Are We That Close To the End?
by Mike Mitchell
It seems like only a few weeks ago that the 2005 college football season was kicking off. Unbelievably this week, TCU and Wake Forest are already playing their final games.
Are we that close to the end?
While not very many games are left in the regular season, the BCS title game and most bowl games are still up for grabs.
We know for certain is that Florida State is playing in the ACC Championship game and TCU has won the Mountain West. And we know that Texas and Colorado will play in the Big 12 championship if each is victorious this weekend. Elsewhere, multiple teams still factor in to many of the conference and division title races.
Three teams are 9-0 - Alabama, Texas and USC - and all see action this week.
USC (9-0) at California - The Golden Bears were the last team to defeat the Trojans and it happened at the venue of this week's game. It was September 27, 2003 when Cal beat USC 34-31 for the Trojans only loss that season. They went on to defeat Michigan in the Rose Bowl and claim the AP title. Since that defeat, USC has reeled off 31 straight victories and added the 2004 BCS and AP national titles to their trophy room.
Kansas at Texas (9-0) - Kansas has rebounded from a four-game losing streak to get back-to-back wins over Missouri and Nebraska. Last week, they broke a 36-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers. The Jayhawks are 5-4 entering this game against the heavily-favored Longhorns. Barring a tremendous upset this week, Kansas will need to beat Iowa State next week in Lawrence to become bowl eligible. Texas and Kansas have only met seven times and the Longhorns lead the series 5-2. Texas eked out a 27-23 win at Kansas last year. The Longhorns scored the game-winning touchdown with just 11 seconds left after the Jayhawks had taken a 23-13 lead with 7 minutes to go in the game.
LSU at Alabama (9-0) - Kenneth Darby's 48-yard run in the 3rd quarter of a 13-10 win over Ole Miss on October 15 was the last time the Tide scored an offensive touchdown against an SEC opponent. That won that game on a field goal as time expired, then beat Tennessee 6-3 on a field goal with 13 seconds left. After a non-conference breather against Utah State, 'Bama downed Mississippi State last week 17-0 when the defense returned an interception and a fumble for scores. LSU has played back-to-back cupcakes, outscoring North Texas and 1-AA Appalachian State by a combined 80-3. LSU coach Les Miles excused the 24-0 win over the 1-AA Mountaineers by saying how difficult it is to not look ahead to the next opponent. That has to be the first time I have ever heard a coach actually claim that for an excuse. Usually, they are insistent that they never look past anybody. As cupcakes go, Appalachian State was a little better-baked than others. They entered that game with a 6-2 record and ranked 7th in the 1-AA poll.
Conference or Division-Leader Matchups:
Colorado at Iowa State - The Buffaloes would clinch the Big 12 north with a win at Iowa State. That would likely earn them a rematch against Texas . The Longhorns beat the Buffaloes 42-17 on October 15 in Austin. The conference championship game will be staged in Houston. Iowa State, however, could have something to say about all of that. After all, the Cyclones are only mostly-dead, if I may borrow a phrase from the classic movie, "The Princess Bride". Iowa State can claim the division crown by defeating Colorado this week and winning at Kansas next week, but only if Colorado falls at home to Nebraska next week.
Boise State at Fresno State (Thursday) - A terrific matchup in the WAC as the Broncos and Bulldogs battle to see who will take the upper hand in the conference title race. Each is 5-0 in the WAC. Boise State is 35-2 all-time in the WAC and hasn't loss a conference game since November 3, 2001 when Louisiana Tech beat them 48-42 in Ruston. That was also the last BSU away loss to a conference team. They are 15-0 in conference road games since then. The all-time series favors Boise State 4-3 but the Broncos have won the last four. Fresno State enters this game with the better over-all record at 7-1 and ranked 22nd in the BCS Standings. The Bulldogs have won six straight and 13 of their last 14.
Auburn at Georgia - A Bulldog victory clears the way for Georgia to clinch the SEC east with a win at home against Kentucky next week. An Auburn win would set up a showdown with Alabama for the west division title next week and put Florida in control of its own destiny in the east. This will be the 109th meeting between the Tigers and Dawgs since 1892. Auburn leads the series slightly, 52-48-8, and has outscored Georgia 1,619 to 1,618. Auburn is 14-7-1 in the last 22 meetings. The Tigers have won 9 of the last 11 in Athens. Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley will return after sitting out the loss to Florida because of a knee injury suffered in the 2nd quarter against Arkansas.
Buffalo (0-9) at Kent State - Buffalo head coach Jim Hofher was fired Tuesday but will lead the team through the end of the season. The Bulls have lost 10 straight and are just 9-68 all-time since joining the 1-A ranks in 1999. They are 0-4 against 1-AA teams in that period. They did beat Kent State 20-17 in 2000, but the Golden Flashes have won the last four meetings.
Nevada at New Mexico State (0-9) - The Aggies have lost 10 in-a-row. They get San Jose State on the road and Utah State at home to finish the season. Nevada (5-3) needs one more win to become bowl eligible but may need a 7th victory to have a legitimate shot at landing a bid.
Tulane at Rice (0-8) - Rice is only a 2-point computer underdog against the Tulane travelers. The Owls own the nation's longest losing streak at 14 games.
Temple (0-10) at Navy (next week) - Temple has lost 11 straight games and has been outscored this season by an incredible 460-90.
OTHER Conference Games (not reviewed above)
N.C. State at Boston College - Last week, N.C. State beat Florida State for the third time in Chuck Amato's five seasons in Raleigh. Amato was Bobby Bowden's assistant head coach for 14 seasons and he spent a total of 18 years at FSU.
Florida State at Clemson - Florida State backed into the Atlantic Division title of the ACC when Boston College lost to North Carolina last week. The Seminoles then went out and promptly lost to N.C. State to fall to just 5-2 in the conference. That record would put them in third place in the Coastal Division. The "Bowden Bowl" is being staged for the seventh time. Tommy Bowden, son of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, is just 1-5 against Dad but that win came the last time the two teams met at Clemson in 2003.
Miami at Wake Forest - Miami can move one step closer to the Coastal Division title and a rematch with Florida State. A loss by the Hurricanes would put Virginia Tech back in control of its own destiny. The 'Canes walloped the Hokies 27-7 in Blacksburg last week.
Georgia Tech at Virginia - Georgia Tech is bowl eligible at 6-2. Virginia enters the game at 5-3 with games remaining against Virginia Tech and Miami.
Maryland at North Carolina - Both teams are just 4-4 and need to win two of their last three games to become bowl eligible.
West Virginia at Cincinnati (Wednesday) - The Big East title belongs to West Virginia as long as they keep winning.
South Florida at Syracuse - South Florida needs to keep winning to set up a showdown with West Virginia for the conference crown when the two teams meet in Tampa on December 3rd in a game that was postponed from October 22nd due to Hurricane Wilma. The Bulls are 2-1 in conference play. West Virginia is 4-0. Syracuse has yet to win a conference game under first-year head coach Greg Robinson and their only victory over-all came against winless Buffalo.
Rutgers at Louisville (Friday)
Connecticut at Pittsburgh
Conference-leader Penn State is idle. The Nittany Lions can win the title with a victory at Michigan State next week. Penn State and Ohio State each have one conference loss but the Buckeyes lost the head-to-head matchup.
Illinois at Purdue - This game features the only two conference teams that have been eliminated from bowl consideration.
Michigan State at Minnesota - The Spartans have won just one of their last five games after a 4-0 start and need one more win to make it to any bowl. Michigan State has won 19 of the last 22 meetings with Minnesota.
Northwestern at Ohio State - The Wildcats ended a 24-game losing streak to the Buckeyes with a 33-17 win in Evanston last year. It was their first home victory over Ohio State since 1958. Their last win in Columbus came in 1971.
Indiana at Michigan - The Hoosiers would be out of the postseason with a loss after starting the year 4-1, just as the computer projected they would.
Iowa at Wisconsin - Iowa will miss the postseason for the first time since 2000 if they don't beat the Badgers this week or Minnesota at home next week.
Kansas State at Nebraska - Nebraska still needs a win to become bowl eligible. A Kansas State loss eliminates the Wildcats from the postseason.
Baylor at Missouri - Baylor, which started the year 4-1, would be out of the running for a bowl game if they lose for the fifth time in their last six games.
Texas A&M at Oklahoma - Both teams are one win away from bowl eligibility. The situation may be more desperate for the Aggies who host Texas in their only other remaining game. The Sooners visit Texas Tech next week and host Oklahoma State to end the season.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State
Southern Miss at Marshall (Tuesday) - The Golden Eagles (5-3, 3-1) have the upper hand in the east division title race, thanks to their 52-31 win over UCF on October 15th. Marshall is the team UCF beat earlier in the season to end their 17-game losing streak.
Southern Miss at Houston (Sunday) - Hurricane Rita forced the cancellation of this game back on September 24 and is one of two makeup games on USM's schedule. The Southern Miss season-opener against Tulane became a season finale when Hurricane Katrina ripped up the gulf coast on Labor Day weekend.
UCF at UAB - A Golden Knights win accompanied by a Southern Miss loss gives UCF the upper hand for the CUSA east division title. Hard to believe this team was riding a 17-game losing streak earlier in the year.
East Carolina at Tulsa - ECU needs to win its last three games to keep its slim bowl hopes alive. The Golden Hurricane would become bowl eligible with a win over the Pirates.
Six conference teams are idle - Akron, Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Northern Illinois, Ohio and Toledo. Associate member Temple is also idle.
Ball State at Eastern Michigan
Central Michigan at Western Michigan
BYU at Wyoming - Brigham Young has scored 117 points in its last two games against Air Force and UNLV. The Cougars can become bowl eligible for the first time since 2001 with a win in Laramie.
New Mexico at Utah - One of these teams will get their sixth win and improve their chances of going bowling. The Utes and Lobos, along with BYU and Colorado State, enter the weekend with 5-4 records.
San Diego State at Colorado State
UNLV at TCU
Washington at Arizona - Washington is still looking for its first win over a conference foe since November 22, 2003 when the Huskies beat rival Washington State in the Apple Cup season finale.
Arizona State at UCLA - The Bruins bombed at Arizona last week. Now they face another school from the Grand Canyon State at home.
Oregon at Washington State - Oregon could go 10-1 and give the BCS bowl committees one more team to figure out where they should go.
Stanford at Oregon State
Florida at South Carolina - Steve Spurrier faces his alma mater for the first time with the momentum of a three-game losing streak and the satisfaction of knowing that his team is already bowl eligible. Florida, now under the guidance of Urban Meyer, needs a win and a Georgia loss to take the driver's seat to the east division title.
Kentucky at Vanderbilt - The Commodores came close to a signature win last week in Gainesville but fell 49-42 in double-overtime. Vandy has dropped five straight since opening the season with four consecutive wins. A loss to Kentucky drops them from bowl consideration.
Arkansas at Mississippi
FIU at Louisiana-Lafayette - This game is probably the best on the board in the conference this weekend. The winner has a legitimate chance of rolling on to the Sun Belt title. The coaching matchup is interesting - former Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle coaches the Ragin' Cajuns while former Virginia Tech quarterback Don Strock coaches the Golden Panthers.
Troy at Arkansas State
North Texas at FAU
Louisiana-Monroe at Middle Tennessee
Utah State at Hawaii
Louisiana Tech at Idaho
Massachusetts at Army - The Minutemen are 7-2 in Division 1-AA.
Texas Southern at UTEP - Texas Southern is just 1-7 in 1-AA.
Memphis at Tennessee - Who would have thought that both of these schools would need to win this game to keep alive their slim chances for bowl eligibility? Memphis is 4-4, Tennessee is 3-5. Neither of Tennessee's final two games are currently sold out. The Tigers' only win over the Vols in 19 tries came in 1996 in Memphis.
Interesting Non-Conference Games:
Navy at Notre Dame - This game marks the 79th consecutive year that the Irish and Midshipmen have met on the gridiron. The Irish have won 41 games in a row over Navy, an NCAA record for consecutive wins against the same opponent. Navy has won just 9 of the previous 78 meetings. Navy went 5-3 against Notre Dame from 1956-1963.
Pick On Someone Your Own Size:
Two teams play schools from lower divisions when Army hosts UMass and UTEP entertains Texas Southern. There have been 51 such games played this season with the 1-A schools winning 49.
From the beginning of the 2003 season through Saturday, 1-A teams are 161-18 in such games.
USC has won 31 straight games over-all, 25 at home and 21 against PAC-10 teams. The Trojans have won 42-of-43 since losing at Washington State on October 5, 2002. The 31-game over-all winning streak is the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933. USC visits California this week.
Texas has won 16 straight games, second-longest streak in the nation behind USC. The Longhorns entertain Kansas.
Alabama has won 9 straight, TCU 8 straight.
Boise State owns nation-leading streaks of 30 straight home wins and 31 straight conference victories. The Broncos visit Fresno State on Thursday.
Boise State and Miami (Fla.) have each won 7 in-a-row over-all.
Rice owns the nation's longest losing streak at 14 games. The Owls host Tulane.
New Coaches: The 2005 season began with 23
San Jose State has not beaten a 1-A team yet. New Mexico State is still looking for its first win over anybody under Hal Mumme.
Here is how each has fared, by order of success, and who they face this week:
LSU, 7-1 under Les Miles, visits Alabama.
Florida, 7-2 under Urban Meyer, visits South Carolina.
Notre Dame, 6-2 under Charlie Weis, hosts Navy.
Miami, O., 6-3 under Shane Montgomery, is idle.
South Carolina, 6-3 under Steve Spurrier, hosts Florida.
Western Michigan, 6-3 under Bill Cubit, hosts Central Michigan.
BYU, 5-4 under Bronco Mendenhall, visits Wyoming.
Utah, 5-4 under Kyle Whittingham, hosts New Mexico.
Stanford, 4-4 under Walt Harris, visits Oregon State.
Marshall, 4-4 under Mark Snyder, hosts Southern Miss (Tuesday)
Indiana, 4-5 under Terry Hoeppner, visits Michigan.
Ohio, 4-5 under Frank Solich, is idle.
Pittsburgh, 4-5 under Dave Wannstedt, hosts Connecticut.
East Carolina, 3-5 under Skip Holtz, visits Tulsa.
Mississippi, 3-5 under Ed Orgeron, hosts Arkansas.
Oklahoma St, 3-5 under Mike Gundy, hosts Texas Tech.
Utah State, 2-6 under Brent Guy, visits Hawaii.
Illinois, 2-7 under Ron Zook, visits Purdue.
Nevada-Las Vegas, 2-7 under Mike Sanford, visits TCU.
Syracuse, 1-7 under Greg Robinson, hosts South Florida.
San Jose St., 1-8 under Dick Tomey, is idle.
Washington, 1-8 under Ty Willingham, visits Arizona.
New Mexico St., 0-9 under Hal Mumme, hosts Nevada.