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College Football Thursday: Rooting for Chaos
By Matt Horkman

People want chaos. Sometimes they get it. Sometimes they don’t. This is especially true regarding the BCS system. We go through the same story each year. About a half-dozen teams start to look unstoppable, making many college football fans root for several teams to all finish with the same record.

Wouldn’t it be ironic for the final BCS season to end with just that? It’s a narrative beginning to develop among college football enthusiasts, thanks to the schedules of Alabama, Clemson, Louisville, Ohio State and Oregon. In many ways, such developments would be somewhat poetic.

It would also be chaos.

Of those teams, the least likely to run the table is Clemson. The Tigers have three remaining games against current ranked opponents. None bigger than their October 19 tilt against Florida State. The winner will likely represent the ACC Atlantic division in the conference championship game. In addition, the Tigers face a trap game the following week at Maryland. They also closeout the regular-season on the road against instate rival South Carolina. Both Florida State and South Carolina beat Clemson in 2012.

While it’s unlikely Clemson goes unbeaten, last Saturday’s big win over Wisconsin has many projecting Ohio State to run the table. In fact, the Buckeyes actually went 12-0 in 2012, but were ineligible for the BCS championship because of a postseason ban. 

It’s a new year, though, and the Buckeyes are contenders with an easy schedule. Besides a potential tough opponent in the Big Ten championship, Ohio State has only three ranked teams on their schedule. The Badgers were their first -- and perhaps toughest -- test. They’ll also play archrival Michigan later in the year and they have a sneaky-good game against Northwestern this week. The Buckeyes are 17-0 under Urban Meyer, though history suggests they’ll receive a challenge or two (more on that below) sometime during the season.

Even if Ohio State finishes 13-0 and Big Ten champions, the college football world would be content leaving them out of the BCS championship game in exchange for a matchup between Alabama and Oregon. It’s far from becoming a reality. Alabama has to play LSU, who remains a national championship contender, despite losing to Georgia last week. In fact, the Tigers are still the only SEC West team capable of matching the Crimson Tide man-to-man. If Alabama reaches the conference championship, it’s probable they’ll face Georgia. The Ducks, meanwhile, also don’t have it easy. They have remaining games against Stanford, Washington, and UCLA. All three look improved from last season, which is saying something considering Stanford is the reigning conference champion. Teddy Bridgewater

That leaves us with Louisville, who‘s a team that’ll likely go the entire season having not played a ranked opponent. The Cardinals’ toughest remaining opponents are Rutgers, Central Florida and Cincinnati. Rutgers and Central Florida are home games, though, so it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals’ losing either game. There’s a possibility Louisville plays Cincinnati on December 5 with a BCS championship appearance on the line.

There’s a lot of football left in the season, but we could find ourselves with three of the five aforementioned teams finishing with one loss, while Louisville sits unbeaten, in large part because of one of the softest schedules any ranked team could play.

As a result, we’d have controversy. The Cardinals could face Alabama instead of Oregon, Ohio State, or even Clemson for the national title. What will happen if the BCS passes on a one-loss Alabama in favor of unbeaten Louisville and Ohio State? Under that scenario, I think a split national title is very likely.

Speculation is fun. It’s what makes college football’s regular-season arguably the most exciting in sports. The irony is the BCS brings debate, excitement, and intrigue to college football. Perhaps the system isn’t so bad after all. Plus, we won’t have to endure these doomsday scenarios next year, when college football goes to a four-team playoff.

That raises an interesting question, though.

Next year, what happens if four quality teams similar to Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oregon finish with one loss, while one undeserving team finishes unbeaten?


Draft Watch

Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Outlook: One of the better stories of this year’s college football season has been the development of Mettenberger under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Mettenberger’s a bit of a throwback, comparing favorably to Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon. Like Glennon, he’s capable of threading the needle with his big arm. His mechanics are also very good and he stands tall in the pocket. As a senior, Mettenberger would be wise to play in this year’s Senior Bowl. It would help his stock and give him an opportunity to display what he learned from playing under Cameron.

Stock: Up

Couch Potato Lineup
Last Week: 2-1
Season Record: 9-3

No. 25 Maryland at No. 8 Florida State
Time/TV: 12:00 PM EST, ESPN
Outlook: Two weeks ago, Maryland shutout a West Virginia team coming off an upset victory over No. 11 Oklahoma State. It was one of the more eye-opening wins of the season. The Terps represent Florida’s State first test. The Seminoles struggle against the run, so Maryland could make this an interesting game if running back Brandon Ross gets going. They haven’t had to deal with an offense like Florida State’s, though. Freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is playing well enough to warrant Heisman consideration, as he‘s leading an offense that‘s averaging over 50 points per game. Maybe they don’t drop 50 on Saturday, but they’ll score enough to offset any weaknesses Maryland exposes in their run defense.

Florida State 41 Maryland 30

No. 4 Ohio State at No. 16 Northwestern
Time/TV: 8:00 PM EST, ABC
Outlook: As they did a week ago, Ohio State will score points. Frankly, there isn’t a Big Ten defense capable of shutting them down for a full game. It’s going to take an offense capable of keeping pace for any Big Ten team to beat them. Northwestern has that offense. They deploy a two-quarterback system. Trevor Siemian is the thrower. He likely took notice of Wisconsin‘s success throwing the football against Ohio State‘s defense. Their dual-threat quarterback is Kain Colter, who’s rushed for a touchdown in three consecutive games. That’s the key to victory. Northwestern must run the football to win. They’ve proven capable of scoring points, but a strong running game allows them to win the time of possession battle, keeping Braxton Miller off the field. Maybe I’m alone on an island on this one, but the Wildcats are one of the few quality Big Ten teams, and they’ll get the win in arguably the program’s biggest game since the ’96 Rose Bowl. 

Northwestern 35 Ohio State 34

No. 15 Washington at No. 5 Stanford
Time/TV: 10:30 PM EST, ESPN
Outlook: We don’t know if Stanford’s as good as they were in 2012, though their first month has gone without a hitch. However, we do know Washington’s a better team. The Huskies are getting efficient play from quarterback Keith Price, who’s completing over 72 percent of his passes. In addition, running back Bishop Sankey (on pace for 1,821 rushing yards) gashed Stanford for 144 yards and a touchdown in last year‘s upset victory. Big games from both players would put Washington in position to knock off Stanford again, but playing at home gives Stanford an advantage. They pride themselves on their physical play and wide receiver Ty Montgomery adds a game-breaking element to their offense that’s been lacking since the days of Troy Walters. Montgomery and Stanford’s physicality will be too much by the fourth quarter. 

Stanford 27 Washington 17

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