Big Red Network is hosting this week's Roundtable on the repercussions of MASSIVE UPSET CHAOS GOTTERDAMERUNG SATURDAY!!!.
Q: Of the four presumed national title contenders to go down this past week--USC, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin--which team has the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year?
Leaving aside the fact that I strongly dispute the notion that Wisconsin was ever a national title contender (unless mediocre quarterbacks and fat running backs are suddenly favorable for national title contenders), Florida has the best chance to get back into the race because of its schedule. The Gators have a home game against LSU and a neutral site revenge game against Georgia. Those are two massive stages on which the Gators can mount a campaign to get back into the title game with one loss. (The trip to Vandy might be a little tricky and it deserves a mention at this point.) Then there's the possibility of creating a serious recency effect by winning the SEC Title Game against LSU or Alabama.
USC will have trouble getting back into the picture because they don't play a marquee game for the rest of the year. Oregon's loss to Boise State and Cal's loss to Maryland deprived the Trojans of a true challenger in the Pac Ten. Plus, if USC is capable of losing to Oregon State, they're capable of losing to anyone on their schedule (with the exception of Notre Dame because we can be fairly certain that the Trojans will be paying attention for that game).
Georgia will have trouble getting back into the picture because of their schedule. While Florida has a big game at home and then a big game at a neutral site, Georgia still has to go to LSU and Auburn and receive visits from Tennessee, Vandy, and Georgia Tech. Plus, I left Saturday with the sense that Georgia had been exposed a little more than Florida. The Gators lost a game in which they seriously outgained their opponent, but put the ball on the ground too much. Phil Steele would tell us not to put too much value on that result. Georgia, on the other hand, got dominated on the offensive and defensive lines. The Dawgs had issues going into the game with offensive line continuity and a lack of pressure from the defensive ends. Both issues were brutally exposed in the first half. I can see Florida avoiding another three fumble quarter; I can't see Georgia suddenly progressing to LSU or Alabama levels on the offensive and defensive lines. The counter argument: Florida's secondary is still questionable and it's not rational to assume that they won't blow another coverage in a key situation.
Q: But what does this mean for Ohio State? Are they back in?
Only if USC and every team in the SEC loses at least two games. The Bucks do have a chance to get back into the mix with wins at Wisconsin and at home against Penn State, at which point it is certain that Kirk Herbstreit will mention that "this is a different team than the one that played at USC because Terrelle Pryor is gaining confidence and Beanie Wells is healthy." Voters have pitifully short memories, which will help Ohio State.
Q: Did the week that was open the door for any of the undefeateds out of some of the non-BCS conferences like the Mountain West or the Big East? (Yup, that's a cheap shot. Thanks, Virginia Tech for not allowing me to make it about the ACC.)
Possibly, although the same rules that apply to Ohio State also apply to BYU, Utah, and Boise State. Those teams will not go to the title game ahead of a one-loss USC, Florida, Georgia, LSU, or Alabama. The gap in strength of schedule is too pronounced between the mid-majors and the SEC teams and the gap in talent is too pronounced between the mid-majors and USC. Right now, the title game is shaping up to be a contest between the SEC and Big XII champions, since those two leagues are clearly the best in the country and will produce a number of big stage games that will vault teams to the top of the rankings. Boise State has the best win of the three mid-major contenders in its demolition of Oregon. BYU and Utah suffer from the fact that they scheduled several high-profile programs and those programs are all on various levels of Dante's Inferno this year.
I'll also be interested to see how Hawaii 2007 pops up in the discussion. I'm not the biggest fan of the mid-majors, as I think that there's no substitute for talent in football (especially on defense) and the mid-majors are inherently less talented than the superpower programs. That said, Hawaii was truly abysmal on defense last year and played a number of tight games against bad opponents as a result. Boise State, BYU, and Utah are better balanced teams than Hawaii was and they're less likely to require overtime to beat the San Jose States of the world. Thus, the Hawaii comparison won't be especially fair to these three teams.