What Now?
Unheralded Kansas and Mighty LSU Dominate the Landscape, But Teams Thought to Be Out of It Are Back in the Conversation

Thursday, November 22, 2007

To get a sense of how topsy-turvy this season is, consider this: With two weekends remaining, the most likely national championship scenario -- and the one that would cause the least controversy -- involves a team reaching the national title game that did not receive one vote in the Associated Press preseason top 25.

That Kansas, the lone unbeaten team from a power conference, is considered the favorite to play Louisiana State in the national title game underscores just how turbulent the season has been since Appalachian State kicked off the madness with a victory at Michigan on Sept. 1.

Other less likely but still possible scenarios involve teams reaching the title game despite losing games in November. Late-season losses usually are considered sure ways to ruin national title hopes, but Ohio State and Arizona State suddenly are back in the hunt after unexpected losses by Oregon and Oklahoma last week.

Arizona State lost at Oregon on Nov. 3 in a game that was considered an elimination matchup at the time. The Sun Devils have overachieved under first-year coach Dennis Erickson, but they never were seriously considered national title contenders. Now, especially if they beat Southern California tonight, they have to be.

Ohio State quietly plowed through what was supposed to be a rebuilding season until a 28-21 loss to Illinois on Nov. 10 seemed to crush the Buckeyes' shot at returning to the national championship game. But Ohio State has been resurrected by the BCS madness.

The other team that has been forgotten since its only loss is West Virginia, which has nonchalantly disposed of Big East competition since stumbling at South Florida on Sept. 28. All the Mountaineers need now is a loss by LSU or a team other than Kansas or Missouri to win the Big 12 Conference title.

Considering how the season has gone, such far-fetched help might not be too much to expect.

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