Irish have right to complain, SEC teams next in line

The first course of BCS Standings is on the table, and -- as usual -- the odd assortment of chefs served up another turkey.

Updated: October 17, 2005, 4:26 PM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

BCS Standings Day has become a perverse version of Thanksgiving.

College football fans hungrily wait for that mid-October day when the Bowl Championship Series cooks bring their creation out of the oven. Then the nation digs in and proclaims how lousy the food is.

With its annual serving of undercooked common sense, the BCS did not disappoint those waiting to be disappointed.

BCS Standings
The first BCS Standings of 2005 has been released. USC is first, followed by Texas.
Complete standings

Start the conga line of complainers at Notre Dame. Touchdown Jesus just dropped his arms and turned his palms up, asking one thing: "How can we be 16th?"

Great question. The Fighting Irish are three spots behind Oregon, which is a morsel of microchip madness that defies belief.

Please, somebody ask USC which team it would rather play.

You think the Trojans would choose the Ducks, who lost 45-13 to USC in Eugene? Or would it choose the Irish, who took the Trojans into the final seconds and had them all but beaten until a providential fumble and a solid push from Reggie Bush allowed the two-time defending champs to escape?

The Colley Matrix, Anderson & Hester and the other computer wizards can't factor in how close Notre Dame came to winning that game. The pollsters could and should.

The AP voters did, keeping the Irish in the top 10. But the two polls that count from a BCS perspective -- the Harris poll and the USA Today coaches' poll -- dropped Notre Dame three spots each. The Irish went from ninth to 12th with the coaches and from eighth to 11th in the Old Folks Poll.

Seriously: If Notre Dame was a top 10 team before playing USC, what happened Saturday that convinced voters it was no longer a top 10 team afterward? To justify dropping the Irish, you'd have to reason that USC isn't very good either and drop the Trojans two or three spots. You'd have to say that the game really wasn't that great after all.

Which, of course, no one is saying.

But as dumb as the polls are, it's the computer rankings that kill Notre Dame. The microchips rank it 25th.

That's because the Irish's three victories over ranked teams -- Pittsburgh, Michigan and Purdue -- have all lost their luster as those teams have fallen apart. But maybe, just maybe, Notre Dame had something to do with those collapses. All three looked legit until Charlie Weis' team skewered them on their own home fields.

And that's the other part of the equation that doesn't add up. Unlike so many teams in front of Notre Dame in the BCS Standings, the Irish have done their work on the road. Of the 15 teams in front of them in the standings, only USC has played four of its first six games away from home.

Texas Tech has played one road game, and needed a fumbled interception in the final minute to get a victory. Ohio State has played one road game, and lost. Penn State has played two of seven games on the road, losing one and barely escaping Northwestern in the other. Alabama is 2-0 on the road, but needed a field goal on the final play Saturday to beat 2-4 Mississippi.

Bottom line: In August, none of the 15 teams in front of Notre Dame would have accepted playing the Irish's opening schedule without pitching a screaming hissy fit (or, more likely, dropping at least one of those opponents in favor of a home date with Louisiana-Lafayette). Put that in your computer rankings, boys.

But complaints aren't just coming in from South Bend. The South is being enveloped in an oh-no-here-we-go-again dread right now.

The Southeastern Conference's two unbeaten teams, Georgia and Alabama, are fourth and fifth in the BCS Standings. In other words, they're both prominently positioned to be this year's Auburn.

It seemed inconceivable last year that the SEC could produce a 12-0 team that got shut out of the national title game -- and then it happened to the Tigers. Now it could happen for the second time in two seasons.

One thing is certain: teams will lose, fortunes will rise and fall and the standings will not look the same in December as they do today. But consider this: If USC, Texas and/or Virginia Tech keep winning, the SEC's best and brightest will have some work to do overhauling them and reaching the Rose Bowl.

Both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide have plenty of quality opponents left to play to lift their strength of schedule. Georgia plays Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, while Alabama plays Tennessee, LSU and Auburn. But can you imagine what the mood would be in Atlanta come Dec. 3 if undefeated Alabama is playing undefeated Georgia -- and neither is yet in position to go to the Rose Bowl?

The South might secede again.

Better yet, college football could secede from the BCS and do the unheard of: institute a playoff that decides its champion on the field.

But that would deprive us of our perverse mid-October Thanksgiving feast. Our compliments to the chefs; your dish stinks yet again.

Pat Forde is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.