Any Given Saturday Finale: “Road to the BCS” Begins

In this, "what have you done for me lately" culture, Art Briles has been logged into the same file bin as the Wildcat offense and trucker hats.

Gus Malzahn still had Toomer’s toilet paper stuck to the bottom of his shoes after flushing Alabama’s three-peat hopes down the toilet when the rumors began.

This week, Gus Malzahn is chic in the coaching community, and as a result will be the newest contestant on the coaching search that’s sweeping much of the South. It’s hosted by new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson, and the objective is to discover and hire the hottest regional coaching candidate to thrust Texas back into the upper echelon of college football programs.

Like Briles, Malzahn rose up the ranks as a high school coaching genius and as a coordinator with the Midas touch. Briles has a superior high school record, but Malzahn has bigger games on the college level. His first and only season at Arkansas resulted in an SEC West title for the Razorbacks. It’s also where the Wildcat offense sprung up on the national stage, although it wasn’t his innovation. Malzahn split with coach Houston Nutt after the most contentious season between coach and top assistant we’d seen until Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank started stabbing each other in the back.

His second season as a coordinator at Auburn resulted in a national championship. In his first season at the helm, he improved the Tigers from 3-9 to 10-1.

Malzahn knows all about the fleeting nature of college football. Hot one minute, cold the next. Malzahn has to make his cash grab while he can, and Texas is a money pit.

Don’t screw your face up at the screen. I know Mack Brown is still employed, but it’s common journalism practice to have obituaries for prominent public figures written in advance. Brown’s pink slip has probably been on file for months. Texas is just giving Brown the courtesy of waiting until after the Baylor game. Short of implementing an offense that can score two touchdowns per drive, it’s over for Brown.

One moment Malzahn was Arkansas State’s head coach for the long-term, and the next he was strolling through Toomer’s Corner as Auburn’s next head coach.

It’s understandable why Saban would never want to leave Alabama. The Crimson Tide are a hotter product in the South than a Chick-fil-A open on Sunday. Texas is technically in the South, but its area is so vast that it qualifies as its own region. Texas is part deep South/Southwest/Midwest and the Longhorn Cathedral is where worshippers flock to worship their premier religion.

Conversely, Auburn will always be the second fiddle in Alabama. Auburn feels more centralized in the state while Alabama is the flagship program. Malzahn should aim for higher ground.

Texas has to turn somewhere. Briles signed an extension to remain at Baylor, Saban appeared content (or as content as he can be) at ‘Bama until the Iron Bowl and Malzahn hasn’t been at Auburn very long. It may appear that Texas’ avenues lead to dead ends, but there has to be a road to returning to relevance. Texas has to hire someone right? Or they can peruse the unemployment lines. Gene Chizik is available. There’s also an enthusiastic Cajun who just got left hanging by his athletic director on the West Coast that has experience recruiting in the South who Patterson can dial up.


HEISMAN JURY – Three undefeated teams, three Heisman candidates.

1 Jameis Winston – The largest obstacle remaining between Winston and the Heisman isn’t Duke on Saturday. It’s Thursday at 2 p.m.

2 Jordan Lynch – Lynch is portrayed as a quarterback in the mold of Eric Crouch but he’s already shown this season that he’s got the arm to throw for 300 plus if needed. Lynch’s MAC Championship opponent Bowling Green allowed just 4.3 points per game in the month of November.

4 Carlos Hyde – Now that Ohio State is in the national championship, unofficial Heisman rules dictate that they have to have a Heisman contender in the mix. Hyde has been a constant for the nation’s most efficient rushing yards producer. Like Winston, the only thing that has stopped Hyde was a rush to judgment and a three-game suspension he served at the beginning of the season.


RING OF FIRE – It's been a long journey. Ride or die time.

Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars (Thurs. 8:30, NFL Network) No. 19 Louisville vs. Cincinnati (Thurs. 7:30 p.m., ET)

On Thursday night football, the 2-10 Texans can continue positioning themselves to pick Teddy Bridgewater with another L. The Jags can get back in their bottom spot with an L of their own. Meanwhile, Thursday night on ESPN, Bridgewater can show his ass in front of the anonymous scout who critiqued him while unintentionally parodying an America’s Next Top Model judge. Don’t be surprised if the Texans general manager Rick Smith ends up watching more of Bridgewater’s throws than Case Keenum’s.

No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 6 Oklahoma State (Noon, ABC)

If you listen to prognosticators, Auburn should play Florida State for the national championship over Ohio State. After all, this is a different team than the one that immolated itself against West Virginia on Sept. 28. For the second time in three years, the Cowboys let a national championship shot get away from them. Since Mike Gundy switched back to Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State’s offense been rolling. What they did to Baylor was no fluke. Their shutdown defense isn’t either.

If it were next season, when the college football’s 13-member grand-poobahs assemble for the first time, this matchup would be carry more national significance.

No. 25 Texas at No. 9 Baylor (3:30 p.m., FOX)

More important than Baylor’s slim hopes for a BCS bowl game is the future of Texas football. There’s been radio silence on the Texas Longhorns front since the loss to Oklahoma State. That’s not good news for Mack Brown. Will Muschamp, Bo Pelini and Brady Hoke received the vote of confidence from their respective athletic directors. Whether it’s because they’re in the midst of a transition period or the gears are moving behind the scenes, mum’s been the word on Mack Brown. Briles' Baylor offense will put him out of his misery.

No. 7 Stanford at No. 11 Arizona State (7:45, ESPN)

Stanford’s Kevin Hogan is more inconsistent and is more flawed than the Affordable Care Act enrollment website.

Arizona State running back Marion Grice will be out for the Pac-12 championship, but in his stead sophomore D.J. Foster filled in admirably, rushing for 124 yards. Arizona State appears to have a bright future, and they have a criminally underrated roster that can out-compete Stanford. The Sun Devils are ahead of schedule in their Pac-12 championship aspirations. They'll probably make them a reality on Saturday night.

No. 20 Duke at No. 1 FSU (8:00 p.m., ABC)

Florida State has the nation’s second-highest scoring offense, but Duke leads the ACC in All-ACC First-Team Defense members. FSU’s Jameis Winston will be focus of every sportswriter in the country, but Duke’s dual-quarterback offense led by Anthony Boone and run-option signal caller Brandon Connette has to steal the show for the Blue Devils to have a chance.

Winston is the nation’s best quarterback, but Duke junior Jamison Crowder can make a case for being the ACC’s best receiver. Unfortunately, FSU has 22 Crowder's on their roster.

No. 2 Ohio State at No. 10 Michigan State (8:17, FOX)

Let me just give you an idea on how inept Michigan State’s offense is at times, Here is a shortlist of things that are easier to watch than Michigan State’s offense: Don Imus, the Zapruder film and Kevin Ware’s injury. Ohio State’s offense is the equal to Michigan State’s defense. However, the Ohio State pass rush is going to have a stationary target in the wildly inconsistent Connor Cook.

No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 5 Missouri (4:00 p.m., CBS)

This could be the Revenge of the Nerds game for Missouri. They arrived in the SEC last season, got ostracized and then got their asses handed to them en route to their worst season in the Gary Pinkel era. Depending on what happens Saturday with FSU and Ohio State, a slot in the BCS national championship game could be on the line. Auburn has been making their case for leaping undefeated Ohio State in polls, but Missouri’s only loss in-conference was a loss to South Carolina without senior James Franklin. Their defensive line may be the best Auburn sees all season. A win for Missouri would silence all those critics who called them an awkward fit in the conference when they joined.



At some point, college football became the only sport where voters always believe the best regular season team absolutely has to play for the national title.

Ohio State is currently balancing on a high wire at No. 2 in the nation while Auburn fans are blowing in unison to create a swirling wind to knock them off by decrying the Buckeyes’ soft schedule. Meanwhile, in the South, your patriotism gets challenged when you question their conference’s superiority. It’s ironic because seven years ago, before the SEC started hoarding crystal national championship trophies, Meyer was defending Florida’s positioning to be No. 2 in the nation over the shrieks from Big Ten proponents.

Those were different times. So different, that folks were actually prattling on about a potential rematch between Chad Henne’s Michigan and Troy Smith’s Ohio State in the national championship game.

If you consider the totality of circumstances and the best team is a conference champion and/or a record that equals or matches any of the other title contenders, then that is a valid argument. On the other hand, placing Auburn over an undefeated Ohio State because you think they may be better would be a travesty.

Every game matters until it results in a matchup that isn’t desirable to garnering the best television ratings. That’s non-profit, amateur athletics for ya. Maybe we should scrap the BCS and the playoff for the Nielsen.

Only one of six bookmakers would favor Auburn over Ohio State according to ESPN Radio host RJ Bell.

Most established bettors still consider Alabama to be the best team in the nation. Should we go with what Vegas thinks and stage the title game with Alabama and FSU atop Caesar’s Palace? Money does seem to be to be the translator for the NCAA these days.

For playoff opponents, every game counted. Now they’re talking out of different holes.

There lies the problem with the argument against a playoff. It’s inconsistent.

Instead, the introduction of a playoff will simply cause those debates to trickle down the rankings. And while it’s true, as some have suggested, that Auburn’s win over Alabama wouldn’t have knocked the Crimson Tide out of the national title race, it would have kept Auburn in the conversation. The thrill would have still been there.

The argument for excluding Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State or Oklahoma State from a top-four would complicate matters for the playoff committee. Can you say with an absolute certainty that Oklahoma State would beat Auburn or Ohio State on any given Saturday?

No, but in sports it’s about winning the day. Otherwise Tom Brady would be a five-team Super Bowl champ and playoff clutch Eli Manning would be the Browns quarterback. The year before Saban clinched his first Alabama national championship, he got mopped by Utah. If it hadn’t been for Florida thrashing them in the SEC Championship Game, the Tide probably would have been national champions. Get out of your heads and live in the moment. The game is played on the field.

If Auburn jumps Ohio State, then it would discount the Tigers' loss to LSU and disqualify Ohio State’s entire season. This may be the BCS’ swan song, but its spirit will live on through the pervasive and vitriolic playoff debates. If you think the conclusion of the BCS computer championship era is going to end the debate over national championship participants, then you should join the flock of RNC members who believe Rosa Parks ended racism.