As it stands, college football could have an optimal situation in three weeks: two undefeated, tested teams to send to New Orleans in early January to play for the national championship.
Or, with a plausible upset or two, the sport could be pushed across the precipice and into a chaotic sea of bickering, shouting and consternation.
That’s life with the Bowl Championship Series, whose brain trust would be wise to hope Louisiana State and Oklahoma State carry on and leave no question who should play for the crystal trophy.
That scenario was made possible by a tumultuous Saturday that saw Oregon rip Stanford on the road and Boise State get bested on its own blue turf when a field goal try in the final seconds veered right in a 36-35 loss to Texas Christian.
And so what’s left? The Mad Hatter and Louisiana State, now 10-0 with a trip to flailing Mississippi, a home date with potent Arkansas and the SEC title game (likely against Georgia) standing in its way of trying to claim a third national title at the Superdome in less than a decade.
Then there’s Oklahoma State, which rolled up a diabolical 66-6 rout of Texas Tech on the road. It was the sixth time the Cowboys (10-0) hung half a hundred this season, and their road finale (Friday’s trip to Iowa State) is manageable. But a Dec. 3 date with Oklahoma (8-1) hovers as the real arbiter for whether T. Boone Pickens U can get a crack at a title.
(There is a third unbeaten, 10-0 Houston, but the Cougars have done little to warrant a place in the discussion for even a BCS berth despite their gaudy offensive numbers. Their opponents’ combined record is 37-64, with a one-point victory at Louisiana Tech the most notable item on their hollow resume.)
But what if Louisiana State loses to Arkansas or Oklahoma State stumbles in the Bedlam game?
There’s no shortage of suitors for a title game berth. Alabama, whose sole setback was in overtime at home against Louisiana State, can finish 11-1. So, too, can Oregon, which won’t leave Eugene in the next three weeks and fell only in its neutral-field opener against Louisiana State.
Oklahoma would be a factor at 11-1 with a defeat of Oklahoma State. So could Arkansas if its springs an upset against (who else?) Louisiana State and wraps its season at 11-1.
This could be simple to sort out. It could also be messy. One of those adjectives often describes college football. It’s not the one that hints at easy answers.
• Texas Christian. Coach Gary Patterson went for two on the road rather than play for the tie late at Boise State, and it paid off for the Horned Frogs. TCU escaped with a one-point victory to spoil the Broncos’ BCS hopes.
• Oregon. The Ducks are back in play as a serious national title contender after throttling Stanford 53-30. They’ll need some help, of course, but a spot in the Rose Bowl —- a near certainty given the flotsam likely to represent the Pac-12 South in the league title game —- is a solid consolation prize.
• Joe Adams. A suggestion for anyone seeking to kill time at work Monday: find video of Adams’ 60-yard punt return for a touchdown in Arkansas’ pummeling of Tennessee. His ability to elude would-be tacklers and tiptoe near the sideline wasn’t the season’s most meaningful play, but it ranks among its most entertaining.
• Texas A&M. The Aggies blew another double-digit lead in the second half, this time a 10-point edge in the final seven minutes of regulation in what became a 53-50 quadruple-overtime loss at Kansas State. Texas A&M already wasted a 17-point halftime lead against Oklahoma State, an 18-point halftime edge against Arkansas and a two-touchdown advantage against Missouri.
• Houston Nutt. How did Mississippi respond to the news their soon-to-be-former coach will be out at season’s end? Lose 27-7 at home to Louisiana Tech. The Rebels are 2-8, have the nation’s No. 1 team coming up next and their lone FBS victory came against Fresno State. Speaking of which …
• Fresno State. The Bulldogs will miss the postseason for only the second time in 13 years after losing to New Mexico State on Saturday. Fresno had won all of its previous 17 meetings with the Aggies.