- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

As usual, it’s all about the SEC. LSU’s victory at Georgia cemented the Tigers’ status as a legitimate title contender, giving the SEC three of the game’s Big Four and setting up a mammoth showdown next week between top-ranked Florida (4-0) and LSU (5-0) in Baton Rouge.

The Tigers are 26-5 in Baton Rouge under Les Miles and dropped Florida 28-24 in 2007 en route to the national title.

Coupled with Oklahoma’s loss at Miami, which effectively ousts the Sooners (2-2) from the title picture, LSU’s victory greatly increased the likelihood that if the BCS title game features a one-loss team, it will come from the SEC.

Thanks to the overall strength of the league and its 5-0 performance in BCS title games, Florida, Alabama and LSU all have the luxury of absorbing one loss and still reaching the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7, providing that loss does not come in the SEC championship game Dec. 5. The same one-loss codicil probably even applies to Mississippi (3-1) and Auburn (5-0), though neither is likely to finish with just one loss.

Texas (4-0) and Oklahoma were in a position to receive the same consideration before the Sooners lost at Miami 21-20. Now the Longhorns probably would not be able to overcome a loss to a marginal Oklahoma team at the Cotton Bowl in two weeks.

The only other team in the one-loss conversation is USC, which effectively eliminated the entire Big Ten from one-loss, BCS title game territory by beating its best team - Ohio State - on the road. The Trojans (4-1) buried Cal 30-3 over the weekend, but any one-loss SEC team should trump a USC bunch that fell on its face against unranked Washington three weeks ago. After all, the Huskies lost their home opener to LSU. Unless Texas runs the table, don’t be surprised if the BCS title game features the SEC championship winner against another one-loss team from the SEC’s West Division.

Thanks to UTEP for thinning the herd of BCS busters to TCU and Boise State. The Miners (2-3) took down No. 12 Houston 58-41 in a game that featured 1,245 yards of offense and perhaps even the odd tackle.

Game balls and gassers

Congrats to Miami. The Hurricanes emerged from their savage season-opening gantlet with a 3-1 record, dropping ranked squads from Florida State, Georgia Tech and Oklahoma. While last week’s 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech proves the Hurricanes haven’t yet matured into BCS title contenders, nobody outside of Coral Gables predicted the young Hurricanes would take three of four against the toughest opening slate in the land. Kudos to Randy Shannon and new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple for bringing back the U.

This week’s earhole slap goes to the SEC officiating crew that attempted to ruin the otherwise-riveting conclusion of the LSU-Georgia game in Athens, Ga. Perhaps following a directive from overbearing, overcoiffed commissioner Mike Slive, the SEC zebras have decided anything more expressive than a somber trot back to the sideline qualifies as excessive celebration.

The deciding play between the hedges Saturday was an official’s decision to flag Georgia All-American wide receiver A.J. Green for having the audacity to revel with his teammates for several seconds in the end zone after his unreal touchdown snatch gave the Bulldogs a 13-12 lead with 1:09 remaining. There was no taunting involved. Green did not remove his helmet, pound his chest or perform any improv idiocy. Still, he was flagged.

Georgia was forced to kick off from its own 15-yard line. LSU’s Trindon Holliday returned the kick to the Georgia 43, one play from field goal range. Game over. LSU actually won 20-13 when that play turned out to be a touchdown scamper by Charles Scott, who was, of course, flagged for the sin of dropping the ball and pointing briefly heavenward. Ye of the SEC shall bow only to the Almighty Slive.

The good news is that the best team won; LSU outgained Georgia 239-49 in the first half and held the Bulldogs to just 11 first downs for the game. The bad news is that overzealous officiating influenced, if not decided, that outcome.

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