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Archive for November, 2007

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.

Bruins Whitewash Oregon

UCLA took advantage of the absence of Dennis Dixon and shut out the Oregon Ducks 16-0 in Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Stadium today.

The shutout was the first time Oregon (8-3, 5-3) had been blanked since 1985.

UCLA’s swarming defense knocked backup QB Brady Leaf out of the game and the Duck offense was lame in every facet of the game, ending up with 148 total yards. Both teams will play their arch rivals next week to close out the season.

Commentary: Remarkably, the Bruins still have a shot at winning the Pac-10 championship and playing in the Rose Bowl Game with a victory over the USC Trojans next weekend. If UCLA upsets USC and Arizona can knock off their rival Arizona State on Dec 1, the Bruins (6-5, 5-3) would secure the Rose Bowl invitation.

Cougars Stun Utah, Win MWC Outright

One of the most intense rivalries in college football lived up to its billing again today as the BYU Cougars scored the winning touchdown over Utah with less than a minute remaining to claim the Mountain West Conference championship outright for the second year in a row.

Ten of the last 11 meetings between the rivals have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Standout freshman running back Harvey Unga scored the winning touchdown on an 11-yard blast up the middle with 38 seconds left on the clock. Just three plays earlier, BYU (9-2, 7-0) had stared in the face of impending defeat and didn’t blink at the challenge.

With the Cougars facing a desperation fourth-and-18 situation from their own 13-yard line, sophomore QB Max Hall scrambled away from a heavy Utah pass rush and found Austin Collie open down the sideline for a 49-yard gain. Two 15-yard penalties on the Utes enabled the Cougars to move in for the kill and set up Unga’s touchdown run.

The BYU rally became necessary when Utah (8-4, 5-3) put together a 7-minute plus, 69-yard drive and reached pay dirt for the first time in the game to take a 10-9 lead at the 1:38 mark. Led by quarterbacks Brian Johnson and Corbin Louks, the Utes ran the ball 12 times with only three pass attempts on their go-ahead drive.

The so-called “Holy War” started out with both teams shooting blanks at each other and the first quarter ended in one big blank, 0-0. Both Utah and BYU turned the ball over twice in the first half, and the teams headed to the locker room at half time with the Cougars clinging to a 3-0 lead.

The defensive struggle prevented both teams from reaching their respective per game averages: BYU held Utah to 246 total yards (127 below their average) while Utah held the Cougars to 424 total yards (29 below their average).

Ute RB Derrell Mack was averaging 107 yards per game, but was held to 55 yards on 13 carries. Unga was averaging 91 yards rushing and ended up with 144 yards on 23 carries. Unga’s performance made him the first Brigham Young freshman running back to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (currently 1,053 yards with one MWC game remaining).

Utah’s regular season comes to an end, but BYU has one more conference game remaining next week at San Diego State–a make-up game that was cancelled in late October during the Southern California wildfire disaster.

AP top 25 Weekly Recap

LSU fumbled away the top spot once again in a multi-overtime scenario, and opportunistic Mizzou thumped rival Kansas to assume the nation’s top ranking. West Virginia buried Connecticut by more than 40 points, so now both teams are poised to meet in the national championship on January 7–as long as they take care of business first this Saturday.

The Mountaineers will host Pittsburgh in a Big East regular season finale, while the Tigers get another shot at Oklahoma in the Big 12 title showdown. Top gainers this week were Tennessee and Clemson (both plus 5) while Oregon (minus 9) and ASU (minus 6) moved farther south in the polls than any others.

NO. 1 MISSOURI TIGERS (11-1). When you score 22 more points than your opponent averages giving up, it’s difficult to lose the game. The Tiger offense got the job done, while their defense barely managed to hold on to a three TD lead over archrival Kansas, 36-28. Mizzou lost to Oklahoma on the road earlier this season, 41-31, and did so without the running back services of Tony Temple (98 yards rushing against Kansas). Look for Mizzou to avenge their earlier loss to Oklahoma, thanks to a neutral field, and a healthy Temple. QB Chase Daniel completed 40 of his 49 passes for 361 yards and 3 TDs, guaranteeing himself an invite to NYC for the Heisman Award program on Dec 8.

NO. 2 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (11-1). Now officially the Beast of the East, Rich Rodriguez’s team needs only to beat heavy underdog Pitt to earn a spot in the BCS title game. Of course, the way this season has gone, nothing is for certain. If the Mountaineers do make the Big Dance, though, you can bet that with Pat White, Steve Slaton and Noel Devine, they’ll be a lot of fun to watch. And wouldn’t the winter holiday season be the perfect coming-out time for a guy named Noel?

NO. 3 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (11-1). The Buckeyes’ regular season is over, but they still managed to move up 2 slots thanks to losses by LSU and Kansas. Should either Missouri or West Virginia falter this weekend, Jim Tressel and company will gladly swap the Rose Bowl Game for a shot at the national championship. Quite frankly, the best bowl game match-up you will see this year would be Ohio State and USC in the Rose Bowl Game. The last time these traditional powers met in Pasadena was January 1, 1985.

NO. 4 GEORGIA BULLDOGS (10-2). Despite missing out on the SEC East title when Tennessee topped Kentucky in four overtimes, the Bulldogs have turned downright cheeky now that their regular season is over. If Missouri and West Virginia lose this week, coach Mark Richt says, his team should be in the BCS title game. Georgia has RB Thomas Brown back now to go along with Knowshon Moreno, and hammered Georgia Tech in its finale. So why not?

NO. 5 LSU TIGERS (10-2). LSU coach Les Miles wants to tell the Bulldogs why not. If an opening presents itself, he thinks his Tigers should leapfrog Georgia and play for the national championship. The season-ending loss to Arkansas was a body blow, for sure, but the Tigers could still regain some traction with a convincing victory over Tennessee. And as Miles is quick to point out, it took six overtimes to give LSU its two losses.

NO. 6 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (10-2). Meanwhile, the Hokies have to be collectively kicking themselves for crumbling in the last two minutes against Boston College in October after leading most of that game. At least Tech can settle accounts — and get itself into a BCS bowl — by beating the Eagles in Jacksonville on Saturday. And BC hasn’t seen freshman QB Tyrod Taylor yet.

NO. 7 KANSAS JAYHAWKS (11-1). Despite their season-ending disappointment to Missouri, the Jayhawks are poised and looking pretty for a BCS bowl bid. What more could K-J fans ask for? If you would have asked them what they’d be happy with at the beginning of the season, they would have said any bowl bid would do.

NO. 8 USC TROJANS (9-2). ESPN college football analysts all agreed that USC is playing some of the best football in the nation right now (44-24 over ASU in Tempe) and had they not dropped the stunner to Stanford earlier this year, they would be in line to play for another national title. Instead, they’ll still get rewarded as Pac-10 champions (after they crush UCLA this Saturday) with another appearance in “the Granddaddy of them all” against either Ohio State or Illinois. Missouri would be a long shot opponent if they happened to blow their title chances against the Sooners on Saturday.

NO. 9 OKLAHOMA SOONERS (10-2). Bob Stoops has a tall order to fill if he wants his Sooners to earn the automatic BCS bid this weekend against Missouri. It just ain’t easy to beat a really sound football team twice in the same season, and the Tigers are much healthier than they were 6 weeks ago. So, if Stoops can game plan his way to a “W” this weekend in San Antonio, cut that boy a bonus check from the Sooners’ BCS bounty. Last weekend’s 49-17 walloping over instate rival Oklahoma State was a nice way to tune up for the Big 12 championship game.

NO. 10 FLORIDA GATORS (9-3). The Gators can move up in the polls, but they can’t slide down. Now, they just hope quarterback Tim Tebow’s broken (non-throwing) hand gets better before their bowl game, probably the Capital One Bowl. Meanwhile, Tebow can lift the Heisman with his left hand (if Darren McFadden doesn’t beat him to it).

NO. 11 HAWAII WARRIORS (11-0). It has been noted by several coaches around the country that if Hawaii ends up with a BCS bid, it will initiate a trend for other teams to pad their schedules with patsies in coming years. That could very well be true, but in their biggest test of this season, the Warriors took care of business against Boise State, 39-27. Pac-10 weakling Washington visits paradise this weekend and it will be their bowl game, of sorts, since at 4-8, the possibility of a real bowl game invite was nothing but a distant dream. Hawaii must win if they hope to make their pending BCS bowl bid a reality.

NO. 12 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (10-2). BC and Virginia Tech are two of the most senior-laden teams in college football’s top echelon this season, so chances are neither is going to crack when they meet in Jacksonville. This one could come down to a turnover or two.

NO. 13 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (9-2). Nothing is more important in Arizona this weekend than the big rivalry game with the Wildcats. There’s a lot riding on the game for both sides. An ASU win will likely put the Sun Devils in the Fiesta Bowl. A loss would drop them to the Holiday Bowl, not a bad consolation prize, but still … Arizona needs to win in order to become bowl eligible. A loss would also probably end Mike Stoops’ head coaching stint in Tucson.

NO. 14 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (9-3). After surviving Kentucky in the Hillbilly Bowl last week, UT faces a group of angry wounded Tigers. Fortunately for QB Erik Ainge (a talented passer but no Michael Vick out of the pocket), the LSU D-line might be too banged up to have a serious chance of crushing him.

NO. 15 ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (9-3). The Illini moved up three slots last week despite their inactive status. It’s quite possible they will move up a couple more slots after this weekend’s conference championship contests saddle a few more teams with another loss. Worst case bowl scenario for Ron Zook and his boys will be a New Year’s Day bowl somewhere in Florida.

NO. 16 CLEMSON TIGERS (9-3). Prolific quarterback Cullen Harper snuck in a quick scope of his ailing shoulder this week, and should be ready for whatever bowl the Tigers wind up in. In between, the Tigers will celebrate a last-ditch victory over hated rival South Carolina.

NO. 17 TEXAS LONGHORNS (9-3). Losing to archrival Texas A&M last weekend assured the Longhorns that they would not be cashing a BCS bowl game check this winter. Rivals’ projection has them ending up in the Holiday Bowl against Oregon State. That’s not a bad spot to end up when you fail to win your own conference title.

NO. 18 OREGON DUCKS (8-3). We called them Lame Ducks last week, and right we were. Oregon is reeling from the loss of QBs Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf. It is highly unlikely they will be able to mount much of a game against instate rival Oregon State in this week’s version of a west coast Civil War. Look for Oregon to lose and tumble out of the Top 25. Bowl projections show them in the Sun Bowl in beautiful El Paso, Texas. It could be worse.

NO. 19 WISCONSIN BADGERS (9-3). The season is over for the Badgers and they have already accepted an invitation to play on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl. Their opponent is up in the air at this point, but this is a huge recruiting coup for Bret Bielema and his staff to gain more valuable time in Florida.

NO. 20 CINCINNATI BEARCATS (9-3). Whoops — here comes a distraction. Bearcat coach Brian Kelly has been cleared to interview at Nebraska, and this could hurt UC’s concentration in preparing for the PapaJohns.com Bowl. Then again, who cares what happens in the PapaJohns.com Bowl?

NO. 21 BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS (9-2). BYU has the second longest winning streak in the nation after their thrilling come-from-behind victory over archrival Utah last Saturday. They also have a small chance of securing a BCS bid, but that would take several losses ahead of them by Hawaii, Oklahoma, Arizona State, Boston College and Tennessee. The Cougars can’t worry about these things. They just need to take care of the business that they can control, namely their road game this week against San Diego State.

NO. 22 VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (9-3). Virginia’s luck finally ran out against in-state rival Virginia Tech last Saturday at the end of a weird season in which the Cavaliers lost by 20 to Wyoming in their opener, then overachieved the rest of the way. The Cavs’ only high-profile player is on defense, lineman Chris (Son of Howie) Long.

NO. 23 AUBURN TIGERS (8-4). The question is, can Tommy Tuberville give that police dog a scholarship? Talk about a lockdown cornerback! If nothing else, the Tigers beat Alabama.

NO. 24 BOISE STATE BRONCOS (10-2). The Broncos relinquished their longtime supremacy in the WAC with their loss to Hawaii last weekend. Unless a deal is made that would pit BSU against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, the Broncos will be rewarded with home field Smurf Turf advantage this bowl season with a berth in the Humanitarian Bowl.

NO. 25 SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS (9-3). The Bulls will enter the Brut Sun Bowl with their own brute — DE George Selvie, one of the nation’s sack leaders. CB’s Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams as well as LB Ben Moffitt are also coveted by the NFL — this is, after all, a defense that handed West Virginia its only loss.

ON THE BUBBLE: Arkansas, Texas Tech, Connecticut, Air Force, Air Force, Michigan, Kentucky, UCF, Oregon State, Troy, and Tulsa.