By my count, there are 2.5 HUGE games left on the college football schedule between now and bowl season. The .5 is LSU-Arkansas on Nov. 25. It falls short of a full point only because I don't believe Arkansas has a legitimate chance to win. We've been over this before — the Razorbacks have one loss, but it was an unvarnished throttling against Alabama, and a handful of their eight wins (Ole Miss and Vanderbilt especially) have not been impressive. Nevertheless, LSU is number one, and Arkansas could be as high as fifth by then. It's worth a mention.
The second HUGE game is Oklahoma-Oklahoma State on Dec. 3. If I had to pick right now, I would guess that the winner (Oklahoma, I suspect) will play in the BCS national title game against LSU. For the Cowboys, it's a no-brainer; they're already ranked second, and they control their own destiny. For Oklahoma, ranked sixth, help is needed. As of now, there are four teams for the Sooners to leapfrog if they want to land in the coveted second position. The first is Oklahoma State, who they'd pass with a win. The second is Alabama, and I believe the nation's desire to avoid a rematch national championship would take care of that. Then there's Boise State, who will almost certainly end the year undefeated if they beat TCU this weekend. Still, we know how that story goes. The BCS never smiles on the Broncos, and I can't imagine this year will be any different, even if they're one of just two undefeated teams in the country.
That leaves Stanford, and brings us to the present for
Well, friends and enemies, here we are. No. 1 LSU vs. no. 2 Alabama. The national championship play-in. We've been anticipating this game for so long that watching it will almost feel strange, as though, with all the buildup and the weight of our collective expectations, it shouldn't actually happen. It would be like if one of the wacko apocalypse predictions you hear about every few years actually came true. This is fire-and-brimstone stuff, and I'm not ready.
I'll forgo any suspense and admit to you right now that I have no idea who's going to win. In fact, I'm so overwhelmed by the sheer size of this game that I can barely think straight. But I'm lucid enough to know that this is:
Week 9 is an opening act. Week 9 is a kid brother. Week 9 is the junior-varsity game, starting at 5 p.m. Week 9 is trying out conversational tidbits in front of the mirror before the big date. (You guys do that too, right?) Week 9 is a house salad with vinaigrette dressing when you can smell the steak sizzling in the kitchen.
Those words come from the song "Jimi Thing" by the Dave Matthews Band, and it's a good idea to sing them out loud if you ever want to be shunned at a party. But don't sleep on Brother Chaos; he's a real phenomenon, and he makes his presence known in college football. The Week of Chaos happens every year, usually just once, turning the whole Top 25 upside down. And I'm starting to get the vibe. There's a feeling in the air, something more than the usual pre-Halloween disquiet, and I think Week 8 will finally deliver on the promise.