SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
11/11/2006 11:31:00 AM
The Rutgers Ramifcations
Jeremy Ito and the Scarlet Knights had a night to remember last Thursday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- It’s Saturday morning, and while I know I’m supposed to be getting amped for Tennessee-Arkansas, USC-Oregon and the like, a part of me has yet to leave last Thursday night in Piscataway, N.J.
I’ve covered a lot of big games in a lot of great atmospheres – including national championships and Final Fours – and that Louisville-Rutgers game figures to rank right up there among the most memorable. It wasn’t just the dramatic ending. I wish I could properly describe the sheer amount of joy pumping through that manic on-field celebration afterward. A lot of Rutgers people have waited a long, long, long time for a night like that.
Now that it’s happened, I don’t know if any of them have yet to grasp it. The Rutgers story has now captivated New York City, which is saying something. The guys on WFAN, the big New York sports-talk station, never talk about college football. They’ve been talking about Rutgers non-stop for two days. Walking through Laguardia airport yesterday, I looked up and saw Rutgers highlights playing on a TV. I’ve never seen that before, either.
But obviously, the ramifications of Rutgers’ win stretches well beyond the New York/New Jersey area. It’s created an absolutely chaotic race for what is expected to be the second spot in the national title game alongside the Ohio State-Michigan winner. Last night, I sat down and tried to make sense of the current jumble of one-loss teams. Here’s what I came up with:
∙ First in line is Texas, mainly because of an-old time poll truism: The Longhorns lost early. If Texas wins out (including the Big 12 title game), my guess is they’ll be No. 2 in the final standings. Now, If they lose …
∙ Next in line would be the SEC champion, presuming that team only has one loss. Florida and Auburn are close together, and Arkansas has a chance to rise significantly if it manages to beat Tennessee, LSU and Florida over the next month. The interesting thing here is that Auburn could sneak in without even winning its division, considering the Tigers are already way up at No. 5 in the polls.
∙ Next in line would be the Cal-USC winner, again assuming that team finishes without another loss. There will probably be some sentiment for Cal, seeing as the Bears haven’t lost since the first week of the season, but the way I look at it is: The team they got crushed by, Tennessee, is shaping up to be the fourth- or fifth-place team in the SEC. So why not take that league’s champion over Cal? I suppose you could make a similar argument in favor of USC if Arkansas wins the SEC, but the Trojans lost much more recently, and to a three-loss Oregon State team.
∙ If all the teams in the above scenarios pick up a second loss, then I could see the Ohio State-Michigan loser making it into the game. A few weeks back I thought this was a completely unrealistic scenario, but not so much anymore.
∙ So where is Rutgers in all this? Listening to the radio yesterday, even Rutgers fans aren’t under the delusion that their team should be mentioned in the discussion just yet. It was one thing to argue for Louisville, which, in addition to its Big East schedule, had played a good non-conference schedule, but the Scarlet Knights played some awful teams. I don’t blame Rutgers – at the time it made the schedule, I’m sure it was just hoping for six wins.
My guess is Rutgers will move into the bottom of the Top 10 this week, somewhere in the 8-10 range. It’s hard to see them moving all the way up to No. 2 by the end of the season. However, if an undefeated Rutgers team wins at West Virginia the last week of the season and, say, Florida loses in the SEC title game and Texas loses in the Big 12 title game, maybe the voters will say, why not? Again, however, in that scenario, I see the Ohio State-Michigan loser getting in before Rutgers.
All right … now watch some of these teams go out and lose today. Because I’m on assignment at the Michigan-Indiana game, I won’t be able to Blog as frequently as usual today, but I’ll try to get at least a couple entries in.
Wow. It's early yet, but perhaps Auburn thinks it's part of the Big East - what, giving up 200 yeards in ONE quarter. It'll be interesting to know the thoughts of the people who were unimpressed by Louisville and WV...
Besides what's shaping up to be a mediocre Miami team, what's so special about Louisville's non-league schedule? Middle Tennessee? Kansas State?
I could argue that Navy and Ohio are better wins than KSU and MTSU. And while Illinois and UNC are at the bottom of their leagues, at least they're from BCS conferences, leagues which the Big East allegedly isn't as good as.
If RU finishes 12-0 playing in what Jeff Sagarin ratess as a top three leage, with wins against Louisvile and a top 10 West Virginia they deserve to be in Glendale on Jan. 8.
Its really a shame that the OSU-UM loser will not have much of a chance for a rematch in the title game, simply because of how late The Game is in the season. If Nov. 18 is a nailbiter, can you imagine the hype if miraculously the loser made it to Glendale? Makes me shake my head
I'm not understanding your argument. You hold up Illinois (2-8) and North Carolina (1-9) in favor of Rutgers because those teams are from BCS conferences but are unimpressed with Louisville playing Miami (5-4) and Kansas State (6-4). Aren't they BCS schools as well?
If Rutgers finishes as one of only two unbeatens, I don't see how you can keep them out of the championship game. However, I'm really not sure that they deserve it over a team like Texas if they finish 12-1 with their only loss coming to the season long number one team in the nation.
The SEC can still get 2 BCS teams, but it will require a little help. Arkansas will have to win out, and take the SEC CG for this to happen, and Florida will need for some of the teams 5-9 to lose between now and the end of the year, so that a loss to Arkansas in the SEC CG doesn't drop them that far.
With no playoff in I-A, I believe that teams that played each other during the season should not have a rematch in the national championship unless there are really exceptional circumstances. Texas losing to OSU very early in the season MIGHT qualify, but by virute of OSU-Michigan coming late in the season, it effectively serves as a playoff game. The winner moves on; the loser gets a nice BCS at-large berth.
Bigger fly in the ointment-if the OSU-Michigan game is a blowout, the SEC keeps whacking each other, USC loses somewhere along the line, and Texas also falls, what happens? You'd have one BCS conference unbeaten, Rutgers. WHat's the championship game look like now?
(I don't expect all of the above to happen, nor even for Rutgers to get past WVA on the road, but I love contemplating headaches for the BCS powers-that-be.)
Well i'll forgive you for your comments about the Stanford/UW game since you didn't see it, but to call the win "convincing" is a little much. Yes the Huskies played terrible on offense, but Stanford didn't look much better. Their first touchdown came on an interception thrown by our 3rd string QB DuRocher who had apparently by then suffered a concussion. And their last field goal was a gimme because the huskies went for it on 4th down in their own territory late in the game. Full credit to Stanford for never giving up, but i'd hardly call it convincing.
Love the Blog. you couldn't be more right about how much better the Hogs are now - i think they would be even up in rematch against USC. THough i think there should be an OSU-Mich rematch for title. One more thing: i live in NYC now, and every Friday and Monday the WFAN guys do talk about the college game - they even make weekly picks, though they are no better than anyone else at it... Their former producer now does the play-by-play for Rutgers so they often discuss it. just to be accurate.