Stanford, Boise losses set up Great Rematch Debate ... on two fronts
If Oklahoma State stumbles, Alabama and Oregon will both have rematch claims
After a tumultuous week at Penn State, perspective came from an unlikely source
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His team had just finished throttling undefeated, third-ranked Stanford, yet Oregon receiver Josh Huff stood outside his locker room Saturday evening answering questions about another game: the Ducks' season-opening 40-27 loss to LSU.
"It was a much closer game than you might imagine," Huff recalled. "We gave them 21 points. Hopefully, we'd be able to get a rematch with them."
And so it begins. Following an unexpectedly eventful Saturday in which TCU stunned undefeated Boise State on the blue turf and Huff's Ducks humbled Andrew Luck and Co., 53-30, on the Cardinal's overgrown turf, the R-word is suddenly back on the tip of every tongue.
We thought we'd moved past the possibility following the Nov. 5 LSU-Alabama field-goal-a-thon, which, while reinforcing the teams' defensive dominance, did not exactly spark desire for a second rendition. Yet just eight days later, the No. 3 and 4 spots in the BCS standings belong to two LSU victims, the Tide and the Ducks (both 9-1), leaving us one upset away from a possible January rematch involving the Tigers.
Before we go any further, it should be noted that No. 2 Oklahoma State, now 10-0, has shown no sign of cracking. On Saturday, Brandon Weeden and Co. went to Lubbock, Texas, and staged a 66-6 demolition. Remember, this is the same Texas Tech team that beat then third-ranked Oklahoma three weeks ago. (The Red Raiders haven't won since, getting outscored 159-33. Figure that one out.)
The Cowboys are averaging 51.7 points per game and lead the nation in turnovers forced (34) and turnover margin (plus-18). They visit 5-4 Iowa State on Friday night, then enjoy a bye before Bedlam. "We've got something special going on," said Weeden.
An LSU-Oklahoma State showdown would be both satisfying and intriguing. Having only two undefeated major-conference teams would give us a rare controversy-free year (no disrespect, Houston). It would also set up a compelling matchup between Oklahoma State's high-wire offense and LSU's smothering defense.
But come on. This is the BCS. Why wait when we can waste so much mental energy speculating about the contingencies? What's amazing is that every season seems to provide a new, previously unimagined nightmare scenario. One year it involves a slew of two-loss teams, another year an unsolvable divisional tiebreaker. This year the great debate could center on rematches.
Which would you rather see again, LSU-Oregon or LSU-Alabama? The answer for most of us is: neither. Give us something new. But with Stanford's and Boise State's losses, we're running out of alternatives, and the contenders have three weeks to state their cases.
"We played LSU better than anyone," said Oregon freshman De'Anthony Thomas, whose fumbles on consecutive third-quarter touches in his college debut helped the Tigers blow open an otherwise even matchup. (The Ducks had 335 yards of offense to LSU's 273 that night in Dallas.) Oregon has unquestionably improved considerably since Sept. 3, but it's hard to concur with Thomas when Alabama took the Tigers to overtime just last week.
On Saturday, though, the third-ranked Tide played right into the hands of those who suggested the 9-6 "Game of the Century" was as much a byproduct of limited offense as it was great defense. Nick Saban's clearly sluggish team led mediocre Mississippi State just 10-0 heading into the fourth quarter of an eventual 24-7 victory. Of course, Alabama doesn't need many points when it holds the opposition to 131 total yards.
The "which rematch?" debate may be moot since Alabama already sits above Oregon in both the polls and computers, though the Ducks face another ranked foe next week when No. 18 USC (8-2) visits Eugene. 'Bama has Georgia Southern next week, then the Iron Bowl against reeling Auburn (6-4). The Ducks will also get an additional game -- the Pac-12 championship -- if they keep winning. But will it be enough?
"Not likely, unless the voters decide to [elevate Oregon]," said CollegeBCS.com analyst Jerry Palm. "They'd have to change their mind. Alabama is going to be a better computer team at 11-1 than Oregon even at 12-1. I think if you seen any voter movement, it would be for Oklahoma."
Ah yes, the Sooners. No. 5 Oklahoma is perhaps the only other contender that could prevent a rematch, though it's unclear whether the Sooners would be any more popular. Beating 11-0 Oklahoma State on the road on the final night of the season would be an incredibly persuasive last impression, and Bob Stoops would undoubtedly come equipped with talking points to the postgame press conference. Detractors: You lost at home to Texas Tech. Stoops: We beat three ranked teams on the road (Florida State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State) and finished first in what every computer ranking says is the toughest conference.
"If Oklahoma wins on that last day, beating the No. 2 team in the country, I don't think people will care that they lost to Texas Tech," said Palm. "I think they'll care they haven't played LSU."
And finally, there's the scenario that would blow this whole thing to smithereens: LSU losing to Arkansas (9-1) on Black Friday. The No. 6 Razorbacks have won three of the past four meetings with the Tigers. If that were to happen, the SEC's convoluted tiebreaker might just send Alabama to Atlanta; and with a victory there, the Tide might find themselves headed to New Orleans, in which case LSU would be the team arguing it deserves another shot.
LSU and Oklahoma State can take care of business and make this thing easy for all of us. Failing that, get ready for The Great Rematch Debate. The former sure sounds more appealing, but those who detest the BCS and hope for as much chaos as possible may well prefer the latter.
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