Who's Number 2?

Dan Shanoff writes a weekly college football column for Deadspin. Email him to let him know what you think.
Fans can sincerely disagree whether Ohio State is truly better than
either LSU or Oregon — more worthy of being ranked No. 1.

But the fact is: The BCS polls have OSU in the top spot, and like it
or not, that's where the Buckeyes will stay, provided they win their
final two games, sweeping them right into one slot of the national
title-game pairing.

And so it begs the far more controversial question: Who's Number
2?
Which team has the strongest claim to that second BCS slot?
Given the flimsy way Ohio State has constructed their unbeaten record,
being No. 2 at season's end seems as good as winning the BCS title
itself.

Is it LSU? No. 2 in the latest BCS poll, the Tigers overcame
their own multiple screw-ups to beat Alabama, arguably the second-best
team in the SEC, in Tuscaloosa. But was the win decisive enough? Will
voters get tired of Les Miles' close calls — and can the Tigers ride
the wire through the season-making (or -breaking) SEC title game?

Is it Oregon? The Ducks beat previously undefeated Arizona
State. But it was at Oregon. (Do the Ducks win that game at Arizona
State?) That said: They have the fewest obstacles to finishing the
season at No. 2. (If OSU, LSU and Oregon all win out, and Oregon is
shut out, they will have a hell of a legit gripe.)

Is is Kansas? One of two remaining BCS-conference unbeaten
teams hung 76 on Nebraska, but have zero respect nationally. Here's my
question: How could you NOT be rooting for Kansas to complete this
dream season? (On the other hand, KU's schedule strength makes Ohio
State's previous schedule look perilous, if you can believe that.)

Is it Oklahoma? Not until they win the Big 12 Championship,
which will involve either winning a rematch with Missouri on a neutral
field... or beating the Cinderella Jayhawks. And the Sooners would
still need LSU or Oregon BOTH to stumble ahead of them.

Is it West Virginia? Not until they beat UConn. Ponder the
improbability of that statement 10 years ago. And even if the
Mountaineers do that, they need improbable help ahead of them.

Is it anyone else? Missouri would need to beat Kansas, then
beat Oklahoma (and STILL need help)... I love a 1-loss UConn, but no
one else seems to...Of the 2-loss teams, Michigan beating Ohio State
would cap an incredible comeback, but that 0-2 start returns to haunt
them....

The bottom line: We are down to a handful of legit contenders, and all
have the potential (even likelihood) of stumbling before the finish
line. Because who wouldn't want to see a Kansas-UConn national-title
game?

This Week's Bandwagon: We Are All Navy Fans! In this most
contentious of seasons, we have argued more than we have agreed: About
Ohio State's real strength. About who's number 2. About "biggest
upsets ever." About fictitious playoff systems.

But for one moment on Saturday night, we could all agree on one thing:
Go Navy.

In an otherwise meaningless game, Navy ended a 43-game losing streak
to Notre Dame (in South Bend, no less), the longest losing streak ever
by any college football team to another.

The schadenfreude party game of the season has been reveling in
figuring out at what point Notre Dame's season has sucked worst: Was
it the nonexistent offense in the beginning? The 38-0 pummeling by
then-0-2 Michigan? The 0-5 start? It HAD to be the 38-0 loss to USC,
right?

Wrong: Rock bottom continues to be a moving target for the Irish, and
losing to a service academy they haven't lost to in 43 years qualifies
as a new low in a season of them. The 1-8 record is almost incidental.
(Almost.)

It has to be asked: How does Charlie Weis still have a job? Any other
self-respecting so-called "national" program would have jettisoned a
coach who had performed so epically poorly in his third season. Face
up to it: Weis is a feeble college coach.

This Week's BlogPoll Ballot:
1. LSU
"4th Down" = Game-winner
2. Oregon
What about Dixon's knee?
3. Ohio State
Talk to me after Michigan.
4. Kansas
Scoring 76 is no joke.
5. UConn
My "Put Down The Pipe" Pick o' the Week.
6. West Virginia
"Bye week" means "Forgotten"
7. Oklahoma
How did they lose at Colorado?
8. Missouri
Lurking behind TWO Big 12 rivals
9. Michigan
For UM, wins are wins.
10. Georgia
Wow: Was that really Troy?
Click here for the complete ballot.

Bowl Clusterf*** Series Update: How can I rank LSU *and* Oregon
ahead of Ohio State? In addition to passing the "believe what your
eyes tell you" test, LSU has at least FIVE "quality" wins better than
Ohio State's BEST win, and Oregon has at least three "quality" wins
better than OSU's best win.

OSU beating Wisconsin in Columbus did nothing to help that situation,
nor will beating Illinois in Columbus next week. Can we all agree that
Ohio State would most certainly not be unbeaten if they played in the
SEC, Pac-10, Big 12 or Big East?

(Stop griping about disrespect, OSU fans: The BCS' mouth-breathing
pollsters can't see past the "and-oh" in OSU's record; keep winning,
and you'll have a spot in the BCS title game, don't you worry. But you
better hope LSU and Oregon stumble along the way, because you know in
places you don't talk about at tailgate parties, either team would wax
the Buckeyes.)

Heisman Watch: I promised Will I wouldn't write about the
Heisman race, but since he's taking the day off today, I'll enjoy an
exemption.
I was all set to declare Oregon QB Dennis Dixon
the new front-runner (as the most valuable offensive skill-position
player of a title contender, the usual Heisman criteria)...

...But preseason Heisman pick Darren McFadden forced his way
back to the top of the list after running for an SEC-record 323 yards.
I don't care that his team has 3 losses; last season's Heisman
runner-up reminded everyone that he's the best player in college
football.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Schedule

Louisville at West Virginia (Thursday): Before the season
started, this was a de facto national semifinal playoff game. Sigh.
Pick: WVU

Illinois at Ohio State: Is it too much to ask for Leitch's
Illini to ruin the Buckeyes season? Probably.
Pick: OSU

Kansas at Oklahoma State: I am waiting for Mark Mangino's
version of Mike Gundy's rant: "I'm a man! I'm 400 pounds!"
Pick: Kansas

Auburn at Georgia: If, like me, you think the SEC is the best
conference in the country, knowing who its second-best team is
matters.
Pick: Auburn

Michigan at Wisconsin: Remember when this was supposed to be
the only stumbling block en route to a huge season for Michigan?
Pick: Michigan

Connecticut at Cincinnati: If UConn is the new South Florida,
then they better understand that Cincy just beat the old South
Florida.
Pick: Cincinnati

Florida at South Carolina: If Spurrier versus his old team is
half as good as Saban versus his old team, it'll be a barn-burner.
Pick: Florida

As usual, direct any questions or comments to
danshanoff-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.