Pigskin Punditry #3: An Anti-BCS rant and Week One Predictions

David SingletonCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2008

Scrolling through the blog of Graham Watson, one of ESPN’s college football writers (and a fellow Mizzou alum), I came across her mailbag, where someone posed the question about what would happen if BYU and Fresno State both wound up undefeated at the end of the season. The original e-mailer was wondering if both schools could snap up the two at-large Bowl Championship Series invitations.


Quoting from the BCS rulebook (via Graham):


The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if either:

A. Such team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or,
B. Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

No more than one such team from Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference shall earn an automatic berth in any year. If two or more teams from those conferences satisfy the provisions for an automatic berth, then the team with the highest finish in the final BCS Standings will receive the automatic berth, and the remaining team or teams will be in the pool of teams eligible for selection by the bowls as at-large teams.

In other words, if Fresno State (out of the WAC) and BYU (out of the Mountain West) both wind up in the top 12 of the BCS, only the higher rated one will wind up guaranteed a slot in the lucrative BCS


Once again, the powers that be from the Big Six conferences prove that they are small minded, insular and scared.


Look, I know that Hawaii did their Non-BCS brethren a huge disservice last year. That 41-10 woodshed beat down in the Sugar Bowl will linger for quite a while.


But we all know that certain players from the Big Six conferences do not want anyone to steal their slice of the pie. I can understand wanting to keep your hands on as much cash as possible. In fact, that’s why I don’t really think that these power plays and the restricted access are about money.


I think it’s about public perception.


Look at how much Michigan has been (and will continue to be for a while) mocked because of their loss to Appalachian State last year.


Or the verbal pounding that Alabama fans must be dealing with for their loss to Louisiana-Monroe late last year.


As a fan, I’ve been guilty of that bias as well. I think back to that September night in 2004 when my Mizzou Tigers went down to Troy, Alabama and got waxed by the Trojans.


My initial thought was “How could we lose to THEM?”


And I believe that’s what the leaders of the Big Six conferences must be thinking, too.


Never mind that BYU has won a national championship. Never mind that Fresno State has been making a name for themselves with Pat Hill’s “anyone, anywhere, anytime” scheduling philosophy.


It still comes back to thinking that these Non-BCS schools are inferior. And if a couple should happen to rise up in the same year, we will do our damndest to keep them down.


Will it happen this year that two Non-BCS teams go undefeated in the regular season? Probably not.


Could it happen in the future? Yes, it could.


And I would love to see what happens then.


Now, it is time for some picks. When I do picks, I don’t bother looking at the lines set by neighbors out here in Las Vegas. I simply try to pick winners without any regard for the point spread. I simply look at the matchups and rosters and predict who I think is going to win.


The beauty of opening week, and the pure bliss I feel because the season has started, helps to temper the fact that the matchups during this week are often not that good. (Ohio State vs. Youngstown State? Texas Tech vs. Eastern Washington?) However, there are a couple of matchup to keep an eye one because of their potential ramifications on a national level.


We start, of course, with a game near and dear to my heart: Missouri vs. Illinois in St. Louis. Last year, this game served as a springboard to great seasons by both squads, and was filled with excitement and drama. Both teams have key contributors returning on both sides of the ball and could wind up being another instant classic.


Unlike last year, when Missouri raced out to a big lead and had to hold on for dear life until the final minute, I think this year’s edition will be more back and forth, with both teams trading blows evenly. It may come down to who has the ball last and can maneuver into position for a game winning field goal. I’ll go with Missouriwinning on a Jeff Wolfert field goal in the closing minute for a 37-34 victory. But that score could just as easily be reversed in favor of the Illini. Too close to call.


While these two teams are slugging it out in the Midwest, down South there will be another territorial matchup involving a team of Tigers that much is expected of this season. We’re talking about Alabama vs. Clemson in the Georgia Dome.


Expectations are always somewhat high when you’re talking about Alabamafootball, but the spotlight in this game will be on the Clemson Tigers. Once again, there is a lot of talk about this being the year that Clemson (finally) gets over the hump and wins the ACC again.


This game, against an SEC opponent with a  lot of history and with a big name, big money coach (that was on the cover of Forbes Magazine this month), is the chance for Tommy Bowden and Clemson to make a definitive early season statement that this really is their year.

Clemson will win this game, but it will be close. It won’t be as high scoring as the Mizzou-Illinois game, but 27-21 sounds like a nice start for the Clemson march to the ACC championship.


Lastly, the game that serves as an appetizer for the two main courses above will be played in the partially renovated Big House. Michigan Stadium isn’t the only thing under construction in Ann Arbor as Rich Rodriguez brings his no-huddle spread option offense to the University of Michigan.


A major overhaul of the Michigan football program is in progress. This year is going to be a challenge for the Wolverines. There is talk that three quarterbacks could play for the Wolverines on Saturday, as Rich Rod tries to find the right person to serve as the trigger man for his attack.


Opening with the Utah Utes is not going to be easy. Utah, returning a lot of talent, is a potential BCS buster out of the Mountain West Conference – assuming that quarterback Brian Johnson can stay healthy.


The Michigan defense will be stout. But the offense is probably going to struggle at least early on this season. Which is why I’ll say that Utah pulls out a victory and spoils opening day at Michigan 31-17.


Speaking of Michigan, their opponent on opening week last year, Appalachian State, will visit Baton Rouge and Tiger Stadium for an historic matchup. It will be the first time that the defending champions of the two factions of Division I will meet on the field.


I can guarantee you that Appalachian State will not ambush LSU the way that they got Michigan last year. Les Miles, a Michigan man, will make damn sure of that.


Appalachian State has lost a ton of talent from their squad. However, they still have the dynamic Armanti Edwards under center. And LSU does have a little bit of a situation at quarterback, with Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch getting the nod for Saturday afternoon.


But I just don’t think lightning will strike twice for the Mountaineers from Boone, NC. They might be able to hang with LSU for a quarter or two, but LSU will pull away late and win 45-14.


It should be a blast. Enjoy.