College Football Overtime (cont.)
'The silly season'
That's how Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly describes the annual, early December rite of coaching turnover and ensuing speculation over replacements, much of which will center on him the minute Charlie Weis' ousting becomes official. There's nothing silly, however, about a coach trying to prepare his team for the biggest game of the season while simultaneously dealing with his potentially imminent departure.
Aggravating seems more fitting than silly. No one but the people involved truly know where and when a particular coaching search is headed, which means 90 percent of what gets reported is either misleading or downright false. This weekend alone, regarding Notre Dame's impending opening, CBS analysts "reported" both that Brian Billick was "part of the process" and that Bob Stoops would interview as soon as Sunday.
Jeez. Maybe Kelly isn't even on the Irish wish list.
As of now, Notre Dame, Louisville and Virginia are the lone BCS-conference schools looking for new coaches, though that could change at any moment. Kansas will soon need to reach a decision regarding Mark Mangino. Illinois AD Ron Guenther previously stated Ron Zook's job was safe, but the 3-8 Illini still have another game left, which means Guenther still has time to change his mind.
And then there's the potential mother of all coaching changes brewing in Tallahassee. After steadfastly maintaining all season he'd be back in 2010, Bobby Bowden took a much different tone Saturday following a humbling 37-10 defeat at Florida, saying, "I want to coach next year. But let me say I need to go home and do some soul searching.'' He changed his tone slightly, though still not firmly, on Sunday. "The only thing I can say is right now, sitting right here -- and I guess it could change in a day or two, it could -- but right now, I would like to come back. Still, I've got bosses. I've got people that would have to approve it."
Those bosses will reportedly meet with Bowden and anointed successor Jimbo Fisher in the coming days. It's starting to sound more and more like Bowden's 2010 fate won't be his to decide. Though his possible exit would not hold a ripple effect for other schools, the end of a living legend's career would surely trump all other coaching-related stories.
Current BCS forecast
Each week, I'll update my projected BCS lineup (as necessary) based on the latest week's games.
Title game: Alabama vs. Texas
Why Alabama? I couldn't tell you. The SEC game is a complete toss-up as far as I'm concerned. I've had the Tide penciled in since October, so I'll stick by them for one last week.
The rest of the picture cleared up considerably with Oklahoma State's loss to Oklahoma. Boise State is virtually assured a bid at this point. Assuming Texas beats Nebraska, the Fiesta Bowl is now free to select Iowa, which it's been coveting for years. There are two scenarios that could change this projection: 1) If Clemson beats Georgia Tech, the Orange will need to avoid a TCU rematch. It would likely take the Big East champ instead. There's also a slight possibility the Fiesta could opt to pit undefeated TCU against undefeated Cincinnati if it feels it can sell enough tickets. In that event, the Orange may tap Penn State over Iowa.
Spreading the field
The old "throw out the records" cliché played out with abandon this Rivalry Weekend, as a whopping six unranked teams knocked off their ranked rivals -- Georgia over No. 7 Georgia Tech, West Virginia over No. 8 Pittsburgh, Oklahoma over No. 11 Oklahoma State, South Carolina over No. 15 Clemson, Mississippi State over No. 20 Ole Miss and N.C. State over No. 23 UNC.
All the more reason Texas and Alabama deserve credit for surviving theirs.
BYU and Utah staged another classic Holy War, with Cougars star Max Hall hitting Andrew George for a game-winning 25-yard touchdown in overtime. Afterward, Hall unloaded: "'I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. ... I think the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless." Hall claimed Utes fans threw beer on his family at last year's game.
Missouri and Kansas are making an annual tradition of wild Thanksgiving weekend shootouts. A year after the Jayhawks won 40-37 on a last-second Todd Reesing touchdown pass, the Tigers exacted revenge by sacking Reesing for a safety, then driving for a last-second field goal to win 41-39. Missouri's Danario Alexander and Kansas' Dez Briscoe both eclipsed 200 receiving yards.
Arizona State receiver Kyle Williams won't soon forget his last Territorial Cup -- unfortunately, for the wrong reason. After notching nine catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns -- including a terrific diving grab in the end zone to tie the game at 17-17 with 2:02 left -- Williams muffed a fair catch at his own 22 with just over a minute left to set up Arizona's (7-4) last-second game-winning field goal.
Oft-criticized West Virginia coach Bill Stewart finally delivered a much-needed signature win with a 19-16 Backyard Brawl upset of No. 8 Pittsburgh. His defense stifled previously efficient Panthers quarterback Bill Stull (179 yards, two INTs). If the Mountaineers can beat Rutgers (8-3), they'll finish 9-3 -- a game better than last season -- and likely beat out the Cincinnati-Pitt loser for a Gator Bowl berth.
Boise State jumped up 27-3 on Nevada last Friday, then went nearly 35 minutes with just one touchdown. It's no coincidence the drought began after the Broncos' star receiver, Austin Pettis, went out with an ankle injury. Kellen Moore struggled to find open targets much of the night but still finished 17-of-33 for 262 yards and five touchdowns, raising his TD-to-INT ratio on the season to 38-to-3.
In his first start since Oct. 15, Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike shredded Illinois (3-8) for 399 yards and a school-record six touchdowns. In the Bearcats' previous game against West Virginia, Pike came in and threw two touchdowns on four pass attempts, and he threw two scores before his injury against USF. Over those three games, he's thrown one of every 4.6 completions for scores.
A week after Les Miles' woeful clock management doomed LSU against Ole Miss, the Tigers produced a largely methodic last-minute drive against Arkansas to set up a 41-yard Josh Jasper field goal to send the game to overtime. (LSU prevailed 33-30.) "I've got thick skin,'' said Miles. ''I know what I did and how I did it, and more importantly, I understand how the corrections were made."
Miami's 31-10 rout of USF coupled with losses by Clemson (8-4) and North Carolina (8-4) greatly improved the 'Canes' chances of playing on New Year's Day. If Georgia Tech wins the ACC title game, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will likely take 9-3 Virginia Tech and the Gator will take Miami (9-3).
SEC bowls are going to have a heck of a time sorting through potential selections after six teams finished with 7-5 records. LSU (9-3) figures to land the Capital One Bowl, but after that it's anyone's guess. Ole Miss finished 8-4 but lost a lot of luster with it Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Meanwhile, a team like South Carolina (7-5) could land anywhere from Atlanta to Shreveport.
Even in defeat, Texas A&M gave its fans long-awaited cause for optimism with its performance against Texas, highlighted by quarterback Jerrod Johnson's 439-yard, four-touchdown performance. With 11 freshman or sophomore starters, The Aggies (6-6) took their lumps this season (a 62-14 loss to Kansas State, a 65-10 beating by Oklahoma), but it appears they have in fact made progress.
It's been six years since then-Nebraska AD Steve Pederson fired coach Frank Solich because he refused to let the program "gravitate into mediocrity." It will be interesting to see which happens first: the Huskers' first Big 12 title in a decade (they get their chance Saturday against Texas) or Solich's first MAC championship with Ohio (the Bobcats meet Central Michigan the day before).
Tennessee (7-5) continued its quarter-century hex over Kentucky thanks to Montario Hardesty's 20-yard touchdown scamper in overtime to win 30-24. It marked the Vols' 25th straight win over their divisional foe. Leave it to Lane Kiffin to rub it in thusly: "It's still Tennessee and it's still Kentucky," he said on his postgame radio show.
It took a 17-16 win over Colorado State (3-9, 0-8 MWC) just to become eligible, but first-year coach Dave Christensen will take Wyoming (6-6, 4-4) to its first bowl game in five years -- most likely the New Mexico Bowl against Fresno State.
Meanwhile, in the bizarre college football world that includes a playoff (Division I-AA), top seed Montana staged a Herculean comeback against South Dakota State in Saturday's first round, rallying from a 41-14 deficit to win 61-48.
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