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GREENBERG: Big things might lie ahead in last year of BCS

Gus Malzahn

Gus Malzahn

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Updated: August 24, 2013 11:17PM

So this is it. It’s the 16th and final season in the era of the Bowl Championship Series, the most controversial and roundly rooted-against playoff
system in sports. Beginning in 2014, millions of fans will get what they long have demanded: a playoff, albeit a skimpy four-team playoff. Hey, it’s a start.

But first, an end. One last go-round for the BCS, which — does anyone want to hear this? — actually has been a spectacular success.

The college game is more
popular and lucrative than ever. BCS finales have featured at least two games that would appear on anyone’s list of the greatest in history (Ohio State over Miami in 2002 and Texas over USC in 2005) and another that was decided on a last-second field goal (Auburn over Oregon in 2010).

Five teams from non-BCS conferences — Boise State and Utah twice each and TCU once — have won BCS games. And each of the Big Six leagues in the country has produced at least one national champion.

These all have been very good things. Very BCS-affirming things, frankly.

Of course, the Southeastern Conference has claimed the last seven titles, giving many fans a colossus to dislike (and envy) and giving non-SEC powers from Eugene, Ore., to Norman, Okla., to Columbus, Ohio, to South Bend, Ind., a target to aim for with extreme urgency.

Bullies are always good things in sports, too.

Which brings us to Alabama. If the SEC is the kingpin of college football, Tide coach Nick Saban is its king. Few teams have been favored more heavily to win it all than the 2013 Tide. Another title would be the Nicktator’s fifth as a coach and Alabama’s fourth in five years — a college dynasty to end all dynasties.

And that brings us back to the bigger picture. If ‘‘Anybody but ’Bama’’ doesn’t do it for you as a rallying cry, ‘‘Anybody but the SEC’’ likely does. In the final year of the BCS, it’s fun to have such clarity.

5 QBs Who Are Better Bets to Win the Heisman Than Johnny Football

AJ McCarron, Sr., Alabama. Eleven of the last 13 Heisman winners have been quarterbacks, so why in the world not McCarron, who’s going for his third national title as a starter and fourth overall? If Saban is the king of college football, the marvelously efficient McCarron is its prince.

Braxton Miller, Jr., Ohio State. He might be even more perfect for Urban Meyer’s system than Tim Tebow (Florida) or Alex Smith (Utah) was. If the Buckeyes dominate the Big Ten — let alone go unbeaten in the regular season — again, dual threat Miller will be the Heisman front-runner.

Tajh Boyd, Sr., Clemson. There isn’t a more explosive passer in the country, and the Tigers are the favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference. If they take down Georgia in the season opener, Boyd’s candidacy will become instantly serious.

Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon. Someday, Chip Kelly will wish he had seen Mariota’s career to its fruition. In the meantime, new Ducks coach Mark Helfrich will revel in the play of a big, strong, accurate passer who’s every bit as fast as Miller.

Teddy Bridgewater, Jr., Louisville. Of all the teams in the country, the Cardinals — with one final season in the Big East-turned-American Athletic Conference — probably have the best chance to zip through the regular season unbeaten. Yep, 12-0 tends to raise the profile of a really good quarterback.


No. 5 Georgia.
The Bulldogs face No. 8 Clemson, No. 6 South Carolina and No. 12 LSU in September. It’s too much, too soon.No. 15 Texas.
The schedule is ridiculous. Let’s just call this a five-loss team and be done with it. Baylor (unranked).
Watch the Bears pile up the best offensive numbers in the country and marvel at their post-Robert Griffin III success. Northern Illinois (unranked).
It’s silly to pick any other team to win the Mid-American Conference. And sillier to have a
Top 25 without MAC-tion represented.

3 Games of the Millennium (because one is never enough)

Alabama at Texas A&M (Sept. 14). It’s the ultimate revenge game, especially after the Johnny Manziel-led victory in Tuscaloosa in 2012. It won’t be pretty for the Aggies unless it is, in which case all hell breaks loose.

Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7). The winner should have a great shot at making the national championship game. The loser? Zero shot whatsoever.

Ohio State at Michigan (Nov. 30). If the Buckeyes are as good as many think they’ll be, they’ll be 11-0 heading into Ann Arbor. Which sets up an epic matchup no matter how well the Wolverines have held up their end of the bargain.

2 Reasons Notre Dame Can’t Win It All

Quarterback play. Irish offensive coordinator Chuck
Martin, eyeballing the BCS title game a year ago, pretty much said it all about Tommy Rees, essentially calling him an extra coach for then-starter Everett Golson. Rees,
starting because Golson screwed up, is a good team guy. He just isn’t a championship-quality quarterback.

The schedule. At Michigan. At Stanford. And there are plenty of challenging games in between. How does 9-3 sound?

1 Writer’s Stab at ThE BCS Matchups

Championship game: Alabama vs. Oregon • Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Stanford • Sugar Bowl: South Carolina vs.
Florida State • Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Boise State • Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Louisville

Ranking the Conferences

1. SEC. Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M, yada-yada. We won’t insult your intelligence with an explanation.

2. Pac-12. It might not be only Oregon and Stanford in the North making national waves. Watch for Arizona State and UCLA to raise the profile of the South in a big way.

3. Big 12. This 10-team league is the most wide-open, with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas, Baylor and Kansas State all in contention.

4. Big Ten. It’s hard to imagine any team outperforming Ohio State, but there’s always Wisconsin in the Leaders and a dogfight among Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern in the Legends to believe in.

5. ACC. It’s all about the Atlantic race between Clemson and Florida State. The Coastal is pretty terrible.

6. American. Hello, Louisville! You’ve got Cincinnati and Rutgers to contend with, and, well, that’s nothing to sneeze at if you’re feeling kind.

7. Mountain West. There’s Boise State and a bunch of teams that aren’t Boise State. Winner: the Broncos.

8. Mid-American. If Northern Illinois can’t destroy the rest of this league again, then we’ve heard enough for a while about the Huskies.

9. Conference USA. Louisiana Tech is fun to watch. So there’s that.

10. Sun Belt. Why are we even talking about this?

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