Commentary

Bama's resurrection among surprises

Originally Published: November 29, 2011
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

This week's top 20:

20. Homer Simpson and "D'oh!"

I don't like calling out sports writers when they screw up, but sometimes you have no choice.

After all, what sort of cerebellum-challenged, football-ignorant tool writes this after Alabama's 9-6 overtime loss to LSU less than a month ago?

[+] EnlargeAlabama
Marvin Gentry/US PresswireA month ago, an LSU-Alabama rematch looked like a longshot.

So let's get this out of the way right now: These two teams deserve a BCS championship rematch like Kim Kardashian deserves to keep her wedding gifts.

And this:

It's going to take a lot of BCS gymnastics for Bama to jump back into the championship mix. I don't think it has enough room on the mat to nail the landing.

And finally:

Bama's players might have short memories, but the BCS computers and voters remember everything. And they'll remember this as the night when the Crimson Tide lost their argument for a rematch.

Hey, Bo Schembechler, how'd that prediction work out? Not only did every conceivable piece of the BCS equation break Bama's way, but the Tide also clearly re-established themselves as the nation's second-best team. They earned their expected place in the Jan. 9 Allstate BCS National Championship Game against No. 1 LSU.

As for the knucklehead who wrote off the University of Sabans, he deserves every "I told you so" he gets. And that knucklehead is … me.

In my defense (ranked 114th in the country), Oklahoma State, Stanford and Boise State were undefeated at the time. Bama had just missed four field goals, thrown two interceptions and scored exactly zero points on five different occasions after driving to the LSU 35-yard line or beyond. And it did all of this on its home field.

But since then, Oklahoma State lost to unranked Iowa State, Boise lost to TCU on a missed field goal, Stanford lost at home to Oregon in a rout and Oregon missed a game-tying field goal in a loss to USC. That's a lot of stuff.

Meanwhile, Bama, which had fallen down and couldn't get up, pressed its MedicAlert call button and was helped to its feet just in the Nick of time. And here it is, all but guaranteed a place in the national championship game.

19. Bama resurrection -- Part II

Here's guessing this quote from Tide wide receiver Marquis Maze will soon make its way onto the LSU locker room bulletin board.

[+] EnlargeMarquis Maze
John Reed/US PresswireMarquis Maze likes Alabama's chances in a rematch.

"We're still a national championship team," Maze said after the LSU loss. "I feel like we're still the best team in the country. Anything can happen."

And if there were a rematch?

"Yes, I think we're the best team in the country," he said. "I think if we played them again, we wouldn't lose."

Hey, now.

Bama still has its share of flaws and question marks. AJ McCarron threw three first-half touchdowns in the 42-14 beatdown of Auburn in Saturday's Iron Bowl, but nobody is comparing him to Andrew Luck. In the first meeting this season between Alabama and LSU, McCarron was 16-of-28 for 199 yards and one interception. Yechh.

Now, if all goes as expected, BCS-wise, he'll have 43 days between games to figure it out.

The same goes for Bama's kickers, who were a combined 2-of-6 in field goal attempts against LSU. For the season, Jeremy Shelley and Cade Foster are a combined 18-of-29 and just 2-of-11 from 40 yards or longer.

Oklahoma State followers will argue that Bama's schedule was suspect. Hmmm. Alabama beat Penn State, pre-Sandusky scandal. It beat Arkansas by 24 -- the same Arkansas team that was No. 3 in the BCS standings a week ago. It shut out a better-than-you-think Vandy team. It lost to LSU by three and pretty much crushed everyone else.

The Cowboys scored a gajillion points but gave up a lot of points. But they registered some very nice wins against Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor and Kansas State.

Against Iowa State, not so much.

Which leads us to …

18. An explanation

After Oklahoma State was dismissed from the national championship equation following the Cowboys' Nov. 18 upset loss to 27-point underdog Iowa State, more than a few OSU fans wrote to criticize me for what they called a lack of sensitivity.

[+] EnlargeJames Thomas
Beth Hall/US PresswireOklahoma State's perfect season ended at the hands of Iowa State.

How, they asked respectfully, could I eliminate the team from BCS title consideration, given that the university and the entire OSU community was reeling from the news of a plane crash that killed, among others, Oklahoma State's women's basketball head coach and one of his assistant coaches?

In short, where was my compassion?

It was a fair question, I suppose, much in the same way it was fair to ask how much the death of Arkansas tight end Garrett Uekman affected the Razorbacks in their 41-17 loss to LSU on Friday.

But here's the thing: I don't know how to quantify grief. Nor would I ever trivialize tragedy by trying to put a points total on its effect.

Did the tragic loss of four lives the night before Oklahoma State's game against unranked Iowa State sap the Cowboys of their emotion? Maybe. Probably. But was it the reason OSU committed five turnovers and lost in double overtime? Or why Iowa State played so well? To ask those questions seems almost offensive.

Oklahoma State's players and coaching staff grieved, then played a football game. They didn't play it well, but afterward, they made no excuses. I respected their effort and their lack of excuses.

Nor did Arkansas' players use the death of a beloved teammate as a reason for their defeat to LSU. The Razorbacks played to honor the memory of Uekman. They played with heavy hearts, but they played hard and until the last whistle.

You can judge only what happens on the field and what it says in the box score. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State and likely blew its chance at a place in the national championship game. Arkansas lost to LSU and instantly became a national title afterthought. All things considered, there are worse fates.

If I didn't acknowledge the OSU tragedy of Nov. 17, it wasn't done out of a lack of compassion. To the contrary -- it was done out of respect.

17. BMOP (Big Man On Podium)

"Definitely probably one of the worst feelings I have ever had as an athlete."
-- Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield after the Terrapins were outscored 42-0 during the final 21 minutes of their 56-41 loss to North Carolina State (courtesy of The Washington Post's Eric Prisbell). Maryland had led 41-14 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

16. BMOP runners-up

"It was kind of surreal. It was like, 'Is this really happening?'"
-- North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon after his six-touchdown performance helped produce the biggest football comeback in school history and the second-biggest in ACC history (courtesy of the Raleigh News & Observer's Chip Alexander). Earlier in the game, Glennon had been booed by the home NC State crowd.

"We're tired of being the little brothers in the state."
-- Georgia Tech linebacker Julian Burnett after the Yellow Jackets were beaten by Georgia for the 17th time in the past 21 games (courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Tim Tucker).

"We couldn't have ended our season any better. I'd rather end the season this way than a bowl game any day."
-- Kentucky senior linebacker Ronnie Sneed after the Wildcats ended a 26-game losing streak against Tennessee (courtesy of Jennifer Smith, Lexington Herald-Leader).

"It was a real bad end to a real bad season. Our worst fears were realized."
-- Tennessee coach Derek Dooley after the loss to Kentucky cost the Vols bowl eligibility (courtesy of the Knoxville News-Sentinel's Mike Strange).

"We have closed the gap more with SC."
-- UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel at last Monday's weekly news conference.

"That's a pretty strong statement to make. I think they felt disrespected."
-- USC coach Lane Kiffin, a 50-0 winner against UCLA on Saturday night, on his players' reaction to Neuheisel's earlier comments (courtesy of the Los Angeles Times' Gary Klein).

"Decisions such as this one do not come without a great deal of heartache. However, it is apparent to me that a move was necessary at this time in order to give UCLA the best chance to enjoy the success that we all desire."
-- UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, in a Monday statement announcing the dismissal of Neuheisel, effective after the Pac-12 championship game on Friday.

15. 500 words or less

First-year Stanford coach David Shaw didn't exactly break any new ground last week when he declared the BCS "flawed." We've been saying the same thing since the BCS was in diapers and eating Gerber's.

But when it's your team getting stiff-armed by the BCS standings, I guess you notice these things. So the usually reserved Shaw used the first several minutes of his news conference to pop off publicly about the BCS and the six computer programs that have a one-third say in the weekly BCS standings.

[+] EnlargeDavid Shaw
AP Photo/Paul SakumaDavid Shaw's complaints about the BCS didn't fall on deaf ears.

"All I've heard all year is the computers don't like Stanford," Shaw said. "The computers haven't programmed themselves."

Translation: Human biases -- what's important, what isn't when ranking teams -- are part of those computer programs.

Shaw couldn't understand how one-loss Virginia Tech of the ACC, playing in what he considered an inferior conference to the Pac-12, was ranked ahead of his one-loss Cardinal.

He argued that Stanford's 30-point win over Duke should mean much more than Virginia Tech's four-point win over those same Blue Devils.

He questioned how a one-loss Oklahoma State team, which lost to the unranked Cyclones, remained ahead of Stanford, which lost to then-No. 7 Oregon.

He even went metaphysical on us, asking what exactly qualifies as a "quality" win or loss, and how does it affect the standings?

"I don't get it," Shaw said. "Not saying that where we should be as opposed to where other people are. I'm just saying the explanations that I get don't make any sense."

It was a gutsy outburst by Shaw, what with then-No. 22-ranked Notre Dame coming to Stanford Stadium. But his team had his back, beating the occasionally Fighting Irish 28-14 Saturday night in the gooey, chewed-up turf that passes for a football field.

And Shaw's BCS lecture series, along with the win against Notre Dame, might have had an effect. Stanford climbed from No. 6 in last week's BCS standings to No. 4 this week. The Cardinal moved ahead of Virginia Tech but remain behind Oklahoma State.

As for the computer programs, Stanford is ranked fourth overall after being ranked ninth a week ago. But its computer rankings still vary between fourth and 10th depending on the program.

However it shakes out, Shaw has done a terrific job as a rookie head coach. Only three other head coaches (Chris Petersen, Boise; Larry Coker, Miami; Brett Bielema, Wisconsin) have won more than 11 games in their first season.

14. Shaw -- Part II

Not as impressive was Shaw's spirited defense of Luck, whose Heisman Trophy front-runner status is a bit shaky as the voting draws near. Shaw's heart was in the right place, but his logic wasn't.

"I think it's a joke," Shaw said. "I think it's an absolute joke. There is nobody in college football that is doing what Andrew Luck is doing.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesAndrew Luck is no longer a lock for the Heisman Trophy.

"Don't forget, I spent nine years in the NFL. I evaluated every single quarterback that came out in the NFL during that time and have seen all of the good ones since then. There is nobody that I've heard of that does as much at the line of scrimmage in college football. There are not that many guys in the NFL that are doing as much as Andrew is at the line of scrimmage. The guy is running the game at the line of scrimmage. He's controlling the protections. He's controlling the running game. We're calling three, four plays in the huddle, which most guys can't even think about handling, and he does that."

If they awarded the Heisman to the quarterback with the most line-of-scrimmage responsibilities, Tennessee's Peyton Manning would have won it in 1997. But that's not how it works. It isn't about who's going to make the most seamless transition to the NFL; it's about who is the most outstanding player in college football.

The Stanford coach was standing up for one of his own. That's what coaches do. Shaw was sincere and passionate about his quarterback. Good for him.

But it wasn't necessary to take a backhanded shot at USC QB Matt Barkley's long-shot candidacy by saying, "We don't have first-round picks at wide receiver."

Shaw was referring to Trojans sophomore Robert Woods and freshman Marqise Lee, who make life much easier for Barkley. And sure, Woods and Lee might eventually become NFL first-rounders. Still, it probably wasn't the savviest Heisman campaigning job I've heard. (Vote for Luck! We don't have any decent wide receivers!) After Cam Newton won the Heisman last season, do you know how many Auburn wide receivers were taken the next spring in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft?

Zero. In fact, no Auburn receiver was taken in the entire seven-round draft.

After Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won in 2008, no OU wide receiver was taken in the first or second rounds of the 2009 draft. Same thing happened after Tim Tebow won in 2007 -- no Florida wideouts drafted in the first two rounds that next spring.

Jason White won the Heisman in 2003, but Oklahoma didn't have a wide receiver drafted in the 2004 draft.

USC's Carson Palmer won it in 2002, but no Trojans receiver was selected in the 2003 draft.

Nebraska's Eric Crouch won the statuette in 2001. In the 2002 draft, the only Cornhusker selected as a wide receiver was … Eric Crouch.

I haven't decided whom I'm voting for yet. And I won't until Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Houston's Case Keenum, Boise State's Kellen Moore, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and even Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden complete their seasons Saturday.

But whoever makes it into my top three, it won't be because of the wide receiver depth chart.

13. Heisman Trophy race

Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson & Nick Saban
Kim Klement/US PresswireAfter torching Auburn, Nick Saban lobbied for Trent Richardson.

Alabama RB Trent Richardson -- If Stanford's Shaw can campaign, so can Bama's Nick Saban. And he did after his junior running back rushed for a career-high 203 yards and caught a TD pass in the Tide's whupping of Auburn. "Trent Richardson is the best football player in the country," Saban said. Auburn entered the game with the 98th-ranked rush defense and not much of a chance against Bama's people movers up front. But according to Bama's figures, Richardson has faced five top-20 defenses and seven top-50 defenses. The average rank of the defenses he's faced all season: 41.4 -- in the upper third of that category.

Houston QB Case Keenum -- Poor Tulsa has faced Keenum, Boise's Kellen Moore, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden. But Keenum passed for more yards (457) against the Golden Hurricane than any of them and had as many TD passes (five) as Moore and Jones combined. Yes, he leads the nation in passing yardage, TD passes and total touchdowns, but the number that amazes is this one: 43 TD passes and only three interceptions. He hasn't thrown a pick in his past 197 attempts. And it's not like the Houston coaching staff keeps him out there forever. He's finished only three of the Cougars' 12 games this season.

Stanford QB Andrew Luck -- I have two daughters. One just got married; the other is dating an L.A.-area carpenter. But if she wanted to dump the carpenter for Luck, I'd understand. He, like all these guys on the short list, are keepers. (Not that the carpenter isn't, by the way.) I haven't heard any of them -- Luck, Keenum, Richardson, RGIII, Barkley, Montee Ball, etc. -- do anything but constantly credit their teammates for whatever success they've experienced. Best of all, they sound like they mean it. Luck is the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to deflecting praise. He's so modest that you want to see whether his humility has an expiration date. By all accounts, it doesn't. (I'm guessing that's why there's no Stanford-orchestrated email Heisman campaign on his behalf -- because that's not Luck's style.) His play in the win against Notre Dame on a slop field against a quality opponent was impressive. His passing numbers weren't eye-popping, but his four TD passes helped set school career (80) and single-season (35) records.

Keep a coat and tie handy:

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III -- He accounted for three touchdowns against Texas Tech before missing the second half with an apparent concussion. On a night when Baylor scored 66 points, it would have been fun (or terrifying, if you're Tech) to see what sort of numbers RGIII would have put up.

USC QB Matt Barkley -- Nobody is closing faster than Barkley. In his past six games he's done a Keenum imitation (23 touchdowns, two interceptions, 70 percent completion rate). Against UCLA, he tied a school record with six touchdown throws and completed 35 of 42 attempts for 423 yards and no interceptions. If I'm the Heisman Trophy folks, I start thinking about inviting at least five guys to New York.

Wisconsin RB Montee Ball -- And the touchdowns just keep on coming. So make it six chairs in New York.

Boise State QB Kellen Moore -- What the heck, make it seven.

Thanks for stopping by the booth:

Oklahoma QB Landry Jones -- A class act, just like OSU's Brandon Weeden, K-State's Collin Klein and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. And by the way, I wouldn't be surprised if Jones returns next year in an OU uni.

The Heisman ghost of Charles Woodson:

Boston College LB Luke Kuechly -- He averaged 16 tackles a game this season.

LSU DB Tyrann Mathieu -- A little too chippy sometimes but an absolute beast of a playmaker.

12. The picks

LSU over Georgia, Oklahoma State over Oklahoma, Virginia Tech over Clemson, Boise State over New Mexico, Houston over Southern Miss, Oregon over UCLA, Kansas State over Iowa State, Wisconsin over Michigan State, Baylor over Texas, TCU over UNLV, West Virginia over South Florida, Northern Illinois over Ohio.

(Last week: 16-1. Notre Dame cost me the perfecto.)

11. 250 words or less

Recruits know cool when they see it. They can't explain it; they just feel it. And in the fickle world of recruiting, that sense of cool can be the difference between a top-100 player choosing one program over another.

This isn't scientific or written in ink, but a handful of programs seem to have that aura of coolness or are in the process of acquiring that vibe.

I talked to several recruiting experts who offered their thoughts on the emerging and established programs that have that buzz. Remember, cool doesn't guarantee a thing.

USC -- With UCLA neutered, the Trojans rule the Southland. NCAA sanctions have been painful but not crippling.

[+] EnlargeMike London
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIMike London has made Virginia a trendy pick for recruits.

Virginia -- Recruits are talking about coach Mike London and a third consecutive strong UVa recruiting class.

Vanderbilt -- Vandy? The one in Nashville? Yes, that's the place. Credit first-year head coach James Franklin.

Oregon -- You wouldn't think uniforms could be a difference-maker. But they are.

South Carolina -- The Head Ball Coach is having fun again.

Clemson -- The Tigers have gone in the late-season tank, but their recruiting efforts haven't.

Stanford -- The power of Luck, a drop-dead gorgeous campus and world-class everything.

Texas Tech -- With the exception of the OU upset, it's been a season to forget. But off the field, Tommy Tuberville's program is quietly attracting solid players.

Michigan -- It was only a matter of time.

TCU -- Who knew purple and weird-looking frogs could be so cool? But Gary Patterson's program is built for the long run.

10. BMOS (Big Man On Sideline)

Tom O'Brien, North Carolina State
Let's see: NC State was trailing Maryland 34-14 at halftime and 41-14 late in the third quarter. Then it scored six consecutive touchdowns to cap one of the great comebacks anywhere. Now that's a halftime adjustment. The Wolfpack went from a 2-3 start (and those wins were against Liberty and South Alabama) to a 7-5 finish and a bowl. They had the miracle comeback Saturday and crushed Clemson the week before that.

9. BMOS runners-up

Les Miles, LSU; Kevin Sumlin, Houston.
Congratulations, gentlemen. You coach the only two teams with perfect regular-season records.

Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic
In his final season and in his next-to-last game, Schnellenberger's FAU team ended an 0-10 streak with a win over Alabama-Birmingham. The next day, UAB dismissed head coach Neil Callaway.

8. Mailbag

You write; the BMOC reads.

"Wow … great article on the Auburn/Bama game. Who wrote it? Saban and you just signed off on it?
"I agree, Alabama is one of the two, if not the best, teams in college football. However, THEY were NOT the best when they played LSU … IN Tuscaloosa … FAVORED to win … in front of 100,000 fans probably 90,000 pulling for them.
DESERVE? Deserve a rematch? What does DESERVE has to do with it? Does LSU DESERVE to have to beat them twice? You and the Bama Nation sound like a cocky 9-year old that should have won something that he didn't and starts shouting, `DO OVER, DO OVER!'
"And what if there was a rematch and Bama won. Does that make them national champions, or should there be a best two out of three? Yes, Bama is great, but in college football, until a playoff comes along, you should get ONE shot to beat someone."
-- Jerry Pitts

I'm afraid I can't respond to your email until Coach Nick approves it.

"Of course the BCS is already laughable and functions largely as a beauty contest. However, if Georgia managed to beat LSU, Georgia would, in fact, be the SEC champion. There is no logical argument to deny a conference champion from moving forward in postseason play because of a subjective notion that other teams in the conference are better. To quote the old adage: that's why they play the games!
"Furthermore, if Georgia did become the SEC rep, it would seem like one-loss Boise State -- having beaten Georgia in the regular season -- would have to be considered as an opponent. Talk about a doomsday scenario for the BCS!
"I recognize the fantasy in all of this and understand it will not happen. However it needs to be manipulated and explained, we will be left to watch a rematch of one of the least exciting games of the year between two excellent teams without a competent quarterback. I won't likely watch that (fool me once …), but I will monitor LSU-Georgia and hope against hope that it will reveal yet another flaw in the BCS."
-- David Goldberg

I called Boise State. They want to make you an honorary letterman.

"Alabama lost at home in a 'playoff game.' It's one-and-done.
"If LSU beats them in New Orleans by 10-14 points, or more, the entire country will call the game a fraud. Put Va Tech or Oklahoma State in the game, particularly if one or both win convincingly next week. That is what 48-49 states want to see."
-- Mike Lloyd

LSU won't call it a fraud.

"Alabama's reason for playing the national championship is a loss to LSU?????????????"
--Sam

Well, that, the BCS standings and Oklahoma State's loss to Iowa State.

7. Urban renewal

Well, we could see this one coming all the way from Columbus.

Urban Meyer and Ohio State were meant for each other like a tuba dot on top of an I. Remember those ESPN segments with Meyer and Todd McShay as they broke down game film at Meyer's house? Don't know if you noticed, but there was a portrait of legendary Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes in the background of the game room.

Meyer didn't play at Ohio State, but he's an Ohio guy. He was born and raised in Ohio, played at Cincinnati, was a grad assistant at Ohio State and got his master's degree at Ohio State. He knows what to order at The Varsity, can recite "Carmen Ohio" and won't need a Garmin to get around the Columbus campus.

But if I were Ohio State, here's what would make me nervous about Meyer: What's to stop him for burning out again?

It could happen. It has happened in the past.

Those chest pains in 2009 followed by a one-day panic retirement from his gig at Florida didn't occur because Meyer was spending too much time sipping piña coladas at the pool. He was stressed to the max.

His decision to resign at Florida a season ago wasn't because he had run out of trophy space. He was fried -- and it showed. Imagine that: 46 years old and a coaching burnout.

Meyer said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He wanted to watch his daughters play sports. And he did.

But did anybody really think Meyer would spend the rest of his life at volleyball games? And so much for those late-April tweets by one his daughters insisting that Meyer wasn't going to Ohio State.

Meyer was always on a trajectory to return to coaching. The ESPN gig was a nice respite from the grind of running a program, but it was never going to be a career move.

And as soon as the Tattoogate/Jim Tressel cover-up mushroom cloud exploded over the Ohio State program, Meyer's name was mentioned almost instantaneously. Made sense -- the guy has won football games and national championships, has Ohio State ties and, best of all, was available.

But given his history during the final two seasons at Florida, was this really the best move for Meyer?

6. Urban renewal -- Part II

Meyer has never been allergic to hard work. He put in monster hours as head coach at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. It's what helped make him great. It's what helped push him to the brink of exhaustion.

[+] EnlargeUrban Meyer
Andrew Weber/US PresswireIf Urban Meyer can find balance, he may find success long-term success at Ohio State.

On the intensity level, Ohio State is Florida times two. They don't write books and do documentaries on the Florida-Florida State rivalry. They do with Ohio State and Michigan. Former Buckeyes coach John Cooper can tell you all about the pressures of that rivalry.

If I had to name the five most pressure-packed coaching gigs in college football, the list would feature Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan, Alabama and Ohio State. This is the world Meyer returns to. And he'll do so at a Buckeyes program that has been wounded from within.

The temptation will be for Meyer to dive into the deep water without an oxygen tank. Try to do everything himself. Impose his will. Return to the days of 100-hour work weeks.

And if he does, he'll fail. Or, at the very least, he won't last.

There was another famous coach who won a pair of national championships (as Meyer had) and built a dynasty (as Meyer had). Then he suffered self-inflicted mental exhaustion and had to step away from the game as his mind and body healed from seasons of overwork.

He had a choice to make: return a changed man or fall into the same, self-destructive work habits.

The coach was Duke's Mike Krzyzewski.

Krzyzewski walked away from his program 12 games into the 1994-95 season. He came back the next year with a different perspective, more balance in his life and a new personal work model. Since then, he's won two more national titles and most recently became the winningest coach in college basketball Division I history.

Meyer has a similar choice. He can be the coaching nut job of those earlier years and pay the price for it again. Or he can learn from Krzyzewski's example and from his own experiences.

Under normal circumstances, this Ohio State-Meyer marriage should last happily ever after. These two were made for each other.

But it won't … it can't, unless Meyer is a different kind of coach from the one who left Florida a year ago.

5. If there were a playoff

Oh, to dream …

Shoulder pad bracket:
LSU vs. Arkansas (Razorbacks get in because of USC's ineligibility.)
Houston vs. Virginia Tech

Chin strap bracket:
Alabama vs. Boise State
Stanford vs. Oklahoma State

4. BMOC player of the week

North Carolina State quarterback Mike Glennon
I labored over this choice for, oh, a nanosecond. If you lead your team to one of the great comebacks in college football history, you're going to get the BMOC love.

3. POTW runners-up

Kentucky "quarterback" Matt Roark
Injuries forced UK coach Joker Phillips to switch the Wildcats' second-leading receiver to quarterback for the game against Tennessee -- and somehow keep it a secret during the entire week of preparation. The all-in gamble flummoxed the Vols' defense as Roark rushed for 124 yards and completed 4 of 6 passes for a grand total of 15 yards.

Not only did UK win, but it also broke a 26-game losing streak to the Vols. With a wide receiver at quarterback. Incredible.

"He was all we had," Phillips told the Nashville Tennessean.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley
Six touchdown passes in the 50-0 win over UCLA. No wonder the USC crowd was chanting, "One more year!"

2. Two-liners

So much for patience. Kansas' Turner Gill, Akron's Rob Ianello and Memphis' Larry Porter were each fired after just two seasons. … Washington Post columnist John Feinstein called for first-year Maryland coach Randy Edsall's firing after the Terrapins blew a 41-14 late-third-quarter lead against NC State, lost the game and finished the season 2-10. Under Armour CEO and major Maryland booster Kevin Plank publicly supported Edsall during an early-November radio appearance on Baltimore's 105.7 The Fan, but that was before the Terrapins lost their next four games, including the collapse for the ages against the Wolfpack. … By the way, I'm guessing Maryland's Kevin Anderson, who fired Ralph Friedgen (10-2 in 2010) to hire Edsall, isn't going to win any athletic director of the year awards. There were no sellouts this year at Byrd Stadium, and attendance averaged only about 3,000 more than last season. … Luke Fickell might have been overmatched as a first-time head coach (who wouldn't, given the circumstances at Ohio State?), but the career Buckeye handled the situation with grace and dignity. He was put in a nearly impossible situation but left the program in better shape than when he got it. … With Arizona State, UCLA, Illinois and Penn State also looking for new head coaches, you wonder how long Vandy can keep Franklin and Houston can keep Kevin Sumlin. They have to be on somebody's wish list, right? … The best college coaching job in America? Les Miles has it at LSU -- no real competition within the state, lots of great in-state talent, access to Texas, Alabama and Mississippi talent bases, pays great, SEC. … After beating UCLA, USC players wore T-shirts that read, "2011 South Division Champions." The Pac-12 championship wishes it were true (USC is ineligible because of NCAA sanctions), but instead it's stuck with the 6-6 Bruins and a lame duck coach. … I keep hearing that Penn State should decline a bowl invitation because of the circumstances involving the sex abuse scandal. Makes perfect sense, except for the part where you punish Penn State's players for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

1. The BMOC top 10

10. Oregon
The Ducks are a 31-point favorite against UCLA in the first Pac-12 championship. If U of O would sit LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and Darron Thomas, the Ducks would be 30-point favorites.

9. Arkansas
You had to love that Bobby Petrino fly-by postgame handshake with LSU's Miles. The Razorbacks lost to Bama and LSU by a combined 79-31 score this season.

8. Oklahoma State
I wanted to believe; I really did. But it's hard to shake that Iowa State loss. Saturday's game against OU becomes a huge opportunity to make a BCS statement.

7. Boise State
If not for a missed field goal against TCU …

[+] EnlargeCase Keenum
Troy Taormina/US PresswireCase Keenum and Houston are one of two undefeated teams left.

6. Virginia Tech
The Hokies wanted respect, and they got it after their 38-0 win over Virginia. Now we'll see whether they can keep it with a game against Clemson in Saturday's ACC championship.

5. Houston More than just a pretty offense.

4. Stanford
Where would it be without Luck? Not No. 4 in this poll.

3. USC
Decision time for Barkley: NFL or Luck-like return?

2. Alabama
Bama players say they're one of the two best teams in the country. They likely will get a rare second chance to prove it Jan. 9.

1. LSU
NFL considers expansion. LSU atop league wish list.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter