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Championship Weekend Was Wild!

by Dave Congrove
December 6, 2009

It seemed like every game was being decided on the final drive, in the final minute, or on the final kick. Of the week's 17 games, 10 were decided by a touchdown or less. You would think it was do-or-die weekend, and it was.

Barring surprising human votes and odd computer calculations, Alabama and Texas are headed to the BCS title game at Pasadena on January 7. The Tide made an emphatic statement by punching its ticket with a 32-13 romp over Florida. The Longhorns needed a last-play, 46-yard field goal to barely squeeze through the door with a 13-12 win over Nebraska.

The 'Huskers had just taken a 12-10 lead on a 42-yard field goal with 1:44 to play. But, aided by a personal foul, Texas quickly drove into field goal range and then nearly let time literally slip through its hands as QB Colt McCoy scrambled around before ditching a pass out-of-bounds as the clocked ticked down to :00. Officials reviewed the play and determined that :01 should be put back on the clock, and that proved to be all the time needed for Cinderella's carriage to turn into a pumpkin.

Earlier, Alabama racked up nearly 500 total yards of offense against the nation's top defense and outscored Florida 13-0 in the second half. The Gators had two opportunities to creep back into the game in the 4th quarter. However, the first drive ended on an interception in the end zone after reaching the 6-yard line, and the second ended on downs at the 'Bama 13.

Alabama has a shot at its first national title since 1992 when Gene Stallings was the head coach. Texas' last appearance in the BCS title game was, ironically,in Pasadena in 2005 when Vince Young's late touchdown run propelled the Longhorns past USC in one of the best title games ever played.

Florida is left with the runners-up prize, a not-too-shabby trip to the Sugar Bowl. But the Gators won't get to defend their national championship, or take a shot at their third BCS title in four years.

Still, Alabama will be there to represent the SEC which has won three BCS championships in-a-row and five of the eleven title games played under the system.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was the head coach at LSU when it won the BCS title at the end of the 2003 season with a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

Overall, Saturday nearly produced an overdose of wild finishes.

Cincinnati rallied from deficits of 31-10 in the 2nd quarter, and 38-24 entering the 4th, to win 45-44 at Pittsburgh. After tying the game at 38-all, the Panthers went up 44-38 on a 5-yard run with 1:36 left in the game. But the extra point failed and the Bearcats were able to win with the extra point following a 29-yard touchdown pass with 33 ticks left. Mardy Gilyard's 29-yard kickoff return let Cincinnati begin the game-winning drive at its own 39-yard line and Tony Pike needed only 3 plays from there to get the winning score.

With the victory, Cincinnati completed an undefeated season (12-0) and earned its second consecutive outright Big East title and BCS bowl berth.

Georgia Tech laid claim to the ACC title with a 39-34 win over Clemson in Tampa. Georgia Tech's last and only previous outright ACC title came in 1990. It captured a share of the crown with Florida State in 1998. It lost a bid to win the 2006 title when it fell 9-6 to Wake Forest in the conference title game.

Jonathan Dwyer scored the game-winning points on a 15-yard touchdown run with 1:20 left in the back-and-forth battle. Andre Ellington had given Clemson its only lead of the night at 34-33 with a 1-yard TD run on the previous possession.

The Yellow Jackets overcame a 233-yard, 4-TD rushing performance from Clemson RB C.J. Spiller.

The victory brings an automatic bid to the Orange Bowl for Georgia Tech, its first appearance in a major bowl since the 1966 Orange Bowl.

East Carolina successfully defended its CUSA championship with a 38-32 win at home over Houston, despite 527 yards passing and 5 TD's from Case Keenum. James Cleveland caught 19 of Keenum's 56 completions for 241 yards and 3 scores. However, Keenum also was guilty of throwing three picks. The last occurred on the final drive of the game when Keenum was intercepted in the end zone with 1:47 left to play.

Juron Criner scored the game-winning touchdown on a 36-yard pass with 3:14 to play as Arizona upset USC 21-17 to upgrade to a likely Holiday Bowl bid. It was the first win for the Wildcats over the Trojans since 2000, ending a string of seven losses.

One bright spot for the USC faithful was the return of RB Stafon Johnson who was the last to be introduced on Senior's Day. Johnson's season was ended, and nearly was life, when a weightlifting bar slipped and landed on his throat in September.

All of the day's fantastic finishes have a difficult task topping Fresno State's miraculous 53-52 win at Illinois. After a 19-yard pass with 2 seconds left brought the Bulldogs to within a point of tying the Illini, Fresno State coach Pat Hill opted to go for two and win the game. A pass deflected off the intended receiver and was picked out of the air by offensive lineman Devan Cunningham who just managed to force his away across the goal line. Both the touchdown catch and the 2-point conversion were confirmed after lengthy reviews.

In other action, West Virginia won 24-21 at Rutgers to give the Mountaineers their 15th straight victory over the Scarlet Knights.

A 42-yard field goal as time expired gave Connecticut a 29-27 win at home over USF. The kick capped a 6-play, 31-yard drive that followed the Bulls' go-ahead score on B.J. Daniels' 8-yard run with 40 seconds left to play. But a failed 2-point conversion left the door open for the Huskies to win on a field goal. The Huskies closed the season on a 3-game winning streak to go 7-5, a record that includes three straight losses by 4 points or less in the games that immediately followed the death of CB Jasper Howard. Howard was stabbed in an on-campus incident that occurred just hours after a homecoming victory over Louisville. USF dropped to 7-5 with the fifth loss in its last seven games.

Washington QB Jake Locker may not return for his senior season. If not, he went out with a bang as threw 3 TD passes and ran for 2 more scores in a 42-10 embarrassment of No. 19 California. The Huskies were the subject of a 48-7 thrashing by the Golden Bears in last year's season finale that closed an 0-12 campaign. The team improved to 5-7 this year, including wins over USC and Arizona.

Boise State capped an undefeated season at 13-0 with a 42-7 romp over lowly New Mexico State. A 12-0 record wasn't good enough to get a BCS bowl invitation last year, but the Broncos are widely expected to land one of those lucrative slots this season.

New Mexico State has lost 10 straight to Boise State, and the last three by a cumulative score of 149-7.

EARLIER IN THE WEEK:
QB Dan LeFevour threw 2 TD passes to lead Central Michigan over Ohio 20-10 in the MAC Championship game on Friday night. LeFevour became college football's alltime career touchdown leader with 148, surpassing Texas Tech's Graham Harrell in 2008 and Hawaii's Colt Brennan in 2007. The Chippewas have won 3 of the last 4 MAC crowns. The Bobcats were looking for their first conference title since 1968.

Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli threw for 201 yards and 2 scores, and LaMichael James ran for 166 yards and 3 TD's, as Oregon beat rival Oregon State 37-33 on Thursday night to clinch their first Rose Bowl bid since the 1994 season. The Beavers were hoping to clinch their first berth in the Rose Bowl since the 1964 season. LeGarrette Blount saw his first action at running back since the season opener and ran for 51 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. Blount was suspended indefinitely after sucker-punching a Boise State player in the face following the Ducks' 19-8 loss to the Broncos.

LAST-MINUTE BOWL ELIGIBILITY?:
It wasn't to be for Hawaii this week. The Warriors needed a home win over Wisconsin on Saturday but were buried 51-10. A win by Hawaii would have possibly set up a showdown with former head coach June Jones and SMU in the Hawaii Bowl.

Army can still make it to the EagleBank Bowl if it beats Navy on December 12.

UNBEATEN TEAMS:
Florida was the only team to get knocked from this list when it lost 32-13 to Alabama in the SEC Championship. That leaves these 5 teams with unblemished records headed into the bowl season - Alabama (13-0), Boise State (13-0), Cincinnati (12-0), Texas (13-0) and TCU (12-0).

WINLESS TEAMS:
Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky each finished the year at 0-12. The computer's preseason forecast projected Miami (Ohio) as the only winless team, but the RedHawks went 1-11. Eastern Michigan was projected to 2-10 and Western Kentucky was forecasted to go 1-11.

FBS vs. FCS:
FBS teams went 89-5 vs. FCS teams this year (.947), and are now 464-42 (.917) since 2003.

Here are the results of every FBS loss to the FCS this season:
9/19: Central Arkansas 28, Western Kentucky 7
9/12:
New Hampshire 23, Ball State 16. New Hampshire also has wins at Army in 2008 (28-10), Marshall in 2007 (48-35), and Northwestern in 2006 (34-17)
9/5: Richmond 24, Duke 16; William & Mary 26, Virginia 14
9/3: Villanova 27, Temple 24

This year, 87 FBS teams played a total of 94 games against FCS foes. Duke, Kansas State, Mississippi, North Carolina, N.C. State, Rutgers and USF each played two FCS teams.

STREAKS:
Florida's string of 22 straight victories was halted. The Gators lost 32-13 vs. Alabama in the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

Texas has 17 straight victories. The Longhorns won 13-12 vs. Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship in Arlington, Texas.

TCU has 14 straight victories. Regular season complete.

Alabama has 13 straight wins overall and 24 straight regular season wins. The Tide won 32-13 vs. Florida in the SEC Championship in Atlanta.

Boise State has streaks of 13 straight wins overall, 25 consecutive regular season wins, 26 consecutive home wins, 56 consecutive regular season home wins, and 42 straight conference home victories. BSU has never lost at home to a fellow WAC member (36-0). The Broncos' last home loss to a conference foe occurred in 1998 when they were a member of the Big West and fell to Idaho in the final regular season game. The Broncos are 4-1 in their last five matches against BCS conference schools. The Broncos won 42-7 vs. New Mexico State.

Cincinnati has 12 straight wins overall and 18 straight regular season wins. The Bearcats won 45-44 at Pittsburgh.

Oklahoma has 29 straight home victories. Regular season complete.

Utah has 17 straight home wins. Regular season complete.

Western Kentucky has lost 20 straight overall and 25 straight to FBS teams. The Hilltoppers lost 24-20 vs. Arkansas State.

Eastern Michigan has lost 12 straight overall. Season complete.

Washington State has lost 9 straight. Season complete.

Colorado State has lost 9 straight. Season complete.

NEW COACHES:
22 teams had a new college football coach in the FBS ranks this season. Only Eastern Michigan went winless. 17 teams saw a first-year improvement under their new regime.

TEAM W-L COACH THIS WEEK
Army 5-6 Rich Ellerson 12/12, vs. Navy (at Philadelphia)
Auburn 7-5 Gene Chizik Regular season complete
Ball State 2-10 Stan Parrish Season complete
Boston College 8-4 Frank Spaziani Regular season complete
Bowling Green 7-5 Dave Clawson Regular season complete
*-Clemson 8-5 Dabo Swinney Lost 39-34 vs. Georgia Tech at Tampa
Eastern Michigan 0-12 Ron English Season complete
Iowa State 6-6 Paul Rhoads Regular season complete
Kansas State 6-6 Bill Snyder Season complete
Miami (O.) 1-11 Michael Haywood Season complete
Mississippi State 5-7 Dan Mullen Season complete
New Mexico 1-11 Mike Locksley Season complete
New Mexico State 3-10 DeWayne Walker Lost 42-7 at Boise State
Oregon 10-2 Chip Kelly Won 37-33 vs. Oregon State
Purdue 5-7 Danny Hope Season complete
San Diego State 4-8 Brady Hoke Season complete
Syracuse 4-8 Doug Marrone Season complete
Tennessee 7-5 Lane Kiffin Regular season complete
Toledo 5-7 Tim Beckman Season complete
Utah State 4-8 Gary Andersen Season complete
Washington 5-7 Steve Sarkisian Won 42-10 vs. California
Wyoming 6-6 Dave Christensen Regular season complete
*-Dabo Swinney took over halfway through last season when Tommy Bowden stepped down after a 3-3 start. Swinney was 4-3 over the last 7 games of the season.


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