Following Couch-Potato Path to the Sugar Bowl

Say what you will about the college game, but in how many other sports can you get a step closer to the national-title game snoozing on the sofa?

Aside from Ohio State, which entered the week with the No. 99-ranked offense but emerged as USC's most serious bowl championship series threat, the weekend's biggest winners squared off against "idle."

With one-loss Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech all losing, USC and Louisiana State nuzzled closer to the Sugar Bowl without having to lift a football finger for anything other than finger food.

This isn't the first time sloth has been rewarded.

In 1998, Florida State watched a great college football Saturday while Seminole Coach Bobby Bowden bounced a grandkid on his knee and ended up playing for the national title.

Two years ago, of course, Nebraska was still dabbing tears after a horrendous Friday-after-Thanksgiving loss at Colorado but, thanks to a few ensuing and calamitous events, ended up playing Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national title.

The student-athlete life lesson here is never, ever give up and please pass the guacamole dip.

This year's race is different only in that it has been narrowed and honed, unlike Miami tight end Kellen Winslow's postgame lecture on college football as it compares with warfare.

And although there is no technical playoff in college football this year, there is the equivalent to a Final Four in Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State and Louisiana State, the only schools with a dog left in this Sugar Bowl hunt.

1. Oklahoma -- The only fear now is the Sooners have peaked too soon, becoming invincible two weeks before turkey day when it all could mean chicken scratch when the Sugar Bowl is played Jan. 4

As far as Coach Bob Stoops taking care of business and tying up loose ends, his Sooners avenged last year's two losses against Oklahoma State and Texas A&M; with wins the last two weeks by the combined score of 129-9.

2. USC -- Here's one for you: The Trojans strengthened their grip on a Sugar Bowl bid even as they lost first place in the Pacific 10 Conference, with Washington State pulling a half-game ahead ... for now.

Wiping Miami and Florida State off the BCS windshield makes for a clearer view to New Orleans (Virginia Tech was never a serious threat), so long as the Trojans win out against Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State.

The only thing that can stop USC is 1) a stink-it-up victory that might cause a drop from the No. 2 position in both the writers' and coaches' polls or 2) a backstretch BCS run from either Ohio State or LSU.

3. Ohio State -- No other team got more weekend bang for its Buckeye -- of course, Ohio State had to actually win a game (against Michigan State) to achieve this windfall. The Buckeyes will lower their BCS poll average from 6.5 to 4. Now, consider Ohio State trailed No. 2 USC by 4.45 points in the BCS last week but will get a 2.5-point pickup while USC is capped at 2.0 in the poll component.

If Ohio State could somehow jump LSU into the No. 3 poll spot, the Buckeyes might be able to press the Trojans in a decimal-point shootout.

4. LSU -- The good news is that the three teams ahead of the Tigers in the BCS -- Miami, Florida State and Virginia Tech -- all lost. The bad news is that LSU played hapless Louisiana Monroe earlier this season and that lopsided victory is partly responsible for the team's balloon-payment strength-of-schedule numbers. The Tigers trailed USC by 7.95 points for the No. 2 spot last week, so their work is definitely cut out.


Weekend Wrap

Penn State is on the skids and everyone wants to know, is Joe Paterno too old for the job? Let's see, John Gagliardi, the St. John's (Minn.) coach who just etched his 409th career victory, turned 77 last week.

The Internet has been great for making airline reservations, but lousy to legendary coaches. How about we all just sign off for a while and see how Paterno does after next year. Paterno is one of the handful of coaches who should have the right to dictate the terms of his departure. If next year goes south, we figure Paterno will get the message and make the tough call on himself.

The Rose Bowl must be on pins and needles, or maybe thorns. The Granddaddy is desperately hoping LSU jumps USC in the BCS so that the Rose Bowl might be left with No. 3 USC vs. No. 4 Ohio State. If not, the Rose will get either Ohio State, Michigan or Purdue from the Big Ten to match against maybe a two-loss at-large team.

Happiest guy of the weekend award goes to ... Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese. The three teams that so rudely bolted his conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference -- Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College -- all lost.

Happiest school in the country award goes to ... Alabama. As if defeating Mississippi State, 38-0, wasn't sweet enough, the Crimson Tide also got a bonus victory when Oklahoma handed Dennis Franchione's Texas A&M; squad a 77-0 licking. In Tuscaloosa, this is a net victory of 115-0. The only thing Crimson Tide fans hate more than Franchione, who bolted Alabama last year, are taxes.

Colorado defeats Missouri, North Carolina defeats Wake Forest, Clemson defeats Florida State, Arizona defeats Washington, Stanford defeats Arizona State, Duke defeats Georgia Tech. Yep, that's pretty much the way I saw it.

ESPN's apparently orchestrated Larry Fitzgerald-for-the-Heisman push has become annoying and shameless. OK, we get it, the Pittsburgh sophomore receiver is a fantastic player. That said, there should be an inquiry if Oklahoma goes undefeated and senior quarterback Jason White doesn't win.

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