At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION
While it's only mid-September, there's already talk of the chaos that will occur if there are three unbeaten "Big Six" conference teams. Do you think that will happen?
There's a great chance we could have unbeaten champions from the Pac-10 (USC), Big 12 (Oklahoma/Missouri) and SEC (LSU/Florida/Georgia/Alabama) at the end of the season. In that scenario, one unbeaten team would be left with its face pressed against the glass. Who would it be? USC. It can be argued that the Trojans are the most talented and best team in the nation, but their BCS resume figures to be sullied by playing in a weak conference. No one can say the Pac-10 is as good as the SEC or Big 12 this season. And USC won't get much of a bump from its non-conference schedule. While Ohio State figures to end up with a decent record, neither Notre Dame nor Virginia will do much to enhance USC's BCS numbers.
I would say there are definitely three teams that could end up being undefeated at the end of the season. USC and South Florida are the teams most likely to run the table, not only because of how good they are but also how good they are relative to those teams remaining on their schedule. The Big 12 could produce the other undefeated team through a process of elimination between Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas.
I hope so. I'd love the controversy and would be interested in hearing the BCS guys' spin on how the system is working. The Pac-10 has been so laughably mediocre that it would be a shock if USC didn't finish with a perfect record. Seven teams in the Big 12 are undefeated, but Missouri and Oklahoma appear to be a notch above the rest. If either or both get by Texas, it would come as no surprise if both are unbeaten and in the Big 12 championship game. Getting through the SEC unscathed will be much more difficult, but Florida, Georgia and/or LSU are good enough to do it (I don't think Alabama is quite ready). And don't forget about BYU and Utah. Yeah, the Mountain West isn't a power conference, but try telling that to the Pac-10.
October isn't even here, and we're already thinking of doomsday scenarios for the BCS. Still, since the BCS began in 1998, only three title-game pairings have been undisputed. I like my 70 percent chance at an uproar. I don't think having to choose between three undefeated major-conference teams will be the controversy this season. No. 1 USC doesn't have a ranked team left on its schedule, but the Trojans have lost four conference games in the past two seasons. I can't see the Big 12 or SEC champion getting out of their conference schedules undefeated. Thanks to the weakness of the Pac-10 (and Ohio State?), an undefeated USC could face the consequences. And what case could an undefeated Mountain West champion make if the Big 12 and/or SEC winner emerges with two losses?
While there definitely would be chaos with three "Big Six" unbeatens – and maybe BYU or Utah, too – I think the only "Big Six" with a truly legitimate chance to finish perfect in the regular season is USC. The Trojans look to be miles better than anyone else in the Pac-10, which is down this season anyway. I think the Big 12 and SEC are too difficult to get through unscathed, and no one in the ACC, Big Ten or Big East is good enough to finish unbeaten.
It's certainly possible, but it isn't probable. I stand by my preseason belief that USC and Oklahoma will go undefeated and play for the national championship. I still like Ohio State's chances of winning the Big Ten even after its one-sided loss to USC. I don't think anyone in the Big East or ACC is good enough to finish the season unbeaten. The SEC certainly has plenty of worthy candidates. You could make an argument that LSU, Florida and this week's Georgia-Alabama winner could finish undefeated, but I'm guessing the SEC teams will beat one another up so much that nobody will survive unscathed. The real question is what might happen if the Pac-10, Big 12 and SEC champions finish undefeated. USC already is being heralded as one of the great teams of all-time – justifiably or not – after playing only two games, but the Pac-10 is so weak that the Trojans could have the lightest resume of the three contenders under this scenario. Would an undefeated USC team get left out of the championship game in favor of, say, an undefeated Oklahoma team and an undefeated Georgia squad that have faced tougher schedules?