An Oklahoma hiccup might be all that is standing in the way of a neatly packaged, two-game preview of the BCS championship contest.
If the Sooners stumble, Nos. 1-2-3-5 in The Associated Press preseason poll could be 1-2-3-4 on Nov. 3, the date Oregon is at USC and Alabama is at LSU.
CBS has announced that the Crimson Tide and Tigers will kick off at 7 p.m., the second year in a row the two teams have met at night. Last November, No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama drew an overnight rating of 11.9 — the network’s highest rated regular season game since Notre Dame and Miami, Fla., in 1989.
Like most Pac-12 games after mid-September, Oregon at USC is TBD. ESPN, ABC, Fox, and the recently launched Pac-12 Network are involved on the West Coast. Knowing CBS’ plans for Alabama-LSU and assuming both the Ducks and Trojans are undefeated, the network doing the game should schedule the kickoff for mid-afternoon. Played back to back, the two games would have the college football world buzzing about a head to head on Jan. 7 in Miami.
No. 1 USC and No. 5 Oregon are head and shoulders above the rest in the Pac-12. No. 21 Stanford is the only other team from the conference ranked in the preseason.
USC has Stanford in mid-September, followed by five more conference games. Oregon plays Stanford in the 11th game of the season. The Ducks opened last year with the 40-27 loss to LSU; this year, they feast on Arkansas State University, Fresno State, and Tennessee Tech. Prior to USC, no way Oregon loses to schools from Arizona, Washington, and Colorado.
The path to perfect in November is more difficult for both Alabama and LSU.
The Crimson Tide opens against No. 8 Michigan and plays in Fayetteville two weeks later against No. 10 Arkansas. Other than that, Alabama’s sternest test might be mid-October against Missouri.
LSU is expected to make it through September 5-0. Then comes games at Florida and Texas A&M sandwiched with a visit from No. 9 South Carolina. Following that stretch, the Tigers will take a week off to prepare for the Crimson Tide.
If the four teams in this scenario are unbeaten, the winners will have the inside track on the BCS championship game. An unbeaten SEC team is in for sure. An argument could be made for an unbeaten Oklahoma, but preseason No. 1 USC or an Oregon that knocked off No. 1 will be in front of the Sooners.
OU is not supposed to lose during the first two months of the season. The highlight of the Sooners’ September schedule is Kansas State with quarterback Collin Klein. The main threats in October are an improved Texas and a so-so Notre Dame.
The lesson learned is that the preseason polls are only a starting point.
Last year, it was Oklahoma, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, Boise State, Florida State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska in August and Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Arkansas, USC, Stanford, Boise State, South Carolina, and Wisconsin in January.
I can hear the chatter now if USC and Oregon stage a track meet in Los Angeles and touchdowns are hard to come by in Baton Rouge. We will hear all about USC’s unstoppable offense with Robert Woods and Marqise Lee catching passes from Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkley and Penn State transfer Silas Redd providing necessary rushing yardage. From the second game of the double-header will come questions about bland offenses, how A.J. McCarron or Zach Mettenberger can engineer enough points to keep up with the West Coast winner, and how the SEC defense will be stretched to the limit.
We’ve heard that before and know how it turns out.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org