My early BCS picks are as follows:
Rose: Illinois (BCS at-large) vs. Oregon (BCS at-large)
Sugar: Oklahoma (BCS at-large) vs. Tennessee (SEC champ)
Fiesta: Missouri (Big 12 champ) vs. West Virginia (BCS at-large)
Orange: Boston College (ACC champ) vs. USF (Big East champ)
BCS title game: Cal (BCS No. 1) vs. Ohio State (BCS No. 2)
Cal looks to have a spot in the national title game locked up if they can beat USC. The Bears already have impressive wins over Tennessee and Oregon—good enough for a No. 2 ranking in the new polls coming out today.
The other beneficiaries of the Trojans' loss to Stanford are Jim Tressel and his Ohio State Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are No. 3 in the new polls, and simply have to win out to earn themselves a shot at the championship.
At this point, even the casual college fan will ask the obvious question:
Where's LSU in this equation?
Well, this is why sportswriting is fun.
LSU is undeniably the best team in the country today—but the Tigers will fall prey to the conference-championship system.
Assume LSU stays undefeated and advances to Atlanta for the SEC title game. At this point, I say they playTennessee.
And follow the logic:
Tough games loom against South Carolina, Kentucky, and Arkansas—but two of those three are at home, and Tennessee always has Kentucky's number.
Which brings us back to LSU
In 2001, Tennessee was a win away from the national title game before losing to LSU in an SEC championship tilt. I see the tables getting turned this year, with Phil Fulmer's boys pulling off a shocker.
The rest of the story:
Oregon beats USC in Eugene and wins out to finish in the top five. Senior QB Dennis Dixon is a Heisman finalist, and his Ducks get a BCS at-large bid.
Oklahoma loses to Missouri, who wins the Big XII title outright, going undefeated in the process. A weak schedule relegates Missouri to the Fiesta Bowl.
Their opponent is a BCS at-large team—I'm guessing the BCS selects West Virginia on the basis of Steve Slaton's star appeal.
Illinois loses at Ohio State but still gets the nod in the Buckeye-less Rose Bowl—and rightfully so, seeing as how their only two losses came at the hands of undefeated teams (Missouri and OSU).
Boston College goes undefeated, but a weak schedule precludes them from the national title. They draw USF, the surprise Big East champion.
My projected AP Poll going into the conference championships:
1. LSU (11-0)
2. California (11-0)
3. Ohio State (11-0)
4. Boston College (11-0)
5. Missouri (11-0)
6. USF (11-0)
7. Oregon (10-1)
8. Oklahoma (9-2)
9. Florida (9-2)
10. Tennessee (9-2)
Yes, a lot of undefeated teams—but this has been a strange season, and there will be future upsets.
The final AP Poll may look like this:
1. California (12-0)
2. Boston College (13-0)
3. Oregon (11-1)
4. Ohio State (11-1)
5. LSU (12-1)