Originally Published: September 15, 2013

Please, BCS, give us the dream finale

By Edward Aschoff | ESPN.com

>Before the second quarter of Oregon's 59-14 thrashing of Tennessee could even end, Twitter was abuzz with reports that Ducks fans were already chanting "We want Bama!" inside Autzen Stadium. By the fourth quarter, those chants must have been deafening as news of Alabama's shootout with Texas A&M seeped into Eugene.

If the football gods are on our side, we'll finally get our Alabama-Oregon national championship. And if Saturday is any indicator, it could be quite the send-off for the BCS in Pasadena, Calif.

Last year, this seemed like the ultimate national championship matchup of speed and strength versus speed and finesse. A hit-you-in-the-mouth SEC defense versus that exhausting, fast-paced Oregon offense. But thanks to an untimely Ducks upset and a scrappy Notre Dame team, we were stuck with Alabama trouncing the Irish in the BCS title game.

Marcus Mariota
Scott Olmos/USA TODAY SportsMarcus Mariota threw for a career-high 456 yards against Tennessee.

Once again, it's early in the year and Alabama-Oregon is staring us right in the face. It's almost taunting us because we know how good it would be, yet we know how quickly it could disappear. We've been down this road too many times, but just think of the possibilities.

We could actually see points galore, as both of these offenses can move. Combined, Alabama and Oregon scored 108 points and registered 1,255 yards of offense Saturday. Granted, the defenses they faced weren't great, but we saw that when these two teams are on point, they can score at will.

Both have legitimate Heisman Trophy-contending quarterbacks. Alabama's AJ McCarron erased his poor start to the year by throwing for 334 yards and four touchdowns in Alabama's 49-42 win over the Aggies, while Oregon's Marcus Mariota threw for a career-high 456 yards with five total touchdowns against the Vols.

You want running games? Well, these teams have those, too, as Alabama rushed for 234 yards on Saturday behind the ever-churning legs of T.J. Yeldon and Oregon's rushing game has totaled 500, 350 and 216 yards, respectively, in its first three games this season.

What might make this potential matchup even more intriguing are the questions surrounding Alabama's defense. It's clear this unit needs some work after Johnny Manziel & Co. accumulated 628 yards offense in College Station, the most ever given up by an Alabama defense. Manziel totaled 562 yards of offense (the second-most in SEC history) and five passing touchdowns against a Tide defense that made Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas look inept two weeks ago.

For people looking for someone to finally top the Tide, maybe Mariota and his high-flying Ducks are the answer. They'll spread the Tide out. And while Mariota isn't as slippery as Manziel, he's excellent at making plays with his feet.

There's no doubt that with a coaching duo of Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, along with some veteran leadership, this Alabama defense will improve, but you have to think Oregon would have a chance.

We can watch and wait to see if Oregon gets that chance. Win out, and we get our dream matchup.

Alabama-Ohio State would make for great drama when you think about the Saban-Urban Meyer storyline, and even the thought of a rematch between Alabama and A&M sounds appetizing, but Saturday put college football in the right direction toward everything we'd want in a BCS finale: Alabama and Oregon.

We can only hope that the football gods will be forgiving in the year that we lay the BCS to rest.

The Big Ten can't be the 'it' conference

By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

CHICAGO -- A CBS camera followed Johnny Manziel's every move Saturday, tracking the Texas A&M quarterback from the magical to the mundane.

More than 750 media members converged on Kyle Field for a game that had been anticipated for months. This was another SEC Saturday, and no matter what happened in the Big Ten, the eyes of the nation would be on Alabama-A&M.

Taylor Martinez
Bruce Thorson/USA TODAY SportsTaylor Martinez and the Nebraska offense were blanked by UCLA in the second half.

But the Big Ten had a chance to steal a glance, build some credibility and maybe change the narrative, not to mention a few minds. However, the league fell short in its one Saturday showcase of September.

Nothing to see here, folks. Same old story.

Michigan forgot to show up against an Akron team that had lost 27 consecutive road games. Nebraska decided to pack it in during the third quarter against UCLA. And Penn State's defense made a very good college quarterback (UCF's Blake Bortles) look like a Heisman Trophy candidate.

There was one Big Ten game that left everyone talking and tweeting well into Sunday morning, thanks to one of the more bizarre finishes you'll ever see. The clock ran out on Wisconsin after quarterback Joel Stave tried to center the ball deep in Arizona State territory. The officials, seemingly confused that Stave placed the ball on the ground rather than make an obvious kneeling motion, delayed in spotting the ball and time expired.

No one could believe it, even the victorious Sun Devils.

Wisconsin deserved a chance to win a big game on the road and salvage something for the Big Ten. Thanks to the inexcusable officiating blunder, the Badgers' 32-30 loss was a black mark on a mostly sour Saturday.

Make no mistake, Week 3 wasn't as bad as Week 2 of the 2012 season, when the Big Ten went 6-6, a virtual impossibility given the forgiving nature of nonconference schedules. After that sorry Saturday, league commissioner Jim Delany told the critics to swing away, acknowledging the Big Ten's status as a national pinata.

The Big Ten bashing will continue after this Saturday, although not as much as it did last season. But perhaps just as damaging, the league didn't give people a reason to pay attention. The Big Ten is still viewed as a has-been conference, not a right-now conference.

To read Adam Rittenberg's full story, Click here.

Pac-12 looks legit in the eyes of the nation

By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

Oregon showed its legitimacy as a national title contender under new coach Mark Helfrich, and QB Marcus Mariota established his Heisman Trophy bona fides. That's at the top of the heap.

The Ducks also did enough to eclipse Stanford in the eyes of the Pac-12 blog as the conference's top national title contender. The Cardinal muddled around a bit against Army. While Oregon had preseason questions, it has answered them with a strong 3-0 start.

Meanwhile, in the Pac-12 South Division, both UCLA and Arizona State made statements, though the Bruins was a bit more impressive on the road. And the Trojans did enough against BC to create a lingering "maybe" over their previously flagging season.

The Bruins could push close to the nation's top 10 this week. They seem poised for a 5-0 start before playing at Stanford and Oregon on back-to-back weekends starting Oct. 19.

Arizona State will be in the Top 25 this week, and that will make the visit to Stanford on Saturday the first Pac-12 matchup this season between ranked teams. A big opportunity for the Sun Devils.

USC gets the Sun Devils in two weeks. If the Trojans beat a strong Utah State team on Saturday and then win at Arizona State, well, suddenly the "Fire Kiffin" talk might die down.

Washington gets a breather on Saturday with Idaho State. Then the Huskies play host to Arizona on Sept. 28 in a potentially big game for both squads. The Wildcats, who have been sitting out the relevancy games with a soft nonconference schedule, will have their own chance to have a "hello world" moment.

But the general meaning is this: In the preseason, the Pac-12 looked like a conference that could have national title contenders. Now there's no doubt Oregon and Stanford are in that mix.

To read Ted Miller's full story, Click here.

Ted Miller | email

ESPN Senior Writer

Isn't it defense that wins championships?

By Chris Low | ESPN.com

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For a league that was supposed to be all about defense, these wild offensive shootouts are suddenly becoming the norm in the SEC.

Remember the good, old days -- just two short years ago -- when Alabama and LSU played an epic No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, including an overtime period, without anybody scoring a touchdown?

That model seems to have gone the way of the rotary telephone.

As entertaining as Alabama's 49-42 win over Texas A&M was on Saturday at Kyle Field, it raises a question that will reverberate around the college football world.

Are either one of these teams good enough defensively to win a national championship?

Maybe that's not fair to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who might not actually be Superman, but all he was missing Saturday was a cape. He torched Alabama's defense for 562 yards of total offense, five touchdown passes and was mesmerizing with his uncanny ability to turn nothing into something.

As good as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was, his favorite receiver, Mike Evans, was just as good with seven catches for a school-record 279 yards.

So, just maybe, the Aggies are simply that dynamic offensively.

But you might want to rub your eyes before processing this next statistic: Alabama gave up 628 yards of total offense ... and still managed to win the game.

Raise your hand if you saw that coming.

To read Chris Low's full story, click here.

Chris Low | email

ESPN Senior Writer

Texas can't let bad move to worse

By Max Olson | ESPN.com

Texas players say this team can still win the Big 12 championship, and from the looks of things this is not yet a dejected group. Mack Brown isn't questioning their effort or want-to, but something greater than execution is missing.

The seniors who lead this team were freshmen when Texas went 5-7. They haven't forgotten how much that depressing collapse of a season hurt. It's their job now to prevent that from happening all over again.

Look at the schedule. There aren't gimme wins anymore, no clear and easy path to six victories. A lot has to change for Texas in a short amount of time.

Case McCoy
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesThe Longhorns asked a lot of backup quarterback Case McCoy in Saturday's loss.

"We refuse to have another 5-7 season," senior defensive tackle Chris Whaley said. "That was one of the worst seasons Texas has ever had. We just refuse to have another season like that."

When viewed in a vacuum, Texas losing to Ole Miss made sense. The Longhorns were missing their quarterback and their most explosive weapon on offense. They were asking new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson to enact meaningful change in three practices.

But this is a season of no excuses. This is not what Brown has been rebuilding for and not what he expected.

Think about it: A lot needed to happen in the Longhorns' favor on Saturday night if they hoped to win. They needed a Case McCoy-led ball control offense, with more power rushing than they'd relied on all season, to do just enough. That worked fine in the first half, but three-and-outs doomed Texas in the third quarter.

They needed a defense that had serious problems with the zone read and tackling to suddenly fix those flaws in one week. The Rebels wisely exploited that Achilles' heel to the tune of 221 rushing yards from Bo Wallace and Jeff Scott.

Like BYU before them, they didn't have much need for a passing attack. They ran the same sweep play over and over because nobody could figure out how to stop it.

Texas needed good luck, turnovers, Ole Miss mistakes and all the kinds of things that programs with teams with less talent, coaching and confidence tend to hope for.

That's what it has come to for this Longhorns team, with its 19 returning starters, experience-loaded depth chart and ability to recruit anyone. They aren't playing like a team with more talent than their opponent.

To read Max Olson's full story, click here.

Max Olson | email

ESPN Staff Writer

The best is still to come in the ACC

By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

Georgia Tech-Miami is the game that will define the ACC's Coastal Division race this year.

Or maybe it's Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech, as history tends to repeat itself.

Then again, Pittsburgh found a pulse again in Saturday's 49-27 win over New Mexico, and North Carolina's season didn't end with the loss to South Carolina.

What we do know about the clustered Coastal Division after just three weeks: Georgia Tech's 38-14 win over Duke on Saturday afternoon provided the first hint of any semblance of order in the division, and Miami's upset of then-ranked No. 12 Florida last week was the most impressive win to date. A Jackets-Canes showdown in Charlotte is the popular pick right now, but none of these teams have played their best football yet.

To read Heather Dinich's full story, click here.


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