College Football Overtime (cont.)
With its 45-28 win over Kent State, Army (6-4) became bowl eligible for the first time since 1996 and set the stage for a historic occurrence. For the first time in history, all three service academies will play in a bowl game in the same season. If the Black Knights upset either Notre Dame or Navy, it will mark just the third time since 1963 that all three finish with a winning record. (Air Force and Navy both have seven wins.)
"It's an awesome feeling," said Army linebacker Stephen Anderson. "It means a lot to the seniors in our last go-around to (perhaps) play one more game. That's incredible."
Unlike Navy (which has accepted its bid to the Poinsettia Bowl) and Air Force (which will land in one of the Mountain West's bowls, most likely the Independence), Army does not have a predesignated bowl partner this year. But it shouldn't have trouble finding a spot. The Pac-10, among others, will not be able to fill all of its bowl slots, and the service academies are always a big draw for bowl organizers because of all the loyal active or former military personnel around the country.
In fact, it may work out that Army will land in, of all places, the Armed Forces Bowl. If TCU makes a BCS bowl, the Mountain West will likely be one team short, and if BYU finishes 6-6, the Fort Worth bowl could choose to let the New Mexico Bowl take the Cougars, freeing up a spot.
Army faces Notre Dame this weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Despite its 1-9 record and 16-game Pac-10 losing streak heading into Saturday, there were ample signs Washington State was finally becoming competitive. During a brutal three-game stretch in October, its defense held ranked foes Oregon, Arizona and Stanford below their season scoring and yardage averages. Finally on Saturday, in the last of 11 straight games without a bye, the Cougars made their breakthrough, stunning Oregon State 31-14 in Corvallis.
"When you're rebuilding a team and a program, it doesn't always come at once," Wazzu coach Paul Wulff said Sunday. "It's bits and pieces, bits and pieces, and all of a sudden it comes at once."
Wulff, a former Cougars offensive lineman, has endured one of the more brutal rebuilding jobs in recent memory. A program that notched three straight 10-win seasons and a Rose Bowl berth from 2001-03 had fallen into an abyss. Wulff took over a roster decimated by APR scholarship cuts and mass disciplinary and academic attrition ("We were an average I-AA team at that time," he said of the talent level he inherited) and went 3-22 his first two seasons. Last year's team was outscored 357-80 in Pac-10 play.
This year's team took its lumps too, most notably in a 65-17 season-opening defeat to Oklahoma State and a 42-0 loss to Arizona State two weeks ago. But behind talented sophomore quarterback Jeff Tuel -- one of eight freshman or sophomore starters on a generally young team with 25 first-year players -- WSU had become known for giving teams a tough first half, then fading. Not Saturday. The defense, led in part by true freshman safety Deone Bucannon, jumped to a 21-0 lead and held the Beavers to 261 total yards.
"We finally put all three [phases] together," said Wulff. "I think we've come a long, long ways, and we're still nowhere near where we're going to be. We want to be a seasoned, veteran football team."
Perhaps that will come next year, or more likely the year after. In the meantime, the Cougs get two weeks to enjoy the rare taste of victory before the season-ending Apple Cup against Washington on Dec. 4.
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games:
Ohio State at Iowa, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): Terrelle Pryor gets another chance to prove he can lead his team to a big road victory (the Wisconsin game didn't turn out so great). If he does, the Buckeyes will be in position to share their sixth straight Big Ten championship, but will need Wisconsin to lose to go to Pasadena.
Nebraska at Texas A&M, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): The Aggies have already knocked off one top 10 team at home (Oklahoma). What's stopping them from defeating another? Nothing ... except for the small matter of torrid QB Ryan Tannehill running into the Huskers' pass defense, ranked second in the country.
Virginia Tech at Miami, Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET): The ACC Coastal Division is kind of, sort of on the line (even if the 'Canes win, they'd need the Hokies to lose their finale against Virginia). The ramifications are probably greatest not for these teams, but for Boise State's computer ratings. Ah, the BCS.