The College Football Notebook

November 22, 2010 7:28 AM

Can Wisconsin Win It All?

BuckyBadger.jpgI attended my first college football game in 1980 at Wisconsin's Camp Randall, a cold November day when the Badgers were shut out by Ohio State 21-0. I never thought I would wake up on the Monday prior to Thanksgiving and be thinking about whether UW had a serious chance at a national title. Yet they, and a couple other one-loss teams are still holding out hopes for a crazy November finish that vaults them into the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale on January 10.

Wisconsin, Ohio State and LSU are the hopefuls, as they chase the undefeated foursome of Oregon, Auburn, Boise State and TCU. Three of these teams face key tests over the next two weeks. Oregon hosts Arizona this week and goes to Oregon State on December 4. Oregon State stepped up and beat USC decisively, they may need the win for a bowl game and a home team in a spot that's both rivalry and revenge (The Beavers lost to the Ducks last year with the Rose Bowl on the line) isn't a scenario that's going to lead to Chip Kelly sleeping well at night. Auburn goes to Alabama on Black Friday, the showcase game in not just college football ,but the biggest event in sports this holiday weekend. Boise State visits Nevada, with the Wolfpack ranked in the Top 20. Nevada's already beaten Cal badly and has shown the WAC is more than a one-horse show.

If all three of these teams lose, the door is opened for a one-loss team. There's also the possibility that if just Oregon and Auburn lose, the same door would open. Voters who are willing to let a midmajor team into the championship game might be hesitant about letting both Boise & TCU in to face each other. The logic being that a midmajor should prove its mettle by taking down one of the big boys rather than play each other. Should either scenario occur, that gives hope in Madison, Columbus and Baton Rouge. Right now, LSU is the highest-ranked in the BCS, with Wisconsin close behind and Ohio State right on UW's heels. But the Tigers will be hurt by their failure to win a conference championship, and one should remember that in 2006 Big Ten runner-up Michigan lost its #2 BCS ranking without playing a game on those grounds. The decision in '06 was correct and Florida more than validated their choice when they hammered Ohio State for the crown. I suspect voters will not want to put a division runner-up into the title game. You could get Auburn if they bounce back and win the SEC Championship Game against South Carolina. But my guess is that it would come down to the Big Ten, and as things stand now that probably means Wisconsin.

The odds of any of the one-loss teams playing for the whole thing are long. But at this point in the season all you want is a shot and Wisconsin, Ohio State and LSU have it. And for the Badgers, they've come a long way since that cold day when I was a ten-year old lad at my first college game.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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