More Overtime (cont.)
Some 11th-hour maneuvering by the Big Ten and SEC to protect their conference championship game losers turned the normally appealing Capital One Bowl into a consolation match between Georgia and Nebraska. However, the Cotton (Oklahoma-Texas A&M) and Chick-fil-A (Clemson-LSU) bowls could be two of the most entertaining games this postseason, while Michigan's Denard Robinson will try to get the best of an elite defense one final time. The Wolverines will play Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Though Oklahoma missed the BCS, the Sooners (10-2) claimed a share of the Big 12 title with Saturday's 24-17 win at TCU (7-5). The victory gave 14th-year coach Bob Stoops' his eighth conference crown; Stoops has never gone two straight seasons without one. For the third consecutive week, Oklahoma's win came down to the final seconds, with the Sooners breaking up a fourth-down pass in the end zone. "We like to make them interesting around this place," said quarterback Landry Jones.
In his last game as Florida State's defensive coordinator before taking over at Kentucky, Mark Stoops watched his defense hold Georgia Tech's triple-option offense to 183 rushing yards in Saturday's 21-16 ACC championship game victory. The 'Noles' season was a disappointment to many, but they finished 11-2 and earned their first ACC title and BCS berth since 2005. Meanwhile, the next defensive coordinator charged with slowing the Jackets (6-7): USC lame duck Monte Kiffin, in the Sun Bowl.
Teddy Bridgewater's gutsy performance last Thursday against Rutgers -- he played with a broken wrist and could barely plant to throw because of a sore ankle -- will go down as the defining image of Louisville's (10-2) BCS run. The Cardinals will face Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Rutgers (9-3), meanwhile, just can't get over the hump. Two Gary Nova interceptions in the final 4:39 doomed the Scarlet Knights to the Russell Athletic Bowl, where they'll play Virginia Tech. But hey, there's always the Big Ten.
Cincinnati (9-3) earned a share of its fourth Big East title in five years with a 34-17 win over Connecticut (5-7), and now, much like the last coach to win back-to-back crowns for the Bearcats (Brian Kelly), it appears as if Butch Jones may be heading out of town. The third-year coach was seen interviewing at Purdue on Sunday and will interview at Colorado on Monday, according to the Denver Post. These apparently are not the most clandestine coaching searches out there.
Baylor, 1-5 in the Big 12 at one point, could not have finished any stronger. Following a 52-24 upset of then-unbeaten Kansas State and a 52-45 win over then 7-4 Texas Tech, the Bears (7-5) topped Oklahoma State (7-5), 41-34, to notch their third straight seven-win season for the first time since 1949-51. After rushing for just 181 yards in his first seven games, Oregon transfer Lache Seastrunk averaged 138.6 over his last five, including his 178 yards on 16 carries on Saturday.
In his final home game, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith rediscovered his September mojo against hapless Kansas (1-11). He tied Tee Martin's FBS record for completion percentage (95.8) by connecting on 23-of-24 passes for 407 yards in the Mountaineers' (7-5) 59-10 rout of the Jayhawks. In fact, every single one of Smith's passes was caught; the lone incompletion was an interception. "I'm excited about the way we finished," said coach Dana Holgorsen.
After his team clinched bowl eligibility on Saturday with a 27-3 win over USF, Pitt running back Ray Graham was asked about possible bowl destinations. "Any bowl, except Birmingham," he said. "Three times in a row. I think they may not even allow us in there." Oh, they are. The Panthers (6-6) are indeed heading to the BBVA Compass Bowl for a third straight season, this time to face Ole Miss (6-6).
Following a week of realignment flux, Conference USA enjoyed a thrilling championship game on Saturday. Tulsa (10-3) punched its ticket to the Liberty Bowl with a 33-27 overtime win against UCF (9-4) that was highlighted by Trey Watts' game-tying 54-yard punt return with 5:06 remaining (the extra point was blocked). The Golden Hurricane, under second-year coach Bill Blankenship, notched their first conference title since 2005, back when Steve Kragthorpe was head coach.
First-year Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn finished with a bang. The Red Wolves (9-3) captured their second straight Sun Belt title by blanking Middle Tennessee State (8-4), 45-0. Strangely, Middle Tennessee was not selected for a bowl.
Boise State (10-2) is Las Vegas Bowl-bound for the third consecutive season, as it will look to win big in Nevada twice in one month. Chris Petersen's team avenged its fateful 2010 loss in Reno with a 27-21 win over the Wolf Pack (7-5).
Prior to Saturday's loss to Baylor, Oklahoma State had an outside shot at the Cotton Bowl. Instead it will face Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl -- which is played in the Cotton Bowl.
Ah, conference realignment. A year ago, Syracuse upset West Virginia in a run-of-the-mill Friday night Big East game. This year, they're meeting in the Pinstripe Bowl.