SEC Powers Hoping For Buckeye Victory

Throughout the SEC, they're saying it. Throughout the Pac-10, they're saying it. Even in Ann Arbor and Iowa City, they're saying it. They're saying it everywhere but Austin this week: "Go Bucks!" The American nation is Buckeye Nation this week.

It was likely this would be the case going into the season, but after just one week, it's ever more true. With Oklahoma suffering a spectacular crash-and-burn loss to TCU, evident of a considerable decline in the Sooner program --- at least for this one season, the only season we're talking about right now --- Texas' biggest 2005 hurdle is right in front of them this Saturday night in Columbus. If the Longhorns get by the Bucks, they'll have bagged the biggest non-conference win of the season, hands down; will arm themselves with BCS schedule points; and will be a prohibitive favorite in every remaining game they'll play. Moreover, they'll have sky-high confidence to take with them into October and November, instead of the annual doubt-fest that has normally saddled them whenever they've rode into Dodge against their nemesis, Oklahoma.

The logic is pretty simple: if Texas wins this Saturday, they're a strong favorite in the BCS mix. Why? Because if every team but one manages to lose a game this season, and Texas is caught in a traffic jam involving several one-loss teams, the Longhorns will likely be the frontrunner in that pack. A win at Ohio State will serve as a very big trump card that other teams won't be able to claim. Yes, the SEC's quality depth easily surpasses that of a weak Big XII, but with the level of attention being paid to this weekend's Showdown at the Shoe, it will be hard to unseat Texas from primary consideration in the BCS derby if there's a contentious debate at season's end. That's merely the politics of an absurd system; it's not the way it should be, but it's the reality of the BCS as it exists. Texas will have the inside track to Pasadena if it wins this Saturday.

It's really quite amazing, then: in week two --- usually a time to hold off on long-term predictions --- it really does seem that the college football world has a game with very direct national championship implications. Before this season kicked off, plenty of people thought Oklahoma would be Texas' roadblock if the Horns managed to beat the Bucks. But with OU's quarterback crisis --- much like crises faced at Auburn and Florida State as well --- the Sooners are a long-term project this year, not a reloading juggernaut. The only five-alarm battle facing Texas appears to be a date at Kyle Field against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving weekend.

So as big as the stakes were to begin with, the ante has been upped for Texas-Ohio State. Everyone in the SEC needs the Buckeyes to win primarily for the purpose of derailing Texas' BCS hopes and messing up the Longhorns' portfolio. Secondarily, however, the other big reason why America is a Buckeye Nation right now is that Ohio State --- if it beats the Longhorns --- has a couple of other teams to play. You might have heard of them: Michigan and Iowa.

Since the Big Ten's big three figure to beat each other up --- in ways that OU and A&M might not be able to beat up Texas, contrary to some preseason expectations --- it's to everyone's advantage in the BCS race to have a Big Ten power beat a Big XII power in an intersectional clash.

In the end, the sun might be Orange and the sky Blue, but a lot of Florida fans... and Tennessee fans... and LSU fans... will give a piece of their emotions to the Scarlet and Grey this Saturday night in Central Ohio.

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