- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2011

The brain trust behind college football’s Bowl Championship Series frequently boasts about how every game counts.

In a related note, the final weekend of the regular season is unlikely to have an impact on the national title race.

Some system.

Oh, there are games of interest to some pockets of the country. Virginia Tech (11-1) chases its second straight ACC title as it attempts to avenge its loss to Clemson. Oregon can lock up a Rose Bowl bid (and probably put an end to Rick Neuheisel’s days in Westwood) if it beats UCLA in the Pac-12 title game. Michigan State and Wisconsin meet with the other Rose Bowl slot at stake in the Big Ten championship.


Also playing for something are Cincinnati, Louisville and West Virginia, which can still claim the Big East’s BCS bid. The same goes for Houston (12-0), which faces Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game.

Those games all mean something. But in the larger context, they mean nothing for the national title chase. Top-ranked Louisiana State (12-0), owner of a superlative resume, faces Georgia (10-2) in the SEC title game. No. 2 Alabama (11-1), whose only loss was a 9-6 overtime field goal fest against LSU, is done for the regular season.

The chances Oklahoma State (10-1) can leapfrog the Crimson Tide with an emphatic defeat of Oklahoma (9-2)? That would probably require human voters to battle inertia, a fight inertia usually wins handily. It would also require voters to hold their noses while slotting a Cowboys team with a loss at 6-5 Iowa State over an outfit that played the lone major-conference unbeaten to a draw for 60 minutes.

Of course, Louisiana State could still lose. But do the Tigers have any chance of falling behind an Alabama team they beat in Tuscaloosa? And remember, LSU also beat Arkansas, Oregon and West Virginia. The Tigers might still be No. 1 if they lose Saturday.

So the most likely outcome? Round Two Louisiana State-Alabama, this time in New Orleans, regardless of the on-field activities over the next six days. You can almost count on it, unlike the overarching importance of the season’s final set of games.

Weekend risers

Virginia Tech. Maybe next year, Virginia. Again. The Hokies won their eighth consecutive Commonwealth Cup and 12th in 13 years after blanking the Cavaliers 38-0. They also earned their second straight ACC Coastal Division title and fifth in seven years. Next up: A chance for the Hokies to collect their fifth ACC title in eight seasons.

Vanderbilt. Former Maryland head coach-in-waiting James Franklin led the Commodores to bowl eligibility in his first year, capping a 6-6 regular season with a 41-7 rout at Wake Forest. With a win in the postseason, Franklin would be only the second Vanderbilt coach to record a winning season in his first year since World War II.

South Carolina. The Gamecocks have long since been without tailback Marcus Lattimore (injured) and quarterback Stephen Garcia (suspended). But they clinched their first 10-win season since 1984 with a 34-13 drubbing of Clemson. It is the first time since 1968-70 that South Carolina won three straight from their in-state rival. “We’ll give away about 10 [game balls] tonight,” coach Steve Spurrier told ESPN. “I’ll get one myself.”

Weekend decliners

Tennessee. What’s the best way to amplify job security questions? Lose to a conference rival your school has won 26 straight against. The Volunteers and coach Derek Dooley saw their season end without a bowl bid thanks to an ugly 10-7 loss to Kentucky. Assuming Dooley survives for a third year (and he should considering the mess he inherited), he’ll rank high on hot seat lists next year.

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