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Fourth and inches …

Coaching hot seats will only get hotter and the conference championship picture will begin to come into pretty clear focus this weekend … Dan Hawkins is most likely a goner if the Buffaloes can’t pull off a win at Iowa State this weekend. Charlie Weis needs a victory at Pitt to keep his job in play. He needs to get the Fighting Irish into a top paying tier 2 bowl game to stay safe. Rich Rodriguez probably has another year to salvage his sinking ship, but don’t underestimate the Michigan alumni. Another winter without a bowl trip would fuel some serious fires around Ann Arbor to oust RichRod now.

Overview of Division 1-A conference title races:

Big Ten
The winner of the Iowa – Ohio State game will lock up the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl Game berth on New Year’s Day.

Big East
If Pitt and Cincinnati continue winning, the title game will occur on December 5 in Pittsburgh between these two rivals.

SEC
Florida and Alabama are both locked in to the conference title game in Atlanta on Dec 5, regardless of what happens to either team in the next few weeks.
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College Gridiron 365 Power Rankings

More shockers marred the leader board last weekend as Oregon choked at Stanford, Iowa sputtered and lost at home to Northwestern, and Penn State collapsed and handed over the keys to the Rose Bowl Game to Ohio State. Navy knocked off Notre Dame for the second time in three years and Oklahoma fell to Nebraska and tumbled out of the rankings for the first time in eleven years.

1. FLORIDA GATORS/SEC (9-0). The Gators continued their march toward a showdown against undefeated Alabama in the SEC title game with a 27-3 win over Vanderbilt. Florida heads to South Carolina this weekend to take on former coach Steve Spurrier.
2. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE/SEC (9-0). Another controversial SEC officiating call marred the Tide’s 24-15 decision over LSU, clinching the conference’s Western Division for Alabama. Up next: At Mississippi State.
3. TEXAS LONGHORNS/Big 12 (9-0). Texas handled Central Florida easily, 35-3, and head to Waco this weekend to take on Baylor in Big 12 action. Colt McCoy can tie Georgia’s David Greene for most victories by a college quarterback with the win.
4. CINCINNATI BEARCATS/Big East (9-0). The Bearcats struggled to put away Connecticut and pulled off a 47-45 squeaker to stay perfect and in control of the Big East. West Virginia will prove to be one of Cincy’s toughest tests of the season, especially if RB Noel Devine is healthy.
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Fourth and inches …

Boise State’s PR campaign lands Yahoo sportswriter Dan Wetzel hook, line and sinker … In his most recent column, Wetzel mimics recent claims by Boise State athletic director Gene Bleymaier that “nobody” is willing to schedule Boise State in 2011. Really? Funny how neither Wetzel nor Bleymaier actually name any teams that won’t schedule the Broncos.

That’s because it’s a ploy to help the Broncos get into a BCS bowl game this year. Boise State was hoping their one-BCS-game-per-season formula would assure them of getting into the big money game this year but TCU is on track to secure the coveted automatic invite with a much more difficult non-conference and conference schedule.

BSU is facing the cold, hard fact that their formula won’t work when other non-BCS teams like TCU, BYU, Utah, and Houston are willing to schedule 2 or 3 games against BCS opponents each year.
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College Gridiron 365 Power Rankings

Last week’s biggest shocker signaled the end of the reign of Troy in the Pac-10 Conference. But, look out Oregon. Arizona is anxious to do some shock and awe of their own in November. The biggest game of the week is LSU at Alabama. Both teams control their own destiny and the pathway is clear to the national title game for whichever squad can win their division and the SEC championship game. Another game you won’t want to miss is Ohio State at Penn State. Jim Tressel has never lost to a Big Ten opponent two years in a row, but pulling out a win in Happy Valley ain’t gonna be easy.

1. FLORIDA GATORS/SEC (8-0). Florida manhandled the Georgia Bulldogs, 41-17. Urban Meyer complained about the officiating and got slapped with a $30k fine. Just another routine day in the SEC. Gators entertain Vandy this weekend.
2. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE/SEC (8-0). Coming off a bye week, ‘Bama has had plenty of time to rest and rejigger their offensive attack for the visiting Bayou Bengals this weekend.
3. TEXAS LONGHORNS/Big 12 (8-0). Well, the Longhorns finally came up with their most impressive win of the season—on the road over Oklahoma State, 41-14. They’ll shift gears for a non-conference tilt against Central Florida this weekend.
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Fourth and inches …

What a circus it’s been this season in the SEC … some terrible officiating has been exposed, head coaches complaining and getting fined, and now Mike Slive is imposing what amounts to a gag order on any further grumbling by the conference’s head coaches.

“On rare occasions over the last seven years there were several private reprimands and that took care of the matter,” Slive said in a telephone interview with AP sportswriter Ralph Russo. “On occasion there were public reprimands and that took care of it, but it became clear to me after last week that I was no longer interested in reprimands. We will go right to suspensions and fines.”

Slive has already fined Tennessee’s Lane Kiffin, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, and Bobby Petrino of Arkansas for registering public complaints about the officiating blunders.
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College Gridiron 365 Power Rankings

Six more weekends to go and it’s time to shed some dead Top 25 weight and shift focus to the Sweet 16 from now on. You can take it to the bank that the SEC champ will be playing in Pasadena on January 7 for the national title. If Texas remains unbeaten, they’ll be the other contender. If the Longhorns falter along the way, then it’ll be Iowa if they keep their record unblemished. A slip-up by the Hawkeyes and you’re looking at USC, if they can run the table the rest of the season. So there you have it: Florida or Alabama vs Texas/Iowa/USC in the BCS National Championship.

1. FLORIDA GATORS/SEC (7-0). The Gators continue to disappoint, perhaps only because our expectations are so huge. They handled Mississippi State on the road, 29-19, but not without protestation about the SEC officials—again—from the opposing head coach. Guess who got fined by Mike Slive? Next up: The Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville this weekend.
2. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE/SEC (8-0). Alabama struggled to squeak out a 12-10 victory over a Tennessee team that is playing with a lot of heart these days. Despite their 3-4 record, the Vols looked impressive, holding the Tide to just 256 total yards. ‘Bama has a week off to get their offense back on track for LSU on Nov 7.
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