With three games in the BCS complete, a loud message has been sent to LSU and Ohio State as they prepare for the national championship game: they better bring it on Monday night because their peers have left quite a final impression on the voters.  USC, Georgia, and now West Virginia have all made their stake at a hopeful split national championship in the AP Poll with outstanding performances on the game’s grandest stage.  In winning in such impression fashion, these three teams have cast even more doubt on the validity of the teams involved in the sport’s championship game, especially LSU, which is sta
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rting to look less and less deserving of its spot with each impressive BCS performance.

USC surely wasn’t deserving of a spot in the BCS National Championship Game once they lost to Stanford, but they have done everything in their power to redeem themselves from the terrible loss.  The Trojans finally got healthy down the stretch, and became the well-oiled machine on both sides of the ball that they were expected to be when they were voted the preseason #1.  They played their best game of the season on the national stage, whipping Illinois and its spread running attack, two months after Ohio State was exploited ruthlessly by the same basic attack.  Hmmm.

The rallying cry against Georgia’s inclusion in the championship game was their failure to win their conference.  What the naysayers forgot to realize was that the Bulldogs had played some of the best football in the country after their own devastating loss, a 21-point blowout against Tennessee, winning their last six games in a row, with the last five by double digits.  Coach Mark Richt pleaded for a bid to the national championship bid, but was denied.  Facing Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl didn’t offer much upside.  A loss would put a huge hit on the supposed strength of the Bulldogs team, while a win would hardly be celebrated because it was expected against an inferior team.  However, Georgia managed to make the game worthwhile, totally outclassing overmatched Hawaii and putting a loss on the nation’s final unblemished team, while making it look easy.

Last night it was West Virginia that took center stage in the “Pick us as #1” plea, running up and down an Oklahoma defense that entered the Fiesta Bowl with a swagger, fresh off a dominating win over then-#1 Missouri.  With its coach ditching them during the holidays, and with the humiliating taste in their mouth from the loss in the Backyard Brawl, not many gave the Mountaineers a chance.  Many thought the team was overrated, and not in the same class as the collection of 2-loss clubs that were contending for a national championship bid.  West Virginia’s 48-28 win ended all debate about their worth as a top team.  Against the one of the nation’s toughest run defenses, the Mountaineers ran for 349 yards without their top running back, Steve Slaton.  Instead, West Virginia showed their tremendous depth, hitting the Sooners at every angle with an eye-opening collection of skill players.  Three different players ran for touchdowns, and West Virginia had three touchdowns of 50 yards or more, including a 65 yard run from freshman Noel Devine that put the exclamation point on the victory.  This team, with or without Steve Slaton, will be back in contention for the title next year, and will be just fine without Rich Rodriguez.

Following these three terrific performances will not be easy for Ohio State and LSU as they prepare for Monday’s tilt.  The bar has been set pretty high, and with neither of these teams entering this game playing their best football, a stinker is surely possible.  The national championship could be anticlimactic, and leave the masses feeling that the wrong team will be walking away with a national championship trophy.

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