|Thursday, November 7
Updated: November 8, 10:32 AM ET
Miami has tough, but not impossible, road ahead
By Chris Fowler
Special to ESPN.com
Wow, after Shakeup Saturday sliced the unbeaten clubs in half, what can happen next?
I never thought that Notre Dame, Georgia, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State would arrive on BCS Selection Sunday perfect. I just didn't think they'd all get upset the same day. . .by the same margin (seven). . .when three were at home and the fourth on neutral turf!
Some scrap of sanity was restored to the BCS title race. But there's still a good chance for chaos, if you root for that sort of thing.
Now, the four survivors hit the road this week. All are favorites, trying to dodge upset traps against opponents that loom as dangerous. Bowling Green takes a suspect defense to 6-3 Northern Illinois, which beat Wake Forest, almost won at Wisconsin and has reeled off five straight. As for the others. . .
Unbeaten with toughest road to Tempe
The smoothest road to Tempe
But the biggest hurdle remains That Team From Up North. Yep, Meeechigan comes calling, with a Big Blue-print for spoiling Ohio State perfection. See 1995 and 1996. Hey, it's not at all an easy three-step journey to the Fiesta Frolic, but you can bet that Oklahoma and Miami would gladly swap remaining schedules with OSU.
The middle road
Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech both possess the running game brawn to trouble Miami and good enough defenses to hang in to the end. Thanks to Thursday night special, the Panthers won't have to play in the midday Miami steam, a normally big home field edge. That's a break. But I can't see the 'Canes losing either game.
Best positioned team with a loss
Notre Dame has two walkovers. Wait, maybe we can't label Rutgers that anymore. But the Irish are two blowouts away from securing a likely BCS at-large bid. A win at USC would seal it. The Rose Bowl could have a tough choice if Ohio State is in Tempe: an 11-1 Iowa, Big Ten co-champs or Notre Dame.
The Rose Bowl is not obligated to take a Big Ten team. Notre Dame has plenty of ties to Pasadena, even though they have not played there since Rockne's crew in 1925. Ty Willingham won the Rose Bowl, of course, at Stanford. While at Arizona State, athletic director Kevin White was part of a Rose Bowl committee.
Still, I cannot see the Granddaddy turning away a team unbeaten in the conference it has been in business with for decades. The Rose Bowl types were thrown for a loop with Miami and Nebraska crashing the festivities last season. A return to the normalcy of Big Ten-Pac-10 would be comfy, even if it meant passing on Notre Dame. Plus, it would be a second L.A. trip in a month for the Irish, somewhat lessening the thrill. Just my opinion.
In the locker room of my gym today, I had to listen to some guy crying about me "disrespecting his 'Canes." Uh, "his" 'Canes? I doubt he's ever set foot in Miami. Grab a cold shower, chief. Seems some of the Hurricane players view the drop behind Oklahoma in the AP as the height of disrespect, too. Maybe it'll provide a much-needed spark. Miami fans should thank the pollsters.
I don't feel the need to defend the switch, but I will anyway. It seems to interest some folks.
Larry Coker's right, by the way. He doesn't have to apologize for 25-point wins. And an ugly win always beats a loss. Miami wins out, they don't have to sweat, according to our BCS formula authority, Brad Edwards. The loss by the Hokies did not help, though. A twice-beaten Virginia Tech would provide Miami no quality win bonus. A loss by Washington State really helps Miami, by robbing Ohio State of its quality win bonus. That's about enough talk of polls and formulas, thank you.
Big Ten troubles
Just another week in the Big Ten.
If you toss in officials' continued blown calls and strong, public criticism by the league's coaching dean, it's been a pretty sad stretch.
Then there's the shooting death of Ohio State receiver Chris Vance's brother in Florida, after he allegedly shot another man. Thankfully, football provided a way for Chris to avoid following a similarly doomed path.
The Big Ten takes pride in holding itself to a higher standard. In some ways, it's justified. We don't read stories every week about NCAA investigators lurking around Big Ten campuses. Well, not lurking around the football complexes, anyway. Graduation rates are comparatively respectable.
But the almost daily off-field bad news is sobering stuff for the league's image. It's getting harder to hold the moral high ground.
Michigan State meltdown
How can a group of players display so little pride on four straight Saturdays? Well, when one captain is in rehab and another has been charged with three misdemeanors and a felony after being pulled over by police, then booted from the team, there would seem to be a leadership void.
I wish Jeff Smoker well in his struggle with addiction. Dawan Moss is by all accounts a dedicated hard working player. But they were obviously not the leaders Michigan State needed.
I feel sorry for the few Spartans who do seem to still care. Playing college football is not easy. Much of it is not fun. When you take the field each week, hoping to experience some emotional payoff for all the hard work and instead are surrounded by guys who just want the season to end, well, it has to (stink).
Firing Bobby Williams was the easiest call possible. He so obviously lost the team weeks ago, and didn't even bother to deny it when asked after the latest embarrassment. That sealed his fate.
It seems like a long time ago, but it's been just six weeks since the Spartans had Notre Dame beaten on the season's most spectacular catch by Charlie Rogers. The next minute, a couple DBs fell down and the game was lost.
If they'd held on to that game, who knows? But the total collapse (151 points surrendered in the last four games) is inexcusable. The next Michigan State head coach faces quite a challenge.
Urban Meyer of Bowling Green would be very interested. He's not taking calls now, but he will. Any program should consider Oklahoma's Mike Stoops seriously. His defensive expertise is obvious. He'd bring a much needed hard-ass approach, but his players seem to love playing for him. The turnaround at Oklahoma, from embarrassing underachievement to a national title in two years rivals the challenge ahead at East Lansing.
The most talked about guy on the wish list is Steve Mariucci. But the 49ers are headed for the playoffs and the time table could be a problem. If State could somehow convince Mariucci to leave behind the hassles of the Niners, it'd be a coup.
If not, I've got an idea: hire Mooch's best bud, Tom Izzo. Sure. He can recruit, teach, motivate with discipline, and he once played a little football in the Upper Peninsula long ago. Let him coach two sports. He can let his hoops assistants handle the early season trips to Maui and Alaska, and take over full time after the football season.
Then again, I like Tom too much to wish the football job on him. Michigan State needs more than a new football coach. It needs a new roster.
Finally. . .
GameDay returns to Rocky Top Saturday. Hope you'll join us there.
Chris Fowler is host of ESPN College GameDay