Sun Dec 05 08:42pm EST
In a perfect world, the Doc would be given carte blanche to publicly torch the Bowl Championship Series in effigy and institute the elaborate, double-elimination battle royal of his dreams. But we live in the world we live in, so each Sunday the Doc looks at what the new BCS numbers mean for the rest of the season. Rooting interest: Chaos. Always chaos.
Your long-anticipated Auburn-Oregon BCS Championship Game is officially official, and the early forecast is for a high-pressure offense front moving over Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 10. That's about as clear as it's going to get this far from the game: Though Oregon opened as a three-point favorite today in most books, the line is reportedly dropping fast.
But there will be plenty of time to dissect the Big One over the next 36 days, as if they'll still be the same teams by then. It's a Grade-A championship game, but there's not a bad match in any of the other big-money affairs, either:
• Rose Bowl: TCU (12-0) vs. Wisconsin (11-1). When the 12-0 Horned Frogs were shuttled last year off to play 12-0 Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl, I dubbed it the "Consolation Bowl" for two teams that really deserved to be in the national championship discussion. This time, I'm not about to call the Rose Bowl a consolation prize. (Even if it was more or less strong-armed by the new ESPN contract into taking the upstart). The coveted trip to the Granddaddy will be the first in TCU's very long history, and the 11-1 Badgers – winners of seven straight by an average of 26 points per game – will more than a test of the Horned Frogs' mettle against a top-shelf national power. With the nation's No. 1 defense for the for the third consecutive season and 36 wins in its last 39 since 2008 (all three losses coming to teams that finished in the top five with two losses between them), TCU offers the same challenge to Wisconsin.
But my position on the Horned Frogs' fate remains unchanged: a) Yes, obviously TCU (or Utah, or Boise State, or Nevada, or any other I-A team that puts together a perfect season against a I-A schedule) deserves a chance to compete on the field for a national championship, even if b) Their subpar schedule reasonably restricts them from finishing as one of the top two teams that play for the nominal title in the current system. Therefore c) The current system should be abandoned for one that allows more deserving teams a chance to compete – that is, a playoff.
But idealistic complaints aside, by all means, the Frogs and Badgers should enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Pasadena. They've earned it.
• Sugar Bowl: Arkansas (10-2) vs. Ohio State (11-1). The most intriguing game from the perspective of the on-field matchup. Arkansas has taken six in a row, including wins over South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU. Ohio State has taken five in a row with consecutive wins over Penn State, Iowa and Michigan. Arkansas has the prototypical dropback slinger, Ryan Mallett. Ohio State has the dynamic dual threat, Terrelle Pryor. Arkansas brings in a high-octane, top-10 offense that's dropped at least 31 in every game of the current winning streak. Ohio State's top-five defense hasn't allowed more than 17 since its only loss, at Wisconsin in mid-October.
For the Razorbacks, a win could seal a top-five finish and their best season by far since joining the SEC, before Mallett takes his act to the pros in the spring. For Ohio State, it's a chance to shake the nagging postseason slide vs. the SEC and, more importantly, put an emphatically positive spin on a season that began with serious national championship ambitions.
• Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Stanford (11-1). Orange blazers, rejoice! The Hokies and Cardinal may not exactly qualify as blue-chip brands to the man on the street, but this is easily the most attractive Orange Bowl collision in ages, between a pair of solid, salt-of-the-earth outfits with marquee quarterbacks and quietly dominant resumés. Combined, they've won 19 in a row by an average of three touchdowns. That may not draw an overflowing crowd to Sun Shark Stadium, or whatever they're calling it now, but it passes the "Ready For Some Football?" test for diehard fans in spades.
• Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma (11-2) vs. Connecticut (8-4). Before you start checking the primetime listings for Jan. 1 alternatives, give the Huskies a chance: They can play defense, they bring in one of the top tailbacks in the nation, their current five-game winning streak includes all four of the other Big East teams with winning records and they've been building to this moment over the course of four straight eight-win seasons. Plus, the last time Oklahoma was a heavy Fiesta Bowl favorite over a Big East champion after winning the Big 12, the Sooners were run out of the stadium.
In a pinch, though, Turner Classic Movies is probably airing Casablanca, again. The first quarter should be ending just in time for Rick to hit bottom in his "Paris 1940" flashback.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.