Publish date:

Endgame Scenarios An Oklahoma-USC Sugar Bowl? Only the computer knows for sure


Another long autumn's journey through the BCS minefield is nearly
finished, and once again the much-maligned hybrid of polls and
computer formulas is on the verge of providing the public with
the national championship game that it most wants to see. This
year that game is No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Oklahoma against No.
2 USC in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 4. Three things must still

--Oklahoma (12-0) must beat 10-3 Kansas State in the Big 12
championship game on Dec. 6 in Kansas City, Mo. Probability: Very
high, bordering on a lock. Bob Stoops's Sooners are not only the
most talented and efficient team in the country, but they are
also virtually lapse-proof. When they smell blood, they finish
the job. Side note: Even if Oklahoma loses, some BCS-ologists
predict that the Sooners will fall to no lower than No. 2 in the
BCS rankings, ensuring that they would still go to New Orleans.

--USC (10-1) must beat 7-4 Oregon State at the Los Angeles
Coliseum that same Saturday. Probability: High. The Trojans had
their stumble at Cal on the last weekend in September. They
learned from that slip. Don't count on another one.

--LSU (10-1) must not muddle the mix. The Tigers are third in the
BCS rankings, with Friday's regular-season finale against 8-3
Arkansas and the Dec. 6 SEC championship game (against either
Florida, Georgia or Tennessee) remaining. Because they finish
with two strong opponents, they could catch USC by making up
ground in the BCS's schedule-strength and quality-win categories.
Whether LSU can make that jump depends on the results of more
than 20 games this weekend involving past and future opponents of
the two teams. Probability: High. USC remains in the driver's
seat. But the computers sit in judgment for two more weekends.
This is the BCS, remember. Strange things can still happen.
--Tim Layden

COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER SO SWEET Renaldo Works's Sooners can taste Sugar.