Old School – Top 10 Contenders to the BCS Title – Week 10

What a saddening, disappointing, heartbreaking week in the college football world. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or on an expedition in the Antarctic, you know by now the big scandal that broke this week in State College, Pennsylvania. The scandal has lead to the firing of long-time head football coach Joe Paterno.

Bryce Johnson and I covered this a good bit on Friday’s SPORTS YAPP podcast (listen here), and I just want to a quick take here in my column what I think.

First of all, the villain here is Jerry Sandusky. We must remember that long term. Joe Paterno and Penn State University should not become the face of taking advantage of children. It belongs to guys like Sandusky. Unfortunately many will associate both the school and the legendary head coach with these things.

Second, I believe Joe Paterno did what he believed was the correct action to take. He was told second-hand of an inappropriate action that Mike McQuery saw first hand. He took that information to the higher-ups in the school to let them handle the situation. I think the guy who is most responsible for going to the police is the witness.

Third, Sandusky and Paterno go way back. Sandusky had coached with Paterno on his coaching staff for many years and at one point was thought of as a potential successor. It’s not hard to imagine that they were close friends. And I would think that it would be hard for Paterno to believe that a close friend he thought he knew very well would do such a thing. So I think there was probably some denial and disbelief in Paterno’s mind.

However, Paterno, the school’s president, and all aware of the situation did not do enough. Even if this was a one-time offense, Jerry Sandusky should have been banned from the football team, the football stadium and even the university grounds. You can’t play around with the safety of young people.

Thus, I do believe that Penn State was right to fire Joe Paterno. Dan Patrick said it best on the Dan Patrick Show: “Joe Paterno has lost the right to be the head coach of Penn State.” If the people you are responsible for as a head coach (an 80-90 person football team plus coaching staff) are not in a safe environment under your authority, then you must be removed from that power. And that’s even before taking into consideration the backlash you will get from media, lost ticket sales, school image problems, lost recruits and enrollment, etc.

Penn State needed to sever ties and begin the healing process to move on to try and repair what has been broken.

Many students and fans have made the argument that Paterno did what he thought was right and that there were others more accountable to the crime in this situation, thus believing he should be allowed to complete the season. But when you consider the circumstances, you just can’t be that upset that Paterno was fired. Especially not to the point of tipping over news trucks and trying to start a riot.

It is upsetting that a coaching legend does not get to finish the season and his career on his terms, but that’s just the way his story ends.

One last note, if you are firing the President and the head football coach, why aren’t they firing the guy who saw the action and took inaction? McQuery, as of this moment, is still employed and on the coaching staff at Penn State. If you fire one, you should fire them all.

Moving on, there are a few good games this weekend, highlighted by the Stanford-Oregon game. Last year the Ducks blew out the Cardinal 52-31. Will this year be different? No. 7 Oregon will possibly get themselves back into BCS contention if they can take No. 4 Stanford down.

Another interesting game will be No. 15 Georgia taking on No. 20 Auburn. I’ve been impressed with the way Georgia has rebounded from losing their first two games, winning seven in a row since. It has also been impressive seeing how Auburn has rebounded after losing Cam Newton to the NFL draft last year. Auburn is not going to repeat, but the Tigers have had a pretty good season and sit at 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.

No. 12 Penn State will take on No. 19 Nebraska in a game that not only will be closely watched for what went on last week, but because the Nittany Lions are 5-0 in the Big Ten. Nebraska has only one conference loss and will look to take advantage of a likely distracted Penn State football team.

There is something real quick that I originally planned on writing about this week before this Penn State scandal that I want to address.

I have a problem with where Alabama is ranked in the BCS standings. If this is college basketball where polls don’t decide championships and we had a tournament, then sure, if the No. 1 ranked team loses a close one to the No. 2 ranked team, you don’t have to move them down in the polls. Alabama currently has the No. 3 spot in the BCS rankings, which means if Oklahoma State loses, they are back to playing in the BCS championship, which is wrong on so many levels.

Baring an LSU collapse of epic proportions, Alabama will not win the SEC West division, which means that they will not even win their own conference. If you can’t win your own conference, no matter how tough it may be, you should be eliminated from BCS title contention.

If Alabama is placed back into the No. 2 spot, then LSU has a disadvantage by losing last Saturday. Alabama will only play three more games this year and only one opponent is ranked. LSU will play four, three regular season games and the SEC Championship. By losing and maintaining such a high spot, Alabama has gained a game advantage over LSU.

Teams work all year to get a number one verses number two game. LSU and Alabama both got that chance last week, and Alabama lost. I’m sorry Alabama fans, but there should be no more chances for you.

One-loss teams with the best chance of getting back into the mix

Oregon – Oregon has a chance this week to take down one of just five remaining undefeated teams. Will it be enough to get them into BCS contention? The Ducks have not beaten one BCS ranked team to date (previously ranked Arizona State fell out of the ranking this week).

Penn State – Last week I called Penn State the “Fighting JoePa’s.” Now they are just fighting to gain back their school’s dignity. Penn State still controls their destiny to get to the first ever Big Ten Championship game, but how on earth can they remained focused the rest of the year?

Arkansas – Arkansas lone loss was at the hand of BCS ranked No. 3 Alabama. But the Razorbacks took quite the walloping 38-14. The Razorbacks took out No. 13 South Carolina last week to improve their resume.

Oklahoma – The Sooners’ one loss was close, but their opponent was not even a BCS ranked team. Texas Tech (5-4, 2-4 Big 12) won on the road in Norman 41-38 but followed that big win the next week with a terrible effort at home against Iowa State, losing 41-7. The Red Raiders followed that up with a 52-20 thrashing at the hands of the Texas Longhorns. If you are going to reward a close loss to a great team, as in Alabama’s case, then you need to punish a loss to a bad team.

6. Houston - Last week I made a case that the Cougars should be ranked ahead of all of the one-loss teams. Their offense continues to be explosive as they scored 73 points for the second time this season. I sure hope they get a chance to play one of the big boys once we get to bowl season.

5. Alabama – I have waffled back and forth with this one. As of right now, I will rank the Crimson Tide ahead of Houston, but I reserve the right to change my mind in the coming weeks. Alabama has beaten a few ranked teams, whereas Houston may not play one until the Conference USA championship game (likely #23 Southern Miss). I think everyone would like to see Houston beat at least one ranked team before potentially placing them in a BCS title game…

4. Boise State – The Broncos have their last big game of the season Saturday against TCU. What’s a little odd about this matchup is that the two polls involved in the BCS formula have TCU ranked. The Harris poll at #25 and the USA Today Coaches poll at #24. However, the computer numbers for the Horned Frogs aren’t so good which is keeping them from having a BCS ranking. But make no mistake about it: Boise State will be playing a good team this Saturday (and cheering for Georgia to win out).

3. Stanford – I have flip-flopped Stanford and Oklahoma State in the rankings this week. I might flip-flop them again next week as well if the Cardinal beat the No. 7 ranked Oregon Ducks. Stanford has been relatively unchallenged this year, with the game two weeks ago against USC providing their toughest test. Unfortunately the PAC-12 is not as good as it normally is this year and it has effected Stanford’s strength of schedule.

2. Oklahoma State - The Cowboys have probably played the second toughest schedule out of all of the contenders to the BCS title. After beating No. 14 Kansas State in a close one last Saturday, I feel like their resume is now second best to LSU.

1. LSU - LSU players are crazy if they really want to play Alabama again in a BCS title game. They already beat them. Move on to the next challenger, please. Preferably one with a quarterback and an offense (Boise State, Stanford, Oklahoma State or even Houston would suffice).

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