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College football: Shakeup starts early in 2013

Last Saturday marked the first wild, wacky college football weekend in the race to the BCS national championship … and the first BCS standings didn’t come out until the next day.

Six of the top 11 teams in the AP poll lost last week, leading to a massive shakeup in the rankings before the BCS race was even in play.

But that’s what makes college football so much fun these days, and will continue to do so, even after the BCS is long forgotten, and next year’s new four-team playoff has (more than likely) expanded to eight, or even 16 or more (like every other division of college football).

During the Ohio State-Iowa game (in which the Buckeyes needed a strong second half to avoid being upset victim No. 7), the announcers relayed a story about a conversation Urban Meyer had with Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan, when they were both coaching for the Gators.

Apparently, Donovan and Meyer were having lunch in late-February when two-time national champ Donovan told two-time national champion Meyer the part of the season he hated was approaching: March Madness.

“There’s so much pressure to win, because if you don’t, you’re done,” Donovan told Meyer.

An incredulous Meyer apparently retorted with some semblance of, “That’s the entire season for me!”

As much flak as the BCS format has gotten, let’s not forget how much more emphasis it has put on the regular season. One loss dents your national title hopes; two all but totals them (with the exception being LSU in 2007).

It’s also meant No. 1 and No. 2 – at least the teams the polls put in those spots – have played for the national title every year.

The BCS has also brought us so many more interesting games in the first few weeks of the season, prior to conference play. Instead of scheduling three or four cupcakes, major conference powers
know they need to impress the computers’ strength of schedule factor in their ridiculously complicated formula, so they play at least one other team from at least one other major conference.

Last weekend was the perfect example of why it’s nearly impossible to choose a national champion during the college football preseason.

Yes, there are four undefeated teams at the top of the polls (Alabama, Florida State, Oregon and Meyer’s Buckeyes) who nearly everybody expected to be there. But how many more contenders (i.e. LSU, Georgia, Texas A&M) have fallen by the wayside with two losses already?

And how many dark horses are striding toward the backstretch (I’m looking at you specifically, Mizzou), thanks to the BCS ultimately rewarding format for good football?

As always, there are sure to be more crazy Saturdays to come the next month and a half. Thanks to the system, so many teams remain in the hunt for a berth in a BCS bowl game, as well as a national championship, and it’s going to be fun watching them throw their best haymakers at each other.

I’m one of the first ones in line to bid adieu to the BCS; it’s always been far more flawed than functional. But I will tip my cap to the old girl, because without it, we wouldn’t have had all the fun conversations (and juicy controversies) that have made college football as exciting as it has been over the past 15 years.

We also wouldn’t have gotten enough people fed up enough to give us the playoff the FBS so richly needs (and deserves).

I can’t wait to see how it all plays out as the BCS enters its death throes.

No. 9 Clemson at Maryland

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Clemson by 14

Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park TV: ESPN

What’s up: The Tigers are looking to bounce back from last week’s debacle against Florida State, while the reeling Terrapins are trying to regain the form that saw them start the year 5-0.

My pick: Clemson 38-13

N.C. State at No. 2 Florida St.

When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Florida St. by 31

Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee TV: ESPN2

What’s up: This could be a trap game for the Seminoles, who will have to make sure they’re not still thinking about last week’s big win over Clemson.

My pick: Florida St. 41-14

No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon

When: 6 p.m. Saturday Line: Oregon by 23

Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene TV: ESPN

What’s up: The Ducks might be seething a bit that
Florida State leapfrogged them in the initial BCS poll, and are looking to take it out on the Bruins.

My pick: Oregon 52-24

No. 21 South Carolina at No. 5 Missouri

When: 6 p.m. Saturday Line: Missouri by 3

Where: Faurot Field, Columbia TV: ESPN2

What’s up: The Tigers have leapt into the pantheon of college football in 2013, and need to adjust quickly to the rarefied air as they welcome a hungry Gamecock squad.

My pick: Missouri 31-27

No. 6 Stanford at No. 25 Oregon St.

When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday Line: Stanford by 4½

Where: Reser Stadium, Corvallis TV: ESPN

What’s up: This is a battle for the second spot in the Pac-12 North, and both teams still have the division-leading Oregon Ducks ahead of them on the schedule. The winner will still control its own destiny in the league.

My pick: Stanford 24-14

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