SATURDAY'S LATE SHOW

For the BCS, Three's Still a Crowd

By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 24, 2007

The average score of games involving Southern California, Louisiana State and Oklahoma this season is 50-11.

Through 11 combined games, the three juggernauts are unbeaten and untested.

The season is four weeks old, but the year's defining story line is beginning to crystallize. The clock is being wound back to 2003, when the same three teams were atop the rankings at the end of a season marred by BCS controversy and debate.

That year, USC, despite being No. 1 in both human polls, was left out of the BCS championship game, which matched LSU against Oklahoma. The Trojans and Tigers split the national championship.

A similar BCS nightmare could unfold this season because all three teams could be destined to finish the regular season undefeated. Nebraska, Miami and Virginia Tech all had opportunities to knock off one of this season's Big Three, but none posed a serious threat. The Sooners' closest game was the 51-13 victory against the Hurricanes on Sept. 8.

Among the three strongest national contenders, Oklahoma has what appears to be the easiest road to an undefeated record.

The Oct. 6 showdown with Texas looms as the biggest regular season game, but the Longhorns looked vulnerable in the first half of their Sept. 8 victory against Texas Christian and beat Central Florida by only three points the following week.

Southern California, meantime, travels to Washington on Saturday night, but the Trojans don't figure to be tested until an Oct. 27 road game against Oregon. USC also faces difficult road tests against two undefeated teams, California and Arizona State.

The Trojans have an embarrassment of riches at linebacker and running back. The top performers in USC's 49-31 victory over Nebraska on Sept. 15, running backs Stafon Johnson and C.J. Gable, were non-factors in Saturday's 47-14 victory against Washington State.

The power of the Trojans' passing game also was on display. Quarterback John David Booty completed 17 of his first 19 passes and finished with a career-best 28 completions. He finished with 279 yards passing and four touchdowns.

No team may be as deep at so many positions.

As strong as USC's defense is, LSU's defense has been even more impressive through the season's first month. The Tigers rank first nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and pass-efficiency defense.

LSU's schedule is daunting because the Tigers might have to beat defending national champion Florida twice to emerge with an unblemished record.

The first meeting comes in an Oct. 6 night game in Baton Rouge. The second game could be in the Southeastern Conference title game.

The Tigers also play dangerous road games against Kentucky and Alabama. The environment in Tuscaloosa for the Nov. 3 game should be particularly intriguing because the matchup pits Alabama Coach Nick Saban against his former team.

It remains to be seen whether anyone can challenge the Tigers, who outgained South Carolina on the ground, 290-17, in Saturday's 28-16 victory.

"It's pretty much obvious that we've been better every week on offense," LSU tight end Richard Dickson said.


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