple Cup game with arch-rival Washington almost anti-climactic -- but I think the final result will be most interesting.
9. MIAMI, OHIO (9-1) Impressive performances in back-to-back games against relatively decent teams, although both were at home in primetime.
10. BOISE STATE (9-1) Wonder what the Broncos offense would do against a defense such as, say, Ohio State? Yeah, I know: probably not a heckuva lot.
Also considered: Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia Tech.

2003 PREDICTION RECORDS:
Straight-Up -- 62-30 (67%)
Against-The-Spread -- 46-45-1 (51%)

LAST WEEK: 7-2 Straight-Up, 5-3-1 Against-The-Spread

Week 13 Schedule (the top games of the week)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20

Southern Mississippi (-2 1/2) 31, No. 2 TCU 20 -- This would appear to be the matchup that is most likely to prevent the Horned Frogs from a perfect regular season. Southern Miss has won four straight, and its only achilles heel this year has been a failure to play well against elite opponents. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, that's a biggie... but I don't foresee it as a problem here. The national TV stage, with so much on the line, boosts the home team to an emotional victory.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21

Fresno State (+9) 33, No. 10 Boise State 27 -- The Broncos are remarkably lethal, and of course it won't be a shock if they win this one with another big score, but the Bulldogs are 5-0 at home this season while allowing 20 or more points only once, and enter this matchup on a 4-game winning streak. Boise State hasn't really played anyone, unless you count the 50-12 rout at BYU (an impressive achievement), and the Bulldogs have a victory over the only team (Oregon State) to defeat the Broncos this season. But please note... this is a tenuous pick at best.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 22

No. 1 Oklahoma (-19) 56, Texas Tech 28 -- A truly difficult game to handicap, but hey... I don't shy away from the tough ones. While I doubt the Red Raiders can score enough points to even come close to getting the upset outright, they might be able to cover the gaudy pointspread... but I don't think so. Tech QB B.J. Symons should be a strong candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but the Sooners defense far outclasses any the Raiders have faced to date. And there's no way Texas Tech can slow OU's attack, even at home. The Red Raiders have yielded more than 40 points five times this season, while the Sooners have scored at least 50 an eye-popping six times.

No. 3 USC 41, UCLA (+22) 24 -- After a lengthy dry spell, the Trojans have dominated this rivalry in recent years and this one stacks up as the biggest mismatch in half a century. But in a huge backyard rivalry game such as this, three TDs-plus is too much. Bruins go down, but not that easily.

No. 4 LSU (-6 1/2) 34, at Mississippi 21 -- The difference in this one will be LSU's ability to pressure Rebels QB Eli Manning into just enough mistakes to make the difference. Offensively, the Tigers won't be contained. LSU is 4-0 straight-up and ATS on the road this season, but Ole Miss is 5-1 ATS in its last six against the Tigers. Something will give.

No. 6 Michigan (-6 1/2) 24, No. 5 Ohio State 13 -- Wow, I'm amazed that the line is a virtually a full touchdown. I've been saying for weeks that the Wolverines will end OSU's dream of a repeat national title, but I never believed it would be a blowout. Still, I don't want to get caught splitting hairs. This will be Michigan's day, though I won't be surprised if OSU stays within the number.

Washington (+4*) 21, No. 8 Washington State 18 -- Clearly, the Cougars are the superior team... but this rivalry, as much as any in the country, is one in which the records coming in can be greatly discounted. Wazzou QB Matt Kegel is listed as questionable with an injured collarbone, so even if he plays he's unlikely to be at full strength or effectiveness. The Huskies are a fair team, playing on their homefield, which would salvage a disappointing campaign with a win. Two spread notes: Washington has won five in a row over the Cougars at home, and the underdog is 7-2-1 ATS in the last 10 meetings.

* - Estimated pointspread. Official spread unavailable.

Auburn 19, Alabama (+8) 16 -- Another of those emotional rivalry, past-performance-isn't-necessarily-relevant games. Plus, Auburn's offense is in disarray, and Bama's defense is solid enough to keep it tight.