Slip in BCS not death knell for Texas title hopes

Oregon and Florida vaulted into the top five of the BCS standings released today, displacing both Tennessee and Texas, on their climb into national title contention. The Horns slipped from No. 5 to No. 6, while the Vols dropped all the way from No. 4 to No. 7.

The first three slots in the rankings remained unchanged from last week, with Nebraska (2.20 poll points -- lower is better) holding on to the top spot, followed by Miami (7.31) and Oklahoma (7.89). The No. 4 Ducks (11.97) and the No. 5 Gators (11.98) easily outdistance the No. 6 Horns (13.51).

Behind sixth-place Texas, the Vols of Tennessee (14.81), Washington State (17.99), Stanford (23.61) and Illinois (24.17) round out the top 10 while Michigan (25.16), Maryland (25.29), BYU (28.03), Colorado (33.65) and Syracuse (33.79) occupy the Nos. 11-15 spots.

The Buffs' climb into the BCS rankings gave the Horns a Quality Win Bonus of .2, but that bonus could be short-lived unless Colorado beats the Cornhuskers on the day after Thanksgiving.

UT's slide to No. 6 doesn't necessarily sound the death knell for the Horns' Rose Bowl hopes, but it certainly reinforces the fact that Texas needs a lot of help to end up in the national title game. The Horns also may need help just to get to a BCS bowl, but more on that in a minute. First, though, the Oregon issue needs to be addressed. The Gators are probably worthy of their BCS climb after drubbing a solid South Carolina team on the road, but the Ducks? Oregon eked out a win over now three-loss UCLA because of a missed field goal in the final seconds of its game with the Bruins Saturday in Pasadena. The four computer polls that either cap margin of victory (Anderson and Hester, Richard Billingsley and Kenneth Massey) or don't take margin of victory in consideration at all (Atlanta Constitution-Journal) rank Oregon at 2, 2, 4 and 2. In those same polls, Texas comes in a ridiculously low 8, 10, 7 and 8. The Journal-Constitution poll is of particular absurdity with Illinois from the weak Big 10 at No. 6 and two-loss Stanford ranked one spot ahead of the Horns. The team just behind Texas at No. 11? Two-loss Michigan. The Massey rankings also lose all credibility when the two-loss Cardinal come in at No. 6, two spots ahead of the Horns. The rankings that do take into account margin of victory are not without their warts: three-loss UCLA comes in at 12, 11, 10 and 12 in Scripps-Howard, Davis Rothman, Jeff Sagarin and Peter Wolfe, respectively.

As I wrote yesterday, "the Pac-10 has somehow managed to create a self-perpetuating prophecy of strength in its conference. A loss by one of the four top teams in the league seems to only bolster the argument for the league's strength rather than more plausibly providing the proof that the top four teams are good, but not worthy of consideration as a national championship-caliber team." This BCS BS, abetted by the four computer polls mentioned above, must be reevaluated and changed at the end of this season.

Mack Brown advocates just that. "I look at the BCS," the Texas head coach said, "and I understand most of it, but the strength of schedule baffles me. You see someone beat someone who's no good and they move up. . . . I'd like to see (the NCAA take a) look at the number of polls and their legitimacy." Brown said the huge variance from one ranking to another, and the unexplained concentration of a particular West Coast conference in some of the rankings raises some concerns. "I hear the Seattle paper's poll had four Pac-10 teams in the top 10 and that's what concerns me," Brown said. "That should come under scrutiny, especially if all the teams in the neighborhood where people are buying papers are ranked high."

The coach said he does think the system has worked out pretty well, and that it's definitely better than the system in place before the advent of the BCS, but he said he'd like to see a study of the polls and their legitimacy post-season.

Brown said he doesn't think this week's BCS slide will affect his team because the players understand that it won't truly be an issue until after the game in College Station. "If we beat A&M and don't go to the (Big 12) Championship Game," he said, "we're going to be a real attractive team to a bowl. We know that if we don't beat A&M, it won't matter (but) I really believe that if we beat A&M we'll end up in the BCS."

Biased bits and bytes, rather than anything the Horns do at Kyle Field, may determine that. Welcome to the Brave New World of college football.

UT's BCS slip (and OU's win over A&M) does make a Texas trip to the Rose Bowl far tougher than even just a week ago. Without an Oklahoma loss over the final two weeks of the season (to either Tech this weekend or Okie State the following Saturday), the Horns' chances of going to Pasadena are almost nil. The Cotton and the Sugar remain the Horns' two most-likely bowl destinations. If the Huskers and the Sooners face off in Dallas, an OU win could send Texas to the Cotton, while an Oklahoma loss might mean Sugar.

[Editor's note: Please see our Subscriber-only message board at Possible bad news on Beau Baker for a football-related note.]

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