Monday, November 19, 2007

BCS Game This Year? It's Possible - Here's How ...

And don't get me wrong, I was cheering just as loud as most for an Oregon win in Tucson last week. Hated to see Dennis go down like that. At the time, I had no idea what the DUCK loss would mean to the national picture, and the ILLINI. But this has been a crazy season of CFB. You've read about the upsets for the ages (Appy State and Stanford). The Heisman Race has been all over the map, with contenders and pretenders entering and exiting each week seemingly. It's been a season to remember for many reasons. And if you're an Illinois fan, you won't soon forget the BIG WIN over Ohio State - not to mention wins over Penn State and Wisconsin. What a turnaround in Champaign. It's good to be part of the ILLINI NATION right now - especially from the Beaver State. Oskee Wa Wa! Sing it with me, "Ole Princeton yells her tiger, Wisconsin her varsity. And they give the same old rah! rah! rah! at each university. But the yell that always thrills me, and fills my heart with joy, is the good ole Oskee Wa Wa they cheer at ILLINOIS." Hail to the chief! Tribe travels well.

I must say I first heard those three little letters (BCS) on Saturday during the battle for the SWEET SIOUX TOMAHAWK (Northwestern). And, like you, my first reaction was 'are you kidding me'? No way we have a pathway to the BCS - much less do we deserve one. After all, we did lose three games this year, including two conference losses to Iowa and Michigan, respectively. Technically, we finished 3rd in the conference behind Michigan who owns the tiebreaker after their win at Zupke, which seems like so long ago at this point in the season. But then I started to think about it more deeply. Could it be true? Is there a way? Have the BCS gurus created such a perfectly flawed system whereby a 9-3 lowly BIG-10 school could snake its way through the desert grass en route to the Fiesta Bowl? Nah, no way! And then this came across my desk: Oregon's Tumble Could Mean an ILLINI RUMBLE with potentially a Hawaii or Boise State in the BCS (most likely the Fiesta Bowl - but who cares?) Wow! Talk about excitement in a bowl game for once. I knew there had to be a reason to love the BCS; and I found it. You can always count on Stewart to un-earth the good stuff.

Here's my understanding of what would need to happen (all of them):

1) Oregon would need to lose one of its next two games against either UCLA or Oregon State, not totally unlikely with DIXON out of the picture and Brady Leaf large and in charge of the low-powered / injury-plagued quack attack. I'm still not convinced they'll win another game this season. And to think that just 5 days ago this was the #2 team in the nation with a clear path to Bourbon Street. Wow, how fast things change in the world of CFB. Go Bruins! Go BEAVS! Go Bruins! Go BEAVS! Bring just one home for the chief.

2) Arizona State would need to knock-off USC on Thanksgiving, again - quite possible. Actually, I'm not convinced the PAC-10 would send two teams to the BCS even if the Sun Devils lose one of their remaining two games. USC still would have to beat UCLA in my opinion to get to 10-2 on the season. Three losses in the conference for either club would not equal an at-large BCS bid in my book. Bowl games like teams who are hot heading into prime-time TV slot. It's just good for business. Who's hotter than the chief, I ask?

3) VA TECH would need to lose one of its remaining two games, either Virginia or the ACC title game. Again - quite possible. As Mandel mentions, I guess it would be possible for a 10-3 Hokie squad to finish ahead of the CHIEF in the final BCS rankings. But, do BCS bowls want a team fresh off a loss? I think NOT.....It would be better for them to lose to Virginia and beat BC in the ACC Championship, I think. But who wants that?

And now for some background. In order to be eligible for a BCS at-large invite, you need nine wins (done) and have to finish in the top-14 in the ranking system (currently #17). Remember, no conference can send more than two teams to the BCS in a given year. I love rules! Since we don't play another game this year, we can't lose one and will surely only move up as teams above us continue to knock each other off. As Stew mentions, it's rather unlikely that the ACC or the BIG EAST will have two teams qualify for the BCS. The SEC and BIG-12 will each get two (take your pick at this point). So, of the eight total spots in the four BIG GAMES (Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta - no particular order implied), only 7 slots are currently filled with only one coming from the BIG-10 (Ohio State).

How ironic would that be? Talk about your twist of fait for the ages. Could be one of the best examples of I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine. Not yet two weeks after un-ranked ILLINOIS beats #1 Ohio State at home in Columbus, thereby opening the door for an Oregon run to New Orleans (you're welcome BTW), do the DUCKS return the favor by losing in the desert to Arizona - possibly eliminating one of two assumed BCS berths for the PAC-10 (thank you very much). Suddenly, that doesn't seem like a sure bet anymore. What a crazy year. What a crazy system.

Keep in mind that we're talking about a young ILLINI team that went 2-10 last year, 8-38 over the past four years. Ugh! Yes indeed, the turnaround is in full swing in Champaign under Coach Ron Zook, who has had his doubters even just a few weeks ago after the Michigan loss at home. Oh, and chew on this; the last time we went to a bowl game (2002) we got whacked by a team you might have heard of (LSU) in the SUGAR BOWL - BCS baby! That's our style! Lot of football to be played. But, as we head into one of if not the best holiday of them all, the Chief will be cheering for teams like ASU, UCLA, Boise State, and Virginia. The future is now. And the tribe travels well.

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