USC Routs Irish; USF Upsets WVU
Oklahoma, Wake, So. Miss Win Divisions
by Mike Mitchell
USC romped over Notre Dame 44-24 as the Trojans continue their quest for a shot at the BCS title game opposite Ohio State. USC never trailed in the contest and never led by fewer than 11 points after taking a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions.
When Notre Dame cut the gap to 37-24 in the fourth quarter, USC covered the ensuing onside kick and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown with 3:31 to play for the final score of the game.
The Trojans go to Rose Bowl Stadium to play cross-city rival UCLA in their season finale next week.
West Virginia's BCS bowl hopes may have vanished with a 24-19 upset loss at home to upstart USF on Saturday.
South Florida, which didn't field a football team at any level until 1997, is going bowling for the second consecutive year. The Bulls became a 1-A program in 2001, joined CUSA in 2003 and switched to the Big East last year. Jim Leavitt has led the program from the beginning and is now 65-35. As a 1-A team, the Bulls are 42-25.
The Mountaineers, which had four turnovers in the contest, are mostly dead in their hunt for the Big East title and resulting automatic berth in a BCS bowl game. With a loss earlier to Louisville, West Virginia is now just 4-2 in the conference and 9-2 over-all.
Rutgers and Louisville each won on Saturday and improved to 10-1 over-all, 5-1 in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights blasted Syracuse 38-7, and the Cardinals doubled-up Pitt 48-24.
West Virginia hosts Rutgers next Saturday while Louisville hosts Connecticut. The Mountaineers can win the Big East only if they beat the Scarlet Knights, the Cardinals lose to the Huskies, and the results make West Virginia the highest-ranked team from the conference. Louisville wins the conference if it beats UConn and Rutgers loses to West Virginia. Rutgers is the only one of the three that controls its own destiny.
Later on Saturday, Oklahoma claimed the Big 12 South Division title with a 27-21 win over rival Oklahoma State in the Bedlam rivalry. The Sooners almost blew a 27-14 lead as the Cowboys cut the gap to six points with 6:21 left, and later marched to the Oklahoma 25-yard line before a last-gasp pass fell incomplete on the final play of the game.
The Sooners can thank Texas A&M for getting them into the Big 12 championship game against Nebraska next Saturday in Kansas City. The Aggies upset Texas 12-7 on Friday to open the door for Oklahoma.
Wake Forest won the ACC Atlantic Division "playoff" at Maryland 38-24 and will take on Georgia Tech in the conference championship game in Jacksonville next Saturday. The Demon Deacons went 6-0 on the road this season and finished the year with a 10-2 mark to tie Virginia Tech for the ACC's best over-all record.
Southern Miss won CUSA's East Division title with a 42-7 cakewalk over Marshall. The Golden eagles, winners of four straight games to end the regular season, will visit Houston for the CUSA championship game next Friday night.
Boise State finished the regular season unbeaten with an impressive 38-7 win over a Nevada team that entered the contest on a five-game winning streak and had allowed a total of 35 points in that span. The Broncos had already assured themselves of at least a tie for the WAC title, but the win at Nevada made them the outright WAC champions.
Troy moved into position to claim the Sun Belt conference title and a berth in the New Orleans Bowl with a 21-20 upset at Middle Tennessee. A win next week at FIU would clinch the crown for the Trojans, but a loss next week would hand the title to Middle Tennessee.
A couple of upsets were avoided by Tennessee and Florida.
The Volunteers squeaked by Kentucky 17-12 on the strength of a defensive stand late in the game. Kentucky marched to the Tennessee 3-yard line in the waning minutes, but turned the ball over on downs and the Vols ran off the last 3:02 of the clock.
Florida squandered a 14-0 lead, then pulled out the win on a TD pass early in the fourth quarter. The 21-14 victory was their 3rd straight over the Seminoles and 2nd straight win in Tallahassee as Urban Meyer improved his coaching record to 2-0 against Bobby Bowden. Florida State dropped to 6-6 while the Gators kept alive their slim prospects of a shot at the BCS title game.
Virginia Tech blanked Virginia 17-0 to keep their rival from becoming bowl eligible. The Cavaliers fell to 5-7 while the Hokies finished the season at 10-2 on the strength of six straight victories. During the streak, the Hokies have allowed just two touchdowns and none in the last three games. UVa failed to get past the Virginia Tech 48-yard line, ran just two plays inside Virginia Tech territory, and was limited to just 5 first downs. The Hokies have won six of the last seven meetings for the Commonwealth Cup.
Georgia Tech lost to Georgia 15-12 as the Bulldogs improved to 8-4 and the Yellow Jackets dropped to 9-3. The Bulldogs will now await news of their bowl destination as one of three teams with 4-4 records in SEC East play.
Missouri ended a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in the last six games. The Tigers beat border rival Kansas 42-17 to finish the regular season at 8-4. The Jayhawks closed at 6-6.
Among the close finishes on Saturday:
Clemson's missed 39-yard field goal with 13 second left averted overtime and preserved a 31-28 win for South Carolina. The Gamecocks improved to 7-5 and snapped a four-game losing streak. The Tigers slipped to 8-4 with their third loss in the last four games.
Cincinnati beat Connecticut 26-23 on a 29-yard field goal with 10 seconds left, giving the Bearcats their first road win of the season and a 7-5 regular season record. The Huskies (4-7) were eliminated from bowl consideration with the loss.
North Carolina blocked a Duke extra point attempt with 2:49 left to play, then recovered the onside kick, for a 45-44 win. The Tar Heels closed the season with consecutive wins over their closest rivals, N. C. State and the Blue Devils. John Bunting concluded his final season as the North Carolina head coach with a 3-9 record and a 27-45 mark in six seasons. Butch Davis has already been announced as the new head coach.
In a battle of surprisingly bad CUSA teams, Central Florida beat UAB 31-22. The Golden Knights, expected by many to repeat as East Division champs, finished the year at 4-8. The Blazers, a projected. 500 club, dropped to 3-9.
Also in CUSA, Rice completed the regular season with its' sixth straight win. The Owls beat SMU 31-27 to claim second place in the West Division. Rice won seven-of-eight games down the stretch after an 0-4 start.
UTEP (5-7) failed to become bowl eligible when the Miners lost 38-19 at home to Memphis. It was the first conference win of the year for the Tigers who finished 2-10 over-all after being projected as an 11-1 team in the preseason. Memphis lost five games by six points or less. UTEP was forecasted to go 6-6.
Mississippi (4-8, 2-6) won the Egg Bowl rivalry, 20-17, over Mississippi State (3-9, 1-7) and the Bulldogs finished with the worst conference record in the SEC West for the sixth straight year.
New Mexico State ended a 21-game losing streak to 1-A teams with a 42-20 victory at Utah State. The Aggies beat the Aggies to improve their record against WAC foes to 1-14 since entering the league last season.
East Carolina handed state rival N.C. State a 21-16 loss for the Wolfpack's seventh straight defeat.
TCU leaped over Colorado State 45-14 to improve to 9-2 and take over second place in the Mountain West.
Hawaii beat Purdue 42-35 in a shoot-out for its' ninth consecutive win. The Warriors staked out a 17-0 halftime lead, only to watch the Boilermakers go ahead 21-20 early in the fourth quarter. But the fireworks were just beginning. After Hawaii recaptured the lead at 27-21, Purdue scored 14 consecutive points to go ahead 35-27 at the 6:50 mark. Then, the Warriors answered with a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the game at 35-apiece with 4:48 left. Purdue's next drive ended on an interception and Hawaii went 54 yards in 5 plays to take the lead back at 42-35 with just over a minute remaining. The Boilermakers were intercepted again on their next possession and the Warriors ran out the clock. The teams scored combined to score 43 points in the final period with Hawaii outscoring Purdue 22-21.
Brigham Young, already the champions of the Mountain West Conference, scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game to win a wild see-saw battle with state rival Utah 33-31. The Cougars scored the first 14 points of the game, the Utes tallied the next 24. BYU then rang up 13 unanswered points to take a 27-24 lead with just over four minutes left in the game, only to relinquish it back to Utah three minutes later. The Cougars began their game-winning 75-yard drive with 1:19 left on the clock. BYU's first win over Utah since 2001 was their ninth consecutive win of this season.
The BYU-Utah and Purdue-Hawaii games featured two of the NCAA's most-prolific passers. Hawaii's Colt Brennan has 4,589 yards passing with 51 TD's and just 9 INT's. BYU's John Beck has thrown for 3,510 yards, 30 TD's and only 6 INT's.
Texas A&M's 12-7 win over Texas on Friday was their first in Austin since 1994 and kept their hated rival from clinching a berth in the Big 12 Championship game opposite Nebraska.
The loss was the second in-a-row for Texas which lost 45-42 at Kansas State on November 11. Texas A&M won for the first time since October 28th after suffering back-to-back one-point losses to Oklahoma and Nebraska at home. Otherwise, the Aggies could be playing for all of the conference marbles.
Texas A&M broke a six-year losing streak to Texas and improved their record to 9-3 over-all, 5-3 in the conference. The Longhorns are also 9-3 over-all, but 6-2 in Big 12 play.
Also on Friday:
LSU upended Arkansas 31-26 to greatly enhance the Tigers' stock as a BCS bowl candidate with a 10-2 record. The Razorbacks are also 10-2 after the loss, but will have to beat Florida in the SEC Championship game to get into the BCS pool.
Nebraska tuned up for their Big 12 title game with a 37-14 win over Colorado, but not until they spit and sputtered to a 14-14 tie in the 3rd quarter.
Oregon State kicked the go-ahead 40-yard field goal with about a minute left, then blocked Oregon's 44-yard field goal on the final play of the game, for a 30-28 win in the 110th Civil War between the two rivals. The Ducks fell to 7-5 with their third straight loss and may have fallen up to four spots in the bowl pecking order. The Beavers improved to 8-4.
On Thursday night, Miami rescued bowl eligibility from a disastrous season with a 17-14 win over Boston College at the Orange Bowl. The loss knocked the Eagles out of the ACC Championship. The winner of Saturday's game between Wake Forest and Maryland will be the Atlantic Division champion and will face Georgia Tech on December 1 in Jacksonville for the conference crown.
For Miami, it was their 15th consecutive win over Boston College. The Eagles haven't beaten Miami since Doug Flutie's Hail Mary miracle in 1984.
Regardless, Miami fired Larry Coker as head coach the next day.
On Friday, the Bulldogs beat the Bulldogs. On Saturday, the Aggies beat the Aggies. The Fresno State Bulldogs downed the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 34-27. The New Mexico State Aggies beat the Utah State Aggies 42-20. All four teams are members of the WAC.
Ohio State had already finished the regular season 12-0 with the win over Michigan on November 18.
Boise State also finished the regular season 12-0 with a 38-7 win over Nevada.
Duke finished the year at 0-12, including a loss to 1-AA Richmond.
FIU (0-11), lost 31-0 to FAU in the Don Shula Bowl at Dolphins Stadium in Miami. The Golden Panthers have scored a total of 10 points and been blanked three times in their last five games - a stretch that began with loss in the "Brawl Game" at Miami. FIU finishes the season next week at home against Troy.
1-A vs. 1-AA
There are no remaining games between 1-A and 1-AA schools.
1-AA teams finished 7-71 for the season against their higher-classified brethren. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, 1-A teams hold the upper hand by a huge margin, 235-25 (.904).
77 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent and New Mexico State double-dipped.
Ohio State has won 19 straight games after a 42-39 win over Michigan.
Boise State has won 14 straight regular season games, 12 straight over-all, and 36 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos have never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (24-0). They clocked Nevada 38-7.
USC has won a nation's-best 33 consecutive home games. The Trojans beat Notre Dame 44-24.
Duke has lost 20 games over-all, and 22 straight to 1-A teams after a 45-44 season-ending loss to North Carolina.
UNLV ended a 10-game losing streak with a 42-39 win over Air Force on Friday.
FIU has lost 11 straight games after a 31-0 setback to FAU. The Panthers finish the season at home against Troy next week.
New Mexico State ended a 21-game losing streak to 1-A teams with a 42-20 win over Utah State.
The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. We're tracking their progress throughout the season.
Boise State, 12-0 under Chris Petersen, beat Nevada 38-7.
Wisconsin, 11-1 under Bret Bielema, is finished (Bowl Game).
Kansas State, 7-5 under Ron Prince, is finished (Bowl Game).
Middle Tennessee, 7-5 under Rick Stockstill, lost to Troy 21-20.
Rice, 7-5 under Todd Graham, beat SMU 31-27.
Idaho, 4-8 under Dennis Erickson, lost to San Jose State 28-13.
Northwestern, 4-8 under Pat Fitzgerald, is finished.
Buffalo, 2-10 under Turner Gill, lost to Central Michigan 55-28.
San Diego State, 2-9 under Chuck Long, lost to New Mexico 41-14.
Colorado, 2-10 under Dan Hawkins, lost to Nebraska 37-14.
Temple, 1-11 under Al Golden, is finished.