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August 25, 2011

LSU-Oregon is a must win for ...

Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.

1. Ducks on the pond. The season-opening meeting between LSU and Oregon in Arlington, Texas, is one of the biggest games of the season. Almost every poll has both programs ranked in the top 5, and the Ducks and Tigers each have national title aspirations. But which school can lose and not have its BCS title hopes trashed? It's LSU. The Tigers play in the rugged SEC, which has won the past five national titles and again looks like the nation's top conference. That means LSU will have numerous big games left on its schedule, giving it ample chance to impress and climb back up the polls if is loses to the Ducks. In fact, if the Tigers lose to Oregon but go on to win the SEC, I'd still bet that LSU will play for the national title. Conversely, a loss to LSU likely would kill Oregon's dream of returning to the BCS title game. The Pac-12 is a strong league but it lacks the SEC's power, meaning the Ducks will have fewer chances the rest of the season to score enough impressive victories to climb up the poll. It's a must-win game for Oregon.

2. The grass isn't always greener. So, Appalachian State officials are thinking about becoming a FBS program. Bad idea. Yes, the school won three consecutive FCS titles from 2005-07 and consistently has been one of the top programs in that division. And App State also has great fan support, leading the FCS in attendance in three of the past four years. But all of that doesn't mean it should move to the FBS ranks. I'd like to introduce the Mountaineers to Western Kentucky, Florida International and Florida Atlantic, among others, schools that have made the move from FCS to FBS and had little success. For every Boise State and Connecticut that has made the transition from FCS to FBS, there are many more Idahos, North Texases and Arkansas States. Each basically is an irrelevant FBS program, playing in second-tier leagues such as the Sun Belt. If App State, the program that pulled off one of the greatest upsets in all of sports by winning at Michigan in 2007, opts to move up, it will lose its cachet, becoming just another small-fish program in a massive pond rather than being one of the biggest fish in a smaller pond.

3. 'Super conferences' could mean easy playoff. Renewed conference realignment chatter has some thinking the sport could be headed toward a super-conference structure of four 16-team leagues. Writing for Forbes.com, Patrick Rishe, the director of Sportsimpacts and an economics professor at Webster University in St Louis, feels that such a structure could lend itself to an eight-team playoff system. I agree. Here is how it would work. The champs of the four conference title games would earn postseason spots. The other four playoff participants would be determined by a BCS formula system, with the four highest ranked non-league champions getting bids. Non-Big Four conference schools could take an at-large spot from a Big Four league non-champ if they rank in the top 12 of the BCS standings. The BCS rankings then would be used to seed the teams, with No. 1 playing No. 8, No. 2 playing No. 7 and so on. This all makes sense -- and just may be where the sport is headed.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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