Archive for year 2007

Heisman Squabble 2007

What happens when you let two senior editors go at it over a simple little disagreement like who should win this year’s Heisman Trophy?  RealFootball365 decided to lock our resident wordsmiths in a room together with their laptops to see if the proverbial pen is truly mightier than the sword.

View from the East: In Praise of Tebow

Darrell Laurent, Sr. Editor,

For those whose argument for picking University of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden over University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in this year’s Heisman Trophy voting is “Hey, Tebow still has two years to win it,” consider the cautionary tale of Adrian Peterson.

Peterson burst upon the college football world like a comet in 2004, finishing second to Southern Cal QB Matt Leinart as a Heisman finalist. More Heismans were certainly in his future, everyone thought, but it was not to be. Injuries waylaid the University of Oklahoma running back in 2005 and 2006, costing him large chunks of both seasons.

Based on his rookie pro season, Peterson should be a force in the NFL for years to come. His college career, however, peaked in Year One.

It could be the same with Tebow, whose rough-and-tumble style leaves him vulnerable to far more punishment than the average quarterback. The sophomore from St. Augustine is only one badly torn ACL away from losing his iconic freak of nature status and becoming an average pocket passer with reduced mobility.

Moreover, while current rules bar Tebow from turning pro before his senior year, that could change at any time.

Yet there’s a better reason for picking Tebow over McFadden, as good a season as “Run-DMc” had: Touchdowns. The primary goal of football is to score more than the other team, and Tebow scored like no one else in Southeastern Conference history — 22 rushing touchdowns (an SEC record), 29 through the air. In all, Tebow accounted for 3,970 yards and 51 touchdowns. Mind boggling.

McFadden was hands down the best running back in the country this season, and his 321 rushing yards against South Carolina was a performance for the ages. But touchdowns? He scored 15 — and since both he and Tebow played in the same conference against many of the same teams, the comparison is valid.

The numbers speak for themselves. And like the Gator-chomping faithful in Gainesville, they shout: “Tebow!”

The West knows best: The sweetest music on the gridiron is Run-DMc

Todd Erickson, Sr. Editor,

“Not so fast, my friend!”  (Geez, I can just hear Lee Corso whispering in my ear right now…).

Listen, you know we wouldn’t even be debating this year’s Heisman if Dennis Dixon’s knee remained intact against Arizona four weeks ago.  The Quacks would be Pac-10 Champs instead of chumps.  Yes, they would be ranked Numero Uno in the nation right now and packing their bags for the national title game in New Orleans.

Instead, without their fallen leader, they’re a sorry flock of lame (as in unranked) Ducks, staring at their fourth loss in a row against a bullish group from South Florida in the Sun Bowl.  Yee-ha, look out El Paso, here we come!

So, let’s talk turkey here.  The true heir to this year’s Heisman is, sadly, out of the picture.  I agree that Tebow had a monster year.  He deserves every award he has already won, but not the Heisman.  I’d like to see what the kid does next year.  If he delivers a repeat performance, then I’m on his bandwagon faster than Les Miles can change his mind about going to Michigan. Or, faster than Kirk Herbstreit can apologize to Les Miles about going to Michigan.  Faster than—aw, forget it.  I just want to see that this kid isn’t a one trick pony.  That’s not asking too much, is it?

My man, #5 Darren McFadden, is not an overnight sensation.  He had another monster season in 2007.  Note the emphasis on the word “another.”

Unlike Tebow, who was cutting his teeth as a situational signal caller last year in the Swamp, Mc5 was busily working on rewriting the Arkansas and SEC record books.  He didn’t finish second in the Heisman voting last year for nothing.  But let’s talk about his accomplishments this year, when everyone has been designing their defenses to stop him.

McFadden rushed for 1,725 yards this year.  Do you have any idea where that ranks in the hallowed halls of SEC single season rushing accomplishments?  Only Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson rushed for more yards in a single season.  In Walker’s 1982 Heisman season, he rushed for 27 more yards than Darren did this year.  In Bo Jackson’s Heisman season, he rushed for 61 more yards.  2007 was clearly a Heisman caliber season for McFadden.

Granted, Tebow is an iron man, and I sympathize with you wanting to hand him the hardware while he’s healthy, but if you want to play the sympathy card, then give it to Dixon.

As for Tebow, there’s a reason for his pay dirt rhyme.  Sure, he accounted for a load of Gator touchdowns this year, but did you realize he was involved in 65 percent of their offensive plays?  McFadden was involved in less than 37 percent of Arkansas’ offensive plays.  Let him lug the rock that same percentage of touches in the Razorback offense this year and you’d see some off-the-chart TD figures from this Little Rock native, too.

But, you gotta give a guy like Darren a rest every once in a while.  Because when he scores on the ground, it’s from an average of 18 yards out.  Mr. Tebow cashed in all those six-pointers from an average of just over 4 yards from the goal line.  Big difference.

I could go on and on with the stats to prove D-Mac’s the most outstanding player in college football this season, but I’ll leave you with one more accomplishment to consider.

The best players respond accordingly in the big games.  Against five ranked opponents this season, Darren averaged 172 yards on the ground.  He broke the SEC’s single game rushing record against South Carolina with 321 yards, and in the Razorback’s stunning upset of #1 ranked LSU, he rushed for 206 yards.

My friend, I suggest you Tebow your selection and play it back at this time next year because the 2007 Heisman Trophy belongs on Darren McFadden’s mantle.

AP Top 25 Postseason Bowl Preview

The bowl season is finally here. Hallelujah! If you’re a Top 25 ranked team right now, or on the cusp of the rankings with a shot to make it on the season’s final list, winning your bowl game means a lot more than just capping off this season with a “W.”

If you’re a Top 25 ranked team right now, or just on the cusp of the rankings with a shot to make it on the season’s final list, winning your bowl game means a lot more than just capping off this season with a “W.” Pollsters will reference your final ranking (or not) when the preseason rankings are compiled in late summer. And like it or not, having that preseason ranking means a lot regarding how far up the polls you can ascend, and how quickly, once the wins start rolling in during 2008.

Here’s a quick summary of where the AP Top 25 teams stand as the bowl season commences this Thursday in San Diego. Get out your chips and dip and settle in for some great football over the next three weeks…

NO. 1 LSU TIGERS (11-2). Play Ohio State in the BCS Championship game. Football is a religion in both Louisiana and Ohio, but this season’s Endgame is being played in one of the Bayou State’s cathedrals, the New Orleans SuperDome. That, alone, adds about 10 points to LSU’s score. OSU junior LB James Laurinaitis is a junior Dick Butkus, but the Buckeyes haven’t faced many mobile quarterbacks like LSU’s Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux.

NO. 2 OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (11-1). Play LSU in the BCS Championship game. The Bucks never had it so easy, sitting back and watching the previous top 3 teams falter in the final analysis of the regular season. Some might call this a lucky team, but there really isn’t anyone more worthy to play in the NC game against LSU. Besides, it’s a great story about redemption…not only for Ohio State, but for the Big Ten, in their seemingly annual quest to prove whether or not the SEC is really the big enchilada in college football.

NO. 3 OKLAHOMA SOONERS (11-2). Play West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl. Now that Bob Stoops has simmered down a bit, perhaps the Sooners will be able to focus on the bowl game they deserve and stopping West Virginia’s Pat White, Steve Slaton, and freshman phenom, Noel Devine (8.6 yards per carry). Sooner Nation should be relieved that the Mountaineers’ (former) head coach Rich Rodriguez will not be leading WVU on the sidelines for this game. That will be an extra advantage for Stoops’ troops.

NO. 4 GEORGIA BULLDOGS. (10-2). Play Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia didn’t get any love by pulling this BCS bowl matchup because everyone expects them to win, but if they don’t, then they’re the laughing stock of the SEC and ruling elite in college football. Hawaii is going to score on the Bulldog defense, and Colt Brennan is going to get his passing yards. But Georgia will also put a bite on the Hawaii defenders with playmakers like quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno. Whoever gets the ball last might win.

NO. 5 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (11-2). Play Kansas in the Orange Bowl. Kansas had a weak non-conference schedule and didn’t have to deal with Oklahoma during the regular season, which does not bode well for a matchup with bowl-tested Tech. Plus, as talented as he is, freshman Jayhawk quarterback Todd Reesing has never seen anything like the quickness and ferocity of a Hokie defense led by Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi and Brandon Flowers.

NO. 6 USC TROJANS (10-2). Play Illinois in the Rose Bowl. It’s hard to believe these two programs have never played each other in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. Too bad this isn’t a Big Ten champion Illini team, but don’t let that, or the 13-point spread favoring the Trojans fool you. If Illinois can go into Ohio State’s gridiron cathedral and emerge victorious then they have a shot at upending the Trojans inside the holiest Temple of College Football. Most folks would tell you that USC was playing some of the best football in the college game at the end of the regular season. The big question mark is whether or not the layoff will affect their momentum.

NO. 7 MISSOURI TIGERS (11-2). Play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. There used to be a day when it was a huge honor to play in the Cotton Bowl. It should still be like that, but here you have a bunch of Tigers by the tail if you think they are looking forward to playing a chilly winter contest in Dallas over where they might have been … conversely, Arkansas is ecstatic to get the Cotton Bowl bid after just barely making the Top 25 by the skin of their Razorback tusks. Mizzou’s advantage, if there is one, is that Houston Nutt will be replaced by an interim coach for this matchup.

NO. 8 KANSAS JAYHAWKS (11-1). Play Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. This game will set the tone for the Jayhawks next season and we think it might be good and bad. Bad in the sense the Jayhawks will probably get blown out of Miami, thanks to a weak schedule and overnight flight into the BCS bigtime. Good in the sense that a good old-fashioned butt kicking on national TV will strengthen their resolve to get it right next year. The bottom line is Kansas has to thank their lucky stars they are in this bowl game because a 3-loss Florida team led by Heisman winner Tim Tebow would have packed more of a wallop on the field and in the TV ratings against the Hokies.

NO. 9 FLORIDA GATORS (9-3). Play Michigan in the Capitol One Bowl. The great unknown here is the Gator defense, which will have to contain a veteran and multi-faceted Michigan offense. On the other hand, a rebuilt Wolverine stop unit will be faced with Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin. Add that the Wolverines are in a coaching vacuum, and it looks pretty good for the Gators.

NO. 10 HAWAII WARRIORS (12-0). Play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It’s really difficult to see June Jones’ boys winning on the road against a stout Bulldog team that doesn’t have to venture very far away from their comfort zone, but stranger things have happened this year. If Hawaii manages to pull off a repeat of last year’s Fiesta turned Miracle Bowl and win this one, then AP pollsters better have the cojones to vote a 13-0 team from a non-BCS conference as the #1 team in the nation. Period.

NO. 11 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (10-2). Play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. This could be one of the more intriguing matchups among the BCS bowls. A lot depends on the self-motivational ability of the Mountaineer players without head coach Rich Rodriguez stalking the sidelines with them in Arizona next month. R2 had unfinished business following WVU’s embarrassing home loss to Pitt that knocked them out of the NC picture, but apparently, he’d rather start anew in Ann Arbor than see how he could finish off the ’07 season against OK and what he could pull off with a pretty loaded deck of senior talent next year in Morgantown. Meanwhile, it’s the trainers’ job to keep Pat White healthy.

NO. 12 ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (10-2). Play Texas in the Holiday Bowl. ASU might be disappointed in losing out on a BCS bowl bid, but the Holiday Bowl is the best consolation bowl they could have landed in. There isn’t a better bowl game outside of the BCS power grid than this one. It’s steeped in the history of thrilling, last second victories and San Diego is a beautiful city. The climate is wonderful for football in late December, and then there’s the opponent. The Devils gotta love the idea of getting to take a crack at Mack & Co. in the postseason.

NO. 13 ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI (9-3). Play USC in the Rose Bowl. Is the number 13 bad luck or good luck? Those that stare superstition in the face and laugh at such nonsense say it just doesn’t matter. Anyway, the #13 Illini will be playing their 13th game of the season as 13-point underdogs to a team many believe is finally beginning to live up to their preseason numero uno ranking. That’s scary in it’s own right. Well, Zook and his boys have already upset a #1 team in their own crib this season, so don’t expect them to roll over for the Trojans on New Year’s Day. The Illini will look forward to dining at college football’s classiest bowl season training table where they will feast on the finest grain-fed, prairie-raised natural prime rib at the legendary Lawry’s Beef Bowl. It’s college football’s oldest pre-game tradition, now in its 52nd year. (To put that into perspective, the Lawry’s Beef Bowl has been around longer than 28 of the 32 bowl games being played this year!)

NO. 14 BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (10-3). Play Michigan State in the Champs Sports Bowl. Except for a season-ending upset of Penn State, the Spartans beat the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to. They’re supposed to lose to Boston College, which has a veteran cast on both sides of the ball and an NFL first-round quarterback in Matt Ryan.

NO. 15 CLEMSON TIGERS (9-3). Play Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (We always thought the South Carolina Gamecocks should host this every year). The Auburn Tigers shut down Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden, the two leading Heisman candidates. That’s something for Clemson Tiger quarterback Cullen Harper to think long and hard about.

NO. 16 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (9-4). Play Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. The team to pick in a bowl game is usually the team that was hottest at the end of the regular season. That’s a wash here, though — Tennessee won five of its last six, Wisconsin four of its last five (including an upset of Michigan). Vol QB Erik Ainge should give the Badgers trouble, though. Wisconsin knocked off favored Arkansas and Auburn in the previous two Capital One Bowl games, so they know how to get the job done in the Outback against the Vols.

NO. 17 TEXAS LONGHORNS (9-3). Play Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl. Few teams are as familiar with the Holiday Bowl in the past decade as the Longhorns. They’ve been visiting just about as often as BYU did when the bowl first began back in 1978. This matchup is one of the best in this year’s bowl game lineup. Don’t miss it.

NO. 18 WISCONSIN BADGERS (9-3). Play Tennessee in the Outback Bowl. This is one of those great Big Ten – SEC bowl matchups that seem to surprise the prognosticators every year. Last year, Arkansas was figured an easy winner over the Badgers in their January 1 clash, but Wisconsin proved the Big Ten can clearly hang with the SEC. And, that was a repeat of their upset over Auburn the year before. They get another shot at proving the pundits wrong with Tennessee this season. Sooner or later, the SEC might want to stop messing with the Badgers.

NO. 19 BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS (10-2). Play UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl. This will be a very interesting game to watch as the Cougars get another shot at former teammate Ben Olson, the runaway QB who ditched his teammates following a church mission to play for what he thought was going to be a better program. True, the Bruins did prevail in their regular season clash at Rose Bowl Stadium, 27-17, but BYU clearly outplayed them in every facet of the game except turnovers (plus 2) and penalties (115 yards in setbacks). This is one of those must win games for BYU while it really doesn’t matter what happens to the Bruins at this point, besides finding a new head coach. Interesting side note: Had the Cougars defeated UCLA earlier this season, they would have qualified for a BCS bowl game.

NO. 20 CINCINNATI BEARCATS (9-3). Play Southern Miss in the Bowl. Except for a couple of uncharacteristic losses to Louisville and Pitt in the middle of the season, the Bearcats could have reached a much better bowl. They’ll take it out on Southern Miss.

NO. 21 VIRGINIA CAVALIERS (9-3). Play Texas Tech in the Gator Bowl. Al Groh’s team lived on the edge this season, winning three games by a point. Considering that they made Virginia Tech’s Sean Glennon look very good in the season finale, one wonders how a young secondary will deal with Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree, and Texas Tech’s flying circus.

NO. 22 AUBURN TIGERS (8-4). Play Clemson in the Chick-fil-A-Bowl. A battle of Tigers — sounds like something Michael Vick might enjoy. Auburn has a fierce defense, but the offense didn’t always show up this fall. The Plainsmen tainted their season early with losses to South Florida and Mississippi State, but were — and are — a threat to anybody.

NO. 23 SOUTH FLORIDA BULLS (9-3). There has to be more to Oregon than Dennis Dixon, right? If not, the Bulls’ Matt Grothe and George Selvie might wind up validating their 6.5-point edge in the spread.

NO. 24 BOISE STATE BRONCOS (10-2). Play East Carolina in the Hawaii Bowl. How psyched are Bronco fans for this game after heading into BCS territory last year? Well, ticket sales to BSU fans was abysmal as of a few days ago … something like 830 tickets sold. Bronco fans better hope their team doesn’t play with the same interest against the Pirates. It should be an easy win for BSU, but only if they bring their A game.

NO. 25 ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (8-4). Play Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Generally speaking, teams whose coaches have recently left don’t do well in bowls. Generally speaking, however, these teams don’t have Darren McFadden in their backfields. Missouri has to get over a high-profile embarrassment at the hands of Oklahoma.

Utah and Navy Kick Off Bowl Season in a Barnburner

Utah’s Joe Dale intercepted a Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada pass with 37 seconds left to seal a thrilling 35-32 win over Navy in the San Diego Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night.

It was Utah’s seventh consecutive bowl game victory, tying the Utes with Boston College for the lead among all Division I programs.

The first bowl of the 2007 postseason was a tale of two halves. The Midshipmen led 10-7 at halftime, with defense dominating on both sides of the ball.

Navy built its lead by another touchdown just three minutes into the third quarter, but the Utes roared back with two scores within four minutes of each other to take a 21-17 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

The game snowballed throughout the final frame when Utah QB Brian Johnson scored on a 19-yard scramble at the 12:47 mark to stretch his team’s lead to 28-17. Navy would not back down and Kaheaku-Enhada promptly connected with Shun White on a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-23. Kaheaku-Enhada then busted through the Utah line for a two-point conversion, bringing Navy within a field goal.

Utah then mounted a 68-yard drive that chewed up five minutes, but running back Darrell Mack was stopped on fourth and goal on the Navy 1-yard line. The Midshipmen could only punch the ball out to their 9-yard line and failed on fourth and 2 with 2:17 remaining. Mack got the call three times in a row before he hit paydirt, giving Utah a commanding 35-23 lead with only 1:20 remaining on the clock.

The Naval Academy refused to surrender and 15 ticks off the clock later, Kaheaku-Enhada hit Zerbin Singleton deep for a 58-yard scoring strike, making it 35-32 Utah.

Navy then executed a textbook onside kick and with momentum on itsside, 55 seconds on the clock, and favorable field position at its own 42-yard line, fans braced for a miracle finish.

Instead, Singleton slipped on the turf while making a quick cut on his route and Kaheaku-Enhada’s pass sailed right into Dale’s waiting arms.

College football fans can only hope the rest of this season’s bowl games will be as exciting as the second half of the Poinsettia Bowl.

BYU vs. UCLA: Las Vegas Bowl Preview

Before the night is over, one of these teams will want to invoke the Las Vegas slogan, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…”

BYU cannot afford to lose to the UCLA Bruins a second time this season. A loss would almost certainly knock the Cougars out of the final rankings — a huge key as to whether they will be ranked in the 2008 preseason polls.

UCLA can ill afford to drop another game, as a loss will put the Bruins below .500 for the year, and their recruiting efforts will take a serious blow to the gut, regardless of who takes over the head coaching job.

# # #

I decided to pull out my pre-game prediction from the BYU-UCLA game played in Pasadena back in early September, curious to see if there were any similarities that could be mined to help me accurately predict this matchup again.

In my previous attempt, I predicted the Cougars would lose by an 11-point margin if they had a turnover margin of minus-2. Sure enough, BYU went minus-3 in turnovers and lost the game to the Bruins, 27-17.

Despite being held to 44 yards rushing, and despite accumulating 84 yards in penalties, BYU still managed to gain nearly 200 more yards than UCLA (435-236). And that was with a sophomore quarterback playing in only the second game of his college career. On top of that, freshman phenom Harvey Unga only had eight touches the entire game, and he still ended up netting 71 total yards.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that Max Hall will be far more comfortable in the pocket this time around, which should be a huge concern to the Bruins when you consider Hall passed for 391 yards in September. That same wisdom would tell you that Unga is going to get double, perhaps even triple the touches this time around. Still, it will take more than that for BYU to win this game because that’s exactly what UCLA is readying itself for.

Since that first meeting, both teams have headed in drastically different directions. The Cougars rambled through the Mountain West Conference undefeated for the second year in a row and now sport the second-longest winning streak in the nation.

The Bruins, on the other hand, stumble into this rematch with a .500 record and defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker serving as interim head coach after Karl Dorrell’s dismissal three weeks ago.

What this means is that the outcome of the game will be determined by both emotion and execution. Whichever team can best sustain both throughout the contest will emerge victorious.

For the most part, emotion and execution go hand in hand. If you fail to execute, your emotional stamina can get drained pretty quickly. The reverse is true, in that you can recharge your emotional batteries with solid execution. What we call “momentum” in football is really the convergence of execution and emotion. BYU was able to sustain both throughout last year’s Las Vegas Bowl and the outcome was a 38-8 romp over Oregon.

So, let’s see if we can predict the outcome of tonight’s game by taking a look at what both teams brings to this contest in terms of emotion and the potential to execute their game plan.


The Bruins are a senior-laden team that fell far short of expectations this season. Obviously, that’s why Dorrell was shown the door. The seniors are going to be motivated to end their season and college careers with a bowl victory. That is a huge emotional motivator.

The team, in general, will be motivated to prevent finishing the season under .500, and the Bruins want to win, in order to give DeWayne Walker a glimmer of chance at being hired as their new head coach.

There will be Pac-10 pride underlying the UCLA effort, and to some extent, returning players will be auditioning for next year’s starting roles.

There is sufficient emotional power in this Bruin team to defeat Brigham Young for the second time this season.

On the other hand, UCLA’s inability to execute its game plan effectively has plagued the team throughout the season. Because of chronic injuries to both Pat Cowan and Ben Olson, the Bruins’ offense has suffered under a carousel of four quarterbacks in 2007. Had either Olson or Cowan been able to play healthy throughout the season, the Bruins would easily be 8-4 and playing in a different bowl game.

As difficult as it might be for BYU to plan defensive strategies against multiple quarterback scenarios, UCLA will find it even more difficult to execute if it cannot stick to one signal-caller in this game.

The Bruins need to attack this game with confidence in their ability to execute. Weighing against their confidence is the baggage of losing four of the last five games, losing a head coach, and the national publicity surrounding the search for his replacement.


The Cougars’ emotional fortitude is bolstered by a nine-game winning streak and the confidence ongoing success has generated throughout the ranks on their roster. They also have a huge chip on their shoulder; they want revenge against UCLA, and they want more respect for what they’ve been able to accomplish the past two seasons.

BYU is well aware that playing on national television is a huge opportunity to make another statement about its program. It’s not the Cougars’ fault the conference has a downright lousy broadcast schedule, anchored by a network that is available to fewer than 5 percent of the American population.

The Cougar coaching staff is a sturdy, reliable compass for the program. Bronco Mendenhall has been very successful in focusing his staff and the players on each game at hand. That type of discipline is advantageous as you try to help your players zero in on their next obstacle on the schedule, especially with major distractions like final exams and the increased media chatter (three weeks of it) swirling around them about the game.

If you don’t think the rumor UCLA generated last week about Mendenhall being on its list of candidates was a ploy to distract the Cougars from their game preparations, then I’ve got a used car that runs like it’s in mint condition I’d like to sell you.

The reason BYU is coming into tonight with a nine-game winning streak is because Mendenhall and his staff have been able to work through the early season miscues and fine-tune execution on both sides of the ball. One exception where they still need improvement is penalty yardage. The Cougars were flagged for more than 210 yards in their final three games of the season.

Here’s how I rank the matchups for tonight’s game against my pre-game prediction for the Sept. 8 contest.

Sept. 8 game: UCLA defense advantage over BYU offense
Las Vegas Bowl: BYU offense slight advantage over UCLA defense

Sept. 8 game: UCLA offense advantage over BYU defense
Las Vegas Bowl: BYU defense advantage over UCLA offense

Sept. 8 game: Special teams – Even
Las Vegas Bowl: Specials teams – Even

Sept. 8 game: UCLA 35, BYU 24
Las Vegas Bowl: Read on …

Additional considerations

BYU will have a home-crowd advantage in Las Vegas, and that should be worth at least a six-point swing from the Sept. 8 game.

This is the third year in a row BYU has played in the Las Vegas Bowl and the past two contests against Cal and Oregon should provide a bit of an advantage to the Cougars’ psychological perspective tonight.

BYU’s confidence level is solid and the fear factor of playing Pac-10 teams is virtually nonexistent. Just like last year’s Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon, Cougar confidence will soar sky high as the matchup progresses and they are able to execute their game plan. They should be more resilient in bouncing back from turnovers. A minus-2 in turnovers shouldn’t cost them the game tonight, but a minus-3 would.

The on-field impact of BYU’s desire for revenge is evenly balanced against UCLA’s feeling of being cornered and the underdog in this game.

Make no bones about it, UCLA is a talent-laden team and can match up player to player against most of the Top 25 programs in the nation. The Bruins’ primary downfalls have been injuries to their top two quarterbacks and an inability to rally as a team in the face of that adversity. Will this be the same team that went to Corvallis and throttled the Oregon State Beavers 40-14, or the one that lost 20-6 at home to pitiful Notre Dame the very next week?


As mentioned previously, the team that can best sustain its emotion and execution will win this game.

I like the fact that Mendenhall and his staff have improved on their bowl preparation from the past two years. The Cougar program is reaching a level of stability that hasn’t been enjoyed since before Lavell Edwards announced his retirement in 1998.

A cornered Bruin team can be dangerous, but if the fight proves too much, UCLA is apt to look for the first chance to withdraw from the battle. That’s what happened to Oregon last year.

I suspect UCLA has a little more pride at stake than Oregon did last year. The Bruins will rally around Walker and keep the fight going as deep into the fourth quarter as possible.

BYU 28, UCLA 20

Cougars Nip Bruins on Blocked Field Goal

BYU had already yielded 22-, 50- and 52-yard field goals to UCLA’s second-team All-America kicker, Kai Forbath, during Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl, so with three seconds left and a 28-yard chip-shot attempt lined up for the win, the situation looked pretty hopeless for the Cougars.

Miraculously, BYU’s defensive line got a strong push into the UCLA backfield and one of the defenders — freshman nose tackle Eathyn Manamaleuna — got a hand on the ball to prevent the loss.

The game would probably not have come down to a field goal finish had it not been for a highly questionable play-call by BYU to run the ball inside its own 5-yard line with 37 seconds remaining in the first half rather than taking a knee to run the clock out.

Leading 17-6, Cougars QB Max Hall’s deep handoff to Harvey Unga was stuffed and Unga coughed up the ball. Two plays later, UCLA scored on a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass to Brandon Breazell, making it a four-point game at the half.

Both teams shot blanks at each other throughout the second half with the exception of Forbath’s 50-yard field goal at the 6:30 mark of the fourth quarter, which cut BYU’s lead to 17-16.

The final play of the game was set up by a determined 88-yard UCLA drive that began on the Bruins’ own 1-yard line with 2:02 on the clock. Eleven plays later, the ball rested on the Cougar 11-yard line with three ticks on the clock remaining. Forbath lined up for what would not only be a game-winning kick but an MVP-winning one, as well.

But sometimes miracles happen.

UCLA’s defensive coordinator-turned-interim head coach, DeWayne Walker, prepared a game plan that snuffed much of the life out of BYU’s offensive attack. It was a brilliant game plan reminiscent of the one he put together last year in UCLA’s 13-9 upset victory over archrival USC.

Max Hall was held to 242 yards passing and two TDs, a huge reduction from the 391 yards passing he put up earlier this year against the Bruins. BYU’s running game was largely ineffective with only 38 net yards. The Cougars totaled only 44 yards on the ground in September.

Game MVP Austin Collie was one of BYU’s key offensive players whom Walker knew UCLA would have to contain. Collie finished the game with 197 all-purpose yards, including six receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown, and 90 yards on three kick off returns.

One of Collie’s receptions was a spectacular, over-the-shoulder grab that was good for 37 yards and helped the Cougars run an extra 1:45 off the clock in the game’s final four minutes.

BYU finishes the season with its second consecutive Las Vegas Bowl win over a Pac-10 opponent, its second consecutive undefeated MWC championship, and its second consecutive 11-2 record. It was the Cougars’ first victory over UCLA since 1983, when Steve Young was calling signals for BYU.

UCLA ends its once-promising season with a 6-7 record, in search of a new head coach and a new direction for its football program. The Bruins were ranked as high as No. 11 this season after their Sept. 8 win over BYU.

The two teams are scheduled to meet again at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, next September. UCLA leads the all-time series 7-2.