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College Football Season

Nebraska Secures Big Ten Legends

Kent State finishes MAC schedule 8-0 and goes 11-1 overall; Wazzu Upsets Washington

by Dave Congrove
November 23, 2012 (Updated 11/24/12)

The Thanksgiving weekend action, thus far, has seen Nebraska clinch a spot in the Big Ten Championship game opposite Wisconsin, Texas fall at home to TCU, West Virginia end a 5-game losing streak, and Kent State win its 10th straight game.

The action started on Tuesday night with Toledo dumping Akron 35-23 to secure a 9-3 finish for the Rockets while Akron lost its 16th straight MAC game.

The lone Thanksgiving Day game saw Big 12 upstart TCU knock homestanding Texas out of the conference title race with a 20-13 upset in Austin. The Horned Frogs took Texas A&M's spot when the Aggies bolted to the SEC.

Friday's games provided some tight, and one surprising, finishes.

East Carolina denied Marshall bowl eligibility with a 65-59 double-overtime win in Greenville. The Pirate win puts the pressure on UCF to beat UAB at home on Saturday, or lose its lead in CUSA East division and hand the title to ECU. The Golden Knights were the only CUSA team to defeat East Carolina when they routed the Pirates 40-20 in Orlando on October 4.

An incomplete pass in the endzone as time expired helped LSU escape Arkansas with a 20-13 win. Later replays showed 1 second should have still been left on the clock and the Hogs should have had another shot at winning or tying the game. Actually, it seems like a fitting end to Arkansas' season that began with so much promise of possible SEC and BCS titles and ended instead in a 4-8 nightmare. The Tigers can claim the SEC title if Texas A&M beats Missouri and Auburn upsets Alabama on Saturday. An A&M title berth relied on losses by LSU and Alabama this weekend, as well as an A&M win over Missouri. Of course, the thing that seems highly unlikely in any of those scenarios is a 'Bama loss to Auburn.

Nebraska trudged past Iowa 13-7 for an unimpressive season finale victory that nonetheless gives the 'Huskers a shot at winning the Big Ten title when they face Wisconsin in the conference championship game at Indianapolis next Saturday. Nebraska hit 10 wins (10-2) in the regular season for the second time in the last three years under Bo Pelini after managing 9 regular season victories just once from 2003-2009.

Meanwhile, Washington State upset Washington 31-28 in overtime in Pullman to end an 8-game losing streak and give the Cougar faithful something to cheer about for the first time since a 35-27 win at UNLV on September 14. Washington State trailed the annual Apple Cup rivalry game 28-10 entering the 4th quarter.

Friday night, Arizona State grabbed the Territorial Cup by scoring 24 unanswered points in the 4th quarter to turn a 17-17 deficit into a 41-27 advantage before winning 41-34. Both teams finish 7-5 overall, but ASU moved ahead of Arizona in the PAC-12 bowl pecking order by improving to 5-4 in conference play while the Wildcats slipped to 4-5. Todd Graham slightly improved on Arizona State's 6-6 regular season finish a year ago when Dennis Erickson coached the team to a 6-6 regular season before a blowout 56-24 loss to Boise State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. Rich Rodriguez significantly improved Arizona's 2011 finish of 4-8 under Mike Stoops (1-5) and Tim Kish (3-3).

Yet another tight PAC-12 contest witnessed Utah rally past Colorado 42-35 with a 22-7 4th quarter. Colorado's lone score in the final period came on Marques Mosley's 100-yard kickoff return to tie it at 35-apiece, but the Utes immediately returned the favor with Reggie Dunn's 100-yard kickoff return for the final margin. It was an NCAA record fifth career 100-yard kickoff return for Dunn and his fourth this season. The Buffaloes ended the year with a dreadful, but expected, 1-11 record which is a game-and-a-half worse than their 3-10 finish in Jon Embree's first season a year ago. Utah also had a disappointing year with a 5-7 finish that is well under everyone's preseason expectations and down from last year's 8-5 campaign in the school's PAC-12 debut season.

West Virginia has needed just one more win to become bowl eligible since early October. It finally achieved that victory on Friday with a 31-24 escape at Iowa State that ended the Cyclones' regular season at 7-5 while improving WVU's record to 6-5 with a home game left versus Kansas.

But the biggest story of the weekend may well be Kent State notching a 10th straight win (28-6 vs. Ohio) to finish 11-1 overall and 8-0 in the MAC in Darrell Hazell's second season as head coach. The Golden Flashes had already clinched the MAC East title and will face defending champion Northern Illinois in Detroit next Friday night. Kent State's only MAC title came in 1972 when it also made its only bowl appearance, a 21-18 loss to Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl. Of Course, the bad news now for Kent State is that every team in search of a head coach may have Hazell on its short list of candidates.

Lost somewhat in the great Kent State story is the 1-4 finish that Ohio endured after posting a 7-0 start, including a 24-14 win at Penn State. The Bobcats were a near-unanimous choice to repeat as MAC East champs and my Congrove Computer Rankings, among others, had them winning the MAC title.

In the MAC West, Northern Illinois also went 11-1 and ran its conference slate (8-0). The Huskies wrapped up their season with a 49-7 blowout at Eastern Michigan. Head coach Dave Doeren is also in his second season and will likewise be in demand given his 22-4 record in two seasons in Dekalb. Conversely, EMU's Ron English saw his team go 2-10 and fall below most expectations after improving from 0-12 in 2009 to 2-10 in 2010 and 6-6 a year ago.

This will be the first year that both MAC teams head to the championship game with perfect conference records. The MAC split into two divisions in 1997.

REALIGNMENT - HERE WE GO AGAIN: was reporting last Saturday that Maryland and the Big Ten could be getting together. Their story said Rutgers would be asked to join the ACC if Maryland defects. A later revised version of the story said both Maryland and Rutgers could be headed to the Big Ten. Indeed, Maryland made the move on Monday and Rutgers followed suit on Tuesday.

UConn appears to be the front-runner to replace the Terps when the moves happen in 2014, but Louisville has reportedly expressed an interest, too.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams are 97-10 (.907) on the year vs. FCS schools and 735-65 (.919) in such games since 2003.

The last such game of the year will take place next week when Nicholls State heads to Oregon State to make up a game that was forced to be postponed on Labor Day weekend by Hurricane Isaac.

When all is said and done for this year, 101 FBS teams will have played a total of 108 games against FCS foes. UTSA played 4 such schools in its first year of transitioning from the FCS. Cincinnati, Florida State, Pittsburgh and Texas A&M each played two such games.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/29: Stony Brook 23, Army 3
9/15: Cal Poly 24, Wyoming 22
9/8: Sacramento State 30, Colorado 28
9/8: North Dakota State 22, Colorado State 7
9/8: Illinois State 31, Eastern Michigan 17
9/8: Northern Arizona 17, UNLV 14
9/1: Youngstown State 31, Pittsburgh 17
9/1: Tennessee-Martin 20, Memphis 17
8/30: McNeese State 27, Middle Tennessee 21
8/30: Eastern Washington 20, Idaho 3

Notre Dame - Won 11 straight overall. Visits USC on Saturday.

Ohio State - Won 11 straight overall. Hosts Michigan on Saturday.

Kent State - Won 10 straight games. Won 28-6 vs. Ohio on Saturday.

Northern Illinois - Won 15 straight conference games (MAC), 21 straight home games and 10 straight overall. Won 49-7 at Eastern Michigan on Friday.

LSU - Won 41 straight nonconference games. Won 20-13 at Arkansas on Friday.

Michigan - won 14 straight home games. Visits Ohio State on Saturday.

Oregon - Won 15 straight road games. Visits Oregon State on Saturday.

Southern Miss - Lost 11 straight overall. Visits Memphis on Saturday.

Akron - Lost 26 straight road games, 22 straight FBS games and 16 straight conference games (MAC). Lost 35-23 at Toledo on Tuesday.

Kansas - Lost 20 straight FBS games, 20 straight conference games and 18 straight road games. Idle this week. Visits West Virginia on Saturday, 12/1.

UNLV - Lost 21 straight road games. Hosts San Diego State on Saturday.

28 teams have a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. See how they are faring versus their predecessor.

Here are this week's games for each new head coach:

Team Coach Game
Akron Terry Bowden (1-11) Lost 35-23 Tuesday at Toledo
Arizona Rich Rodriguez (7-5) Lost 41-34 Friday vs. Arizona State
Arizona State Todd Graham (7-5) Won 41-34 Friday at Arizona
Arkansas John L. Smith (4-8) Lost 20-13 Friday vs. LSU
Arkansas State Gus Malzahn (8-3) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 vs. MTSU
Colorado State Jim McElwain (3-8) Saturday vs. New Mexico
FAU Carl Pellini (3-8) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 vs. UL-Lafayette
Fresno State Tim DeRuyter (8-3) Saturday vs. Air Force
Hawaii Norm Chow (1-9) Saturday vs. UNLV
Houston Tony Levine (4-7) Saturday vs. Tulane
Illinois Tim Beckman (2-9) Saturday at Northwestern
Kansas Charlie Weis (1-10) Idle this week. Saturday, 12/1 at West Virginia
Massachusetts Charley Molnar (1-11) Lost 42-21 Friday vs. Central Michigan
Memphis Justin Fuente (3-8) Saturday vs. Southern Miss
Mississippi Hugh Freeze (5-6) Saturday vs. Mississippi State
New Mexico Bob Davie (4-8) Saturday at Colorado State
North Carolina Larry Fedora (7-4) Saturday vs. Maryland
Ohio State Urban Meyer (11-0) Saturday vs. Michigan
Penn State Bill O'Brien (7-4) Saturday vs. Wisconsin
Pittsburgh Paul Chryst (4-6) Saturday vs. Rutgers
Rutgers Kyle Flood (9-1) Saturday at Pittsburgh
Southern Miss Ellis Johnson (0-11) Saturday at Memphis
Texas A&M Kevin Sumlin (9-2) Saturday vs. Missouri
Toledo Matt Campbell (9-3) Won 35-23 Tuesday vs. Akron
Tulane Curtis Johnson (2-9) Saturday at Houston
UAB Garrick McGee (3-8) Saturday at UCF
UCLA Jim Mora (9-2) Saturday vs. Stanford
Washington State Mike Leach (3-9) Won 31-28 in OT Friday vs. Washington


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