A date in Arizona would be just deserts for USC

USC is No. 2 in the new Bowl Championship Series standings, and, depending on your accent and your ZIP Code, this is either good news or reason to blow up the system.

Which prompts a question: Blow it up, then what?

There is an important component missing from the here-we-go-again arguments about whether the BCS should be dismantled either today or tomorrow and fed to junkyard dogs.

If USC beats UCLA on Saturday, the BCS is going to produce the national title game most people want to see: Ohio State versus USC.

If the protesters were objective about this, and dispassionately assessed the talent levels and the thrill factor, USC is the only team out there with a chance to give Ohio State a bang for its Buckeye.

Ohio State is as front-runner good as USC was two years ago, when the Trojans went wire to wire to win the BCS title.

Call for a playoff, shout from the rooftops, go hoarse doing it.

But this year, most pollsters and even four out of five dentists agree: It should be Ohio State versus USC on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz.

Buoyed by its 44-24 win over Notre Dame, USC supplanted Michigan as the No. 2 team in Sunday's BCS standings.

The Trojans also jumped Michigan for second place in the Associated Press poll, strengthened their No. 2 position in the Harris and USA Today coaches' polls and replaced Michigan as No. 2 in the BCS computers.

One-loss Michigan might not like any of this, but the Wolverines had their chance to get to the title game and didn't get it done.

Michigan didn't win its conference, did not beat Ohio State and has not convinced three major poll services it deserves a title-game rematch.

What about No. 4 Florida?

This prickly issue would be solved if two-loss Arkansas defeated the Gators this week in the Southeastern Conference title game.

That would leave the SEC without a national title candidate and put the kibosh on Florida Coach Urban Meyer, who is standing on table tops in advance of the possible title-game exclusion of his possible one-loss Gators.

Meyer is incredulous that just winning isn't good enough for his 11-1 team, which struggled to beat 6-6 Florida State on Saturday and has not scored more than 28 points against a Division I-A opponent since defeating Alabama, 28-13, on Sept. 30.

Florida may play in a tougher conference than USC, but the Gators' nonconference games were against Southern Mississippi, Western Carolina and Florida State.

USC, by contrast, soundly defeated three teams that are still in contention for BCS bowl bids -- Arkansas, Nebraska and Notre Dame.

The combined record of those teams is 29-7, and USC defeated those schools by a combined score of 122-48.

Sorry, but Ohio State versus USC instead of Michigan or Florida doesn't seem like such an outrage.

The nation's top pundits and coaches, without a whole lot of waffling, have assessed the situation and rated Michigan No. 3 and Florida No. 4.

The argument for a playoff was better in 2000, when Miami was No. 2 in both polls and didn't get to the title game, or in 2001, when Oregon was No. 2 and didn't get in, or in 2003, when USC was No. 1 in both polls and didn't make the game.

People can cry all they want for a playoff so long as they accept the fact that it's not going to happen.

The BCS is in the first season of a four-year deal with Fox under the present "double-host" system.

The best the playoff-shouters can hope for in the next three years is a possible "plus-one" upgrade, an extra game played after the four BCS bowls are played.

The "plus-one" could even be folded into the present double-host framework.

How it could work:

First, go back to the old bowl ties.

This year, Ohio State and USC would play in the Rose Bowl -- anyone in Pasadena have a problem with that?

The Fiesta would be the Big 12 champion versus Boise State, with the Sugar getting Florida versus Michigan and the Orange pairing the Big East and Atlantic Coast champions.

The at-large teams left out here are two-loss Notre Dame (sorry) and Louisiana State (really sorry), but you have to keep the top-12 access clause for non-BCS schools such as Boise State.

After the four bowls, use the BCS standings to calculate No. 1 and No. 2.

If Ohio State and Florida win their BCS bowls, they play for the national title and Meyer gets his shot at the championship.

It's not a perfect system either, but, at this stage, it's the only one that has a chance in Hattiesburg of gaining approval by college presidents.

Weekend wrap

* Notre Dame fell to only No. 10 in the BCS standings, which keeps the Irish in credibility range should the Rose Bowl want to make a possible Michigan-Notre Dame matchup. The other options, should the Rose Bowl lose Ohio State and USC to the BCS title game, would be to match Michigan against LSU, which moved to No. 5 in the BCS, or against the Big East champion (BCS No. 6 Louisville or No. 13 Rutgers).

* Start the party: Boise State jumped from No. 11 to No. 8 in the BCS, all but clinching an at-large trip to the Fiesta Bowl.

* Facts are facts: The Rose Bowl would get a better game if USC loses to UCLA this week. In that scenario, USC goes to the Rose Bowl and could be paired against either a traditional, or intriguing, opponent. If USC lost and Michigan advanced to the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl could pit USC against LSU in a game featuring schools that should have played for the 2003 BCS title. USC was No. 1 in both polls that year but finished No. 3 in the BCS behind Oklahoma and LSU. USC won the Associated Press share of the title in the Rose Bowl, and LSU claimed the BCS trophy with a win in the Sugar Bowl.

If Florida were to edge out Michigan for the No. 2 BCS spot, then the Rose Bowl would be USC versus Michigan.

* Lost in the BCS fine print: With its 37-27 win over the University of San Diego on Saturday, UC Davis finished 6-5 and clinched its 37th consecutive winning season. It is the longest streak at the Division I, I-AA or Division II level. The all-divisions record is held by Division III Linfield, in Oregon, which this year clinched its 51st straight winning season.



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