The Big Ten got the break it needed last night when Oregon knocked off Oregon State in a 65-38 game that joined the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game (61-41 Sooners) in offending anyone who still values basic skills like tackling. The Beavers loss has given USC the inside track to the Rose Bowl, which removes them from the pool of teams vying for at-large bids to the BCS. Which vaults Ohio State back onto the front tier of candidates for the final spot. The Texas/OU runner-up will get one bid, the Alabama-Florida loser will get another and Utah is guaranteed another berth, which leaves one spot remaining. Since no conference can get more then one at-large team, and the ACC & Big East don't have contenders, that reduces the race for the final spot to Ohio State and Boise State. Can anything keep the Buckeyes out of a chance at a major bowl game and vindication on the national stage?
Yes, it can. OSU has every reason to be feeling good right now, but there's a couple flies in the ointment. The first is the fact that USC must still beat UCLA to lock up the Pac-10's automatic slot. Lose that game and the Trojans are back in the at-large pool. And at 10-2 with the huge win over the Buckeyes on their resume, it would still be fair to choose them for one of the four spots designated for teams that aren't champions of a major conference.
The other reason is that Boise State, coming into this week, was still ahead of Ohio State in the BCS rankings. And the Broncos finished off an undefeated season on national television by smoldering a pretty good Fresno State team 61-10. Ohio State, simply because of their name, reputation and traveling presence have to be an odds-on favorite to get chosen over a midmajor school, but there a couple factors hanging out there that could tip this last bid to Boise.
Factor #1 is that Boise State, by virtue of its huge win over Oklahoma in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl, capped off with trick plays and a player proposing to his girlfriend after scoring the winning touchdown mean they're no ordinary no-name midmajor. They have some media pizzaz to them, and a possible return to the Fiesta Bowl would be a good story. It's also a good geographic fit. And throw in the fact that if Oklahoma loses the vote to Texas this afternoon for the Big 12 South title, the Fiesta could stage a Sooners-Broncos rematch. Normally, a midmajor being picked over Ohio State would be unthinkable, but there's just enough intangibles to make it thinkable.
So it would help Ohio State's cause greatly to stay within one spot of Boise when the BCS rankings come out today, at least to mitigate any cries of outrage if the Broncos are overlooked. And it would help enormously if Oklahoma can move past Texas, into the Big 12 championship game and from there to the BCS title game. And of course there's the USC-UCLA game which is the hinge to make it all possible.
It was as ugly as everyone expected in the Coliseum last night. Notre Dame didn't even get a first down until the third quarter was almost over and took a 38-3 shellacking from USC. Now we wait and see what happens to Charlie Weis.
The sharks are in the waters for Weis, and it's hard to blame them given how complete the regression of the program was over the last two seasons. But it would be a mistake to fire him. The team still improved this year and is bowl-eligible at 6-6. Is that winning by ND standards? No, but the Irish haven't won by Notre Dame standards since Lou Holtz left campus. When it's been fourteen years, maybe it's time to rethink the standards.
More importantly, most of the cries for Weis' head are built around the fact that Ty Willingham was canned after only three years with a better record then Weis. And what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Fair enough, and Notre Dame has itself to blame. It was a mistake to fire Willingham until he had been there at least five years. ND had an honorable tradition of giving a coach five years to prove himself. It was a promise that not only burnished their reputation, but gave them stability in their program.
The easiest way out of this is for the university to admit it rushed Willingham out the door too quickly, but then to add that doing the same to his successor isn't going to solve the problem. Alabama went through years of chaos before Nick Saban because it started the coaching carousel. Notre Dame ought to stop the carousel before it gets out of control and bring Weis back for his fifth season.