- The Washington Times - Monday, December 6, 2004

The Washington Times’ college football writer takes a look back at the week that was:

Well, the BCS buffoons finally have introduced us to the ultimate Deep Blue debacle.

Auburn, just the fourth team to go unbeaten in the SEC since the league’s expansion in 1992, has been shafted by the system. As expected, the final BCS rankings that came out yesterday will send Southern California (12-0) and Oklahoma (12-0) to the Orange Bowl to spar for the national title, while equally perfect Auburn (12-0) watches helplessly from New Orleans. Never has a Sugar Bowl bid seemed so sour.

There’s little left to say, because this season’s BCS train was shunted onto these travesty tracks long ago. But for most college football fans, and particularly those on the Plains of Alabama, foreknowledge does little to soften the force of the system’s utter failure. That any undefeated major-conference team should suffer such a fate is unconscionable.

The fact that this entire situation easily could have been avoided had only major-conference university presidents and chancellors agreed to the “plus-one” concept of adding one further bowl game (in effect, creating a four-team playoff) means the entire disaster must be laid entirely at their collective feet. That these suits can grunt their academic concerns over the strained schedules of their student athletes while at the same time wallowing in BCS millions is the Everest of hypocrisy.

In the Back Judge’s Dante dreams, the egocentric academics run naked before a packed house at Jordan-Hare Stadium while 86,000 enraged fans pelt them with a never-ending supply of pocket change.

Ranking rationale — The Back Judge practically pulled his oblongata while wrestling with his final top three. He was loathe to drop Auburn from his top slot after the Tigers completed a perfect campaign in the nation’s most difficult conference. But in the final analysis, Saturday’s games weighed heavily in his rankings, and that fact hurt sluggish Auburn.

1. Oklahoma — A clear mandate was issued by poll voters to all three squads concerning Saturday’s games — Leave No Doubt. If ever there was a day to play the perfect game, run up the score and pound your opponent into a puddle of mercy-begging goo, it was Saturday.

Only one of the teams in question came to work this weekend wearing its jackboots — Oklahoma. The Sooners beat Colorado in the Big 12 Championship in the manner befitting a BCS bully, doling out the kind of comprehensive thrashing (42-3) that would make Genghis grin. OU allowed the Buffs just 46 yards of total offense and three first downs — that’s leaving no doubt.

And frankly, the Sooners played the last third of the season in this same merciless manner, destroying Nebraska, Baylor and Colorado down the stretch by a total score of 107-6. This return to dominance coincided with more than just a softening of the schedule; it coincided with the return of All-American cornerback Antonio Perkins. The shaky secondary that allowed a bevy of big plays and an average of 283.5 passing yards in narrow victories over Oklahoma State and Texas A&M; with Perkins injured instantly returned to a shutdown unit that allowed just 84.3 passing yards over the final three games with him back in the lineup.

Throughout most of the season, the Back Judge fancied Auburn over Oklahoma because of the Tigers’ superior secondary. But with Perkins back in the mix, that edge no longer existed. That left the major difference between the teams Oklahoma’s vastly superior nonconference schedule. All three of the Sooners’ nonleague foes this season (Bowling Green, Houston and Oregon) would be favored over any of Auburn’s non-SEC opponents (Louisiana Monroe, The Citadel and Louisiana Tech). Throw in the disparity between Saturday’s performances, when everyone knew exactly what was on the line, and the Sooners earned the Back Judge’s top slot.

2. Auburn — As stated above, Auburn’s sloppy 10-point victory over a wounded Tennessee team in the SEC title game coupled with it’s embarrassing nonconference slate dragged the Tigers down.

3. USC — When your defining victories are a blowout home win over Notre Dame and a home victory over Cal in a game in which you were scandalously outplayed, you rank just ahead of Purdue in the quality-win pantheon.

The Back Judge had misgivings about the Trojans all season. The flash and talent were everywhere, but the schedule and performance consistency went begging. USC messed around with Pac-10 patsies Stanford (31-28), Oregon State (28-20) and UCLA (29-24) and didn’t play a single ranked team on the road; a season-opening victory at FedEx Field over a Virginia Tech team that was a shadow of its current self doesn’t count. If that win had come at Lane Stadium in November, we might give the Trojans some road status.

In any case, the Trojans confirmed the Back Judge’s suspicions Saturday against UCLA, scraping out a five-point victory over a Bruins team with one of the nation’s weakest defenses and earning some stupidity points for their last-minute fumblerama routine. They might well be the nation’s most talented team, but the Trojans certainly haven’t proved they’re the nation’s best.

Game balls and gassers — The Back Judge’s final game ball goes to Auburn for handling the combined disappointment of several million sports lifetimes with a staggering degree of maturity and class.

The gassers go to a group who doesn’t deserve to ever watch another football game — Heisman voters. An inside source told the Back Judge that only 19 percent of all Heisman ballots remained out before this past weekend’s pivotal, season-defining, BCS-shaping weekend. For the second consecutive year, a huge majority of Heisman voters abandoned their responsibility and issued grades before the season’s final exam. Apparently, they learned nothing from last season’s Jason White debacle.

The Back Judge is betting that means this season’s bronze boy will be going to yet another quarterback — USC’s Matt Leinart. How original! Now Leinart is a superb player, but he’s not even the MVP of his own team, as Reggie Bush proved once again Saturday, carrying the Trojans to victory with 335 yards of total offense on a day when Leinart was solid but unspectacular.

Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson, who finished the season just 20 yards short of Ron Dayne’s freshman rushing record (1,863 yards), also boasts far rarer talents than Leinart. But he, too, will be standing empty-handed in New York.

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