Sunday Morning QB: Three Teams For Two Spots

In our usual Sunday column on college football, we examine the mess created within the Bowl Championship Series by Oklahoma's lopsided loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. We also look at the ramifications for Ohio State and assess the rest of the BCS, the Heisman race and much more.

Welcome to Sunday Morning Quarterback, a column I intend to stand each week as a quick read on the news, notes and opinion on Ohio State's weekly game as well as the Big Ten and the college football nation at large.

There was no OSU game yesterday, but it sure was an eventful weekend in college football. Here goes:

* What we wouldn't give for an eight-team playoff now, huh?

For the third time in six years, the Bowl Championship Series will be tainted in controversy. A deserving team will be left by the side of the road as only two of these three schools -- Oklahoma, USC or LSU -- will be selected to play for the national championship -- at least of the coaches poll -- in the Sugar Bowl.

Oklahoma's who-woulda-thunk-it 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game has created chaos within college football and the BCS.

I will leave the numbers crunching to ESPN's Brad Edwards. He discussed the distinct possibility that LSU could leapfrog USC in the final BCS rankings because of its superior schedule strength and computer ranking. He said the Tigers may not even need to move up in the subjective polls to pull it off. The specter of some -- or many -- voters dropping Oklahoma to third could really throw a wrench into the works.

The two games USC needed on Saturday -- Notre Dame against Syracuse and Hawaii hosting Boise State -- went against the Trojans as well with SU and BSU beating those former USC opponents.

And, consider this, USC could get left out of the title game despite finishing the regular season as the possible No. 1-ranked team in one or both polls.

Add it all together and we have one real mess on our hands.

The previous controversies if you're keeping score at home were in 2000, when Miami beat Florida State but got left at home by FSU, and 2002, when Nebraska got drubbed by Colorado but still played for the title and Oregon and Colorado did not.

I also maintain the 1998 season was controversial because one-loss Florida State out pointed one-loss Ohio State for the right to coronate Tennessee, solely because of the timing of the two teams' losses. But nobody goes with me on that one.

At any rate, if we can go with Edwards' suggestion of Oklahoma-LSU to the Sugar (and just think how much those tickets will go for with two teams from the region, including one from the same state?), then USC falls back to the Rose automatically to play Michigan.

Kansas State is locked into the Fiesta Bowl as the Big 12 title game winner. The Orange must decide between Florida State and Miami (Fla.) as its anchor team. The smart money is on them choosing Miami. That means FSU must go somewhere. Obviously, they would like to avoid an FSU-Miami rematch. So that puts FSU in the Fiesta with K-State and OSU back in the Orange as we have all surmised for most of the last two weeks against Miami.

This was supposed to be scintillating finish to the 2003 season and, arguably, with K-State's upset it was. That was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You wanted to avert your eyes but you couldn't. I probably didn't watch more than eight or 10 plays of the SEC game and their rating will likely be abysmal -- giving CBS one more reason to ditch college football.

But the outcomes of these three key games -- Oklahoma/K-State, LSU/Georgia and USC/Oregon State -- were decided early. The winners prevailed by an average of 24.3 points.

We will have the final answers to all of this at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time tonight when ABC carries the BCS Selection Show. ESPN has a special at 6 p.m. as well to discuss the choices.

* There were many stunning things about Kansas State's upset of top-ranked and previously unbeaten Oklahoma.

For starters, Oklahoma was No. 1 in the country in scoring at 48.3 points per game. Yet they managed just one touchdown against the inspired Wildcats, playing before a partisan crowd of sorts in Kansas City. The Sooners were also first nationally in total defense at 233.7. But the Wildcats rolled up 519 yards in the win.

The loss was the second worst on margin ever for a No. 1-ranked team, falling just short of Florida State's 32-point loss to Florida in 1997.

And, the Sooners were a prohibitive 14-point favorite.

Ell Roberson threw four touchdown passes, Darren Sproles rushed for 235 yards as K-State (11-3) shed the "they can't win the big game tag" and won its first Big 12 title and first championship of any kind since winning the Big Six title in 1934.

The win has to be considered the biggest for K-State coach Bill Snyder, who has gradually built the Wildcats into a winner since taking the reins in 1989.

Oklahoma's defense -- the pride of newly named Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, OU's defensive coordinator under his brother Bob -- had no answer for the Wildcats' varied attack.

Afterwards, OU coach Bob Stoops, likely secure in the knowledge his Sooners should still be headed to the Big Easy, did not mince words.

"I'm not going to sit here and lobby for any bowl," he said. "We got whipped. They outplayed us in every phase of the game."

* In Atlanta, No. 3 LSU won its second SEC championship in three seasons under Nick Saban, blasting No. 5 Georgia 34-13. The Tigers (12-1) beat Georgia (10-3) for the second time this year, doing everything they could to show they deserve to play for the national title, too.

LSU freshman Justin Vincent set an SEC title game record with 201 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Georgia was going for a second straight SEC crown. The Bulldogs will fall to the Capital One Bowl and maybe even the Peach if Tennessee squeezes into the Cap One.

* In Los Angeles, No. 2 Southern California decimated Oregon State 52-28 as Matt Leinart threw five touchdown passes for the Trojans (11-1). The win gave USC an outright Pac-10 title and they hope much more.

"We deserve to go," Leinart said. "We're 11-1 and we've been playing well the last couple of months. I think we've done as much as we can do. But it's not in our hands."

USC scored 40 or more points for the seventh game in a row and finished the regular season with a Pac-10 record 506 points. Leinart established a conference single-season mark with 35 touchdown passes.

Mike Williams had two touchdowns catches, one a leaping, one-handed grab in the back of the end zone. Running back Reggie Bush. Bush also caught two touchdown passes. Steve Smith, another freshman, had 136 yards on five catches, including a 73-yard touchdown.

Defensively, Will Poole made two interceptions, returning one 67 yards or a touchdown, and Lofa Tatupu had USC's other two interceptions.

Leinart went 22-of-38 for 278 yards. In the first quarter, he threw his first interception in two months, ending a Pac-10 record streak of 212 passes without being picked off. He threw another interception in the third quarter, which Brandon Browner returned 31 yards for a touchdown.

A redshirt sophomore who hadn't thrown a collegiate pass until this fall, Leinart finished the regular season with 3,229 yards passing, with 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Carson Palmer threw for 3,639 yards and 35 TDs, with 10 interceptions last season when he won the Heisman.

In the loss, Oregon State's Derek Anderson completed 34 of 60 for 485 yards and two touchdowns. But he threw four interceptions for the mistake-prone Beavers. Steven Jackson, averaging a conference-high 121.3 yards rushing per game, was held to 62 yards on 22 carries.

* The 104th rendition of the Army-Navy Game was played out at Philadelphia with Navy cruising to a 34-6 win.

Navy's Kyle Eckel ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Army became the first team to finish 0-13 in major college history. The Black Knights have lost 15 straight, the nation's longest losing streak, and 24 of their last 25. They have lost four of the last five against Navy.

"This game is important anyway, but (the war) gives it a little extra," Navy coach Paul Johnson said. "Last night at dinner we had a flag sent to us that flew over the airport in Baghdad. That they thought enough to do that, it tells you the military overseas and everywhere can stop for three, fours hours and it's like being home."

* Syrcause's Walter Reyes, a Struthers, Ohio, native, ran for 189 yards and five touchdowns, three in the third quarter, as the Orangemen downed Notre Dame 38-12 at the Carrier Dome. The loss meant Notre Dame (5-7) finished with its third losing season in five years, something that had never happened in the storied history of the program.

Reyes was pleased to see Syracuse bounce back after losing to Rutgers 24-7 a week earlier.

"What a great win!" he said. "It just showed a lot of character and heart. For the program, we wanted to come out here and show the nation that Syracuse football is still here."

It was the first meeting between the teams in 40 years and the outcome was a bitter disappointment for the Irish, snapping a modest three-game win streak.

"We felt that this game could have been a good springboard into the off-season,'' ND coach Tyrone Willingham said.

The win may have saved Paul Pasqualoni's job at Syracuse. Pasqualoni, 101-53-1 in 13 years at SU, saw the Orangemen finish 6-6 and snap a three-game losing streak. He was to meet with AD Jake Crouthamel Sunday to discuss his future.

"He ain't going anywhere. I hope he doesn't," said Reyes, who has a school-record 38 rushing touchdowns, three more than Floyd Little in his career, and also finished the season with a record 134 points. "He's done so much for us. If he does, it will be heartbreaking. This whole week ever since the drama was going on about him being fired, I think he did a great job. He didn't really care about that. He wanted to beat Notre Dame, and the players fed off that."

Reyes finished the season with 1,347 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.

* Boise State capped the college football regular season with a 45-28 win over Hawaii earlier this morning -- at least on Eastern time.

Ryan Dinwiddie threw for 329 yards and running back Donnie Heck had four touchdowns as No. 18 Boise State ran the table in the WAC and ended the regular season 12-1. Hawaii, which will host Houston in the Hawaii Bowl, ended 8-5. Boise State will meet TCU in the Fort Worth Bowl.

* No. 14 Miami (Ohio) showed its home win over No. 20 Bowling Green was no fluke by defeating the Falcons 49-27 in Thursday's MAC title game at BGSU. Miami quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dazzled the nation by throwing for 440 yards and four touchdowns.

It was the first MAC title game appearance for both teams and Miami (12-1) won its first MAC championship since 1986. The RedHawks will meet Louisville in the GMAC Bowl, while BGSU (10-3) will likely face Northwestern in the Motor City Bowl.

* Mount Union has won 54 consecutive games, matching the NCAA record it set from 1996-99 with a 56-10 victory over Wheaton. The Purple Raiders advanced to the Division III semifinals for the ninth consecutive year.

* The Sunday Morning QB will be on hiatus until the Sundays before and after the Jan. 1 bowl games. In January, I plan to unveil a new feature called Monday Morning Point Guard, a similarly styled column to look at OSU men's basketball as well as the Big Ten and the nation at large.

* My final Heisman Trophy ballot (I will send it in Monday): Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald (I know, I've been saying White for the last seven or eight weeks. But I have decided to vote for the best player in college football.), Oklahoma's Jason White, Michigan's Chris Perry, Ole Miss' Eli Manning, Kansas State's Darren Sproles (great showing last night) and Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones.

* My new top 15: Southern California, LSU, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, Tennessee, Miami (Fla), Purdue, Florida State, Georgia, Iowa, Miami (Ohio), Kansas State, Michigan State.

* A number of the 28 bowl games were already in place heading into the weekend. In addition to the BCS games, as many as 11 more "second tier" games will announce their pairings on ESPN at 6 p.m. tonight.

Of the match-ups that have been finalized, here are some of my favorites:

Dec. 18, GMAC Bowl, Louisville (9-3) vs. Miami (Ohio) (12-1) -- Could this be Roethlisberger's last game? Hmmm.

Dec. 22, Tangerine, N.C. State (7-5) vs. Kansas (6-6) -- Two things hard to believe: N.C. State ended up 7-5 and Mark Mangino has Kansas in a bowl in his second year.

Dec. 23, Fort Worth, Boise State (12-1) vs. TCU (11-1) -- TCU played the old academics card to get out of their obligation to the GMAC, ducking Roethlisberger in the process, so they could host this game. Some say they are being principled. I say they used their heads.

Dec. 27, Continental Tire, Virginia (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh (8-4) -- Could this be Larry Fitzgerald's last game? Hmmm.

Jan. 1, Gator, Maryland (9-3) vs. West Virginia (8-4) -- Another bad Gator Bowl as the Terps already decimated WVU back in September.

As far as the Big Ten bowl ladder, I think you will see Purdue against Tennessee in the Capital One (could be a good battle), Iowa against Florida in the Outback, Michigan State taking on Texas Tech in the Alamo (a Smoker-Symons battle, whoo-ee), Minnesota tackling Oregon in the Sun, Wisconsin against Auburn in the Music City (somewhat intriguing) and the aforementioned Bowling Green-Northwestern match-up in the Motor City.

We wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week, followed by the Big Ten standings.

Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game

Aug. 30, Washington (6-6), season complete

Sept. 6, San Diego State (6-6), season complete

Sept. 13, N.C. State (7-5), season complete; vs. Kansas, Tangerine Bowl, Dec. 22

Sept. 20, Bowling Green (10-3), lost to Miami (Ohio) 49-27, MAC championship game, Dec. 4; Motor City Bowl, opponent TBA, Dec. 26

Sept. 27, Northwestern (6-6), season complete; bowl TBA

Oct. 11, at Wisconsin (7-5), season complete; bowl TBA

Oct. 18, Iowa (9-3), season complete; bowl TBA

Oct. 25, at Indiana (2-10), season complete

Nov. 1, at Penn State (3-9), season complete

Nov. 8, Michigan State (8-4), season complete; bowl TBA

Nov. 15, Purdue (9-3), season complete; bowl TBA

Nov. 22, at Michigan (10-2), season complete; bowl TBA

Big Ten Standings

Team (Overall, Big Ten)

Michigan (10-2, 7-1)

Ohio State (10-2, 6-2)

Purdue (9-3, 6-2)

Minnesota (9-3, 5-3)

Iowa (9-3, 5-3)

Michigan State (8-4, 5-3)

Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4)

Northwestern (6-6, 4-4)

Penn State (3-9, 1-7)

Indiana (2-10, 1-7)

Illinois (1-11, 0-8)

Regular Season Complete


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