College Football Overtime (cont.)
Tragedy continues to strike the college sports world. On Sunday, Arkansas redshirt freshman tight end Garrett Uekman was found dead in his dorm room. He was 19. Condolences poured in from current and former teammates. Meanwhile, at Saturday's Harvard-Yale game, 30-year-old Nancy Barry of Salem, Mass., was killed at a tailgate when the driver of a U-Haul carrying beer kegs accelerated after turning into the area.
Beginning with the Jerry Sandusky revelations two weeks ago, I can't remember a darker time for the sport.
Back when we were still appalled by a booster hiring prostitutes at Miami, we speculated what the school's eventual NCAA punishment would be. Miami provided the first answer Sunday, announcing a self-imposed bowl ban this season. How convenient. The 'Canes are 6-5 following an ugly 6-3 win over USF on Saturday, and in a best-case scenario were likely headed to the Music City, Independence or Military bowls. Think we'd be getting this same announcement at 8-3? I doubt it.
Arkansas heads into its Friday showdown with LSU on the heels of three straight impressive blowouts of South Carolina (44-28), Tennessee (49-7) and Mississippi State (44-17). "I really like the way we've played the last three games," said Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino. However, to face LSU the Hogs must hit the road, where in SEC play they've been routed by Alabama and struggled to put away Ole Miss (29-24) and Vanderbilt (31-28).
What more does Montee Ball have to do to garner some Heisman love? In Saturday's 28-17 win at Illinois, the Wisconsin tailback ran 38 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns and had a touchdown reception against the Illini's ninth-ranked defense. Ball now has 30 rushing/receiving touchdowns, becoming just the fifth player in FBS history to hit that mark. If the Badgers reach the Big Ten championship game, he could rack up the most since Barry Sanders' 39 in 1988.
Congrats to Georgia (9-2) for locking up the SEC East with a 19-10 win over Kentucky, thus officially ending the Mark Richt Hot Seat Watch. The Dawgs will visit Atlanta each of the next two weeks, first for their rivalry game against Georgia Tech (8-3), then for the SEC title game. If Georgia manages to upset whichever foe emerges from the three-team jumble atop the West, it will earn an automatic berth to the Sugar Bowl. If two out of LSU/Alabama/Arkansas still finish 1-2, the league would get a third BCS berth.
Congrats to Michigan State, which locked up its spot in Indianapolis (where it will face Saturday's Penn State-Wisconsin winner) with a 55-3 rout of Indiana. The Spartans (9-2) close the regular season Saturday at Northwestern. Regardless of the result, they will reach their first Rose Bowl in 24 years with a win in the conference title game. Lose in Indy, however, and they may suffer the indignity of watching hated Michigan (whom they beat) go to the BCS instead.
Michigan State and Georgia should be leery of the letdown Clemson suffered after clinching the ACC Atlantic. N.C. State (6-5), fresh off a 14-10 loss to Boston College, annihilated the sixth-ranked Tigers, 37-13. Clemson (9-2) was playing without star receiver Sammy Watkins, but that doesn't explain its defense allowing Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon to go 19-of-29 for 253 yards and three touchdowns. "I really have no explanation for what just happened," joked N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien.
Mike London's magic continues. Virginia (8-3) went to Tallahassee and snapped Florida State's (7-4) five-game winning streak, 14-13, following a wild ending. Twice Virginia appeared to have ended FSU's last-minute drive, but a fourth-down facemask penalty and a replay overturn that prevented the clock from running out allowed Dustin Hopkins to attempt a game-winning 42-yard-field goal. He missed. Now, the Cavs can reach the ACC title game if they upset Virginia Tech on Saturday.
Kansas State (9-2) managed to beat Texas, 17-13, despite gaining just 121 yards of offense Saturday. Said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder: "They just beat the tar out of us." Not on the scoreboard. But Mack Brown made a critical decision in the third quarter, pulling quarterback David Ash following his second interception in favor of Case McCoy. Behind McCoy, the 'Horns rallied from a 17-3 deficit and had the ball with a chance to win at the end. Brown may want to make that switch permanent.
Arizona State's full-on implosion continues. Once a lock to reach the Pac-12 title game, the Sun Devils (6-5, 4-4) have dropped three straight to UCLA, Washington State and, most gallingly, to 3-8 Arizona. It's now hard to imagine Dennis Erickson coming back for another year. And yet, the Sun Devils can still represent the South if they beat Cal (6-5) this week, USC beats the Bruins and Utah (7-4, 4-4) handles Colorado (2-10). ASU would win the three-way tie.
Meanwhile, Utah has shaken off an 0-4 start in conference play to put itself on the brink of reaching the league championship game in its first Pac-12 season. It can't win a tiebreaker with Arizona State, which it lost to 35-14 on Oct. 8, but it can advance if the Sun Devils and UCLA lose. The Utes beat the Bruins 31-6 two weeks ago. On Saturday Kyle Whittingham's team went to Pullman and pulled off a 30-27 overtime win against Wazzu behind 186 rushing yards from John White.
Good luck deciphering the Big East race. Rutgers' 17-3 win over Cincinnati left five of the league's eight teams tied for first in the loss column at either 4-2 or 3-2. Friday's Backyard Brawl between West Virginia (7-3, 3-2) and Pittsburgh (5-5, 3-2) could be an important swing game, as no other head-to-head matchups remain between the contenders. The Mountaineers have wins over the Scarlet Knights (8-3, 4-2) and Bearcats (7-3, 3-2) but lost to Louisville (6-5, 4-2).
Tennessee's 27-21 overtime win over Vanderbilt was decided on a play involving two officiating errors, though the end result was correct. On Eric Gordon's game-winning 90-yard interception return, an official mistakenly ruled Gordon had gone down at the 10-yard-line. Replay officials overturned it. However, because the ref had whistled the play dead, it never should have been reviewed. The Vols (5-6) can now go bowling if they beat Kentucky (4-7), as they do annually.
RIP, Larry Munson. The legendary voice of the Georgia Bulldogs died Sunday at age 89. He immortalized big Georgia wins with memorable calls like this one.
With a 24-20 upset at Nevada in which it rallied from a 20-3 deficit, Louisiana Tech (7-4, 5-1 WAC) moved into first place in the WAC, which it hasn't won since 2001.
Case Keenum broke the NCAA career completions record (1,427), but the star of Houston's 37-7 win over SMU was linebacker Sammy Brown, who had 10 tackles, three sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.
Remember last week when I said Southern Miss could reach the BCS if it won out? Whoops. The Eagles (9-2) fell last Thursday to 3-8 UAB.
Gary Pinkel sat out Missouri's 31-27 win over Texas Tech as punishment for his DWI arrest this week. That's a stiffer approach than that of Western Kentucky.
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