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Conference Championship Pairings Are Set

Virginia Tech, Wisconsin Among Those To Clinch on Saturday

by Dave Congrove
November 27, 2011

Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Southern Miss, Houston, Northern Illinois, UCLA, Oregon and LSU all won division titles on either Friday or Saturday, completing the matchups for all six of next weekend's conference championship games. And Louisiana Tech laid claim to the outright WAC title.

Virginia Tech captured another ACC Coastal division title with a 38-0 demolition of Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday, their 8th straight win in the series. The Hokies earned the chance to avenge their only regular season loss when they face Clemson in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

Clemson closed the season on a down note, losing 34-13 at South Carolina after falling 37-13 last week at N.C. State. Nonetheless, the Tigers will be playing for their first ACC championship since 1991 while Virginia Tech looks to capture its 5th conference trophy since entering the league in 2004.

Conference Title Games
ACC Clemson vs. Virginia Tech (at Charlotte)
Big Ten Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (at Indianapolis)
CUSA Southern Miss at Houston
MAC Ohio vs. Northern Illinois (at Detroit)
PAC-12 UCLA at Oregon
SEC Georgia vs. LSU (at Atlanta)

Wisconsin secured the Big Ten Leaders division title with a resounding 45-7 home win over Penn State on Saturday. The Badgers will face Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game in Indianapolis.

Oregon claimed the PAC-12 North with a 49-21 home win over Oregon State on Saturday in the Civil War rivalry game. The Ducks will host UCLA in the inaugural PAC-12 Championship game. The Bruins claimed the South division when Colorado ended its 22-game road losing streak with an 17-14 upset at Utah on Friday. Arizona State also suffered a 47-38 home loss to Cal on Friday night for its 5th setback in the last 6 games. The Bruins then went out on Saturday night and laid a goose egg in a 50-0 shellacking at USC. The Trojans easily topped the division record-wise at 7-2 while UCLA finished 5-4, but USC is serving the final year of a two-year postseason ban.

Oregon will be gunning for a third straight conference title while UCLA hasn't been crowned champions since 1998.

Stanford handled Notre Dame 28-14 on Saturday to remain in the BCS title game conversation.

LSU beat Arkansas 41-17 on Friday to clinch the SEC West, outscoring the Hogs 41-3 after trailing 14-0. First-ever 12-0 season. The Tigers will face a red hot Georgia team that finished the regular season with a 31-17 victory at Georgia Tech for its 10th win in-a-row.

Alabama took an easy 42-14 win at Auburn on Saturday to stay in the BCS Championship picture. Even though the Tide didn't win its division and won't play for the conference title, they are still the odds-on favorite to get a second crack at LSU on the game's biggest stage. Such a matchup would assure the SEC of a 6th straight national title, the third of which will have been won by either the Tide or the Bayou Bengals.

Southern Miss clinched the CUSA East title with a 44-7 home win over Memphis on Saturday. Houston earned the right to host the CUSA Championship game when it finished 12-0 with a West division-clinching 48-16 win at Tulsa on Friday. It's the first-ever undefeated season for the Cougars who would almost certainly gain a BCS bowl at-large bid with a win over Southern Miss.

Houston last played in the championship game in 2009 when it lost at East Carolina. The Cougars won the title in 2006 when the championship game was last played in Houston, beating who else but Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have never played in a CUSA Championship matchup and last won the league title in 2003.

Northern Illinois beat Eastern Michigan on Friday 18-12 to clinch the MAC West. The Huskies will face Ohio in Detroit. The Bobcats have played in the MAC Championship game twice in the last five seasons, losing to Central Michigan in 2006 and 2009. Northern Illinois lost to Miami in last year's title game. The Huskies will be aiming for their first conference title since 1983 and Ohio will be looking to take the crown for the first time since 1968.

Other Conference Champions
Big East Louisville, Cincinnati and West Virginia are still alive for the conference's automatic BCS bowl bid.
Big 12 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State control their destiny and face-off in Stillwater next week. Kansas State can win share of title, but can not earn the automatic BCS bid for the conference due to losses to both the Sooners and Cowboys.
Independents Only BYU (Armed Forces Bowl) and Notre Dame are bowl eligible
MWC TCU clinched the conference's No. 1 bowl bid. Boise State can win share of title with a home win over New Mexico or a TCU loss at home to UNLV.
Sun Belt Arkansas State (GoDaddy.com) clinched Sun Belt's No. 1 bowl bid. Can win outright witrh home win over Troy.
WAC Louisiana Tech clinched outright title and accepted a bid to the Poinsettia Bowl.

Louisiana Tech clinched the WAC with Nevada's 21-17 loss at Utah State on Saturday, then beat New Mexico State 44-0 in Ruston for good measure. The Bulldogs, who last won the title in 2001, finished the regular season on a 7-game winning streak after losing 4 of their first 5 games.

Western Kentucky slammed Troy 41-18 in its final regular season game. The Hilltoppers can claim a share of the Sun Belt title if Arkansas State loses at home next week to Troy. Either way, it's been an amazing turnaround for WKU which snapped an 18-game home losing streak on October 22nd with a 42-23 upset of Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns. Western Kentucky finished the season 7-5 and 7-1 in the Sun Belt after going 2-22 in their first two seasons as a full-fledged Sun Belt member and just 2-19 vs. Sun Belt teams since 2008.

Arkansas State has never won an outright Sun Belt tile and last shared the title in 2005 with Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

The Big 12 and Big East are still up in the air.

In the Big 12, Oklahoma visits Stillwater next for its annual Bedlam rivalry game with Oklahoma State and the winner will clinch the conference's automatic BCS bid. Kansas State would gain a three-way share of the title with the Sooners and Cowboys if Oklahoma beats OSU, but the Wildcats can not gain the automatic BCS bid as they lost their regular season matchups with both teams.

The Big East is far more muddled. Cincinnati gets the automatic BCS bid if it beats UConn at home next week and West Virginia loses at USF. Louisville has finished its season at 7-5 and is guaranteed a share of the title, but nabbing the BCS bid requires the Bearcats to lose next week. West Virginia's only pathway requires a three-way tie to be created so that the BCS Standings become the tie-breaker since all three schools went 1-1 against each other. For that to occur, West Virginia must beat USF and root for a Cincinnati win and hope it gets a higher final BCS ranking than the other two teams. Considering that Cincinnati and West Virginia would both be 9-3 and the Mountaineers beat the Bearcats in the regular season, WVU would almost certainly get the bid.

The past week's results eliminated Rutgers and Pittsburgh as the Scarlet Knights fell 40-22 at UConn on Saturday and the Panthers lost 21-20 at West Virginia on Friday. Meanwhile, Louisville rallied for a 34-24 win at USF on Friday by outscoring the Bulls 31-7 after falling behind 17-3. On Saturday, Cincinnati won 30-13 at Syracuse.

In other games over the Thanksgiving holiday:

Kentucky beat Tennessee 10-7 on Saturday for its first win in the rivalry in the last 27 meetings, snapping a 26-game losing streak to the Vols with converted wide receiver Matt Roark at quarterback. Both teams finish 5-7 and are ineligible for the bowl season with Kentucky missing out for the first time since 2004 while Tennessee will stay home for the third time since 2005.

Michigan ended a school record 7-game losing streak in its rivalry series with Ohio State, downing the Buckeyes 40-34 in Ann Arbor on Saturday. At 10-2, the Wolverines have a solid shot at landing an at-large BCS bowl bid over the championship game loser which would then have 3 losses.

North Carolina State scored 42 unanswered points in the last 20:57 to rally from a 41-14 deficit at home to Maryland and pull out a ridiculous 56-41 victory on Saturday. The Wolfpack finish 7-5, the Terps 2-10.

Boston College scored a 24-17 upset at Miami (Fla.) on Friday as the 'Canes finished 6-6. Miami announced that it will not accept a bowl bid after it won last week's game at USF.

Florida State beat Florida 21-7 in Gainesville to make Jimbo Fisher 4-0 against the Seminoles' main state rivals, Miami and the Gators.

On Thursday, a 40-yard FG as time expired gave Texas a 27-25 win at Texas A&M in the Aggies' last regular season game as a member of the Big 12 (move to SEC next year).

Illinois suffered its 6th straight loss when it fell 27-7 at Minnesota to finish the season 6-6. The Fighting Illini are the first team in FBS history to begin a season with 6 straight wins and finish it with 6 straight losses.

FBS vs. FCS:
All of the FBS-FCS games have been played and FBS teams finished the season 91-6 (.938) to raise their record to 638-55 (.921) vs. the FCS since 2003.

Here are the results of the FBS losses to FCS schools this season:
9/24: North Dakota St. 37, Minnesota 24
9/24: Sam Houston State 48, New Mexico 45 (OT)
9/24: Southern Utah41, UNLV 16
9/17: Indiana State 44, Western Kentucky 16
9/3: Richmond 23, Duke 21
9/3: Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28

93 FBS teams played at least one FCS foe this year and four of those schools played two such games - Air Force, Eastern Michigan, N.C. State and Wyoming.

STREAKS:
LSU - 13 straight wins overall and 17 straight home wins. The Tigers won 41-17 vs. Arkansas on Friday.

Houston - 12 straight wins overall. The Cougars won 48-16 at Tulsa on Friday.

TCU - 23 straight conference wins. The Horned Frogs were idle this week and host UNLV on Dec. 3.

Virginia Tech - 13 straight road wins. The Hokies won 38-0 at Virginia on Saturday.

FAU - Ended its string of 13 straight losses with a 38-35 win at home over UAB on Saturday.

Colorado - Ended its string of 22 straight road losses with a 17-14 win at Utah on Friday.

New Mexico - 21 straight road losses. The Lobos are idle this week and visit Boise State on Dec. 3.

Mississippi - 14 straight conference losses. The Rebels lost 31-3 at Mississippi State on Saturday.

LATEST COACHING CHANGES:
WKMG-TV in Orlando reported this past Wednesday (November 23rd) that for former Florida, Utah and Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer has agreed to a $40 million, 7-year deal to coach Ohio State. Meyer was denying the report.

Rich Rodriguez was announced on Monday (November 21st) as the new head coach at Arizona. Rodriguez was extremely successful at West Virginia where he was 60-26 with four Big East titles in his last five years and at least ten victories in each of his final three years. But Rich-rod bombed at Michigan, leaving a legacy of some of that school's historically worst seasons. Under Rodriguez, the nation's all-time winningest program won only 15 of 37 games and was blown out 52-14 by Mississippi State in its only bowl appearance. Additionally, Michigan was put on three years probation related to NCAA violations under his watch.

Rodriguez replaces Mike Stoops, who was fired from Arizona on October 10th, and succeeds interim head coach Tim Kish (former defensive coordinator). The Wildcats were 3-3 under Kish.

Bob Davie was hired November 16th by New Mexico. Mike Locksley was fired from the Lobos on September 25th. Defensive coordinator George Barlow was named interim head coach for the remainder of the season. The Lobos, who are 1-6 under Barlow, did not play this week.

Joe Paterno was fired from Penn State on November 9th. Named defensive coordinator Tom Bradley interim head coach (1-2).

Houston Nutt was forced to resign on November 7th from Mississippi, effective at the end of the year. The Rebels finished the season on a 7-game losing streak overall and a 14-game losing streak in SEC games.

Tulane's Bob Toledo resigned on October 18th. Named offensive line coach Mark Hutson interim head coach. The Green Wave went 0-6 under Hutson.

NEW COACHES:
At the start of the season, 24 FBS teams had a new head coach. Last season saw 23 new head coaches, only 8 of whom matched or exceeded the W-L record of their predecessors' final season.

See how this year's crop of new coaches is performing, relative to their predecessor, by visiting 2011 Coaching Changes.

3 games this week matched new head coaches against each other - Luke Fickell and Ohio State lost to Brady Hoke and Michigan on the road on Saturday; Darrell Hazell and Kent State lost to Steve Addazio and Temple on the road on Friday; and Todd Graham's Pitt Panthers lost to Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia in Morgantown on Friday.

Here is how each of the new head coaches is faring this season:

Team Coach Game
Arkansas State Hugh Freeze (9-2) Idle
Ball State Pete Lembo (6-6) Lost 45-28 vs. Toledo (Friday)
Colorado Jon Embree (3-10) Won 17-14 at Utah (Friday)
Connecticut Paul Pasqualoni (5-6) Won 40-22 vs. Rutgers
Florida Will Muschamp (6-6) Lost 21-7 vs. Florida State
Indiana Kevin Wilson (1-11) Lost 33-25 vs. Purdue
Kent State Darrell Hazell (5-7) Lost 34-16 at Temple (Friday)
Louisiana-Lafayette Mark Hudspeth (8-4) Lost 45-37 at Arizona
Maryland Randy Edsall (2-10) Lost 56-41 at N.C. State
Miami (Fla.) Al Golden (6-6) Lost 24-17 vs. Boston College (Friday)
Miami (O.) Don Treadwell (4-8) Lost 21-14 at Ohio (Tuesday)
Michigan Brady Hoke (10-2) Won 40-34 vs. Ohio State
Minnesota Jerry Kill (3-9) Won 27-7 vs. Illinois
North Carolina Everett Withers (Interim) (7-5) Won 37-21 vs. Duke
North Texas Dan McCarney (4-7) Idle
Northern Illinois Dave Doeren (9-3) Won 18-12 vs. Eastern Michigan (Friday)
Ohio State Luke Fickell (Interim) (6-6) Lost 40-34 at Michigan
Pittsburgh Todd Graham (5-6) Lost 21-20 at West Virginia (Friday)
San Diego St. Rocky Long (7-4) Won 31-14 at UNLV
Stanford David Shaw (11-1) Won 28-14 vs. Notre Dame
Temple Steve Addazio (8-4) Won 34-16 vs. Kent State (Friday)
Tulsa Bill Blankenship (8-4) Lost 48-16 vs. Houston (Friday)
Vanderbilt James Franklin (6-6) Won 41-7 at Wake Forest
West Virginia Dana Holgorsen (8-3) Won 21-20 vs. Pittsburgh (Friday)


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