The road to the Rose Bowl is finally clear.
Last week the Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2) punched their ticket for the big game and are waiting to see who would emerge out of the crowded Pac-10. With little excitement in the polls (the top 7 haven't budged in weeks), the race in the Pac-10 has been the best thing going on in college football lately. Six teams, at one point, had a legitimate shot at winning the conference title and seven teams are bowl eligible.
But after Oregon's epic win at Arizona, 44-41 in 2OT and California's upset of Stanford and Oregon State's victory-- the picture has cleared up. Being bowl eligible is great but in the Pac-10, unless you're going to the BCS title game, the Rose Bowl is the coveted prize.
So after Saturday, six teams has now become two--
The winner of the upcoming Oregon-Oregon State showdown (known as the Civil War) will win the Pac-10 and earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. It's that simple. The No. 8 Ducks (9-2) will be favored at home over the No.16 Beavers (8-3)-- but I wouldn't count the Beavers out because teams have a tendency of rising up to the occasion when they play their in-state rivals.
Other significant in-state rivalries this week are: Florida State at No. 1 Florida; No. 2 Alabama at Auburn; No. 3 Texas at Texas A&M. Both Florida (11-0) and Alabama (11-0) have already clinched their spots in the SEC championship game but I'm sure they both want to go into the title game unbeaten, with the winner then heading to the BCS title game. A loss to an in-state rival before the championship game will be a hard pill to swallow for both the Gators and the Crimson Tide.
The same is true for Texas. The Longhorns (11-0) have already clinched their spot in the Big 12 championship game against the resurgent Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-3)-- who would love nothing more than to spoil the Longhorns national title hope. But before the Big 12 showdown, Texas needs to take care of the pesky Aggies. Looking ahead and beyond College Station could be a fatal mistake for the Longhorns. But I'm sure head coach Mack Brown is preaching this to his players even as we speak.
Anyway, if any of the Top 3 were to fall to an in-state rival, it'll be great news for No. 4 TCU (11-0), No. 5 Cincinnati (10-0) and No. 6 Boise State (11-0) who are also unbeaten but have reached a dead-end unless someone can break the Florida-Alabama-Texas brick wall.
And for their sakes, it needs to happen soon because they are running out of games.
Photos courtesy of the AP