Often in sports, two teams from the same conference/division/league play each other in what analysts describe as the “de facto” championship game.
For example, a few years ago in the NFL, the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots faced off in the AFC Championship. Experts coined it the “de facto” Super Bowl, saying that either team would easily handle whatever foe the NFC put forth.
In college basketball, it’s been said about semifinal games between Kansas and North Carolina. In MLB, the ALCS has often been called the de facto World Series due to the superiority of the American League.
But in college football, for the past three years, anyway, this “de facto” concept is much more than a catchy saying for media men.
That’s because, for the past three seasons, the winner of Florida-LSU has, literally, gone on to be crowned the national champion.
In 2006, Florida beat LSU, then went on to win its first national title in 10 years. The following season, LSU battled past Florida in the regular season, then became a two-loss BCS champion. And in 2008, Florida got revenge against the Tigers, and then proceeded to win their second national title in three years.
What will happen in 2009?
At the onset of this season, few people expected the Tigers to be in a position to give this year’s game a similar storyline. After all, LSU was young and had serious questions at quarterback.
But through five weeks, the Tigers have been impressive, if not dominant, winning close games at Washington, Mississippi State, and Georgia. Their 5-0 record puts them suddenly in the SEC West driver’s seat (along with Alabama).
Florida, meanwhile, was expected by just about everyone to enter this week at 4-0. What people didn’t expect, however, was the Gators to be limping in, looking vulnerable, and potentially playing without an injured Tim Tebow.
It’s not like Florida hasn’t been impressive, mind you. The Gators are coming off a 41-7 shellacking of Kentucky on the road. But there is no question that this game looks more and more dangerous for the defending champs with each and every Tebow news update.
Whether or not the former Heisman winner plays Saturday, LSU-Florida will undoubtedly be a thrilling matchup.
After all, there’s a national title on the line here.
Five Games You Can’t Miss This Weekend
Randy Edsall keeps proving people wrong. His UCONN Huskies, expected by most to take a step back in 2009, are out to a 3-1 start, with their only loss coming against North Carolina. Now, the Huskies play their Big East opener at Pittsburgh, a team that crushed them in Storrs last season 34-10.
The Panthers find themselves on top of the Big East standings early, but everyone seems to be talking about their fellow 1-0 Big East teams, Cincinnati and South Florida. Saturday is the first chance for Pitt (and emerging star QB Bill Stull) to show the country what they’re made of.
Prediction: Pitt 33, UCONN 20
Has Oregon had the most remarkable rise, fall, and then rise again in college football history? In the span of a month, the Ducks went from Pac-10 contender to biggest disappointment college football to the team most likely to knock off USC and get to the Rose Bowl. Whew. Talk about a roller coaster.
But the Ducks can’t afford to sleep on UCLA this week. True, the Bruins finally came back down to earth last week in a loss at Stanford, but Stanford looks a whole lot better than expected. And the status of Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli remains in the air.
Prediction: Oregon 23, UCLA 20
I know, I know: why not the Wisconsin-Ohio State game here? Well, to put it simply, I don’t think that game’s going to be close at all. This one, however, intrigues me. Michigan, coming off its first loss against Michigan State, needs a rebound—and what a great opportunity this is.
Iowa has quietly positioned itself to compete with the Buckeyes for a Big Ten title, but they've also been close to a couple of huge upset losses. How great would the Wolverines feel about de-railing Iowa's Big Ten title hopes in Iowa City?
Prediction: Iowa 28, Michigan 17
Okay, Alabama. Let’s see what you’ve got. The Tide has been gushed over for weeks now after an opening win against Virginia Tech. They’ve even been getting votes for the number one team in the country, over SEC-counterpart Florida. But, since the game against the Hokies, they haven’t really been tested.
Ole Miss, which lost its first game two weeks ago against South Carolina, rebounded well last weekend by winning at Vanderbilt. The Rebels know that if they win this game, their SEC (and, possibly, BCS) title hopes are suddenly alive again. Be careful, Nick Saban.
Prediction: Alabama 35, Ole Miss 30
LSU has plenty of reason to be confident coming into this high-profile matchup. The Tigers are 5-0, they’ve won 32 straight Saturday night games in Death Valley, and they have the motivation of revenge following last season’s 51-21 drubbing at the hands of the Gators.
Of course, the wildcard here is whether Tebow plays or not. But, whether he does or doesn’t, this game sets up as a tricky one for the Gators. In the end, however, Florida has more talent at more positions, and their big game experience carries them through in a tight one.
Prediction: Florida 31, LSU 26
No. 10 TCU at Air Force:
Forecast for Colorado Springs Saturday: high-20s and snow showers. Plus, Air Force is going to be a little extra motivated after a painful loss to Navy last weekend. Cold weather + the Air Force option + the upset factor = another BCS spoiler taking the fall.
Prediction: Air Force 21, TCU 16
For Your Viewing Pleasure
Louisiana Tech at Nevada (Fri. 9:00 EST, ESPN): Nevada 35, La. Tech 30
No. 17 Auburn at Arkansas (Sat. 12 EST, ESPN): Auburn 28, Arkansas 21
Purdue at Minnesota (Sat. 12 EST, ESPN2): Minnesota 28, Purdue 16
Michigan State at Illinois (Sat. 12 EST, Big Ten Network): Michigan State 38, Illinois 28
Houston at Mississippi State (Sat. 12:30 EST, ESPNU): Houston 34, Miss. State 31
Wisconsin at No. 9 Ohio State (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC): Ohio State 41, Wisconsin 23
Baylor at No. 19 Oklahoma (Sat. 3:30 EST, ABC): Oklahoma 31, Baylor 20
Utah at Colorado State (Sat. 6 EST, The Mtn.): Utah 27, Colorado State 23
Stanford at Oregon State (Sat. 7 EST, Fox Sports): Oregon State 42, Stanford 31
Colorado at No. 2 Texas (Sat. 7:15 EST, ESPN): Texas 38, Colorado 24
No. 22 Georgia Tech at Florida State (Sat. 8:00 EST, ESPN2): Florida State 23, Georgia Tech 19
BYU at UNLV (Sat. 10:00 EST, The Mtn.): BYU 48, UNLV 28
Colt McCoy (QB—Tex)
McCoy, whose numbers haven’t been overly impressive so far this year, gets a great matchup this week against Colorado (Sat. 7:15 EST, ESPN). The Buffs have allowed plenty of points this year, including giving up 319 yards and 4 TDs passing to Toledo a few weeks back. Yeah, that Toledo.
If McCoy wants to get back into the forefront of the Heisman race, this would be the week to start doing so.