Wade Askew column: Who’s No. 2? Let the debate begin (again)

Wade Askew

It is a proven fact that nobody wants to be No. 2 this year.

It all started with USC, which, in the sixth week of the season, left Stanford on the wrong end of one of the most monumental upsets in college football history. The proverbial floodgates then opened as California, South Florida and Boston College owned the No. 2 spot for a grand total of four weeks before LSU took over this week. And with Louisiana Tech traveling to Baton Rouge and No. 3 Oregon idle, it is safe to assume the Bayou Bengals will hold onto the ranking for at least a second week.

But the question remains: should they?

It’s a tricky question that could become utterly irrelevant in a few weeks, but it’s fun to debate nonetheless. Three teams in the top five have a legitimate claim to the all-important No. 2 spot, starting with LSU.

The Tigers have survived arguably the nation’s toughest schedule, losing only at Kentucky in a slate that to this point has featured five ranked opponents, including three straight weeks of No. 17 squads (Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama). Plus, in LSU’s premier non-conference matchup against No. 11 Virginia Tech, the Tigers rolled 48-7. The Hokies are undefeated since.

Meanwhile, Oregon boasts its own non-conference thrashing over a major-conference power with a 39-7 pummeling of then-reeling Michigan in the Big House. The Ducks looked equally impressive in the past two weeks with victories over No. 12 USC and then-No. 4 Arizona State. And even though Oregon’s loss to California on Sept. 29 looks a little uglier given the Bears’ recent freefall out of the top 25, Oregon has arguably looked more impressive than any other team at its best. Plus, quarterback Dennis Dixon is a Heisman front-runner, which doesn’t hurt.

Then there’s Kansas, largely forgotten at No. 5. The Jayhawks happen to be the only team that hasn’t lost yet in this discussion – the only problem is the two best teams they’ve beaten so far, Texas A&M and Kansas State, have combined for an 11-8 record. In fact, Kansas’ opponents have compiled a dreadful record of 36-51, and its non-conference foes included the likes of Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International. Even the Jayhawks’ most impressive feat to date, hanging 76 points on Nebraska last weekend, is tainted by the fact the Huskers are 4-6 and have totally quit on their sure-to-be-fired coach, Bill Callahan.

While this season has proven more than any that assumptions