4th and inches …

Fourth and inches …

It’s really tempting to not make Stanford’s upset of USC the lead this week … because the way this season is going, we’ll probably witness several more shockwaves in college football during the next seven weeks … Besides, it’s not like the Trojans were knocked out of the polls, or truly hurt by their loss.  They are still ranked in the Top 10 in both polls and in prime position to move up and play for the national title this season with #2 Cal, #9 Oregon, and #14 ASU on their schedule.

What the polls are telling us … Every national sports talk show had their phone lines crammed this week with confused and angry fans wondering why USC didn’t fall harder in the polls after losing at home to Stanford, while #5 Wisconsin tumbled 14 spots after a close loss on the road to a very good Illinois team.  For that matter, why is an undefeated ASU squad still ranked behind the Trojans when they went to Palo Alto and kicked Stanford all over the stadium, 41-3?

It’s all about perception of each program’s strength.  Pollsters look at the USC loss as an aberration, whereas the Wisconsin loss wasn’t happenstance.  Even if USC were to lose again, you wouldn’t see them fall out of the Top 25.  Certainly not with a host of two-loss teams like Florida, Auburn, Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee currently holding poll positions.  It would probably take four losses to knock the Trojans out of the polls altogether.

Prediction: Look for USC backup QB Mark Sanchez to play well in place of the injured John David Booty this week.  So well, that you’d question replacing him when Booty is healed … but there’s no way Pete Carroll would replace Booty for the rest of the season, even if the Trojans lose again.

Heisman hopefuls … Kentucky QB Andre Woodson falls out of the top slot in my book to #3.  He has two big games against LSU and Florida this week and next to make his case.  Shooting to the top this week is Mike Hart.  He is carrying the Wolverines on his back right now and if he keeps it up, it would be difficult to deny him the statue.  Arkansas’ Darren McFadden holds at #2, with Cal’s DeSean Jackson at #4 BC’s Matt Ryan at #5.

Franchione on his way out at A&M? … News reports are indicating he violated his contract by not reporting the additional income he was making from booster subscriptions to his insider newsletter.  The cost for each subscription was $1,200, and the school is reporting that Franchione netted over $37,000 from the side business.  It’s impossible to imagine A&M keeping DF on board after this year.

Another coach who looks really stupid right now … Tom O’Brien of North Carolina State.  He left behind the best team Boston College has had since the days of Heisman winner Doug Flutie.  What on earth was he thinking?

Talk about courage… The Naval Academy’s Zerbin Singleton is the most recent nominee for the FedEx Orange Bowl- FWAA Courage Award that will be announced at the end of the 2007 season. Singleton didn’t know his father until he was a senior in high school and a year later, his father committed suicide. He had been living with cousins in Georgia since he was 11, when he left his home in Alaska because his mother went to jail for a parole violation. Wanting to pursue military aviation and his dream of becoming an astronaut, Singleton was accepted by the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy, and chose the Navy.  Unfortunately, Singleton was hit by a drunk driver one week before he was scheduled to graduate high school (as valedictorian) and his injuries prevented him from enrolling at Navy.  After a year at Georgia Tech, Singleton transferred to Navy where he’s been a two-year starter with a 3.2 GPA in aerospace engineering.


Gotta love Paterno … After a woman ran a stop sign on campus this week, JoePa pulled up beside her and shook his finger, saying that he had taken down her license plate number.  Moments later, someone knocked on Joe’s window and said “That’s my wife.”  The coach’s response?  “Boy, that’s your problem.”

The Gipper makes a comeback … There is no truth to the rumor that Fighting Irish fans have dug up the body of George Gipp to get DNA that can be used for breeding Notre Dame football players, although ESPN did send a news crew to Traverse City, Michigan to cover the exhumation.  Not all Gipp family members are happy about the event, calling it a desecration.  The reason for the exhumation will be made public at a future date.

Only 11 teams still undefeated … and the Big East has three of them with Cincinnati, Connecticut, and South Florida.  The Big 12 has two with Missouri and Kansas, while the Pac-10 has two with Cal and Arizona State.

Did you know … that Missouri hasn’t defeated Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma since 1966.  Yes, I’m going out on a limb and predicting that streak will end this week (see below upset specials)…

Angels in the outfield? … Well, sort of.  Is the spirit of former Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner living on in his players this season?  The 5-1 Hoosiers are enjoying their best start since the miracle 1968 Rose Bowl team, and will be bowl-eligible with one more victory.  I expect them to win three more regular season games and finish at 8-4.  That will put them in a decent bowl game … you gotta like the fact that they do not have either Michigan or Ohio State on their conference schedule this year.

Potential BCS Busters … Hawaii stayed at #16 after struggling with Utah State. 52-37. QB Colt Brennan left the game after taking a big hit … no big deal, backup QB Tyler Graunke came in and didn’t miss a beat, going 9 for 11, 246 yards, three TDs and running for another.

Irish fans relieved/UCLA fans irate … Notre Dame scooped up their first win of the season, on UCLA’s home turf, no less.  Bewildered and angry Bruins fans are wondering why head coach Karl Dorrell had an empty cupboard at the QB slot.  Patrick Cowan was already out with a serious hamstring injury when Ben Olson suffered a knee injury against the Irish, forcing the Bruins to rely on a redshirt freshman, McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Best Games of the Week … LSU Tigers at Kentucky Wildcats … Central Florida Knights at South Florida Bulls … Purdue Boilermakers at Michigan Wolverines … Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Miami Hurricanes … Illinois Fighting Illini at Iowa Hawkeyes … New Mexico Lobos at Wyoming Cowboys … Texas A&M Aggies at Texas Tech Red Raiders … Wisconsin Badgers at Penn State Nittany Lions … Washington Huskies at Arizona State Sun Devils … Missouri Tigers at Oklahoma Sooners … Louisville Cardinals at Cincinnati Bearcats … Auburn Tigers at Arkansas Razorbacks …

Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-1, season 12-10) … Mississippi State Bulldogs over Tennessee Volunteers … Colorado State Rams over Air Force Falcons … Missouri Tigers over Oklahoma Sooners

Fourth and inches …

There hasn’t been a regular season like this in years … so, to heck with the rankings and current BCS hullabaloo. That roller-coaster ride won’t stop until the final week, so this week’s column is dedicated to examining the title races in each conference. You might be surprised how many conference races will come down to nail-biting final week clashes to determine which teams are left standing with a trophy in their hands.

►Atlantic Coast Conference … The front-runners in each division are Boston College and Virginia Tech. They square off in Blacksburg next Thursday night. Both teams could absorb a loss and still run the table on their remaining schedules to take their respective divisions. Still alive: Wake Forest, Virginia, and Maryland. The Demon Deacons have the most favorable schedule to close out the season, but Boston College owns the tie-breaker over them in the Atlantic Division.

If BC stays healthy, it’s difficult to imagine them losing more than once down the stretch but that will probably happen this week with this year’s strange curse of the No. 2 national ranking hanging around their necks. Look for the Eagles to knock off the Hokies when they meet again in the ACC championship.

►Big East Conference … Right now, Connecticut is the only undefeated team in conference play at 1-0. They will easily lose 2-3 games down the stretch. The real players in the title chase are South Florida, Cincinnati, West Virginia, and Rutgers. The Bulls and the Scarlet Knights have the most favorable schedules to close the regular season. Rutgers owns the tie-breaker over USF, and USF owns the T-B over West Virginia. Louisville will lose a couple more times, but will spoil Rutgers in a shootout to end the season. Conference champ: South Florida.

►Big Ten Conference … If Mike Hart doesn’t play this weekend, look for Michigan to get tripped up by Illinois. Ohio State will falter once down the road, but it might not happen until the Buckeyes’ season finale at Michigan. If they enter Michigan Stadium undefeated on Nov. 17 and Mike Hart is healthy, the Wolverines will win the game and the conference tie-breaker. Penn State and Illinois will be left on the outside looking in with one too many notches in the conference loss column.

►Big 12 Conference … Oklahoma will win the South Division and the North Division winner will come out of the Nov. 17 game between Kansas State and Missouri. Texas Tech will spoil a few rivals’ hopes along the way, but it’ll fall short once again. Look for Missouri to knock off Oklahoma in a rematch in the conference championship.

►Southeast Conference … LSU won’t lose again in conference play. Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and South Carolina will all lose at least one more game. That will leave LSU as West Division champs playing Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks as the East Division champs. LSU roughed up South Carolina 28-16 with the help of its home-field advantage earlier this season. They’ll prevail in a closer conference championship contest, too.

►Pac-10 Conference … Arizona State and UCLA currently are the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference. USC, Oregon and Cal each have one loss. The Bruins are impostors with gimpy quarterbacks and will lose at least twice before the season is over. Check them off the list. ASU gets Cal and USC at home, but they’ll lose on the road to the Ducks. If the Sun Devils can overcome the loss of RB Ryan Torain, they have two-week prep times for both Cal and USC and I see them winning both of those games. I see USC losing two more conference games, and it’s difficult to imagine Oregon losing again. If they do, it will be a big unexpected choke, like at Washington this weekend. This is the toughest conference race to call. I think it will be Oregon and ASU in a tie, with the Quackers holding the head-to-head tie-breaker.

►Mountain West Conference … BYU is in the driver’s seat holding a 3-0 mark with wins over two of its top three challengers. They get TCU and Utah at home, with their toughest hurdle being a mid-November chiller in Laramie against Wyoming. Air Force will lose on the road at New Mexico, giving them two losses. Look for Utah to knock off both New Mexico and Wyoming at home to kill their title hopes, respectively. If BYU falters once before its conference finale, it will be a doozy with Utah having a shot at beating the Cougars and winning the tie-breaker. But wait–if Air Force only has one more loss in this scenario, it’ll own a tie-breaker over the Utes, and BYU would own the tie-breaker over the Falcons. BYU needs to make this easy to figure out and win straight through to the Utah game. Then it won’t matter if the Cougars win or lose (well, it will, but you know what I mean) because they’ll have already clinched the MWC title. Bet on the Cougars.

►Western Athletic Conference … Hawaii and Boise State are headed for a huge showdown the Friday after Thanksgiving in what should determine the WAC championship. However, Fresno State and Nevada are very dangerous teams, especially with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick at QB for the Wolf Pack. Both of these teams could throw the WAC into a WACky funk with Hawaii visiting Reno on Nov. 16 and Boise State at Fresno State on Oct. 26. Nevada was actually far more impressive on offense than the Broncos last week in their 69-67, triple-overtime loss at Boise State, and Hawaii failed to impress, once again, in its close-shave win over San Jose State. BSU’s been there, done that, and somehow the Smurf Turfers always manage to find a way to win their way through the WAC, so give the edge to Boise State to win the title. Again.

►Conference USA … East Carolina has practically locked down the East Division honors after consecutive close-shave victories over Houston, Central Florida and UTEP. They finish with UAB, Memphis, Marshall and Tulane. Yep, surrender the East to the Pirates. The West Division race is more complicated. Houston has to play at Tulsa and UTEP. Southern Miss’ biggest challenges are Central Florida at home and UTEP away. UTEP has Houston and Southern Miss at home and Central Florida on the road. The Miners will win the West Division in a tie-breaker under the skillful direction of Mike Price and then they’ll exact revenge on East Carolina in the C-USA title game.

►Sun Belt Conference … If this conference was actually relevant, I’d spend more time dissecting it. Look for Troy to win this one by virtue of hosting the season closer against Florida Atlantic.

Special Note: I reserve the right to revise these predictions in a few weeks. The way this season is going, I’ll need the mulligan.

►Heisman hopefuls … Kentucky QB Andre Woodson is back in the driver’s seat with his gutsy performance in the upset win over LSU. Michigan’s Mike Hart slips back to No. 2. BC’s Matt Ryan jumps to third. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell debuts at a surprising No. 4, while Arkansas’ Darren McFadden drops to fifth, and Cal’s DeSean Jackson falls of the chart … for the time being.

►Guaranteed Goners … Nebraska’s Bill Callahan and Texas A&M’s Dennis Franchione. It doesn’t matter who wins this weekend. They’re both dead men walking.

►Best Games of the Week … Tennessee Volunteers at Alabama Crimson Tide … Wyoming Cowboys at Air Force Falcons … Texas A&M Aggies at Nebraska Cornhuskers … USC Trojans at Notre Dame Fighting Irish … Miami Hurricanes at Florida State Seminoles … Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats … Texas Tech Red Raiders at Missouri Tigers … California Golden Bears at UCLA Bruins … Kansas Jayhawks at Colorado Buffaloes … Kansas State Wildcats at Oklahoma State Cowboys … Auburn Tigers at LSU Tigers … Michigan Wolverines at Illinois Fighting Illini … Virginia Cavaliers at Maryland Terrapins … Michigan State Spartans at Ohio State Buckeyes … Oregon Ducks at Washington Huskies … Louisville Cardinals at Connecticut Huskies …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (0-3, season 12-13) … Alabama Crimson Tide over Tennessee Volunteers … Illinois Fighting Illini over Michigan Wolverines … North Dakota State Bisons over Minnesota Golden Gophers …

Fourth and inches …

Hokies let BC pull off a Dokie … Boston College’s wild and improbable comeback over Virginia Tech last night marked the third time the Eagles have beaten the Hokies on national TV on a Thursday night. Of course, Matt Ryan’s Heisman stock skyrocketed as well …

►Southern California fires and air quality … I spent several days in Los Angeles this week and the air quality from the devastating fires is as bad as reported. Nearly every school district in the region canceled their football games this week to protect the health of the athletes and fans. It’s a good thing USC and UCLA are both playing on the road this weekend. San Diego State and BYU were wise to postpone their game until December 1.

►Boise State continues dominance in WAC play … Even with home field advantage and a much stronger team than last year’s mess in Fresno, the Bulldogs of Fresno State could not stop the Bronco’s back-up running game (282 yards on the ground without Ian Johnson) or their pass rush (3 sacks and numerous rushed throws) … BSU never appeared like they were going to be seriously threatened by FSU. Final score 34-21. The Broncos continue their march toward a showdown with Hawaii on Nov 17, and look to be the best bet again to bust the BCS this year.

►You gotta wonder what’s happening in Tallahassee … Athletic director Dave Hart resigned effective the end of the year, after 13 years at the helm of the Seminole athletics department. The Florida State football program is currently 1-3 in ACC play and they are already out of the running for the conference title and BCS bowl consideration. Remember all the flak Joe Paterno was getting a few years ago when Penn State faltered in back-to-back seasons? Well, the same thing is happening to Bobby Bowden right now. Conventional wisdom says that while Bowden is facing more pressure than he’s ever experienced at FSU, he still calls the shot when it’s his time to retire.

►Callahan is a dead man walking in Lincoln … Texas will put another whipping on Nebraska this weekend and it won’t matter a bit in Bill Callahan’s bid to keep his head coaching job with the Cornhuskers. He’s already a goner. It’s just up to Tom Osborne to decide the timing of this foregone conclusion. From a recruiting standpoint, it would make sense to make it official within days of Nebraska’s final regular season game.

The balance of power will shift this weekend in the Pac-10 … Arizona State will protect their home turf and hand Jeff Tedford’s shocked Golden Bears their third conference loss in a row. Up north in Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks will officially put an end to USC’s dominance in the conference over the past six years. The outcome of these two pivotal games will set the table for next week’s battle between visiting Arizona State and the Quackers in Autzen Stadium.

►Mountain West Conference commish admits royal blunder … Craig Thompson, the Mountain West Conference commissioner, admitted in a radio interview this week with Salt Lake City sports radio station KFNZ-AM 1320 that the conference could have cut a deal to put the conference’s channel “The mtn.” on the Dish satellite system in the seven Western states that comprise the MWC footprint, but that they were holding out for a national deal. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Thompson admitted the conference’s goal was to reach only 4 million cable homes in 5 years. As word of Thompson’s confession spreads to the various fan boards, outrage is rapidly fanning out among fans of MWC teams that have significant national fan bases such as BYU and Air Force, and other conference members like TCU that are situated well outside the conference’s intermountain footprint. According to the Desert News’ Scott D. Pierce, if that pitiful 5-year goal is met by the mtn. channel, 96.1 percent of American homes still won’t have access to MWC sports. Talk about choking yourself to death … Stay tuned.

►Heisman top 5 … Kentucky QB Andre Woodson holds steady at #1 with a strong performance in close loss to Florida. BC’s Matt Ryan shoots to #2 after last night’s road win over Va Tech. Mike Hart drops to #3 after sitting out the Illinois game … Dennis Dixon of Oregon and a healthier Pat White of West Virginia move up to replace Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden at #4 and #5.

►Best Games of the Week … Ohio State Buckeyes at Penn State Nittany Lions … USC Trojans at Oregon Ducks … California Golden Bears at Arizona State Sun Devils … Georgia Bulldogs versus Florida Gators … West Virginia Mountaineers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights … North Carolina Tar Heels at Wake Forest Demon Deacons … Colorado Buffaloes at Texas Tech Red Raiders … Nebraska Cornhuskers at Texas Longhorns … Clemson Tigers at Maryland Terrapins … South Florida Bulls at Connecticut Huskies … Kansas Jayhawks at Texas A&M Aggies … South Carolina Gamecocks at Tennessee Volunteers …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-1, season 14-14) … Connecticut Huskies over South Florida Bulls … Penn State Nittany Lions over Ohio State Buckeyes … Washington State Cougars over UCLA Bruins …

Fourth and inches …

This week’s biggest question mark? … Believe it or not, the question involves two teams with a combined 5 wins and 11 losses. Will Navy end their 43-game losing streak to Notre Dame? Don’t bet on it. The game is being played in South Bend with the Irish 3.5-point favorites. The average score in this rivalry is 27-10 in favor of the Leprechauns. The Collegio Football 2008 software head-to-head match-up says: “ND 30 Navy 26.” You can bet on that.

►A $300,000 check plus attorney fees will get Reggie Bush and USC off the hook … It might also make agent-wannabe Lloyd Lake a prime target for attack by one or more overly zealous (read “wacko”) USC fans. Lake filed a 5-page lawsuit in San Diego earlier this week, alleging that Reggie Bush owed him $291,600, for cash, goods, and services that had been fronted him since his sophomore year at USC. Bush had agreed to hire Lake and his partner, Michael Michaels, to represent him once he turned pro, but he dumped the duo long before the 2006 NFL Draft took place. Michaels has already been paid off by Bush in a $300,000-plus agreement that forbid sharing any information with the NCAA investigators.

If the Lake case goes to court, the NCAA will have access to all of the case evidence. That would most likely lead to an intensified investigation of USC and could strip the Trojans of their 2003 and 2004 AP national titles, and 2004 BCS championship. And that’s just a drop in the bucket of the punishments the NCAA could levy on the program.

Gotta love it when your predictions are accurate … In last week’s column, I wrote: “The balance of power will shift this weekend in the Pac-10. Arizona State will protect their home turf and hand Jeff Tedford’s Golden Bears their third conference loss in a row. Up north in Eugene, Oregon, the Ducks will officially put an end to USC’s dominance in the conference over the past six years. The outcome of these two pivotal games will set the table for next week’s battle between visiting Arizona State and the Quackers in Autzen Stadium.”

Well, now that the battle for the Pac-10 title is going to be played out this weekend, as projected, I’ll make one more prediction. Oregon’s home advantage will be just a bit too much for the Sun Devils. Dennis Erickson coached teams have never won at Autzen Stadium before. He coached at Washington State for the 1987 and 1988 seasons and lost both games to Oregon. He went 2-2 against the Ducks, winning both home games, while coaching at Oregon State from 1999 to 2002.

►Will the Mountain West Conference crumble after this year? It’s no secret that conference powers BYU, Utah and TCU are livid about the lack of national television exposure, thanks to the bumbling TV rights deal with CSTV that ended up as a Comcast majority-owned joke of a conference channel known as “The mtn.” The mtn can only be seen on some cable systems in the conference’s inter-mountain west footprint of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and one cable system in the San Diego area.

Tens of thousands of fans from across the rest of the country are essentially blacked out from any games carried on “the mtn” unless they have friends who can get the channel and will set up a Slingbox in their home to share the broadcast.

Now, you’d think that the games could be made available via pay per view on the internet, right? Nope. The MWC claims that they would damage negotiations with DISH and DirecTV if they did that.

Really? After nearly two complete football seasons of negotiating with the satellite companies and that’s the stick in the mud holding up the deal? Don’t believe it. The Internet PPV games could be shut down as soon as a Satellite deal is cut. Furthermore, fans don’t expect “the mtn” to be on the satellite companies’ free tier level of service. They expect to pay a premium to get access. And there are plenty of open spaces on the satellites to provide for premium access (subscription) channels.

So, how might the ongoing saga of this ugly TV deal affect the MWC? Just last week, Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said that he felt the Academy should look into going independent in football. Considering that the conference headquarters are located in Colorado Springs, that’s a pretty heavy statement to be tossing to the media, and it lit up fan boards around the MWC with chatter about the formation of a new conference. Stay tuned …

►Heisman top 5 … A slate of QBs who are the keys to their team’s success hold the top spots this week. Matt Ryan of Boston College is the new No. 1 on my list. BC has four solid opponents in November to prove Ryan is worthy (Florida St., Maryland, Clemson, Miami). Following at No. 2 is Oregon’s Dennis Dixon, with a huge game against Arizona State this weekend. Kentucky QB Andre Woodson drops to No. 3 after losing at home to Mississippi State. Mizzou’s Chase Daniel is No. 4 and Kansas’ Todd Reesing is tied at No. 5 with Jonathan Stewart of Oregon, who is averaging a whopping 6.7 yards per carry (156 carries, 1,043 yards). On the bubble: Pat White, West Virginia.

►Interesting thoughts on Colt Brennan shared by a reader as he is poised to break Ty Detmer’s NCAA career record for TD passes … this comes from Will Smithrock of Los Angeles … “1. He’s still a felon on probation. 2. Who won’t win the Heisman because he amassed his records playing Division 1-AA schools and a WAC formed out of the detritus from the former Big West and Big Sky conferences (New Mexico State, Utah State, Idaho, et al). 3. Another one of June Jones’ QBs will come along and average 70 attempts per game and break Brennan’s records. 4. He’ll wash out in the NFL because he lacks pro set offensive experience, among other attributes the QBs who are the real deal possess. P.S. The real deals in college football this year are Andre Woodson and Matt Ryan.”

►Best Games of the Week … Arizona State Sun Devils at Oregon Ducks … LSU Tigers at Alabama Crimson Tide … Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Virginia Cavaliers … Wisconsin Badgers at Ohio State Buckeyes … Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kansas Jayhawks … Navy Midshipmen at Notre Dame Fighting Irish … Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma State Cowboys … Cincinnati Bearcats at South Florida Bulls … Army Black Knights at Air Force Falcons … New Mexico Lobos at TCU Horned Frogs … Missouri Tigers at Colorado Buffaloes … Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Connecticut Huskies … Oregon State Beavers at USC Trojans … Texas A&M at Oklahoma Sooners … South Carolina Gamecocks at Arkansas Razorbacks … Florida State Seminoles at Boston College Eagles … Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans …

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-1, season 16-15) … Arizona Wildcats over #35 UCLA Bruins … Alabama Crimson Tide over #3 LSU Tigers … Colorado Buffaloes over #9 Missouri Tigers … Arkansas Razorbacks over #23 South Carolina Gamecocks …

Fourth and inches …

Arizona’s upset victory over Oregon Thursday night cleared the path for Kansas to move up in the rankings and lock in a national title game berth, if they can just manage to win out …

Actually, Kansas was set to pass Oregon by the end of the season with the extra points they would pick up for wins over two top 10 teams (Missouri and Oklahoma). However, if you’re a gambler, the safe bet is still on Oklahoma or West Virginia to be playing in New Orleans on January 8.

► A twist of irony to Arizona’s victory … The Wildcats served up the Pac-10 title and Rose Bowl Game berth to their arch rivals Arizona State … now, all the Sun Devils need to do is take care of business with USC on Thanksgiving Day, and then knock off the hand that just fed them the following week.

Should ASU make it to the Rose Bowl Game, they could very likely find themselves pitted against Ohio State in a rematch from 11 years ago when Jake the Snake Plummer was outdueled by Joe Germaine and the Buckeyes in a thrilling last-minute finish.

► Michigan’s loss to Wisconsin could really tarnish the Rose Bowl Game this year if the Wolverines go on to defeat Ohio State this Saturday in Ann Arbor. Michigan dropped to #23 this week in the AP rankings. A win over Ohio State would give Michigan the Big Ten title and the automatic berth in the Rose Bowl Game, however, they would be 9-3 and probably ranked no higher than #15.

Traditionally, the Rose Bowl officials always desire a Big Ten champion versus Pac-10 champion match-up in the Rose Bowl Game, and normally, they wouldn’t care if it was Michigan or Ohio State. It’s just that a 10-2 Wolverine team on a 10-game winning streak and ranked in the top 10 is a far cry from what they will end up with now if the Maize and Blue successfully defend their home turf against the Buckeyes. You can’t blame them for wanting Ohio State. The Buckeyes haven’t been to Pasadena in ten years, and with a win over Michigan, they’d be 11-1 and ranked in the Top 5.

► Illinois proves the balance of power is shifting in the Big Ten. Illinois’ shocking victory over Ohio State was accomplished with a more youthful roster of talent, led by sophomore-sensation QB Juice Williams. Ron Zook is a remarkable recruiter and the Fighting Illini will be a force to reckon in the conference for the foreseeable future. Pat Fitzgerald is doing a number with Northwestern’s program, and Bill Lynch seems to be keeping Terry Hoeppner’s vision on track at Indiana University. Now, if Minnesota could just turn their program around …

► Locker or Brennan: which QB took the bigger hit? Washington’s Jake Locker and Hawaii’s Colt Brennan both sustained monster hits when they tucked the rock and headed up field in their respective games last Saturday. Arguably, Brennan took the meaner of the two hits. He left the game midway thru the third quarter of the Warriors’ game against the Fresno State Bulldogs and didn’t return, although he was able to wobble off the field with the aid of Hawaii’s medical staff.

The Warriors travel to Reno to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack this Friday. “I’ll be out there and ready to play,” said Brennan. Meanwhile, clips of Marcus Riley’s big hit on Brennan have become rather popular on YouTube.com … key words: Brennan and Fresno.

Locker sustained his injury in the first half of the Huskies’ contest against the Oregon State Beavers. He lay motionless on the ground for several minutes and was ultimately placed on a secure stretcher to protect his back and neck from movement. An ambulance transported him from the field to a local hospital. Fortunately, reports are that he suffered a neck stinger and strained muscles, but nothing worse. He could possibly be out for the rest of the regular season schedule.

►Heisman top 5 … Pat White (West Virginia) and Darren McFadden (Arkansas) have re-established their claims to this illustrious award … Andre Woodson (Kentucky) is still in the running, as is Dennis Dixon (Oregon) and Chase Daniel (Missouri). Dropouts include Mike Hart (Michigan) because of lingering injuries, and Matt Ryan (Boston College).

►Best Games of the Week …

Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Wolverines: Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth is on the line, not to mention bragging rights for the next year.
Kentucky Wildcats at Georgia Bulldogs: The Wildcats would like to play the spoiler and enhance their chances for a prestigious tier 2 bowl game with a win over another top 10 ranked team.
BYU Cougars at Wyoming Cowboys: Brigham Young can clinch a share of MWC title with the win. The Cowpokes can bandage their season by preventing that from happening. Wyoming is 4-1 at home this year. Unfortunately, an audience of about 10 will see this game, thanks to “the Mtn.” channel’s microscopic footprint.
Vanderbilt Commodores at Tennessee Volunteers: Big rivalry in the state with potential repercussions in the SEC North Division.
Duke Blue Devils at Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Just to find out the answer to one question … “Can this season get any worse for Charlie Weis?”
New Mexico Lobos at Utah Utes: Utes are on a roll and trying desperately to challenge for the MWC crown. Lobos need the win to secure bowl consideration.
Oklahoma Sooners at Texas Tech Red Raiders: No lead is ever safe when Tech has the ball. Come to think of it, no lead Tech has is ever safe, either. Will the Sooners be the next to fall victim to the curse of #2?
Boston College Eagles at Clemson Tigers: The winner will play in the ACC title game.
West Virginia Mountaineers at Cincinnati Bearcats: Crucial game that will help decide the outcome of the Big East and WV’s BCS title hopes.

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-2, season 18-17) …

Arizona Wildcats over #2 Oregon Ducks: already predicted this in the AP Top 25 weekly review.
Nevada Wolf Pack over #13 Hawaii Warriors: Hawaii doesn’t play well away from the islands and that freshman QB for Nevada is a clone of Vince Young when he’s on his game.
Texas Tech Red Raiders over #3 Oklahoma Sooners: Because #2 just isn’t safe this year. Plus, it’s in Lubbock.
Cincinnati Bearcats over #5 West Virginia Mountaineers: Cincy is tough at home, but arguably, this is the riskiest call.

Fourth and inches …

Lloyd Carr’s retirement from the University of Michigan head coaching job has led to all sorts of speculation regarding his replacement … LSU’s Les Miles is at the forefront of every discussion and prediction, and if he has any interest in the job, he better take it because the Wolverines have only had three head coaches in the past 38 years …

► Will the coaching change affect Michigan’s recruiting? Actually, the impact should be very light. That’s why Carr made the announcement right away. Since he’s retiring rather than leaving for another job, he can continue to help communicate and persuade recruits they’ve already landed and those they are still working on. There may even be some recruits that Michigan had lost who will reconsider their decision, depending on Carr’s replacement.

Obviously, the longer Michigan goes without naming their new coach, the better chance it will be Les Miles. As long as LSU has a shot at the national title, and Michigan feels they have a chance at getting Miles, they will wait while they move forward on other fronts. If LSU falters in their bid to make the BCS championship game, the effort to secure Miles could quickly become very transparent.

► Trojans on a roll … USC’s Turkey Day 44-24 smack-down of Arizona State will most likely land them in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day. Without Dennis Dixon, Oregon looks very ordinary on offense and the (lame) Ducks should lose one or both of their remaining games. That would give the Trojans the tie-breaker in the Pac-10. The last time the Trojans faced the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl was January 1, 1985.

► Believe it or not, there could be a shortage of qualified teams for the BCS bowl games … the problem results from BCS rules which prohibit any conference from having more than two teams playing in BCS bowl games. Add to that the qualification that a team needs to have at least 9 wins and finish in the top 14 of the final rankings to receive an at-large bid, and you have some problems this year. If fewer than 10 of the top 14 teams in the standings are eligible for an at-large bid, the qualifying standard will extend to the top 18. That would make it a bit easier for non-BCS teams like Hawaii, Boise State or BYU to play in January.

► Both Kansas and Missouri control their own destinies … the stakes have never been higher in this 116-year old rivalry, and the odds are that it will be years and years–even decades–before these two programs are ranked #2 and #3 in the nation this late in the season again. The winner heads to the Big 12 championship game on December 1, and a win there would land them in the National Championship game in New Orleans on January 7. This is a must-see game this Saturday on ABC at 8pm Eastern Time.

►Heisman top 5 … Pat White (West Virginia) and Darren McFadden (Arkansas) are leading the ever-changing pack of potential award winners … Matt Ryan (Boston College) moves back into the picture with his last minute game-winning TD pass on the road against Clemson … Andre Woodson (Kentucky) is still hanging in there, while Chase Daniel (Missouri) and Tim Tebow (Florida) are moving up fast. All five candidates can make huge statements this weekend, but White, McFadden and Daniel have the best stages to play on. Dennis Dixon (Oregon) drops out with season-ending injury.

►Best Games of the Week–and why …

#2 Missouri Tigers vs #3 Kansas Jayhawks in Kansas City: Big 12 North Division title is on the line with a berth in the Big 12 championship game and a shot at the national title beyond that. Oh yeah, don’t forget bragging rights for the year. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.
#30 Arkansas Razorbacks at #1 LSU Tigers: Razorbacks can play the spoiler, McFadden can boost his Heisman resume, and a good test to see if LSU is able to withstand the pressure to remain on top.
#36 Utah Utes at #23 BYU Cougars: A huge rivalry … Both teams have 7-game winning streaks coming into the game. BYU clinched a share of the MWC title last week and can win it outright at home on Senior’s Day. State bragging rights, and some undecided 2008 recruits are also on the line.
#19 Tennessee Volunteers at #28 Kentucky Wildcats: The Vols need to win to make the SEC title game and Kentucky needs to win to get a better bowl bid … Wildcat QB Andre Woodson could boost his Heisman profile with a big performance and a win.
#13 Texas Longhorns at Texas A&M Aggies: Rivalry. Period. But if you want more reasons, Texas needs to win to have a chance to play in the Big 12 title game if Oklahoma loses, and this will most likely be Dennis Franchione’s last game at A&M.
#17 Boise State Broncos at #14 Hawaii Warriors: The WAC championship is on the line, as well as a BCS berth for Hawaii. BSU might also have an outside chance at a BCS bowl again, depending on how the rest of the season plays out above them in the rankings.
Alabama Crimson Tide at #25 Auburn Tigers: A huge rivalry that doesn’t have any conference title or BCS carrots attached to it.
#8 Virginia Tech Hokies at #16 Virginia Cavaliers: The winner gets to face Boston College next week in the ACC championship game. State bragging rights are secondary.
#21 Clemson Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks: State bragging rights and a better bowl game offer are on the line.
#33 Florida State Seminoles at #12 Florida Gators: The Seminoles are trying to salvage a disappointing season while the Gators still have a shot at a BCS bowl game … a win is always good for in-state recruiting.
#20 Connecticut Huskies at #4 West Virginia Mountaineers: The Big East title and an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game is on the line, with the Mountaineers still in the running for the national championship game.

►Upset Specials of the Week … Last week (2-2, season 20-19) …

UCLA Bruins over #9 Oregon Ducks: Only because Dennis Dixon is out and the Bruins have home field advantage.
Texas A&M Aggies over #13 Texas Longhorns: Aggies are at home and Longhorns have looked very ordinary for much of the season … A last hurrah for Coach Franchione.
#28 Kentucky Wildcats over #17 Tennessee Volunteers: Admittedly, this would be a mild upset, but it would knock the Vols out of the SEC title game.