Posted: Monday November 27, 2006 12:35AM; Updated: Monday November 27, 2006 7:00PM
The Luck Of The Irish
Two losses against BCS-bound opponents by 26 (Michigan) and 20 points (USC), yet Notre Dame is a lock to earn a spot in one of the game's most lucrative bowls. Yeah, that seems right, doesn't it? Of the top 12 teams in the latest BCS rankings, it's the Irish who are the least deserving of a bid (Say what you want about Boise State, but the Broncos beat everyone on their schedule, including Oregon State). Look at the way Notre Dame performed in the losses to the Wolverines and Trojans and tell me it's still one of the best teams in the country. Its only quality wins came against Georgia Tech and Penn State, while the Irish had to comeback and beat subpar Michigan State and UCLA (who was without its starting QB). But come Jan. 3 the Irish (who are 10th in the latest BCS standings) will likely be in the Sugar Bowl against the SEC champ while teams like Wisconsin (7th) and Auburn (11th) will be shut out of the showcase bowl games. It's as much an indictment of a system that won't allow three teams from the same conference to get BCS berths, a system that ought to be retooled to give the best 12 teams a shot, period, not the best teams that meet certain qualifiers. This year it means that the Badgers and Tigers are automatically left out while Ohio State and Michigan take the Big Ten bids, while the SEC champion (Arkansas or Florida) and likely LSU take the SEC's invitations. It also means the Irish will be able to reap the benefits of being one of the best teams in the country because of a 10-2 mark and a system that allows them to play in a top-teir bowl game, even if with two blowout losses against the two toughest teams they've faced have proven that they just don't belong.
Sooners' Surprise Party
Oklahoma is in the Big 12 title game. Seriously, take that in for a moment: sans Adrian Peterson and Rhett Bomar, OU is in the Big 12 title game. In a year marked by surprises like Rutgers, Wake Forest and Wisconsin, it's hard to call a team many had as a preseason Top 5 an underdog. But remember what Oklahoma bounced back from? There was Bomar's dismissal, a blown replay at Oregon, a loss to Texas and Peterson's injury. But with a little help from Texas, the Sooners wind up right where everyone thought they'd be before the setbacks: in Kansas City playing for the Big 12 championship. "Nobody thought we'd be right here where we are right now," receiver Malcom Kelly told Tulsa World. The Sooners have done it with running game that's surprisingly productive minus A.D., averaging more than 200 yards a game, and a Rufus Alexander-led defense that since that loss to the Ducks in which they allowed 501 yards, have given up 232 yards a game -- better than any of the nation's top 10 defenses in that same stretch. Wake Forest, Rutgers and the likes have been great stories, but don't sleep on an OU team that's been equally surprising.
The Firing Squad
John Bunting (UNC), Larry Coker (Miami), Chuck Amato (NC State), Dirk Koetter (Arizona State) and Mike Shula (Alabama). While other coaching casualties may yet join them in the unemployment line, the big question is, which of these coaches would you give a second chance? Bunting is all about discipline, Coker has a national title on his resume, Amato, aside from enthusiasm, is well ... he's a snazzy dresser and Shula at least brought stability and promise during a tough time for 'Bama. Koetter, who fell victim to the Rudy Carpenter-Sam Keller quarterback fiasco that ended with Keller at Nebraska, as well as a free fall after sky-high preseason expectations. But don't forget, he is the brains behind a high-octane offense and the same coach who established the winning foundation at Boise State. He went 2-19 against ranked teams while at ASU, but the near 31 ppg the Sun Devils averaged in his six-year tenure make Koetter, 48, the most likely to land another job.
The Wild, Wild (Big) East?
So when did the Big East become the SEC? Everyone talks about how difficult it is to get through the SEC unbeaten, but the Big East has not only ruined the chances of all three of its would-be contenders for the BCS title game, but also cost itself a chance at earning two BCS bids as West Virginia was stunned by South Florida. Now we're down to Louisville or Rutgers earning the automatic spot, which all rides on Rutgers-WVU (a Mountaineers' win sends Louisville to the BCS, a Scarlet Knights' victory gives Rutgers the bid). The Big East has supplied some great drama with L'ville-WVU and L'ville-Rutgers, but South Florida and Cincinnati (which beat the Knights) killed what was an opportunity for a conference that has taken its share of hits to make a serious power play by having two teams earn BCS invites.
Ups & Downs
Book a trip to Glendale, Pete Carroll. Dwayne Jarrett put on a show as the Trojans overwhelmed Notre Dame to move a step closer to the BCS title game. That loss to Oregon State was simply a wakeup call.
Jordan Palmer and the Miners were denied a shot at making three straight bowl appearances for the first time in school history. UTEP lost five of its last six, including a loss to one-win Memphis in the finale.
Boise State Broncos
They'll have to wait until bids go out on Dec. 3, but with officials from the Fiesta and Orange bowl watching, the Broncos likely wrapped up a BCS at-large bid by dominating Nevada 38-7 to finish a 12-0 regular season.
Maybe that whole "best team in the SEC" thing was a little premature. Darren McFadden had another monster day, but LSU won its sixth straight in beating Arkansas and ending its national-title game dreams.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies' D has emerged as one of the nation's most dominant. They pitched their third straight shutout in beating Virginia 17-0 to run their win streak to six. In that run, VT has outscored its opponents 144-29.
From the national title to the Alamo Bowl? It's a possibility for Texas, which lost its third game in falling to Texas A&M for the first time since '99. What happened to UT' run D, which allowed 244 yards in the loss?
They Said It
"If that's what's making the decisions - style points, which I imagine that's what it is -- we've got a problem."
--Florida coach Urban Meyer on the Gators' shot at advancing to the national title game following a 21-14 win over Florida State. Florida is currently fourth in the BCS standings.
"He was kicking and shoving people. He's 0-4 against Georgia, so you can't really blame him. I might be kicking and shoving guys too if that was my record against them."
--Georgia defensive tackle Ray Gant on Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball, who was picked off with a minute remaining to endure his fourth loss to the in-state rival, 15-12.
"Goodbye. It has been swell. I'm gone ... Unless anybody has a big-money deal for a book."
--Fired North Carolina coach John Bunting who ended his career with a 45-44 win over Duke. He leaves Chapel Hill with a 27-45 record in six years, including a 3-9 mark in 'o6.
Big Men On Campus
Chase DanielQB - Missouri
Daniel threw for a career-best 356 yards and four touchdowns as the Tigers hammered Kansas 42-17, ending a three-game skid against the Jayhawks. He hit Jared Perry for a 74-yard TD pass, marking Mizzou's longest play since '89.
John BeckQB - BYU
Beck scrambled to find Jonny Harline for the game-winning 11-yard TD as time expired as the Cougars beat Utah for the first time in five years, 33-31. Beck threw for 375 yards and four TDs -- three to Harline -- on 28-43 passing.
Danny WoodheadRB - Chadron State
With 252 yards against West Texas A&M, the Division II back broke the NCAA single season rushing record. He has 2,740 yards this season, smashing the previous record set by Kavin Gailliard of American International in 1999.
With three touchdown passes in a 42-35 win over Purdue, Hawaii QB Colt Brennan is three scoring strikes from tying David Klingler's NCAA single-season record of 54 set in 1990.
Number of times Miami has beaten Boston College after a 17-14 win. The last time BC beat Miami was 22 years ago, when Doug Flutie's miracle pass gave the Eagles the win.
Number of yards Pitt has allowed in its last two games. The Panthers gave up 499 yards in a 48-24 loss to Louisville, one week after yielding 641 yards in falling to West Virginia.
Top 25 Photo Gallery: Week 13
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Rutgers at West VirginiaDECEMBER 2
West Virginia is relegated to the spoiler role as Rutgers tries to make a BCS game. The Scarlet Knights are strong against the run, but so is Cincinnati, who the 'Eers hammered after their last loss.
West Virginia 30, Rutgers 24
Arkansas vs. Florida -- SEC Championship GameDECEMBER 2
The Gators are struggling, while Arkansas' pass game cost it against LSU. The game hinges on Darren McFadden and whether Florida's fifth-ranked rush D can slow him down. Probably not.
Arkansas 24, Florida 14
Wake Forest vs. Georgia Tech -- ACC Championship GameDECEMBER 2
The ACC's most efficient passer (Riley Skinner) has carried the Deacons into the most unlikely of title game matchups. Can the ACC's Mr. Efficiency help Wake to its first title in 36 years? Yep.
Wake Forest 20, Georgia Tech 17
Nebraska vs. Oklahoma -- Big 12 Championship GameDECEMBER 2
Whether Adrian Peterson plays or not, OU will rely on a swarming D that's led it to eight wins in nine outings, a unit that should bottle up Nebraska's run game and make Zac Taylor win with his arm.
Oklahoma 23, Nebraska 14