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National College Football

Taking unbeaten path

By Mark Blaudschun
October 17, 2011

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A quiet weekend in college football - on the field - with no Game of the Century among the contenders for the Bowl Championship Series title game in New Orleans or even the remaining BCS berths.

What the top six teams did was simply take care of business. Louisiana State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Boise State, and Oklahoma State had things pretty much settled by halftime, although Oklahoma State had to work deep into the game to overcome Texas, 38-26.

Of the Sizzling Six, however, only Boise State appears to have a virtual walkthrough to an unbeaten regular season. LSU and Alabama are setting up their mega-meeting in Tuscaloosa in two weeks in typical fashion - by flexing their muscles against weaker opponents.

LSU continued its smothering defense with a 38-7 win over Tennessee Saturday. Alabama had an even easier time in crushing Mississippi, 52-7. The winner of the LSU-Alabama game is all but guaranteed to be the Southeastern Conference’s West champion in the conference title game. But the loser likely will finish the regular season with an 11-1 record and almost certainly will get a BCS at-large bid.

Wisconsin probably will face Michigan State in the Big Ten title game in what would be a rematch of this Saturday’s showdown against the Spartans in East Lansing.

Stanford and Clemson, which also are unbeaten and also continued their dominant ways, with victories over Washington State (44-14) and Maryland (56-45), respectively, are waiting for a chance to play prime-time roles.

LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State hold the top four spots in the first BCS standings, released last night.

It is not a stretch to project the following dream/nightmare scenario for the BCS.

Title game - unbeaten Alabama vs. unbeaten Oklahoma.

Rose Bowl - unbeaten Wisconsin vs. unbeaten Stanford.

Orange Bowl - unbeaten Clemson vs. unbeaten Boise State.

If that happens, look for the BCS, which is going to expand to five games in its next go-round (the Cotton Bowl will be part of the mix), to seriously consider a plus-one format, which would match the two highest ranked winners from the BCS games a week to 10 days later.

Big East vote

The Big East should firm up its future today when the conference presidents vote on an expansion plan that would add six teams - Boise State, Air Force, Navy, Central Florida, Southern Methodist, and Houston. Boise State, Air Force, and Navy would join in football only; the other schools would be full members.

The next step is obviously the key: the invitations must be accepted. If any schools decline, the Big East, which will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference, must come up with replacements. In that scenario, Temple and East Carolina seem the most likely to be discussed.

The Big East also is expected to approve an increase in the exit fee from $5 million to $10 million.

If everything goes as planned, the Big East is expected to move to a two-division format, with West Virginia, Navy, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, and Central Florida in the East and Air Force, Boise State, Houston, Cincinnati, SMU, and Louisville in the West.

Quite a climb

Kansas State, which improved to 6-0 Saturday night with a 41-34 comeback victory at Texas Tech, climbed to No. 12 in the Top 25, its best ranking since 2004 . . . Bettors’ remorse: South Carolina 14, Mississippi State 12. The Gamecocks were a 3-point favorite and held a 14-10 lead in the final seconds when South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw took a safety by running out of the end zone on the game’s last play . . . Michigan’s senior class is dealing with some tough legacies. The Wolverines lost for the first time this season Saturday, dropping a 28-14 decision to Michigan State, which was their fourth straight defeat to the Spartans. Michigan seniors also have lost three meetings with archrival Ohio State. If the Buckeyes prevail in their annual battle next month, that’s a daily double Michigan fans don’t want to cash . . . No. 12 Georgia Tech was upset by Virginia, 24-21. One of the keys to slowing Tech’s high-powered offense was Virginia’s ability to run the ball. The Cavaliers rushed for 272 yards, their highest total in seven years. “That’s the way everyone is going to play us,’’ said Tech coach Paul Johnson. “They’re going to run the ball and hold the ball.’’

Eyeing Irish

Watch out for Notre Dame. The Irish had the week off, but they take a four-game winning streak into next week’s meeting with visiting Southern California. Notre Dame, which closes its season at Stanford, probably needs to run the table to get a BCS (Fiesta Bowl?) berth . . . Lots of candidates for the Heisman Trophy, including Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, and Boise State QB Kellen Moore, but Alabama running back Trent Richardson scored a career-high four TDs and had 183 yards rushing in the win over Mississippi. Alabama probably has to win the rest of its games to get Richardson to the top of the list, but if he does win it he will be the second Tide running back to claim the Heisman in the last three years (Mark Ingram won it two years ago). He’d also be only the third running back to win in the last 12 years . . . Illinois’s dream season hit a major pothole when Ohio State gave the Illini their first loss, 17-7 . . . Boise State made its Mountain West debut with a 63-13 win over Colorado State. If the Broncos move to the Big East (perhaps as soon as next season) it will be their third conference in three years.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.