BCS Shakeout Provides 15 Storylines to Ponder
The BCS has spoken, and this time, the uproar is not the usual decibel level of a space shuttle launch. Hard to argue with Texas vs. Alabama.
We have another final poll - 15 storylines that framed this regular season, and the bowls to come.
No. 1. Password for the year: Stability. Florida, Alabama and Texas were the father, son and holy ghost of the season, holding the top three spots in the polls every week after Sept. 13.
The two left standing are strangers to each other. Texas and Alabama haven't met in 28 years.
No. 2. Most important second of the season: The one left on the clock after Texas' brain freeze at the end of the Nebraska game. Had Colt McCoy allowed that second to slip away, killing a chance to kick the winning field goal, he would have become the biggest goat since the guy ran the wrong way in the Rose Bowl.
No. 3. Best bowl without national championship confetti at the end: TCU vs. Boise State in the Fiesta. Good news: Unbeatens collide. Bad news: We'll never know how either would do against the BCS bullies.
No. 4. Top request granted: Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy stood on the Georgia Dome field Saturday and presented his Christmas wish for the national championship game. "I want the Longhorns."
He has them.
No. 5. BCS bowl team that must worry most about showing up flatter than a tostada: Florida. The Gators have an SEC broken heart to get over in time to play unbeaten Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl - remember the six-egg omelet Alabama laid last year against Utah? "We're kind of in territory we haven't been in for awhile," Urban Meyer said. That was before he went into the hospital for dehydration.
No. 6. Who said,"Watch that first step to a BCS bowl, it's a doozy?": Oregon. On Sept. 3, the Ducks had no first downs until the second half in a 19-8 humbling at Boise State, and LeGarrette Blount challenged the entire Pacific Northwest to a fight.
All those predicting that night the Ducks would end up in the Rose Bowl, averaging 41.7 points in Pac-10 games, and Blount wound score a touchdown against Oregon State, raise your hands.
No. 7. Bowl team carrying such an emotional burden, the players will have to pay airline baggage fees: Florida State. The Seminoles must beat West Virginia in the Gator Bowl to prevent Bobby Bowden from going out with his first losing season since 1976.
No. 8. Top Heisman candidate among all management, science and engineering majors: Stanford's Toby Gerhart. When he wasn't studying for the 21 credits he took this quarter, he was rushing for 26 touchdowns. His scoring average per game of 13.3 would put him third on the Stanford basketball team.
With McCoy hogtied by Nebraska and Tim Tebow weeping in defeat on the sideline - plus the fact Gerhart will sweep the western vote - he could even win the thing. But probably not.
No. 9. Where'd the good times go? USC loses four times, Pete Carroll gets into it with UCLA and has to dodge flak - later apologized for - from Charlie Weis.
No. 10. Most meaningless statistic: Cincinnati finished 120th, and last, in the nation in time of possession. The Bearcats are 12-0.
No. 11. Inexplicable feat of the season: Iowa finished 86th in the nation in scoring, and still landed in the Orange Bowl.
No. 12. Injury of the year. The race for both the Heisman and No. 1 - not to mention a quarterback's draft status - changed drastically when Oklahoma's Sam Bradford went down.
No. 13. Most surprising teams to be home for the holidays. Michigan started 4-0, Notre Dame 4-1. How'd they not end up in one of 34 bowl games?
No. 14. Most rapid coaching descent from BCS contention. Two years ago, Kansas went 12-1 and Mark Mangino could walk on water - whatever water they have in Kansas. Now he's history.
No. 15. Day that most reminded you why college football is worth all the television commercials: This past white-knuckle Saturday.
Texas wins the Big 12 on the last play, Cincinnati the Big East with 33 seconds left, Georgia Tech the ACC with 1:20 to go.
"It's like climbing a mountain," McElroy said of December. "The higher you go, the thinner the air gets."
For Alabama and Texas, the peak is dead ahead. Boise State, Cincinnati and TCU will just have to be happy with smaller mountains.