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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Five Contenders for the Crown

As this season has been topsy-turvy (for both the competitors and the authors of this blog), it seems as if no team will escape the season completely unscathed. At this point, there are five strong contenders for the title game, three of which have a single loss. CFBN will set the record straight and make its early prediction for the title game:

The Jayhawks have certainly been impressive this season, starting 10-0 for the first time since the Cubs won the World Series. Although Kansas is subject to the usual suspicion of a "nontraditional" power, there are plenty of arguments to be made on their behalf.
Pros: They are one of only two remaining undefeated teams in Division I-A football, and the only one to do so in a major conference. While the Big XII North is roughly as competitive as the Sun Belt or admissions to the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, it has been a big enough stage to lift the Jayhawks to the No. 4 spot in the polls (and probably climbing to No. 3 with Ohio State's loss) and will also provide them with adequate opportunity to prove their worth as the regular season concludes. And if style points count, keep this in mind -- Kansas' average margin of victory is over 30 points. Jayhawk enthusiast(s) can chalk that up to either a great offense or a lack of competition. Over the next couple weeks, we will hear plenty of both.
Cons: "They haven't played anyone." While this isn't entirely true (you don't get 10 wins without 10 opponents), Kansas certainly has had one of the easiest roads to the Top 10. They have faced floundering Nebraska and Colorado programs, and their skirmishes with the South division were with lowly Baylor and Oklahoma State. Given a game against a real competitor like an Oregon or an LSU (two completely randomly selected programs), the Jayhawks could be embarrassed. And no program likes getting blown out in the title game ... just ask Oklahoma circa 2004.
Chances: Very slim. In order for Kansas to get to the coveted BCS National Championship, they will need to win out. While Iowa State doesn't pose much of a threat, Missouri does. And even if they don't stumble against the Tigers, they will have a real game against the winner of the Big XII South (Oklahoma). I don't expect Kansas to escape the season with more than 11 wins.

The Ducks have all the buzz in college football this season. Their schedule has been tough, their play has been electric, and their uniforms have been just hideous. They have one loss this season, but it was a close one against then-No. 2 California.
Pros: Dennis Dixon is likely to win the Heisman Trophy this year, so long as Darren McFadden doesn't pull out another record-breaking game performance. Jonathan Stewart has been quietly just as electric as Dixon and has also helped Oregon establish one of the fastest paced tempos in college football. Meanwhile, Oregon has had all the big wins necessary to be a contender in the computers. Thus far, the Ducks have trumped USC, Michigan and Arizona State, with their lone loss coming against a Jekyll-and-Hyde California team. Overall, they are frustrating to play against, but enthralling to watch.
Cons: They have a loss and they play in the Pac-10. USC has set the bar pretty high for Pac-10 teams looking to get to the title game. In 2003, USC had only one loss, and the BCS decided to choose Oklahoma and LSU (funny how history repeats) to play in the title game, despite USC's higher ranking in the AP and Coaches' Polls. Also, LSU and Oklahoma are traditional powers with better name recognition. It remains to be seen how the Ducks will travel for a BCS game, but the Committee knows that they have followers with LSU and Oklahoma.
Chances: Fairly good. Oregon has bested the better half of their schedule and now only face Arizona, Oregon State and UCLA. While all three could prove to be traps, Oregon has shown the confidence and the preparation to hang tough with anyone in college football, while all three opponents have stubbed their toe against inferior competition.

Slated to play in the title game since trouncing the Irish in last year's Sugar Bowl, LSU has seemingly been predestined to play in this game. However, LSU has shown several kinks in its armor thus far this season and will still have to survive an SEC Championship game at season's end.
Pros: LSU plays in the "toughest conference in college football," and has faired quite well in it. The Tigers have taken down the likes of Auburn and the reigning national champion Florida Gators. Their only loss came in overtime on the road against a team that hasn't had a decent football team since the Carter administration. They have possibly the best defense in college football and an adequate offense. As mentioned above, everyone is expecting them to be in the title game and that is sometimes enough to propel a team there.
Cons: They lost to Kentucky. I understand that Kentucky is playing well this year, but they still lost to Kentucky. They have also struggled against SEC foes such as Florida (who has the same record as Kentucky). Their offense has been underwhelming, with very few real playmakers and an injury-prone star receiver. LSU games have been prescribed by doctors in lieu of Ambien.
Chances: Very good. LSU has been predestined to be in the title game since last season. The voters have not swayed, and that is all it takes to play in a game like this.

The Sooners have been in rhythm since the first snap, with Sam Bradford putting up a higher passer efficiency rating than Mark Mangino's weight. They suffered a serious setback against a hapless Colorado squad, but have looked very good otherwise.
Pros: Oklahoma sits at the head of the "grown up" table in the Big XII, with a solid win against rival Texas. The Sooner offense has been very impressive for a "rebuilding" program without Rhett Bomar or Adrian Peterson. Meanwhile, the Oklahoma defense has been what you'd expect from Bob Stoops -- more consistent than a 60-year old on fiber pills. They have the talent and the exposure.
Cons: They are on the outside looking in. It is difficult for a program to usurp a team with an equal record in front of it. LSU has been in front of Oklahoma since day one, and Oregon jumped in front with three big time victories. Oklahoma's loss to Colorado has seriously hurt their credibility, as they looked virtually unstoppable before that point. In order for Oklahoma to get their chance, they are going to need a loss from someone in front of them, and as everyone knows, it sucks to have to rely on someone else.
Chances: Fairly good. Kansas will likely drop in their match against Missouri, but even so, Oklahoma will get a chance to down them in the Big XII title game. Oregon has three trap games coming up, and LSU still has an SEC title game to win. Oklahoma has to sit back and hope they are dealt the right cards, but many different situations will win them the hand.

Colt Brennan and his WAC Warriors have stirred the Pacific and put themselves in a position to play in a BCS game. However, it doesn't seem entirely likely that they will get a chance to play in the BCS game.
Pros: Everyone likes an underdog. Hawaii plays in a mid-major conference and is on pace to finish undefeated, 12-0. Utah and Boise State have set the precedent for mid-majors, winning their BCS games in thrilling fashion. As both the Utes and Broncos went undefeated, analysts questioned the fairness of a system that leaves half the programs in Division I-A without any avenue to win a national title. After Ohio State's ugly finish to last season, many wondered how a fundamentally sound Boise State team would have faired against them. As the players noted, it is unfair to punish the players for the conference in which they play and the schedule which is slated. Even further, Hawaii has been as fun to watch as anyone in the nation, with Colt Brennan breaking Ty Detmer's touchdown record. With so few undefeated squads, its tough to ignore one that remains.
Cons: They are a mid-major, and the precedent has been set that no team will get to the title game without the proper strength of schedule. Even though the schedule is set years in advance, before teams are even aware of their future potential, programs must properly align their success with their schedule in order to reach the coveted game. Meanwhile, Hawaii is not out of the woods yet. Brennan, the sole offensive weapon for the Warriors, left last night's game with a serious concussion and is questionable for future games. And it couldn't come at a worse time, as Hawaii will take on Boise State and Washington to end the year.
Chances: Poor. Hawaii has a 50-50 chance of escaping unbeaten, and even so, a very slim chance of being selected by the computers because of their strength of schedule. Hawaii should be looking forward to an appearance in the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

CFBN Prediction:

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