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Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Updated: November 2, 12:05 PM ET
Just For Argument's Sake...

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

From nagging questions to soapbox moments to Heisman hype, here's a look at the hottest topics in college football.

3 Nagging Questions | Soapbox Moment | Whatever Happened To ... | Introducing
Just A Thought | How To | Heisman Hype | Power 16 | 3 Games Worth TiVo-ing

1. Will West Virginia and Louisville live up to expectations?
It's always fun when a game circled since the spring arrives bigger even than its buildup. It was easy to assume that either West Virginia or Louisville would reach Thursday night undefeated. This is bigger than that. Both are undefeated, and BCS contention is at stake. West Virginia is No. 3 in the BCS standings. Louisville is No. 5.
Pat White
Jeff Fishbein/WireImage.com
Pat White and the Mountaineers have won 14 straight.

West Virginia's 14-game winning streak is a school record and second to Ohio State's 16 straight among I-A schools. The Mountaineers' seven victories this season have come by no fewer than 17 points. The Cardinals won their first five games by no fewer than 18 points but have had more trouble in the last two games, beating Cincinnati (23-17) and Syracuse (28-13) in more competitive games.

It's kind of been that way all season. West Virginia, as the higher ranked of the two, has taken more bullets for the Big East and has played more games in the spotlight. That's an advantage for Louisville, as will be the "blackout" crowd that will pack Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on Thursday night.

Louisville loves a party, and with the Breeder's Cup at Churchill Downs this week, there will be a festive air in the stadium.

West Virginia has proved that it can move the ball on anyone. The Mountaineers have scored at least 37 points in six of their seven victories. No defense has solved quarterback Pat White's ability as a runner in the Mountaineers' spread offense. Louisville is eighth in the nation in rushing defense (74.9 yards per game) and has allowed a total of two touchdowns on the ground this season.

White had that many in the third quarter against Syracuse. Mountaineers tailback Steve Slaton had that many in the first quarter against Maryland. He already has rushed for nine this season, along with 1,059 yards.
Brian Brohm
Alan H. Schwartz/WireImage.com
Brian Brohm has thrown for 1,269 yards in 2006.

Louisville has the better defense and has plenty of talent on offense, too. Brian Brohm has taken over the offense after missing four games because of injury. If he's right, the Cardinals will be able to move the ball on the Mountaineers.

"If you could protect and you can throw, then you have a chance to move the ball and score some points against West Virginia," UConn coach Randy Edsall said Monday. "That's what I see. One of Louisville's strength is quarterback Brian Brohm and those receivers."

Whether it's coincidence or not, the offense isn't running as smoothly since Brohm put Hunter Cantwell back on the bench. The Cardinals have begun coughing up the ball at an alarming rate: three turnovers in each of the last two games. Louisville has lost nine fumbles, tied for last in the Big East, and is minus-three in turnover margin.

West Virginia has been behind for a total of one minute, 47 seconds this season. But don't expect the Mountaineers to panic if they fall behind. They can always hearken to a year ago, when they spotted Louisville a 17-0 lead and came back to win 46-44 in three overtimes.

We should only be so lucky to get that kind of game Thursday night.

2. Could Ohio State be the first team ever to beat three No. 2s to win the national championship?
Not only would the Buckeyes be the first No. 1 to win three games against No. 2s, there have never been three 1 vs. 2 games in one season in the 70 years of the Associated Press poll. In fact, Ohio State's 24-7 defeat of Texas on Sept. 9 was the first regular-season game between the two highest ranked teams in 10 years.

Only twice before, in 1943 and 1945, has a regular-season No. 1 played two No. 2 teams. In 1943, Notre Dame beat Michigan 35-12 and Iowa Pre-Flight 14-13. In 1945, Army beat Notre Dame 48-0 and three weeks later beat Navy 32-13.

Regular-season 1 vs. 2 games rarely took place before the late 1980s. After Army and Notre Dame played their famous 0-0 tie in 1946, No. 1 didn't play No. 2 again until 1963, when Texas beat Oklahoma 28-7.

In 1985, however, college football fans began to get lucky. In seven of the next nine seasons, No. 1 played No. 2. After second-ranked Notre Dame upset top-ranked Florida State 31-24 in 1993, there would be only one such game in the next 12 years, the Seminoles' 24-21 upset of Florida in 1996.

What happened to 1s vs. 2s? Simple: In 1992, the limit on I-A scholarships dropped to 85. The talent spread among more teams. That's why eight Big Ten teams have won at least a share of the conference championship in the last seven seasons, why in the last 10 years no SEC team has won more than two league championships.

All of which is to say that college football fans are lucky this season. Enjoy the regular-season games between No. 1 and No. 2. You never know when they'll come around again.

3. Who gets the North Carolina job?
North Carolina Butch Davis wants to return from coaching exile, but his coaching friends say he is stalling North Carolina to see what other jobs (Miami? Dallas Cowboys?) may come open. It sounds as if athletic director Dick Baddour will have to do some selling.

If Baddour can't (or decides not to) make that sale, think in terms of a proven I-A head coach. He has hired two coaches in a row, Carl Torbush and John Bunting, who had little or no I-A head coaching experience, and the Tar Heels are 20 games under .500 over nine seasons.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez did his best on the Big East media call Monday not to tamp down speculation regarding him and the Tar Heels. Rodriguez expects to renegotiate with West Virginia after this season, and he may be the most popular man in the state, so why would he leave? Not that he might have an ulterior motive or anything, but Rodriguez's response Monday diverted attention away from his team in the final days leading up to its showdown Thursday night at Louisville.

Keep an eye on Boston College coach Tom O'Brien, who has clinched his eighth consecutive winning season in Chestnut Hill. O'Brien, who coached as an assistant at Virginia for 15 years, would have an easier time of recruiting ACC-type speed down south.

Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe took his name out of consideration Monday and Navy coach Paul Johnson said he isn't interested, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

If North Carolina looks at assistant coaches: Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow coached up the road from Chapel Hill in 2000 as offensive coordinator at NC State. The rest is USC history.

Chow, 60, was a finalist for the Stanford job after the 2004 season but lost out to Walt Harris. Chow left USC in the spring of 2005 for the Titans. The speculation regarding Titans head coach Jeff Fisher's firing may slow down now that Tennessee followed an 0-5 start with two victories.

"I'm not going to chase anybody," Chow said of any college opening. "I don't mind the job I have. I work for a great guy, the best guy I've ever worked for."

LSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik also have been mentioned as candidates. Chizik has the advantage of having his current boss, former Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown, as an advocate. Brown is close to Chuck Neinas, the consultant serving as a headhunter for North Carolina.