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Sunday, December 2, 2007
Updated: December 3, 7:37 AM ET
Buckeyes or Tigers will become first two-time BCS champion

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

Ohio State is No. 1, LSU is No. 2, and Virginia Tech, Oklahoma and Georgia are just numb.

After a season unprecedented for turmoil, the poll voters agreed by a large margin that the Buckeyes and the Tigers, both of whom lost in the final weeks of the regular season, should play for the national championship.

Todd Boeckman
Todd Boeckman and the Buckeyes are headed to New Orleans.

Virginia Tech finished a surprising first in the average of the six computer rankings, and that vaulted the ACC champion into No. 3 in the final BCS standings. Oklahoma and Georgia, both of which made good cases for playing for the national championship, failed to convince the voters or the computers and rounded out the top five.

That adds up to Virginia Tech playing No. 8 Kansas in the FedEx Orange Bowl, Oklahoma playing No. 9 West Virginia in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and Georgia playing No. 10 Hawaii in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. No. 7 USC will play No. 13 Illinois in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi.

The order of the final BCS standings, though expected, left two teams happy and plenty of others disappointed. In the eight weeks of BCS standings, the top two remained the same only once.

"The brass ring was there for a lot of different people to grab," Mike Slive, Southeastern Conference commissioner and the BCS chairman this year, said Sunday night. "When they didn't, it allowed two of the early [ranked] teams to find their way back."

The game between Ohio State and LSU guarantees that the BCS will have its first two-time champion. The Buckeyes won the 2002 BCS championship, and the Tigers followed in 2003 at the Louisiana Superdome, where they enjoyed a home crowd on a supposedly neutral field. It's safe to assume that LSU will enjoy the same advantage this season.

That makes the Tigers a favorite to make history, given that no two-loss team has ever won a national championship. There have been two national champions that didn't win two of their games: Alabama in 1965 (9-1-1) and Colorado in 1990 (11-1-1). (AP voted for the champion before the bowls 1936-64 and '66-67.) In both cases, the team won the Associated Press poll. The coaches voted for Michigan State in 1965 and Georgia Tech in 1990.

The coaches who voted in the USA Today poll this year believed that a team with two blemishes is still beautiful.

LSU won its berth for a couple of reasons: the strength of the teams the Tigers beat over the course of the season and the nature of LSU's two losses, both of which came in triple overtime. If college football is to have its first two-loss national champion, at least it will be one that, as LSU coach Les Miles pointed out, remains unbeaten in 60-minute games.

By the way, Miles -- the Michigan Man who isn't going to Michigan -- went 0-2 as a player against Ohio State (1974-75), and 6-3-1 as an assistant coach (1980-81, 1987-94).

Ohio State joins Florida State (1998-2000) and Oklahoma (2000, 2003-04) as the only three-time participants in the BCS Championship Game. The Buckeyes lost last season, 41-14, to Florida.

That loss has been an anchor around Ohio State's neck for 11 months, but it didn't prevent the team from being ranked high in the preseason polls. Slive said the goal of the BCS standings is to judge teams only on their play in the current season. However, he added, the primacy of preseason rankings is "a concern that we have not been able to resolve. … They are not a result of this year."

The Buckeyes lost only to Illinois, 28-21, and rebounded to defeat archrival Michigan in the final game of the regular season. The Illini's victory proved crucial to the Big Ten. Sunday night when the BCS announced the five matchups that will conclude a season unprecedented for turmoil, it became clear the bowls made their selections with safety in mind.

Given the opportunity to match No. 7 USC against No. 5 Georgia, the Rose Bowl chose No. 13 Illinois instead to preserve its Pac-10 vs. Big Ten identity. That decision freed up the Sugar Bowl to install Georgia as its "host" team. The Dawgs will buy a lot of tickets for a game against No. 10 Hawaii, which isn't likely to bring a lot of fans.

Under BCS rules, a bowl game that loses a team to the BCS Championship Game may "protect" at-large teams from that conference. For instance, the Sugar could have invoked that rule to prevent the Rose from selecting Georgia. However, Slive said, the Rose did not seek Georgia.

The at-large teams left out by the BCS are No. 6 Missouri, No. 11 Arizona State and No. 12 Florida. The Orange Bowl chose Kansas and its 11-1 record over 11-2 Missouri despite the Tigers' defeat of the Jayhawks a week ago. Kansas, like Ohio State, benefited by not playing on Saturday, when Missouri lost to Oklahoma, 38-17. A conference may have only two BCS teams, which means that Florida -- like Missouri once Kansas got the nod -- also could not be picked.

The selection of Kansas saved the Fiesta Bowl from making a difficult decision regarding its hometown team, the 11-1 Sun Devils. After the Orange picked Kansas, that left two teams with guaranteed bids -- Big East champion West Virginia and No. 10 Hawaii -- and two bowls that needed teams. The Fiesta took the Mountaineers, and the Sugar took the Warriors.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.