This year’s BCS bowl lineup is right around the corner. For many, the very thought is coupled with an unhealthy mixture of pain, frustration, anger, and hostility – as fans look for someone to blame for a boring matchup, or being robbed of a National Title berth. If blame is what will make you feel better, then by all means, blame away. Only…
Stop blaming the computers. Leave the voters out of it. Cut the biased coaches a break.
If you’re looking for a group of scapegoats for this year’s BCS matchups, look no further than the football field itself. There are ten individuals that have escaped the spotlight – until today. They aren’t household names in college football, but they ARE the ten individuals who REALLY shaped this year’s BCS outcome:
It was Shipley’s 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that immediately crushed any momentum the Sooners had after taking a 14-3 lead in the second quarter of this year’s Red River Rivalry. Shipley also had 11 catches for 112 yards and a receiving touchdown in Texas’ 45-35 win over the Sooners. After this defeat, the Sooners pushed their game to a new level – scoring 60-plus points in their final five games. That, and the Longhorns, thanks to players like Shipley, managed a BCS berth, while also having a legitimate argument to play for the National Title.
It was Lockett’s big paw that smacked a routine extra point off the scoreboard in the Swamp, resulting in a 31-30 Ole Miss upset over Florida. One could argue it didn’t shape the BCS as the Gators are still title bound, but look at it this way: This game really got the Gators’ heads on straight – and this team was unstoppable week after week following this upset loss. That, and this victory built confidence for the Rebels. No doubt, the 8-4 season by Ole Miss helped boost Florida’s standing in the BCS.
For those who want to blame the BCS for letting two Big Ten teams into the mix – look no further than Sales, who made the play of the year in the Big Ten – albeit a play that went unnoticed by many. After Mark Rubin stripped Tyrelle Pryor on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter of Penn State’s eventual 13-6 victory in Columbus, Sales kept Penn State’s chances alive by not only knocking an Ohio State player away from the ball, but also smacking the football in the direction of a charging Nittany Lion. If this play doesn’t happen, Penn State doesn’t recover and take the lead shortly after. Also, Ohio State would have been Rose Bowl bound, likely leaving Penn State out of the BCS picture entirely.
Many out there likely couldn’t name a single player on Utah’s roster. Some could name Brian Johnson, the team’s talented quarterback. Still, Utah’s improbable march into the BCS was thanks to Freddie Brown, who made the nine-yard touchdown catch from Johnson in the fourth quarter against TCU, capping off a 13-10 comeback victory over the Horned Frogs. Without an unblemished record, there would have been no BCS berth for Kyle Whittingham’s crew.
While most prognosticators expected Big East representation from West Virginia, South Florida, or Pitt, the Bearcats crept out from the shadows to steal away a BCS berth. Leading the way for Cincinnati was quarterback Tony Pike, who posted lights out numbers this season (2,168 yards, 18 TD’s, and QB rating over 141). And how was Pike against the aforementioned Big East trio? Try passing for almost 600 yards (with five touchdowns and one interception) against Pitt and South Florida – while also throwing the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime against the Mountaineers.
Texas Tech’s offense was dominant and borderline unstoppable all season long, while Oklahoma’s defense was average at best. Something had to give when the Red Raiders and Sooners met late in the season – and it did. The Sooners held Mike Leach’s high-octane offense in check, and it was linebacker Travis Lewis who led the way for Oklahoma, amassing 13 total tackles, forcing one fumble, while also intercepting a pass during a 65-21 dismantling of Texas Tech. Talk about a big time performance for the redshirt freshman.
Sure, Tim Tebow played great in Florida’s 31-20 SEC Championship game victory over Alabama, which knocked the Crimson Tide from the ranks of the unbeaten. But it was Jeff Demps, who filled in admirably for an injured Percy Harvin, therefore providing enough of a compliment in the running game to keep Alabama guessing on defense. The result of course was the Gators earning a spot in the BCS National Championship game.
An undersized freshman back, Jacquizz Rodgers packs quite a punch in Oregon State’s potent offense. The 5’7” Rodgers not only packed a punch, but a flat-out knockout against the potent Trojans defense – in the form of 37 carries, 186 yards, and two touchdowns in a 27-21 Oregon State victory over visiting USC. Rodgers borderline became a household name because of this performance, which single-handedly changed the National Title picture.
It was bound to happen, especially after the critics had already penciled Penn State into the National Title game after its win over Ohio State. With a 23-14 fourth quarter lead, many didn’t think the Nittany Lions would let the game against Iowa slip away. But that’s exactly what happened. The high winds in Iowa City dropped the game into the lap of kicker Daniel Murray, who took advantage of the opportunity by draining a 31-yard field goal as time expired – resulting in a 24-23 victory over previously unbeaten Penn State. This dagger of a field goal was Murray’s first since August – yes, August.
Yes, it was future first-rounder Michael Crabtree of Texas Tech who made the fantastic game-winning play on what was simply referred to as “Play Six” by Graham Harrell. Yes, it was Curtis Brown who couldn’t keep Crabtree out of the end zone. But for the real game-changer, one must look a few plays prior in the Longhorns-Red Raiders game, where freshman safety Blake Gideon had a game-clinching interception in his hands, only to let it slip away.