I guess there is a cure for Scarlet Fever. Kudos to Cincy for laying the whoopin', but it was clear that the Bearcats were coached to cheat. Every time Teel aired it out, the Cincy DB just murdered the receiver. The refs flagged 'em each time, but the 15-yard penalty was a mere fraction of the likely gain. There is no defensible reason for the differing punishment for interference in college versus the pros. I'm not saying the outcome definitely would have been different, but it just felt dirty for Cincy to benefit from repeated illegal play. That rule has got to be changed. Nevertheless, Rutgers will still go to the BCS if they win out, and they'll be in the same place they probably would have been if they hadn't lost, which I would guess is the Orange Bowl. Although it hurts to lose a chance at an undefeated season, the real loser in the Rutgers-Cincinnati game was West Virginia, because if the 'Neers could have faced an undefeated Rutgers and beaten them, the Big East title would have gone to WVU, since the three-way tiebreaker is BCS rank. Now, Louisville would have to lose again for West Virginia to win the Big East. WVU's better hope at the BCS is an at-large bid. More on that below.
Game, set, rematch? In addition to the points raised by LD below, this AP article brings up a few other interesting issues. For instance, the writer seems to imply that one way or another, we are going to see a Michigan rematch, either in the title game or against ND in the Rose. ESPN's Mark Schlabach disagrees, inexplicably predicting that the Rose Bowl committee will avoid the rematch and take ...Oklahoma! Um, the Rose gets first pick because the Big Ten Champ is in the NCG, and if USC also goes to the big one, the Rose gets the second pick as well. OU is currently ranked #15 in the BCS, so if the season ended today, they would be ineligible to be chosen for a BCS game. The Sooners might sneak across that Top-14 eligibility threshold with another Rutgers loss, but even so, there will likely be 7 non-tied-in teams ranked higher than OU for the Rose to choose from. With all these options, I can't say a rematch is inevitable, but I think a UM-ND Part II is likely since dollars talk and people would tune in to see if Weis and Quinn could avenge their early-season embarassment. Still, if I have to see a rematch, I would vastly prefer to see UM-OSU Part II. In fact, after watching OSU-UM Part I and Rutgers' collapse, I'm actually in favor of 60 more minutes of Blue against Buckeye. (And yes, I'll use that crowbar to extract my own head from my ass.)
A Rose grows in the desert. I find it interesting that this year the BCS has created a controversy where there would not have been one in the traditional bowl system. These days it's easy to forget the purpose of the BCS and its predecessor agreements was to relax the traditional bowl-conference ties so that the two best teams could face off in the postseason and prevent split titles. Last year, the system did exactly what it was set up to do. This year's probable matchup would have happened anyway under the old system, just at a different stadium. That is, if this year had been played under the pre-BCS/Bowl Coalition/Bowl Alliance system, we would have had Ohio State against USC (the Harris and Coaches Polls' current consensus #1 and #2) in the Rose Bowl. Would anyone have said back then that Michigan deserved to displace the Pac-10 champ to get another shot at its rival? The only factor driving a possible rematch for the title is the computers.
Forget #2. Who's #10?
I saw a story on Scout.com today called "Who's #2? Who Cares?" I would have linked to it, but I can't find it now, and I think the puppeteers at Fox (which controls Scout.com) must have taken it down since it minimized the hype of the January 8 game they paid so much for.[It appears this article still exists, although I still can't get to it from the Scout.com frontpage or search function, like I did originally.] The writer argued that Ohio State should not have to play another game, since no other team is a clear #2. He said something like "each team lost its right to gripe when it lost a game." LD's Lebowski Standings and I agree with that statement, but then less than a breath later, the writer dismissed Boise State without explanation. He also pointed to Buckeye wins against two #2s, and said that no team should have to do more than that. If Ohio State has earned the right to not play a difficult opponent, let 'em play Boise. The writer scoffed at the smurfturfers, but really, the Broncos are the only other unblemished team, and if they were able to pull the upset, who wouldn't call them champions?
Anyway, my heading isn't about who'll be ranked #10 at the end, but who gets the 10th spot in a BCS game. That AP article made this cliffhanger statement with no follow-up analysis:
...it looks like only one of the four at-large bids is still in play [after Michigan, ND, and Boise have the first three all but wrapped up].
The article balks at discussing who may get the last invite, and that's probably because it's really hard to tell at this point. When it's all said and done, the team with probably the most deserving resume will be Wisconsin, who is already 11-1, with the only loss to Michigan, but they're frozen out because no conference can have 3 BCS teams. After that, it's probably a toss up between the Big East and the SEC as to who gets the lucrative double-invitation to the BCS (but again, Schlabach amazingly thinks it'll be the Big XII). The loser of the SEC Championship will have a good argument, unless Arkansas loses to both LSU and UF, or UF loses to both FSU and Arkansas. But the Big East also will have a strong bid for that last spot.
If Louisville and WVU win out, with WVU's final win coming against Rutgers, Louisville gets the automatic bid as the Big East Champ, owning the head-to-head tiebreaker in a two-way race with WVU. If that happens, current BCS #7 WVU will likely be in the top 5 of the final BCS rankings, with the losers of both USC-ND and UF-Arkansas likely falling behind the Mountaineers. With the Big East earning more respect this year, the selection committee should take a one-loss WVU over a lower-ranked SEC runner up. On the other hand, if Rutgers beats WVU, Rutgers would win the Big East, owning the head-to-head against Louisville, but the one-loss Cardinals may still get the at-large bid over the SECCG loser who will have at least two losses. It wasn't that long ago when everybody had Louisville in the NCG, and they were only 3 points short.
One interesting thing is that if both UF and Arkansas make it to the SECCG with just one loss each, from a strictly financial standpoint, Florida should be rooting against Florida. That is, between a two-loss Florida or a two-loss Arkansas, Florida would have a better chance at being the final at-large pick over a one-loss Big East team, so that the SEC would split 2 portions of BCS money. On the other hand, if Arkansas loses to UF, West Virginia (or even Louisville if Rutgers wins the Big East) would probably be a more attractive pick than the Hogs, and the Big East would get to divvy up the two purses.
Scout.com predicts that after USC jumps Michigan, the Rose Bowl committee would eschew the ND-Michigan rematch, and overlook a higher ranked, one-loss WVU to take a two-loss Florida. I think that Meyer's current premature bitching, particularly since UF benefited from a rematch in the 1996-97 bowl season, is going to come back to bite him in the ass--twice--against both the Noles and the Hogs, and the Gators will be on the outside looking in.
My predictions for the BCS matchups:
Fiesta: Texas v. Boise State
Orange: Georgia Tech v. Louisville
Sugar: Arkansas v. Notre Dame
Rose: Michigan v. West Virginia
NCG: Ohio State v. Southern California
As for the Dawgs, chicken nuggets are falling from the sky!!!