Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Last weekend certainly cleared some things up as contenders fell to the wayside. There should be little argument when all is said and done as to who deserves to be in Glendale playing for the national title, although I'm sure the BCS will get its share of criticism anyway. Still, November football is what it is all about in the college ranks and last week epitomized that.
THE SLIPPER FITS: There are three teams out there that have excelled far beyond expectations this season and have put themselves in position to earn the unthinkable, a BCS bowl bid. Starting in Piscataway, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights won their biggest game ever, coming from behind to top mighty Louisville and keeping the fairy tale season going.
Whether or not Greg Schiano's squad can finish off that way is another story, but Rutgers football is on the map with that victory and its popularity is at an all-time high. Further down the east coast resides Wake Forest. Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons have rolled through a magical season as well, winning nine of their first 10 games. The team needs to close out strong to capture the ACC's Atlantic Division and play Georgia Tech in the ACC Title game. Wake Forest wasn't tabbed as a conference contender, but Grobe has this team thinking BCS Bowl bid. Of course, the team that gets the least respect around the country is the Arkansas Razorbacks. All Houston Nutt's team has done is run the table in the SEC. Arkansas was abused by USC in the season-opener, but has delivered the punishment ever since. A victory at Mississippi State will secure the West Division title for the Razorbacks and put them in SEC title game.
Rutgers football is on the map, and its popularity is at an all-time high.
JEKYLL & HYDE: They've knocked off LSU and Florida this year, but Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers have been the poster children for inconsistency. Looking like a juggernaut in games against the Tigers and Gators, Auburn kept within range of Arkansas in the SEC West. However a poor performance last week, a 37-15 loss to Georgia, has to be hard to swallow. The Bulldogs on the other hand reversed roles. After posting unforgivable losses against Vanderbilt and Kentucky in addition to losses to Tennessee and Florida, Mark Richt's Bulldogs had every reason to pack it in, but the team showed up last weekend at Auburn, with Georgia playing its best game of the season. Is there now any doubt that the SEC is toughest conference in football from top to bottom.
RANK & FILE: A number of so-called powerhouses in college football took it on the chin last week, starting with Louisville on Thursday night. The Cardinals looked like they were going to run away with the game at Rutgers, but second half adjustments by the Scarlet Knights completely turned things around and dashed Louisville's hopes at a national title game appearance. The same fate befell California, as the Golden Bears' run to Glendale ended in oddly enough, Arizona, with a loss to the Wildcats. Yes, Jeff Tedford's squad can still win the Pac-10 and earn a Rose Bowl berth, but a two-loss team will not play for the national championship. The big showdown in Fayetteville between the Razorbacks and Volunteers saw one team continue its meteoric rise, while the other is all but grounded. Arkansas is the team to beat now in the SEC (must say that again real slow to actually let it sink in). Texas' stranglehold on the Big 12 could be coming to a close with last weekend's stunning loss to Kansas State (45-42). The Longhorns are still in a position to capture the Big 12 title, but back-to-back national titles are now out of the question.
DEMISE IN THE SUNSHINE STATE: If the writing wasn't already on the wall in Tallahassee, it is now. The Seminoles were shut out on their own field by Wake Forest last weekend, marking the first time that has happened to Bobby Bowden with the Seminoles. The blame-game has already started, as Jeff Bowden has stepped down as offensive coordinator. Throwing himself on his sword for his father is admirable, but the Seminoles' struggles this season are not limited to the younger Bowden's inability to move the chains. It may just be time for Bobby Bowden to call it a career, as these 'Noles are a listless group with little to no direction.
NOT AGAIN: The BCS's most recent rankings have raised more than one eyebrow. The top of the standings can't be argued, with Ohio State and Michigan sitting head and shoulders above the rest. The USC Trojans follow as the third team in the standings. It is really the perfect place to be with Ohio State and Michigan playing each other this week. If USC wins its last three games (Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA), the Trojans will play for the national title. After that however, the BCS has opened itself up to criticism. There is only one unbeaten in SEC play and Arkansas has only managed to reach the seventh spot in the BCS. Florida (4th), Notre Dame (5th) and Rutgers (6th) all sit ahead of the Razorbacks, who very well could win the SEC and not play for the national title. The Gators have won some big games and can almost justify their lofty ranking and Rutgers has been the feel-good story of college football and is undefeated on the year. It is Notre Dame's spot that will ruffle feathers around the college football world. The Irish catapulted from ninth to fifth in the rankings, despite beating Air Force last week. It is hard to imagine Notre Dame climbing much higher this week, with its trek through the service academies coming to a close (this week against Army), but with a season-ending game at USC looming large, a spot in the national title game is still within reach (although definitely not deserved).
WEEK 12 SNEAK PEEK: Of course, the college football world will descend on Columbus this weekend for the Game of the Year. Ohio State and Michigan finally get it on, with the winner punching its ticket to Glendale. The loser may still find its way there, but I'm not sure that would play well with the college football community. While everyone will be watching the Wolverines and Buckeyes take the field, there are certainly other matchups with plenty of BCS implications. On the West Coast, the fourth-ranked Trojans can move a step towards their record fifth consecutive Pac-10 title, not to mention a possible spot in Glendale, when they play host to the 17th-ranked Golden Bears. Fifth- ranked Arkansas can clinch the SEC West with a win at Mississippi State and in turn earn a spot in the SEC Title game.