DEVILLE: The Head Scratching Continues

Does anyone want to win the national championship this season?

In a season that has been as wacky Elmer Fudd in a Looney Tunes cartoon, the upper tier of the top 25 changes as often as late summer weather in south Louisiana.

Remember way back when folks were giddy with excitement over the possibility of LSU and USC playing for the national title.

Well, the Tigers are still very much a part of that equation, but there is little else that remained constant. The likes of preseason darlings Texas, Michigan, Wisconsin and Cal, even the hallowed Trojans have all faded from view.

USC dropped off the radar early on, but with the latest developments in the Pac-10, could still have a shot at the conference title.

Texas has been living on borrowed time most of the season but has managed nine wins and could reach 10 with only a date against Texas A&M remaining.

Michigan lost its fourth game of the season last Saturday in "The Game" versus rival Ohio State. Among those four defeats include an embarrassing loss to Appalachian State and blowout defeats at the hands of Oregon and Wisconsin.

More on the Buckeyes and Ducks later on.

Cal was once 5-0 and poised to take over the nation's No. 1 spot when top-ranked LSU lost at Kentucky on Oct. 13. But the Bears blew a lead against Oregon State and has since lost five of their last six games.

Wisconsin was very much in the championship mix early on, but a loss to Illinois set the tone and two blowout defeats by Penn State and Ohio State wiped the Badgers from college football's upper tier.

All right, those are the folks out of the picture. Let's look at the ones who still have a shot at winning the grand prize.

At the top is LSU.

The Tigers remain the near-unanimous No. 1 team after rising to the nation's top spot two weekends ago. Amid rumors that coach Les Miles might bolt for Michigan should Lloyd Carr announce his retirement, LSU is clearly the most dominant team in the country and is favored to reach the BCS title game in New Orleans.

As of last week, it seemed the Tigers might get a rematch of the 2003 championship game with the Oklahoma Sooners in the Superdome. Bob Stoops' team looked ready to roll through the remainder of its schedule, knockoff whatever champion the Big XII North had crowned and be rolling into the Big Easy.

Not quite.

The Sooners laid the proverbial egg falling behind by as many as 24 points –down 34-10 – to Texas Tech before rallying back to lose in respectable fashion 34-27.

Now here's where it gets interesting.


Oklahoma still has to face Oklahoma State and its 40-year-old Mike Gundy. The Sooners will likely represent the Big XII South in the conference championship game in San Antonio against either Kansas or Missouri. The Jayhawks and Tigers play this coming weekend in a game that will decided the Big XII North. The Jayhawks are currently 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the latest AP Poll. Missouri is 10-1, with its only being to Oklahoma, and ranked third in the nation.

By game's end Saturday, either Kansas or Missouri will be eliminated from the national championship race. The winner will go on to play an angry Oklahoma team in the Big XII title game and chances are the Sooners will be favored. Should OU win the Big XII, every league team would be eliminated from national championship contention.

Should that happen, waiting in the wings is West Virginia.

When the Mountaineers lost to South Florida back on Set. 28, many left Rich Rodriguez's team for dead because there would be no way a one loss Big East team would get a shot at the national crown.

Well, West Virginia has won five games in a row, but still have a Saturday date with No. 22 Connecticut, then the season finale on Dec. 1 with Pitt.

Should West Virginia fall, there is always Ohio State, whose was once thought to be out of the hunt after a 28-21 loss to Illinois on Nov. 10. The Buckeyes beat Michigan 14-3 last Saturday and now wait to see how things shake out. Jim Tressel's team is likely headed to the Rose Bowl to face Arizona State, but crazier tings have happened.

The Sun Devils don't exactly have a cakewalk to Pasdena, though. Arizona State still must face No. 11 USC then the rivalry game with Arizona.

Oregon, who saw its title hopes dashed after last Thursday's 34-24 loss to Zona, could still play its way into the Rose Bowl with remaining games with UCLA and Oregon State.

This is all speculation and there are still a lot of things that could happen between now and the end of the regular season.

While there is lots of uncertainty and many different scenarios could be played out over the coming weeks, there are a few things that are for sure as of this Sunday, Nov. 18.

LSU has won its first outright SEC Western Division title with Saturday's 41-24 win over Ole Miss.

The Tigers are heading to the SEC Championship Game for the fourth time in seven years.

LSU successfully defended its No. 1 ranking this past weekend and heads into the final week of the regular season as the nation's top ranked team.

AND… Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide lost to directional school Louisiana-Monroe 21-14 at home in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And he did it with Mike Shula's players.

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Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at matt@tigerrag.com.


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