Saturday night is why college football’s regular season counts. Why it’s as brilliant as the postseason is maddening. Why, on a weekend when so little was supposed to happen, so much did, and sent an already-turbulent season through an extra spin cycle.
Baylor’s 52-24 smashing of BCS No. 1 Kansas State and Stanford’s 17-14 upset of No. 2 Oregon sends ripple effects all the way to Nebraska. Let’s break down what we know after Saturday:
>> The Rose Bowl is now almost certainly a matchup of Big Ten champ vs. Pac-12 champ. And I write “almost certainly” because the Ducks may retain some outside shot at the BCS National Championship if the right combination of teams lose in front of them, but let’s face it: The Big Ten champ — which will be Michigan, Nebraska or Wisconsin — is likely to face Oregon, Stanford or UCLA.
UCLA has won the Pac-12 South and will play for the Pac-12 title.
Stanford holds the tiebreaker in the North, but plays at UCLA Saturday.
Oregon plays at Oregon State, which can’t win the Division (Stanford holds the tiebreaker over the Beavers), but can spoil things even more for the Ducks.
If Stanford beats UCLA Saturday, the Bruins then travel to Palo Alto for the Pac 12 title game. If UCLA beats Stanford and Oregon wins, then the Ducks, by virtue of the better conference record, host the Bruins. If UCLA beats Stanford and Oregon loses, then the Cardinal heads back to the Rose Bowl to play Bruins again one week later.
There’s a slight chance that Oregon slides back into the national title game picture, but that’ll take Notre Dame losing OR Alabama or Georgia losing before the SEC title game PLUS Florida losing to Florida State. And FSU may have a better case for a national title berth, should it beat the Gators and win the ACC Championship, then Oregon would.
>> A Big Ten team has a slim chance at the Associated Press national title. Really? Sure, really. Ohio State can finish 12-0 with a win over Michigan and wait for the Fighting Irish to lose. If USC finds a way to beat ND, the Buckeyes and coach Urban Meyer certainly won’t turn down any love for a split vote.
Would OSU deserve consideration for No. 1? Yes, if there aren’t any undefeated teams but Ohio State remaining. Will the Buckeyes get it? Probably not, because probation removes the intellectual pressure of media voters to consider Ohio State’s full body of work instead of painting the Big Ten with a broad paintbrush.
>> The Big 12 showed its full hand. Yes, this doesn’t directly affect the Big Ten, but it does give Nebraska a little useful leverage in recruiting battles for the future. If a kid wants to play good defense, and he wants to stay in the Midwest, he’s going to look more closely at the Big Ten than he is the Big 12, where no defense (not Oklahoma’s) is safe from an onslaught of basketball on grass and officiating that seems to allow offensive holding to an intriguing degree.