My buddy Bill used to work on the sports desk at my old newspaper, in the days when we had five editions. Stories got swapped in and out for every edition, and if a big story broke late at night, it was chaos. But some people live for chaos. When that big story wrecked all the paper's grand plans, Bill would gnaw on an unlit cigar and bellow: "I LOVE ripping up a whole section on deadline!"
I thought of Bill on Saturday night, when Kansas State and Oregon -- the top two teams in both the BCS and the True Top Ten -- went down within 10 minutes of each other. Now seven teams have a shot at the national title … including both Kansas State and Oregon, if things break weird in the next two weeks. Everyone agrees on who's No. 1. But who's next? And if the season ended today, who would deserve that second slot in Miami the most? That's what you come to the True Top Ten to find out.
1. Notre Dame (11-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Wake Forest 38-0.
The deeper the season goes, the better Notre Dame's schedule looks. The Irish have played just one terrible team (Boston College, currently 2-9) and have beaten Stanford (slayer of Oregon and currently No. 8 in the BCS) and Oklahoma (13 in the BCS). I saw a lot of Twitter traffic over the weekend about how Alabama will crush Notre Dame if they play for the title. I don't think so. This is a really good team, more than capable of playing one great game. Next up: at USC.
2. Ohio State (11-0)
LAST WEEK: Def. Wisconsin 21-14 (OT).
I always hate it when some NFL analyst says an undefeated team should lose one before the end of the season, just to take the pressure off. As Herman Edwards said, you PLAY to WIN the GAME. But this one game might be the exception. Because of probation, the Michigan game -- which is big enough anyway -- becomes not only Ohio State's bowl game, but also its chance at a perfect season (and a claim on the unofficial national title if Notre Dame falls). If all that happens in Urban Meyer's first season, the expectations for next season will be infinite. I was in Columbus this year for the UAB game, and fans were ripping the team afterward even though the Buckeyes won. I can't imagine what it'll be like when the fans have actual evidence for their belief that Ohio State should win every game. Last time the expectations got too high, it didn't turn out well for Meyer. I know he'll give his all to win Saturday. But I kind of hope he doesn't. Next up: Michigan.
3. Florida (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Def. Jacksonville State 23-0.
The next six teams can all get into the title game, and they're all making a case for being the second-best BCS team right now. (Ohio State is off the board for these purposes.) But all season, the TTT has been telling you: Look at the record. Florida has beaten LSU (No. 7 in the BCS), Texas A&M (9) and South Carolina (12). The Gators' only loss is to Georgia (3). That's by far the best schedule of anyone in this group. And if they beat FSU (10), that's the best resume of anyone in the country. Next up: at Florida State.
4. Alabama (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Def. Western Carolina 49-0.
BCS comparison: Beat LSU (7) and Michigan (19); lost to Texas A&M (9).
Alabama crushed a Michigan team that Notre Dame struggled to beat, but otherwise the Irish's schedule is stronger. And Florida's is definitely stronger. Last year, Alabama won the national title without making the SEC championship game. This year the Tide might win the SEC and the national title, and Florida would still have a decent claim on being the SEC's best team. To be a college football fan is to be comfortable with conflicting thoughts. Next up: Auburn.
5. Georgia (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Def. Georgia Southern 45-14.
BCS comparison: Beat Florida (4); lost to South Carolina (12).
Georgia fans are all warm inside about the prospect of playing Notre Dame for the title -- the Dawgs beat the Irish for their last championship in 1980. It might've been the worst performance by a winning team in the history of college football; on plays when Herschel Walker didn't touch the ball, the Georgia offense combined for minus-23 yards. Quarterback Buck Belue completed ONE pass. And just think: Notre Dame was WORSE.
The most Mark Richt thing in the history of Mark Richt would be for Georgia to lose this week and blow the whole thing. If that happens, prepare to hear lamentations and gnashing of teeth. Next up: Georgia Tech.
6. Kansas State (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Baylor 52-24.
BCS comparison: Beat Oklahoma (13) and Oklahoma State (21); lost to Baylor (NR).
Almost exactly a year ago, fifth-ranked Oklahoma had hopes of playing for a national title when they went to Waco. But Robert Griffin III decided to win the Heisman that night, and after his final TD pass with 8 seconds left, Oklahoma limped back home. This game wasn't that close. Kansas State, so good at running and stopping the run, ran for 76 yards and let Baylor run for 342. So, the rules: Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And if you hope to win a national title, never play Baylor late. Next up: Texas.
7. Oregon (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Lost to Stanford 17-14.
BCS comparison: Beat Arizona (24) and Washington (25); lost to Stanford (8).
The Ducks have thrived on their speed all year, which made it all the more stunning that Stanford's defense turned out to be just as fast. Stanford's linebackers seemed to be in the Oregon backfield on every running play. And Oregon QB Marcus Mariota got run down by Stanford safety Devon Carrington on a 77-yard run in the first quarter. That might've been the most important play of the game -- Oregon ended up getting stuffed on fourth down, and the one big play from a big-play team turned into nothing. Next up: at Oregon State.
8. Florida State (10-1)
LAST WEEK: Beat Maryland 41-14.
BCS comparison: Beat Clemson (11); lost to N.C. State (NR).
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher is ticked that the BCS has the Seminoles only No. 10 (Jimbo voted his team No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll). The problem? Computers. "I think it was better in the old days when you did it by the eye test," he said. OK, Jimbo -- by the eye test, FSU is worse than the first seven teams on this list, plus LSU, Texas A&M, Stanford, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon State and UCLA. That would put y'all about No. 15 in my Eyeball Top 25. The computers, on average, rank you No. 16. So by the Eyeball Test or the Computer Test, you'd be looking at a bowl between Christmas and New Year's. Under the BCS, you've still got a shot at the title. Jimbo, I'd hush while I was ahead. Next up: Florida.
9. LSU (9-2)
LAST WEEK: Def. Ole Miss 41-35.
I can't say anything about this game that Les Miles hasn't already said better. Next up: at Arkansas (Fri.)
10. Stanford (9-2)
LAST WEEK: Def. Oregon 17-14.
The Cardinal edge out Texas A&M for the last spot based on a slightly better season. The Aggies' win over Alabama is their biggest by far; their two next-best wins are over Louisiana Tech and Mississippi State, neither in the BCS top 25. Stanford has wins over Oregon (5), Oregon State (15) and Arizona (24). But A&M's losses are better overall. What I'm trying to say here is, Stanford-A&M would be a FANTASTIC bowl game. Next up: at UCLA.
Dropping out: Texas A&M (I know, I know).
Bubbling under: A&M, Clemson, Oklahoma, South Carolina.
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Questions? Comments? Challenges? Taunts? You can reach me at email@example.com or on Twitter @tommytomlinson. You do realize, right, that there's an outside chance of the title game being Georgia-Florida? I would die.