Search for Top BCS Team Leads to Eugene

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Chris Dell'Amore

After dominating the college football landscape for the past year, the Alabama Crimson Tide were shattered after the South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the ailing Tide 35–21 on October 9. Next in line for the heralded #1-ranking were none other than the dominant Ohio State Buck­eyes who seemed deserving of the ranking after a series of dominant performances, capped off by a 36–24 victory over the then-#12 Miami Hurricanes. However, for the second week in a row, yet another team proved incapable of holding onto the rank­ing as the best team in college football. As Ohio State traveled to Madison to take on Wisconsin, the #18 Badgers sent the Buck­eyes back to Columbus with a 31–18 loss as Wisconsin’s ground–and–pound play proved to be too much for the Buckeyes. This leaves the nation skeptical over which team truly deserves the title as the best team in college football. The Oklahoma Soon­ers are now the number one team in the land, but with games against #11 Missouri and #14 Oklahoma State on the horizon, the odds are that they will not be able to maintain their position for too long either.

As soon as Oklahoma loses its #1 ranking this weekend against Missouri, I have two viable candidates that should be the only teams in contention for the position as of right now: Oregon and Auburn. The Or­egon Ducks made sure America knew what they were about as soon as the season started this year by laying waste to #9 Stanford in a 52-31 victory. The Ducks rank first in BCS football in points per game (54.3), third in rushing yards per game (314.8) and 16th in points against (16.3). Running back LaMi­chael James has been a force on the ground, proving that despite being undersized (5’9″, 185 lbs.) his ability to bust a big play is more than enough to power the Ducks to stardom this year. James isn’t the only one in the Oregon backfield that has emerged into a primetime player over the course of the season either. Sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas has demonstrated compo­sure and athleticism as he has thrown for 1,231 yards and 14 touchdowns. His du­al-threat ability played a major role in the Stanford game as he threw for 238 yards and ran for an additional 117 yards. The only team that has a reasonable shot at knock­ing off the Ducks is Arizona on November 26. The Wildcats are currently second in the Pac-10 and will be looking to dethrone Oregon from having both an undefeated season and Pac-10 Championship title.

The other team that could contend for the top spot in the nation, if it continues playing the way it has been, is #4 Auburn. Auburn currently sits atop the SEC West with an un­defeated record and has already defeated two of the most well-rounded teams in the coun­try: South Carolina and Arkansas, who were both ranked #12 when they played Auburn. Like Oregon, Auburn’s strength comes in its dynamic offense, which is averaging 40.7 points and 283.7 rushing yards per game. Ju­nior quarterback Cameron Newton has burst onto the scene this year after being kicked out of Florida, playing in a junior college and earning a spot on the Auburn roster. Newton has been a force on the ground and in his past two games against Kentucky and Arkansas he has rushed for a combined 386 yards. Before Auburn can even consider being the top team in college football, it has to survive its battle with #6 LSU this Saturday. LSU, the only other unbeaten SEC team, is on the prowl and dying to prove to the Associated Press that, despite being drastically underrated to start the season, the Tigers are the preeminent team in the SEC and the country. Stopping an LSU team that has already defeated #18 UNC, #22 West Virginia and #14 Florida may prove to be too much for a leaky Auburn run defense that will be hard-pressed to bot­tle up LSU’s quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, and running back, Stevan Ridley.

Of any team that has the best odds to hold the top position in college football, the Oregon Ducks have the best chance. Oregon’s schedule barely poses a threat, and if they play like they have been, it is only a matter of time before they leap ahead of Boise State, who was awarded far too much credit for defeating a #10 Virginia Tech team that went on to lose to FCS team James Madison. The Ducks already have the AP ranking as the top team in the land and it won’t be long be­fore they have everyone outside of Eugene believing the same.