Q: Of the four presumed national title contenders to go down this past week--USC, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin--which team has the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year?
A: This is like asking which financial stock would you like to be holding the most – Lehman, AIG, Wachovia, and WaMu. I will take Florida. Their marketplace is the strongest, relatively speaking, and at this stage (conference play) that is unlikely to change. Their assets are the most proven – Heisman winner, recent MNC, nice home schedule – so voters are going to give them more credit for an average win. I know Georgia has a similar schedule but the beating they took on national television will haunt them for the entire season. Florida was beaten while playing on a regional network that national voters don’t watch. Buy Florida.
Q: But what does this mean for Ohio State? Are they back in?
A: No, because – to borrow a political phrase - they will suffer the soft bigotry of lower expectations. I am not sure if this team is not ready for prime time, and we may not find out until the end of October when Penn State rolls into Columbus, but most fans will simply dismiss any success as the result of a poor conference and will seize upon any loss as an outright indication that the higher ranked teams would tear them apart. Oh, and there is that USC thing.
Q: Did the week that was open the door for any of the undefeateds out of some of the non-BCS conferences like the Mountain West or the Big East? (Yup, that's a cheap shot. Thanks, Virginia Tech for not allowing me to make it about the ACC.)
A: I am not a believer in the “BCS Buster” conferences. BYU is the class of the non-BCS grouping but I am not convinced they could place 4th in the Big Ten. You can claim that they had a bad game, but they barely defeated Washington - a very bad team – and you could argue that is the best team they will face all season.
That being said, the door is open for Utah and BYU, albeit slightly and hypothetically. Do I think they would provide a competitive game? Nope. But I do think they would set the BCS Buster movement back a few years.