Regardless of the fact we’ve only got two full weeks of the college football season under our belts, we still more now than we did at the start of the season.
Yes, although we may not know precisely which teams will win each division and which will play the dreaded role of pretender, we do have a better idea of who could still be standing when the dust settles in early December.
The following slideshow boldly utilizes a handful of incomplete two-game resumes to predict the best BCS title game combinations at the Week 3 mark of the 2012 season.
Making the final stanza of the race to the crystal pigskin is all about perfection, which means that squads must be able to run the tables on the rest of their slate and, of course, they must hail from a BCS league.
Though it’s certainly too early to buy airline tickets and book a hotel room in Miami, the teams and pairings highlighted in this blockbuster presentation have a solid opportunity to start their New Year in a magical and lucrative fashion.
Perhaps the media's dream match-up, the Trojans and Tide lacing it up for the big, cheesy, enchilada not only looks tasty, the guys in Vegas feel good about it too.
USC and Alabama are the oddsmakers top two picks to make it all the way, which means the two traditional powerhouses belong at the very top of our list.
The Trojans road to the Promised Land won’t be easy, with games remaining at Stanford (a contest that admittedly looks easier than it did a mere 14 days ago), at Utah (don’t overlook this one), vs. Oregon, at UCLA (another potential trap) and then the closer vs. Notre Dame.
Add in a pass defense that ranked No. 102 in the nation last season and gave up 322 yards through the air last week vs. Syracuse, and USC’s run won’t be without its hurdles.
As far as Alabama is concerned, they are stacked with top caliber talent and have filled their big personnel holes from a year ago, to the tune of blasting Michigan 41-14 in the blockbuster opener.
But the Tide still have to make a run through a full SEC West slate that includes the likes of Arkansas (they’ll still be dangerous, maybe more so after the University of Louisiana-Monroe debacle), Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU, Tennessee and Auburn.
If this clash betwixt SEC and Pac-12 ever came to fruition, it would likely be the story of a smothering defense taking on a prolific offense in what could be one for the ages.
But what’s really titillating is the thought of Saban squaring off with Kiffin for all the marbles…
A potential luscious battle of acronyms, USC vs. LSU is another realistic option for the second to last playoff-less BCS title chase.
We listed USC’s road to the championship in the Trojans vs. Tide slide, which also goes a long way in explaining what LSU has to do to hit pay dirt.
Yes, according to Phil Steele, LSU plays the 29th most difficult schedule in college football in 2012, a number that does not include a potential SEC title game that would be necessary to make it to the national title game.
After completing the crucial beat-down of Washington in Week 2 (41-3) the Tigers “to do” list for 2012 includes road trips to Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas and then home stands vs. South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi State.
The Trojans and Tigers looks good on paper in the safety of September, but both teams have lots to do to make it all the way.
As far as what the game itself, it would be billed similarly to an Alabama vs. USC meeting; a big heaping helping of southern defense clashing with a heavy dose of west coast offense.
Pass the mustard, please.
2003 Sugar Bowl
Realistically, based solely on strength of schedule the Bulldogs and Seminoles may have the best opportunity to meet up in January for all the marbles.
Georgia has arguably the easiest slate in the entire SEC while Florida State has what may be the least scary schedule of all the frontrunners in the entire 2012 field.
The Bulldogs’ race to perfection started well with their big win at Missouri this past Saturday night, but left on the table are home games vs. Tennessee, Florida and Georgia Tech and road trips to South Carolina and Auburn.
Though this is far from simple, relative to SEC slates, Georgia’s is fairly straightforward with neither Alabama nor LSU gracing line-up.
From a straight up on-field approach, the Bulldogs inexperience on the offensive line may be a concern that pops up regardless of strength of schedule.
Switching gears to Florida State, the Seminoles have the best cake walk in the preseason top 10 and though they will face Clemson and Florida at home in Tallahassee and Virginia Tech and Miami on the road, this is no SEC, Big Ten or even Big 12 type schedule.
What the Seminoles will have to do to turn their “hopeful” outlook to “for real” is establish a running game that rises magically from the ashes of a unit that ranked No. 104 nationally last season.
Georgia vs. Florida State for the crystal football would be the story of two teams who finally didn’t screw it up and made it all the way.
It would also be the tale of two stifling defenses that are often overlooked by their offense counterparts.
“Oklahoma vs. Florida State” may not have the glorious ring to it that other championship clashes do, but this ACC vs. Big 12 battle may be just thing a college football oversaturated the SEC needs desperately.
Though we haven’t heard the national championship hype about the Sooners this season that we did in 2011, Oklahoma is as for real as any team on our distinguished list.
The Sooner’s schedule is far from a cake walk and includes home games vs. Kansas State, Texas, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State and road trips to Morgantown and Fort Worth to face the new kids in town.
But, what you’ve got to like about the Sooners is first they are stacked with returning experience and secondly they have the huge benefit of not having to play a conference championship game.
Yes, win it and you’re in it.
We’ve already discussed Florida State’s road to glory which leads us to the question of what an on-field clash pitting Sooner against Seminole would actually look like.
Beyond the obvious storyline of the Stoops family reunion (Bobby and Mike at Oklahoma and Mark the DC at FSU) you’ve got an Oklahoma “D” who struggled to stop air attacks in 2011 vs. a Florida State offense that was all about passing last season.
And then you’ve got a prolific Sooner offensive attack against the premier Seminoles defense.
And, you’ve got no teams from the SEC on the marquee…that is, if you’re in to that kind of thing.
Though it’s fun to talk about whether LSU or Alabama will survive a season in the nation’s most difficult league and be crowned the next national champion from the SEC, what if Georgia squeaks through to represent the southern delegation?
Yes, what if Georgia wins the SEC and Oklahoma wins the Big 12 and they both lose zero games in the bargain?
As we discussed in previous slides, the Sooners road is more difficult, on paper and from the safety of my swivel chair, than that of the Bulldogs with the very real exception of the lack of a title game in the Big 12.
And this is precisely what could trip up Georgia in the first place, the SEC title game.
Regardless, if the Sooners and Bulldogs punch their tickets to Miami for a January dance-off, you would have Georgia’s stifling defense squaring off with the Sooner’s pass happy offense.
And then it would be fun to see if Oklahoma’s revamped pass defense could completely shut down a Bulldog passing attack that has yet to take off from the runway.
Either way, though this combo may not seem as realistic as others on our list, it may be a top three possibility simply due to the fact that perfection is often more dependent on who you play than how you play.
And, these are two teams who have never, ever met on a football field.
If we’re going to brand Georgia a realistic contender in the SEC race, then we’ve got to consider the possibility that they’ll meet the Trojans for all the marbles.
A potential USC vs. Georgia national championship game doesn’t have quite the media power punch as others on our list, but it would be no less intriguing on field than the other combos listed here.
The Bulldogs returned nine starters this season to a defensive unit that ranked No. 11 nationally against the run and No. 10 vs. the pass which is deliciously paired with USC’s eight returning starters to an offense that ranked No. 16 in scoring and No. 15 in pass yards.
The other thing to love about this coupling is the fact that both teams could realistically make it to the final BCS tabulations with zero losses.
But, they’ll both have to win a league championship to get it done.
USC vs. Florida State 1998
Another potential championship dance partner for the possibly perfect Trojans is Florida State, a team that again has the easiest regular season slate among our title hopefuls.
We’ve never witnessed a Pac-12 vs. ACC clash for the national championship in the BCS era, so this match-up would be historic in more way than one which is a good thing in terms of a break from the current SEC-a-thon.
The game itself would feature the Trojans’ zippy offense squaring off with the Seminoles scary defensive unit that ranked No. 4 nationally in scoring, No. 2 vs. the run and No. 20 against the pass last season.
On the other side of the proverbial ball we’d have the (at least for now) one dimensional FSU passing attack taking on a USC defense that has yet to stop an opposing teams air attack.
This all lines up, at least on paper, for a provocative championship alternative.
2005 Orange Bowl
Another Trojan-centric BCS title game possibility would feature USC taking on Oklahoma for the crystal football.
If this wish comes true for Sooner and Trojan fans, both groups would potentially lose sleep over the fact that their questionable pass defenses might get shredded by their opponent’s prolific passing attacks.
In a contest of who could stop whom the most times, this could be the barnburner we’ve all been waiting for.
2004 National Championship
This combo and the next would give the smaller and now bigger Big 12 the honors of trying to dethrone the SEC from its extended championship reign.
And, as a bonus in our current climate of power politics, the Sooners would attempt the take down in lieu of the financially over blessed Longhorns.
Regardless, Oklahoma vs. LSU would provide the SEC vs. Anti-SEC clash that the whole world seems to want to see.
It would be pass happy vs. run-centric and hopeful defense vs. scary shutdown “D” in a battle which would leave a larger throng of hungry fans satisfied than did last year’s regional national affair.
Alabama vs. Oklahoma, 2003
Much like a potential Sooner vs. Tiger clash for all the marbles, an Oklahoma vs. Alabama match-up would be a “grind it out” vs. an “air it out” tour de force.
What makes the Sooners and Tide even more potentially electrifying than that of a LSU vs. Oklahoma combo is the fact that the two programs combine for 20 national titles.
And what takes this all up another notch is that the two traditional powerhouses have only met four times previously in their long, storied histories.
The Sooners lead the all-time series 2-1-1 and prior to a home and away series in 2002-03 the two hadn’t met on the field of honor since the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl.
A potential fifth ever meeting betwixt the two for the biggest prize in the land would be nothing short of thrilling.
Another potential dance partner for the possibly perfect Seminoles would be the equally blameless Tigers.
Though LSU inarguably has more work left to get to Miami without stains on their dress shirts, this match-up could wind up being the real deal fairly easily.
If dreams really do come true for a FSU vs. LSU title tilt we’d have what was a run-centric Tiger offense clashing with one of the best rush defenses in the country last season.
Then we’d draw a pass dominated Seminole offensive unit vs. the second best defense nationally last season in LSU.
No matter how you slice it, the ACC sending a representative to the biggest dance would be huge for a conference still in flux, and realistically Florida State is the conference’s best hope of re emerging on the big stage.
Florida State vs. Alabama 2007
If Florida State does make a run to flawlessness there is no reason to think that there isn’t every chance that they’ll meet the Crimson Tide in the BCS title game.
The Tide and the ‘Noles match-up similarly to LSU and FSU with the big exception (at least for now) being Alabama’s better balance from an offensive standpoint.
Alabama’s experience at QB plus the fact that they passed the ball more effectively last season (try a No. 69 ranking vs. LSU’s No. 106) means they might provide a bigger challenge to Florida State’s No. 4 ranked scoring defense from a year ago.
2006 Sugar Bowl
Though it’s still unclear as to how West Virginia will fare in their new conference digs, it is clear that they will score a bunch of points in the already defensively challenged Big 12 League of Nations.
If Oklahoma falters like they did in 2011, West Virginia may be left with the best opportunity to win the conference and if they do so without any losses, they’ll punch their ticket for the BCS title game.
Perfection will come at a hefty cost for the Mountaineers and includes road visits to Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and home stands vs. Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Oklahoma.
What’s most concerning is a West Virginia defensive unit that had its ups and downs last season (they ranked No. 61 nationally in scoring defense) and gave up 34 points and 545 yards to Marshall in the Week 1 opener.
The good news is that the Mountaineers actually had the best national pass defense ranking last season among the teams that now make up the Big 12, a number that may free fall when WVU makes a tour through the pass happy league.
Overall, West Virginia is a huge question mark but if the stars align, this is a team that has the right stuff to go all the way.
As far as WVU vs. Georgia wouldn’t it be fun to watch the Bulldogs No. 10 ranked pass defense from a year ago try and contain the Mountaineers No. 6 ranked air attack?
Running through the combos that include the Mountaineers in the championship mix obviously include mention of a WVU vs. USC clash which would titillate from an offensive standpoint.
USC’s mature passing attack vs. West Virginia’s for the crystal football could well feature several Heisman frontrunners and if both are undefeated, the 2012 winner will be on the field and playing for the whole ball of wax.
As far as who wins, the offensive edge at this early date would go to the Trojans who have showed more balance and the defensive advantage may actually go to the Mountaineers who are also more stable from a pass vs. run standpoint.
This is another match-up that may not seem like blockbuster material, but the total score fest would be captivating stuff.
West Virginia vs. Alabama in the 2013 BCS sweepstakes would be akin to what Alabama vs. Oklahoma State could have been in 2012.
Yes, a wild passing attack vs. a stifling defense in a rousing edition of the Sci-Fi channel trying to bust up the History channel.
Who could wish for anything more?
As a bonus, these teams have never, ever met on a football field.
The Mountaineers and Tigers would have obvious shades of a WVU vs. Alabama meeting with the exception of the idea of a rematch from the game LSU played in Morgantown in 2011.
What you really got to like about this potential meeting is the fact that the two respective fanbases are as rabid and riled up as any combination in college football.
Couch burners vs. big drinkers.
Mountain people vs. cross dressers.
Seriously...I want this to happen, in Miami.
2010 Gator Bowl
Really, a potential West Virginia vs. Florida State clash may seem like one of the least palatable menu options on our BCS open table.
But, the reality is the Mountaineers vs. Florida State could turn out to be one of the more delicious and satisfying options and could easily trump more flashy options like Alabama vs. USC.
Well, how about West Virginia’s prolific offense taking on Florida State’s smash mouth defense? We’re talking the No. 13 ranked scoring offense from a year ago vs. the No. 4 ranked scoring defense.
That’s frankly one of the very best statistical match-ups on our list.
And, it involves a team that hasn’t won it all since 1999 and another that has never tasted from the chalice of ultimate victory.
After winning three consecutive Pac-12 titles, in 2012 Oregon arguably has its biggest rebuilding task in the fruitful Chip Kelly era.
But, if history is any indicator of future events, the Ducks are likely to be in the mix for a Pac-12 north crown, a spot in the conference title game and perhaps even a return to the BCS championship.
And that’s why they are worthy of mention on this list.
To get it done Oregon will have to beat Arizona, Washington and Stanford at home and then win on the road at Arizona State, USC, Cal and Oregon State.
And then they’ll have to beat the best of the south in the title game.
But, the truth is that Oregon’s schedule is probably the easiest among the teams mentioned here with the very big exception of Florida State.
This means that Oregon’s personnel turnover challenges are somewhat diminished by a schedule that is more doable than that of Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, West Virginia or Georgia.
What makes the specific instance of West Virginia vs. Oregon for all the marbles intriguing is that whirlwind Mountaineer offense squaring off from a Duck “D” that returns a mere six starters to a unit that ranked No. 88 nationally in pass defense.
This is a unit that gave up 34 points and 530 yards to Arkansas State in Week 1 and then 25 points and 365 yards to Fresno State this past weekend.
Stop No. 2 on the Oregon championship lazy Susan is an alluring coaching battle betwixt Chip Kelly and Nick Saban.
Yes, here are two guys who are at the forefront of their industry, only one has been in the biz a bit longer and therefore have a boatload more of championship caliber hardware.
Beyond Saban vs. Kelly in clay-mation Miami style is the fact that the Tide and Ducks are both top recruiting teams who will only survive the 2012 season by filling holes well enough to play flawlessly.
In my humble opinion, this would be one of the best BCS title tilts in history.
Only Georgia vs. Florida State represents a match-up between teams with easier schedules than does Oregon vs. Florida State.
Though both teams will have to play a conference championship to reach perfection and pay dirt, these two squads won’t have to deal with the perilous slates of others on this list.
And that makes this coupling highly realistic.
If the Ducks and ‘Noles do lace it up for the big, cheesy enchilada look for what should be a prolific Oregon rushing attack taking on a top 10 rushing defense in Florida State.
It’s good stuff all around in this one, plus it’s another first time ever match-up.
A potential rematch from 2011’s opening salvo blockbuster deluxe, the Ducks vs. Tigers has more if’s than Texas Tech’s defense.
Yes, IF LSU can win out; IF Oregon can trump USC, IF both win their respective conference title games.
But, IF it happens you’ve got LSU’s defense vs. Oregon’s offense, ala run vs. run, the way football is supposed to be played…old school style.
Oregon vs. Oklahoma 2006
Another fascinating meeting between two national powerhouses, Oregon and Oklahoma have met only seven times in history with the Sooners owning a commanding 1-6 advantage.
Oregon and Oklahoma both have realistic conference title aspirations (the Sooners don’t even have a pesky title game to deal with) and from an on-field standpoint they actually match-up well.
The title tilt would feature what should be a Duck offense that’s still running for daylight vs. a defense that was more effective against the run than the pass than the run a year ago.
On the other side of the ball it’s a Sooner pass attack that could shred a Duck pass defense that will have to improved from its No. 88 national billing from a year ago.
But, if the Ducks make it all the way you can bet they’ve learned how to stop an air attack (USC, Washington State, Arizona, etc.).
The third of the tri-fecta of early frontrunner clashes with “easier” schedules, Oregon vs. Georgia seems unlikely until you realize how probable it could be.
Let’s paint a picture that includes LSU and Alabama suffering at least one loss and the Bulldogs winning the SEC title and then let’s finger paint a masterpiece that tells of USC’s defense selling out its “O” and Oregon triumphing, yet again, in the Pac-12.
Now Georgia vs. Oregon for all the beeswax seemed likely all along and the field is studded with the Heisman trophy winner and the runner-up.
Again, it’s the Bulldogs under-sung defense taking on a running attack for the ages and either the Ducks would come through with their first ever national title or Georgia finally, finally lives up their unending promise.