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November 24, 2006

Experts' view: The race for second

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We'll find out in the two weeks or so which team will play Ohio State for the national title.

For now, the debate still rages regarding which team is the most worthy to take on the Buckeyes on Jan. 8.

For this week's Ask the Experts, we spoke with representatives from the team sites of the five one-loss teams still in the hunt for the national championship. We asked them to state their teams' cases for and against a trip to Glendale, Ariz.

The experts' view
Trey Biddy of HawgSports.com talks about Arkansas:
The case for: First of all, they've won 10 straight. The only game they've lost is to USC, who is No. 3 in the BCS. When they played that game, they had five turnovers and didn't have either of the two quarterbacks they've been using. Darren McFadden was hurt. If they continue do what they've done against top teams like Auburn and Tennessee against top-10 teams in LSU and Florida, it would be hard to keep them out of the title game.

The case against: I don't think you can make an argument for Arkansas unless USC loses and Arkansas wins out. The perception of Arkansas at the beginning of the year was that they weren't a great team with the loss to USC and close wins against Vanderbilt and Alabama. But since then, they built confidence and have been steamrolling.

Marty Cohen of GatorBait.net talks about Florida:
The case for: If you want to stack them against every one-loss team in the country by virtue of schedule, they've played arguably the toughest schedule. They've played one bad half of football on the road at Auburn. As for the other teams, Arkansas has been beaten by USC. Michigan had its shot. USC had a worse loss than Florida. After the SEC Championship Game, Florida would have played nine games in the league and would have not played only Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

The case against: The eyeball test. Florida hasn't been all that impressive in victories. They haven't blown anybody out. They struggled against Vanderbilt and struggled against South Carolina. They don't have the look of a national champion. If you want to dissect what they've done, I'm not sure this is a national championship caliber team.

Chris Balas of TheWolverine.com talks about Michigan:
The case for: Look who they have beaten. Look at what they did to Ohio State on their home field. A lot of people talk about giving the home team three points for home field advantage. In Columbus it's probably six points. When you look at losses among one loss teams, Notre Dame lost to Michigan, USC got beat by Oregon State, Florida lost to Auburn and could have lost again and Arkansas got trounced by USC at home. Because Michigan lost late in the season, it shouldn't mean much. If they're the best one-loss team, they're the best one-loss team.

The case against: People are going to say they had their chance. They played Ohio State at the end of the year and weren't good enough. If you look at the Big Ten, it's not as strong as it has been. Iowa is down, Penn State is down. It's not as strong one through 11 as it has been. Although Michigan had to go on the road, they weren't the road games they had been in the past.

Pete Sampson of IrishIllustrated.com talks about Notre Dame:
The case for: It would have to be a resounding win over USC. A lot of people look back at the Georgia Tech game as Notre Dame struggling, but you look at Georgia Tech since - they're going to ACC title game. A road win at a BCS team probably deserves a little more play than it has been getting.

The case against: Is much stronger than the case for. The loss to Michigan is the big thing hurting Notre Dame. They lost at home to the No. 2 team in the country. Notre Dame is clearly the fifth team in the conversation of national championship contenders. Even if Notre Dame annihilates USC, it would be tough to put them ahead of Michigan. If they had lost by 10 to Michigan rather than by 26, Notre Dame fans would have a better conversation.

Ryan Abraham of USCFootball.com talks about the Trojans:
The case for: Winning out is no gimme with two rivalry games. If they win out with the schedule they have, I don't see how they don't go. When you talk about quality wins, USC has them. They beat all the best teams in the Pac-10, one of the best teams in the SEC (Arkansas), one of the best teams in the Big 12 (Nebraska) and then Notre Dame. It would be hard not to reward them with the schedule they've played.

The case against: What people are saying is that Michigan lost to a better team than USC did. A loss is a loss, whether you lose it on the road or in conference. Michigan beat two teams that are pretty good, Notre Dame and Wisconsin - which hasn't defeated a ranked team all year. As for Oregon State, it's tough to play on the road in conference. To lose by only two points isn't too bad, especially after turning the ball over four times. It's going to happen. If I think Oregon State is a fairly good team. They're not Ohio State, but it's comparable to the other teams' losses.



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