Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Long Way To Go

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The 2007 season may very well turn out to be a make-or-break year for the current BCS system. If the trend of upsets continues, then the public clamoring for a playoff will become more intense. And if, at the end of the season, more than a handful teams have one loss and a beauty contest ensues to determine the participants in the BCS championship game, we'll hear a lot more about the imminent installation of a "Plus-One" scheme.

And don't forget, a split title is very much in the cards as well.

All that said, let's celebrate the story of the week: The University of South Florida Bulls, who rose to No. 2 in the BCS standings. A large public university in Tampa, Fla., USF only started its football program in 1997, as a Division I-AA entry. In 2001, it moved up to I-A. In '03, it joined Conference USA. In '05, it became a member of the Big East. Its meteoric rise is reminiscent of Miami's ascension to the top of college football in the early 1980s.

Will the Bulls' dream season end the way it did for the 'Canes in '83, when they defeated Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for the national championship? Or will it end this Thursday with a loss to Rutgers? In 2007, anything is possible.

Week 8 Guru's List:

GOLD: Ohio State has the perch, for now. And the Buckeyes know how to stay there, having gone through the regular season unbeaten twice in the last five years, including last year. Ohio State plays in an admittedly weak conference and its non-conference schedule is nothing to write home about. Still, if the Buckeyes stay unbeaten, they will be in their second consecutive BCS title game simply on the strength of their poll numbers.

SILVER: South Florida, with a near-perfect computer score, will earn more No. 2 votes in the human polls as the season progresses. Boston College, with only one ranked team remaining on its schedule, will slip further behind an unbeaten USF team. The Eagles will need the Bulls to lose to get up to No. 2.

BRONZE: LSU, despite its triple-overtime loss to Kentucky, is still the best team in the nation and will start gaining on Boston College when USF siphons more No. 2 votes from the Eagles. However, the Tigers do not control their own destiny and will have to root for USF and BC to lose. Ditto for Oklahoma, which has an even more daunting task.

WAITLIST: South Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona State and Oregon.

HAWAI'I WATCH: Optimism from the Island's press aside, it's hard to see the Rainbows making it to a BCS bowl even if they mow down the remaining five opponents. Hawai'i's strength of schedule is awful and therefore its computer scores will be low. A year ago, Boise State had a lofty computer ranking of No. 7 to qualify for the Fiesta Bowl. This year, Hawai'i will be lucky to be in the Top 25 in the computer ratings. With no help from the computers, the Rainbows will need to be in the Top 5 in the human polls to achieve a Top 12 overall ranking. Not gonna happen.

BCS Buster Games for Week 8:

5-Star: Auburn at LSU -- A year ago, an Auburn victory prevented LSU from winning the SEC West and a rematch with Florida. This year, a victory by the Bayou Tigers is a must to take some sting out of losing to Kentucky last week and keep their national championship hopes alive.

4-Star: South Florida at Rutgers (Thursday) -- This is the biggest game in the history of South Florida's football program. Now the Bulls are no longer flying under the radar and the nation will be tuning in to see if they're for real. USF can win friends and influence people with a convincing victory over the Scarred Knights.

3-Star: Florida at Kentucky -- A basketball classic in other years, a football classic in this wild season. Can the Wildcats pull off back-to-back wins over the SEC's titans? Or are they still hung over from their delirious upset win over LSU?

2-Star: California at UCLA -- Two schools, one fight song (different lyrics, though). For years, the mothership is the football (and basketball) biotch of the powder blue gang of the Southern Branch. This time around, the Golden Bears hope they're making the first of two trips to Pasadena.

1-Star: Michigan State at Ohio State -- This rivalry is very much like the one between hammer and nail. Hint: The nail is painted green.

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