Shoot, a rivalry hot even on paper
The annual “Red River Shootout” between Texas and Oklahoma was downgraded to “Red River Rivalry” a few years ago because “shootout” was thought too strident a word to describe a fiercely competitive game between schools that, deep down, respected each other.
Keep your powder dry -- it could be headed back to “shootout.”
Fans from both base campuses were ordered to active duty with Sunday’s release of the Bowl Championship Series standings.
Alabama stayed at No. 1, but that wasn’t the news. The Crimson Tide has two remaining days of reckoning: this week against Auburn in the Iron Bowl and the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 6 against Florida.
The news wasn’t USC moving up one spot, to No. 5. It was forward progress, for sure, but the Trojans still need a lot of help to gain, in two weeks, the three spots necessary to book passage to the BCS championship game Jan. 8.
The news was Oklahoma, a 65-21 winner against Texas Tech on Saturday night, pulling to within a sliver of Texas in the BCS standings.
Texas is holding on to No. 2 the way Davy Crockett held that fort in San Antonio.
The Longhorns lead No. 3 Oklahoma in the BCS by a hair on Bevo’s chin: .9209 to .9125.
It stands to reason Oklahoma might jump Texas next weekend if the Sooners score a victory at BCS No. 12 Oklahoma State and Texas handles lousy A&M; (4-7) in Austin.
Oklahoma has already jumped to No. 2 in this week’s USA Today coaches’ poll. Texas is No. 4.
Should Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech win next weekend (the Red Raiders host Baylor), there will be a three-way tie in the Big 12 South at 11-1, requiring the BCS standings to be used to determine which team plays Missouri in the Dec. 6 conference title game.
If Oklahoma finishes ahead of Texas, goes on to beat Missouri, and then finishes No. 2 in the BCS ahead of No. 3 Texas, you won’t hear the end of it.
Texas, you may recall, defeated Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was in all the papers, but unfortunately, the BCS computers can’t read.
It wouldn’t be the first time an “outrage” had occurred in BCS history, and the last outrage didn’t shut the BCS down.
In 2000, Miami defeated Florida State in the regular season, but Florida State edged out Miami out for the national-title berth.
Hurricanes Coach Butch Davis got over it by going to the Cleveland Browns.
Next week should be fun to watch. Oklahoma and Texas, their coaches and fans, their alums and close friends, will all be lobbying hard for the cause.
Texas Coach Mack Brown has already run one successful rankings campaign. In 2004, he was involved in another ugly BCS chapter when Texas and Cal waged a decimal-point fight for the No. 4 spot that guaranteed the winner a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Brown got on a soapbox to make his team’s case while Cal, which still hasn’t been to a Rose Bowl since 1959, let Brown set the agenda.
A few votes switched from Cal to Texas, and the Longhorns were Pasadena-bound to play Michigan.
The AP reacted by pulling its poll out of the BCS, and several writers -- including me -- were forever prohibited by their newspapers from participating in polls.
But they still didn’t shut the BCS down, and they won’t this time.
Brown may have an even better argument for his team this season than in 2004, but this season’s standings could work against him.
Here’s a surprise: Texas made Brown available to ESPN during Sunday night’s Big East game between Connecticut and South Florida.
Brown was his usual, gracious, well-spoken self.
“This was a team that a lot of people didn’t think would be very good, thought it would be an average team by Texas standards,” Brown said of his Longhorns, who actually began the season ranked No. 11 in the AP poll.
Brown might have stopped by a Harris poll voter’s house for Thanksgiving dinner this week if his team weren’t playing Texas A&M.;
Of course, Brown is only doing his job. He’s a post-season advocate who said this year’s race has “playoffs written all over it.”
Short of that sea change, he’ll hand out pamphlets on a street corner if that’s what it takes to get Texas elected.
Brown has one more advantage.
He’s a voter in the USA Today coaches’ poll this season.
Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops is not.
Why should Ohio State fans be rooting for Kentucky to beat Tennessee this week? Because a ESPN researcher -- the network has 85 on scholarship -- recently noted that if Tennessee (4-7) suffers another defeat, Ohio State will stand as the only major-college program that has never had an eight-loss season.
The mystery of San Diego State football continues with Sunday’s firing of Coach Chuck Long after a three-year, 9-27 reign that ended, shockingly, with a victory against Nevada Las Vegas. Problem is, the home game drew only 17,486 and the season-ending victory ended a seven-game losing streak, the school’s longest in 25 years. How might it have been different? The school thought it had a young Oregon assistant named Jeff Tedford poised to take over from Ted Tollner in 2002, only to watch California make an eleventh-hour pitch to steal Tedford away. San Diego State football has gone 28-56 under coaches Tom Craft and Long.
The good news: San Diego State will receive $500,000 in BCS money because Mountain West member Utah clinched a major bowl bid, and that will help pay off the $1.4 million the school owes Long.
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Civil War in Corvallis: Oregon State is 5-3 against Oregon in eight meetings since 2000. Oregon State is 4-0 at home this decade and has not lost to Oregon in Corvallis since the 1996 game.
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PLAY IT FORWARD
Five things to watch this week in college football:
1. This week’s Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State in Corvallis is what a great rivalry game is all about. Oregon State has a chance to secure its first Rose Bowl bid in 44 years with a win over its archrival, and Oregon has the chance to ruin those plans. In fact, an Oregon win might knock Oregon State from the Rose to the Sun Bowl, with the Ducks taking the Holiday Bowl spot designated for the Pac-10’s No. 2 team.
2. Florida has already clinched the East Division of the Southeastern Conference and earned a trip to play Alabama for the SEC title on Dec. 6, but before that awaits a nonconference rivalry showdown against Florida State in Tallahassee. A Florida State upset could knock Florida out of the national-title chase and keep title hopes alive for a one-loss school from Southern California.
3. After a week off in which it got to savor its No.1 ranking in the BCS standings, Alabama faces the one-two punch of Auburn and Florida the next two weeks. Auburn is having an awful season at 5-6 but would like nothing better than to knock the national-title hopes out of the Crimson Tide. The records favor Alabama, and this year’s game is in Tuscaloosa, but recent history favors Auburn, winner of the last six Iron Bowls.
4. A Boise State win over Fresno State on Friday in Boise will ensure that for the second time since 2004, two schools from “non-BCS” conferences will finish the regular season undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Boise State is 11-0 headed into the post-Thanksgiving Day game. In 2004, undefeated Utah finished No. 6 in the BCS standings and undefeated Boise State finished No. 9.
5. Texas and Oklahoma fans are already starting the debate over which team should go the Big 12 title game in the event of a three-way tie at 11-1 involving Texas Tech. But the BCS standings won’t matter unless the Longhorns beat rival Texas A&M; in Austin on Thanksgiving Day and Oklahoma wins at Oklahoma State in the annual Bedlam Game on Saturday. Texas A&M;, for what it’s worth, has won two straight against Texas.
-- Chris Dufresne