These are the relevant players in the National Championship picture. It's never too early for speculation and raging debate.
1. Texas 7-0
2. Alabama 7-0
3. Penn State 8-0
4. Oklahoma 6-1
5. USC 5-1
6. Oklahoma State 7-0
7. Georgia 6-1
8. Texas Tech 7-0
9. Ohio State 7-1
10. Florida 5-1
11. Utah 8-0
12. Boise State 6-0
13. LSU 5-1
I'll ignore Utah and Boise St for obvious reasons.
The clarity of the national championship picture appears to rest on a game between Ohio St and Penn St (assuming the winner TCB) and a series of brutal playoffs within the SEC and Big 12 with USC hanging out waiting for internecine warfare to squeeze their undeserving selves in on the weight of media love and a series of Pac 10 open weeks disguised as football teams.
Note: I only list the games that I believe are a challenge. Not the entirety of the remaining schedule. I assume a LSU win over Troy and a Texas win over Baylor.
The conference of great defenses, intense rivalries, and QBs who throw the ball like it's a shot put is down to four teams. Each with their fate in their own hands.
LSU and Alabama vie for the SEC West championship berth; Florida and Georgia for the East.
LSU finishes with 5 of their last 6 at home. Interesting. This includes Bama, Ole Miss, and Georgia. It's not insane to think they could win these games, it's quite possible that they put a gris-gris on Bama.
Bama (7-0) goes @Tennessee, @ LSU, Auburn. Essentially, LSU on the road should be their only test, but Phil Fulmer could keep his job two more years with a win. We should pray for that on a number of levels. Tommy T could secure his own with one as well. Pray for that as well. When JP Wilson is your QB, you have a decent shot at losing against the Barking Carnival flag football team.
Florida (5-1) has an interesting stretch. They play Georgia and deal with four above average teams that I can't see them losing to: S Carolina, Kentucky, Vandy, FSU. A win head-to-head against UGA allows them a slip-up, though that would ruin any national title hopes.
Georgia (6-1) is done but they just don't know it. @ LSU, Florida, Kentucky, Georgia Tech. Good luck with that, Dawgs.
After all of that, you get a title game. If I were handicapping a title game winner, I like Florida (50%), Alabama (35%), LSU(10%), Georgia (5%) in that order.
This Big 12 South is just brutal while the North essentially offers a bye to the Kansas/Missouri winner. The North/South imbalance in the Big 12 is back with vengeance though a favorable championship location and the chance of a crippled Big 12 South champion gives the North winner an outside shot.
There are four national title contenders - all in the Big 12 South. They will engage in a round robin of death.
Texas (7-0) credentials are unquestionable. Lose a game and we'll need some dominos to fall into place. Lose a game late - as in the Big 12 title game - there are some psychological hurdles that seem insurmountable with the human voters. If that game is to the eventual Big 12 champion, obviously we're SOL. The Murderer's Row just won't stop: OSU, @Tech, @KU.
Oklahoma State (7-0) is damn good but their schedule is vicious: @ Texas, @ Tech, OU. They can't go through that stretch without a loss. They can put a loss on any team they play though.
Texas Tech (7-0) is primed to play the role of cockroach for someone's national title shot. The schedule is a beating: @ KU, Texas, OSU, OU. All four in succession. No way, Raiders. However, they are fully capable of beating any of those four. A 2-2 record would be impressive.
Oklahoma (6-1) drew an easy Big 12 North slate, but they still finish the year with Tech at home and on the road against OSU. They need some help, but could fall into a Big 12 Title game and certainly a BCS bowl.
If I'm handicapping the Big 12 Champion, I'll say (Texas 55%, OSU 15%, OU 15%, Mizzou 10%, Kansas 4%, Tech 1%)
Penn State/Ohio State/USC
Penn State/Ohio State is pretty straightforward. It's a one game playoff in Columbus, OH. If Penn State wins out, the human pollsters will give Penn State sufficient juice to squeeze out a SEC or Big 12 one loss champion for a title game berth. If Ohio State wins and wins out, then it's really all conjecture, but I can't imagine human pollsters allowing another Buckeye debacle.
Penn State has @Ohio State, @Iowa, Michigan St.
Ohio State has Penn State, @ Northwestern, @ Illinois.
I believe PSU is a much better football team than Ohio State, but the Buckeyes offer a tough matchup with Pryor at QB running zone read with Wells. The key to the game is the Ohio St defense trying to match up with the Penn State speed on the perimeter and Jim Tressel not coaching like a giant sweater vested vagina.
USC has a joke of a remaining schedule and even though the computers rightfully hate them, the human pollsters can't wait to make them their girlfriend. Sure they lost to a average Oregon State team but USC is SO TALENTED! I love talent! Particularly the indefinable sort that loses games to Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA! The hard truth is if Penn State goes down and the SEC & Big 12 all engage in self-destruction, USC may just be in. They face theoretical and dubious challenges at home with Cal and Notre Dame. Whatever. If we had their schedule, my reservations in Miami would be made.
The $1,000,000 question is how do the humans and computers rate a 12-1 SEC Champion against a 12-1 Big 12 Champion with an undefeated Penn State or one loss USC waiting in the wings? The truth is both 12-1 legit conference teams should play each other for the national title while Penn State weeps and USC wails but when you have a Northeastern press establishment composed of former high school tennis players that went to Hofstra, I'm not really willing to bet on anything involving their ability to perform qualitative and quantitative analysis on football.
Those are the horses. How do you see the race playing out?