As darkness fell
across Florida's east coast, Andre Caldwell's smile lit up the night. Standing
on the field at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville last Saturday moments after
Florida had closed out a sloppy but stubborn Georgia squad 21--14, Caldwell was
happy to recount the first of his two touchdowns, a 12-yard reverse. His
teammates executed their blocks, the junior wide receiver explained, leaving
him just one man to beat. "One-on-one," said Caldwell, who does not
want for self-confidence. "I ain't gonna lose too many of those." � He
had to raise his voice to be heard over the roar of the Gators fans reacting to
news from the public address announcer: "In a game just ending, USC 31 ...
Oregon State ... 33." � While a door was closing on the previously
undefeated Trojans, who fell from third to eighth in the BCS standings, a door
was opening for the 7--1 Gators. Having climbed from sixth to fourth in the
BCS, Florida remains very much alive in the hunt for the national title in
spite of its sole defeat, incurred at Auburn a fortnight earlier. How about
that, Urban Meyer? Doesn't that make your heart soar?
"You saw the
offense I saw," replied the Gators' gimlet-eyed coach, whose concern over
his erratic offense cut into his enjoyment of the victory.
assessment was in keeping with the theme of the 84th meeting between these
ancient rivals. Concerned administrators had asked media outlets to cease
referring to the game by its nickname, the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail
Party, which had long been a misnomer, anyway. The carousing attending this
game bears as much resemblance to a cocktail party as a burlesque show does to
the Bolshoi Ballet.
to say just yet how high Florida can go, but this much we know: It won't get to
No. 1. Ohio State, at 9--0, appears to be on a different plane from everyone
else. Still, the Buckeyes will need an opponent in the national championship
game, and last Saturday served as a kind of kickoff party for the sport's de
facto postseason. November features a series of epic matchups, so basically the
next five weeks will be a single-elimination tournament for the right to play
in the title game. Depending on what day your SI arrives in the mail, the first
of the mondo games may already be over.
Aside from Oregon
State--and possibly the undefeated, BCS-busting Boise State Broncos, who beat
the tar out of the Beavers 42--14 on Sept. 7--no one was more delighted by
Southern Cal's loss than Mike Tranghese. He is the commissioner of the Big
East, which until this season had been perceived as the weak sister of the six
BCS conferences. Yet of the half-dozen undefeated teams left in Division I-A,
three of them ( Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia) play in a conference
better known for its hoops. It is a league that two years ago was fighting for
its life, having been abandoned by Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College,
which bolted for the ACC.
Before a national
TV audience this Thursday night, the third-ranked Mountaineers hit the road for
a collision with No. 5 Louisville. It is the first of three consecutive
Thursday night Big East games that could be fraught with national title
implications ( Louisville- Rutgers, then West Virginia--Pitt). For now it is
being described as the biggest game in the history of the conference.
How monstrous is
it? It has overshadowed the $20 million Breeders' Cup--which will be run down
the street at Churchill Downs two days later--and is being hyped as the biggest
game ever played in Kentucky.
Only one clash of
undefeateds looms larger this season. It is one of the lamentable quirks of the
BCS that the matchup that has cast its shadow over the college football
landscape since September may not decide anything. When the No. 1 Buckeyes host
No. 2 Michigan on Nov. 18, it's possible that the loser would fall no further
than ... No. 2. This could yield a Buckeyes-Wolverines rematch in the title
game, in which case it would also yield a vast army of extremely ticked-off
players, coaches and fans.
But until an
adequate number of university presidents lift their heads from the trough of
BCS cash long enough to find the spine to adopt a playoff system (funny how
those same guardians of education can endorse their student-athletes' playing
on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays in the fall), the sport will be
subjected to such absurdities. Indeed, the question may not be whether West
Virginia will be leapfrogged by a one-loss team, but which once-beaten squad
will do the vaulting.
Domers. It won't be you at No. 2. After escaping with a 20--17 victory over
UCLA on Oct. 21, Irish coach Charlie Weis professed his displeasure at seeing
his team drop two notches in the coaches poll, to No. 10. The Fighting Irish
were jumped by Florida, which had a bye, and Tennessee, which beat Alabama on a