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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Updated: November 19, 12:20 AM ET
Where's the return counter?

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

I want my money back.

It is the third week in November -- the traditional beginning of rivalry season -- and the best game is No. 11 Oregon at unranked Arizona.

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow's season for the Gators pales in comparison to his past work.

Ohio State versus Michigan? Three years ago, the so-called best rivalry in college football gave us No. 1 vs. No. 2, the last such regular-season game. This year, the Wolverines have lost six consecutive Big Ten games and hope that an upset of the No. 10 Buckeyes will get them into the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

It is the third week in November. No. 1 Florida is playing Florida International, No. 2 Alabama is playing Chattanooga, an FCS school, and what was the Southeastern Conference thinking when it cooked this up?

It would be one thing if this were a rare occurrence. But college football has gone vegan on us. More weeks than not, the schedule included no meat. We've gotten one game a week featuring two Top-25 teams, maybe two.

I want my money back.

I'm having this dream in which the new BCS executive director is not Bill Hancock but Bernie Madoff. The college football season is four weeks from concluding, and I'm still waiting to see the returns it promised me in August.

The preseason rankings? No. 3 Oklahoma is 6-4 and looks good only in comparison to No. 4 USC.

Penn State, the preseason No. 9, lost to the only two good teams it played. And lost both at home. By more than 10 points.

The best player in college football threw 14 passes before he got helped off the field. Sooner quarterback Sam Bradford's attempt to win a second consecutive Heisman didn't make it out of the first half of the Sooners' first game.

Tim Tebow is leading No. 1 Florida toward a second consecutive national championship and third in four years. Yet the Gators' offense too often resembles a '75 Corolla with a balky clutch. Tebow is having a good season until you compare it to his previous two.

If this were the Oscars, the Florida senior quarterback would win the Irving Thalberg Award, the statuette given for career achievement. Until I see Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin calling the game in Pasadena on Jan. 7, this isn't the Oscars.

Texas quarterback Colt McCoy has been playing as predicted -- since Oct. 24. The identity of the player wearing the burnt orange No. 12 prior to that date is unknown. Not that McCoy didn't play like himself for half the season, but he resembled less Colt than he did Buccaneer or Raider.

None of this is to say that the Heisman candidates who have risen in their stead are not good players. Most of them play this position referred to as "running back." Kids, ask your fathers. They remember when "running backs" won the Heisman every year. It was back when there were such things as '75 Corollas. And clutches.

So I want my money back.

The Big Ten champion lost to Purdue.

Kansas State, 6-5, with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette and a 66-14 loss to Texas Tech, is one victory away from the Big 12 North championship. And one loss away from staying home, which is what you get when you schedule two FCS opponents.

Kansas State
Kansas State, a team that lost by 52 to Texas Tech, is two wins away from a BCS bowl game.

Stanford, the hottest team in college football, lost to Wake Forest.

The hottest team in college football this decade has lost two out of its past three games by a combined score of 102-41. USC's sudden onset of futility brings to mind the late Paul Harvey's line in 1981 after the best golfer in the world began the British Open with an 83.

"All my life I wanted to play golf like Jack Nicklaus," Harvey said, "and now I do."

It could be that Oregon and Stanford have risen to the standard that USC maintained in the Pac-10 through nearly the entire decade. Or it could be that the Trojans fell so far so fast that the Ducks and the Cardinal are merely very good teams who look taller beside a fallen giant.

Notre Dame is in the throes of yet another coaching drama. It used to be that the Fighting Irish could be good for a national championship or a Heisman Trophy every few years. Since Lou Holtz retired in 1996, Notre Dame hasn't strayed too far from 7-5.

There are four weeks remaining in the regular season -- don't forget, Army-Navy moved to Dec. 12 -- and 34 bowl games. A voice inside counsels, "Patience."

It will be great to see Texas say goodbye to McCoy in his last home game on Saturday, and see the denizens of the Swamp do the same to Tebow the following Saturday.

There's nothing that a classic game between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama couldn't cure. The two of them are a Crimson Tide victory in the Iron Bowl away from the first meeting of 8-0 division champions in the 18 seasons since the Southeastern Conference expanded.

There's nothing that a BCS Championship Game featuring either Florida-Texas or Alabama-Texas could not cure. And if one of those three takes to bed with a bad case of upset, seeing TCU, Cincinnati, Boise State or Georgia Tech in the title game would go a long way toward salvaging the season.

If the BCS Championship Game doesn't happen, seeing the Horned Frogs, Bearcats and/or the Broncos go 13-0 in a BCS bowl would be nice, too. Ditto for Temple and SMU playing in a bowl game.

All of those games together may be enough to make me feel as though I have gotten my money's worth. As of now, I feel like a coach who has been outschemed.

By a coach named Ponzi.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN3.com.