Making its way through the Cam Newton controversy and games against Georgia and Alabama, not to mention the SEC title game, seems a tall order for Auburn. And if Auburn loses, TCU or Boise State is likely to find its way to the national-championship game.

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Just a guess here, as college football and its multi-controversies hit the homestretch:

Auburn’s toast.

And if it is, another guess: Texas Christian or Boise State is going to find itself playing for a national championship.

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Think of it. Nine months after Butler’s Gordon Hayward launched a half-court shot that came about an inch from rewriting the history of the NCAA basketball championship, at last we could have one of the non-BCS peasantry fighting its way free of the thicket of obstacles to the title game.

If it happens, hallelujah.

About Auburn: I think back to lunch — catfish, hush puppies, fried okra — four years ago at a backwoods café in southern Alabama with ex-Auburn coach Pat Dye.

“It’s some serious stuff down here,” said Dye.

He would know, since he was athletic director in 1993 when the NCAA whacked Auburn once again. In that summary, it wrote, “As a result of this case, Auburn University has become one of only three universities that have been placed on probation six or more times by the NCAA.”

The Deltas never got called on the carpet that much at Faber College.

But this isn’t so much about Auburn, which did the crimes and served the time. It’s about the culture of Southern football, and the revelations and rumors that have swarmed Cam Newton in recent days like a nine-man front. Hit the “refresh” button and find something new.

It’s not unreasonable to think there will be more, and even if it comes up benign, how does a program deal with that and Georgia on Saturday, and Alabama on the road Nov. 26, and then the SEC title game? That might be against Florida, and given that’s a meaty part of Newton’s long, strange trip, won’t that be some storyline?

So if Auburn (or Oregon, to make a broader point) loses, what happens then? The gate swings open for TCU or Boise State, ranked Nos. 3-4 in the BCS.

This week, Jerry Palm, publisher of, wasn’t into the theory that TCU or Boise State would be eclipsed by a one-loss Auburn or LSU team. To the idea the two outliers have a reasonable shot, he said, “As reasonable a shot as you think of Oregon or Auburn getting beat. That’s the minimum it would take. That might be all it takes.”

An Auburn loss fueled by the simmering Newton story would only inaugurate another debate: TCU or Boise State? TCU’s edge today would ostensibly blur, because the Frogs finish with San Diego State on Saturday, then New Mexico, while Boise State has a potential game-changer at 21st-ranked Nevada on Nov. 26.

“It really could go either way,” says Palm. “Right now, TCU has a big lead in the computers over Boise (TCU No. 2, BSU No. 5). That’s going to shrink and it might go away entirely.”

The polls with a pulse have TCU and Boise State Nos. 3-4. But, as Palm notes, “At this point, they’re voting for No. 3.”

In other words, if voters are putting a team into the title game, do they reassess and cast a nod for Boise State, on its track record of three unbeaten teams in the past five years, two of those capped by Fiesta Bowl wins (the last one over TCU)?

But say it doesn’t happen. Auburn wins out and TCU, at No. 3, stays ahead of Boise State. The Broncos actually would have gone unbeaten yet finished behind where they were ranked (No. 3) in the preseason AP poll. Think that might inspire some Internet acrimony, and even a lawsuit?

What has become obvious is that both TCU and Boise State can play with anybody. You can argue forcefully that they don’t risk as much with their schedules, but they can compete. I wouldn’t see either being a severe underdog against Auburn or Oregon.

Seems like the time one of them should get the chance.

Spud-state spat

Boise State has the national debate, and also a regional one, to be revisited Friday night at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow against Idaho. It’s scheduled to be the last time the teams meet, with BSU headed to the Mountain West and clearly not enamored of the idea of continuing to play the Vandals.

This could be heated. In fact, it already is. BSU president Bob Kustra made comments in July about Idaho’s fan base being “nasty” and “inebriated.” To which Deonte Jackson, Idaho running back, told The Idaho Statesman this week, “I wouldn’t expect anything different, coming from the blue and orange snot.”

BSU coach Chris Petersen put his players off-limits for interviews this week, but is himself championing the idea of making Boise the permanent home of the game, if it’s to be played at all.

“There’s more alumni down here than anywhere else in the whole state, and we’ve got a big stadium here,” Petersen said on the WAC conference call. “If it’s a game everybody wants to see, let everybody see it right here where all the seats are.”

Not surprisingly, that doesn’t fly with Idaho coach Robb Akey, who said, “I would like to think somehow, some way, the rivalry should be something that will be taken care of. But it’s got to be done the right way. It’s got to be done home-and-home or you don’t play it at all.”

It would help Idaho’s case if it were more competitive in the game.

The Vandals have lost 11 straight in the series, and the Broncos have topped 60 points four times in that span.

Last week, Idaho lost to Nevada, 63-17, surrendering a ghastly 844 yards. Said Akey, “If we’d have been trying to walk to Sunday school, we’d have been hit by the bus crossing the street.”

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or

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