Strong matchups back up BCS process

LOS ANGELES -- A perfect championship game, a classic
coaching matchup and Notre Dame.

The Bowl Championship Series couldn't have asked for more -- a
glitzy lineup with little for critics to gripe over. Only Oregon
has a case to complain, as the Pac-10 has a 10-1 team left out of
the marquee bowls for a second straight season.

"I certainly understand that there are teams that are not in
these four games that have had a great seasons, as we have every
year," BCS coordinator and Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg said
Sunday. "I must say that there's a lot of consensus that we have
quality matchups among highly regarded teams in this year's BCS

Southern California and Texas, the only unbeatens left in
Division I-A, will decide the national title in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi on
Jan. 4.

"They do have the No. 1 team in the country," Texas coach Mack
Brown said of the two-time defending champion Trojans. "They've
just blown people out right and left and that will be [a] challenge
for us. But that's fun.

"For Texas not to be in the national championship game for 36
years and to see where [USC coach] Pete [Carroll] has brought their
program the last three years, that's where we want to be. That's
where we want to go."

Major college football's two winningest coaches, septuagenarians
Penn State's Joe Paterno and Florida State's Bobby Bowden, will
meet in the FedEx Orange Bowl on Jan. 3.

The Fighting Irish are back in the BCS after a five-year
absence. Charlie Weis' team faces Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on
Jan. 2.

The relocated Nokia Sugar Bowl will be played in Atlanta
after being chased from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, making it
a quick and familiar trip for Southeastern Conference champion
Georgia and its fans to the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs (10-2), who
won the SEC title by beating LSU in the Georgia Dome,
return there to meet Big East champion West Virginia (10-1) on Jan. 2.

The BCS has been hammered in the past for putting the wrong
teams in the championship games. Two years ago, USC got left out
and college football ended up with a split title, just what the BCS
was created to avoid. Last season, the problem was too many
unbeaten teams, and many felt Auburn should have played USC for the
championship instead of Oklahoma.

The other common complaint is the BCS doesn't create compelling
matchups beyond the title game. Well, it all worked out for this
season. Even before a bowl game is played, the BCS can declare

Yes, Texas-USC made it easy for the BCS. But remember, in the
pre-BCS days the two superpowers would be going separate ways for
the postseason.

"Anytime we have a matchup that is widely lauded as being a
great matchup in the championship game, you can really see the
benefit of a system like this in which, through the bowls, we're able
to bring together the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams that otherwise
wouldn't have come together through the [old] bowl system,"
Weiberg said.

Now the Pac-10 champion Trojans (12-0) and Big 12 champion Longhorns (12-0) can
determine which team is best in the Granddaddy of Them All.

With 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart and 2005 Heisman
front-runner Reggie Bush, USC has won 34 straight games. The
Trojans could make history with an unprecedented third consecutive
national title.

"We're sitting here at 19 straight wins and there is a
tremendous amount of pressure on kids and coaches to keep it
going," Brown said. "And these guys have done it now for three
straight years."

Many of the Trojans got together on campus Sunday to watch the
bids become official. Their reaction: "Mello," defensive end
Frostee Rucker said. "We've been here before."

Texas won last season's Rose Bowl with quarterback Vince Young
leading the way. As he accepted the MVP trophy he declared that the
Longhorns would be back, and he came through on his promise with a
brilliant season.

"The problem is [the Longhorns] have a lot of other players
that play really well, too," Carroll said.

USC and Texas, two of the sport's most storied programs, have
played four times but not since 1967. The Trojans are 4-0 against

Bowden (359 victories) and Paterno (353) have combined for 712
career victories, ranking first and second in Division I-A. They've
coached against each other seven times, but only once since Bowden
has been at Florida State. The Seminoles beat the Nittany Lions
24-17 in the 1990 Blockbuster Bowl.

When Big Ten champion Penn State (10-1) and Atlantic Coast
Conference champ Florida State (8-4) face off in the Orange Bowl,
Paterno will be 79. Bowden will be 76.

"I hope it doesn't come down to where it's Bobby Bowden and Joe
Paterno because he can't run and I run slower," Paterno said.

In his rookie season as Notre Dame coach, Charlie Weis has the
Fighting Irish (9-2) in the BCS for the first time since they lost
the 2001 Fiesta Bowl 41-9 to Oregon State. They automatically
qualified for a spot by finishing sixth in the BCS standings.

"I think it's a great tribute to our coaching staff and our
players that they were able to turn it around that fast," Weis

While some complain that Notre Dame has bulked up this season on
a weak schedule -- only three wins over winning teams -- and gets too
much credit for a 34-31 loss to USC, the Fighting Irish are college
football's No. 1 drawing card. They will receive a payout of more
than $14 million.

Ohio State (9-2) out of the Big Ten was assured of an at-large
bid by finishing fourth in the final standings released Sunday.

That left no room for Oregon, which had a better record than
both the Buckeyes and Irish and lost only to USC.

"I didn't quite understand the Notre Dame deal. But obviously I
have not been a student of the BCS," said Oregon coach Mike
Bellotti, whose Ducks will play in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

Last season, California was 10-1 but got bumped out of the Rose
Bowl by Texas, a slight that caused an outcry from the Pac-10 and

The Ducks won't get as much sympathy this season.

And for once the BCS gets to gloat.