It's "Crunch Time" In College Football
by Mike Mitchell
It's the most wonderful time of the year - no, not the Holidays - I'm talking about college football crunch time.
Crunch time. There's no better way to describe it.
Out of 119 teams, only 37 have been eliminated from bowl consideration, 34 are on the bubble. Unlike last year when only 57 teams were in the pool to fill 56 bowl slots, it appears there will be an over-abundance of teams to select from this year.
So far, only one conference title and two divisional titles have been decided. TCU clinched the WAC two weekends ago. On that same weekend, Florida State secured a spot in the first ACC Championship by wrapping up the Atlantic division. Texas nailed down the south division entry in the Big 12 championship this past weekend. Everything else is still on the table.
On the national title front, USC and Texas appear headed for a Rose Bowl showdown but each must still win their remaining games.
And last, but not least, rivalry games are everywhere. Rich in history. Full of venom. Bragging rights and recruiting advantages are at stake.
Here are the previews of this week's games.
Texas and USC are the only remaining unbeaten teams. Each is 10-0. Texas is idle this week.
Fresno State at USC - An in-state battle but not a rivalry. It is the first, and only other, meeting since the Bulldogs upended the Trojans 24-7 in the now-defunct Freedom Bowl (Anaheim, Ca.)
Conference or Division-Leader Matchups:
Bowling Green at Miami, Ohio (Tuesday) - The RedHawks can secure a third consecutive MAC Championship berth by defeating the Falcons tonight IF Ohio loses its game at Akron, also tonight. Bowling Green can clinch with a win tonight IF Akron loses to Ohio. If Miami and Ohio both win, their game next week would be for the divisional title. If BGSU and Akron both win, the Falcons can clinch with a win over Toledo next week OR Akron would clinch if it beats Kent State next week and Toledo beats Bowling Green.
Alabama at Auburn - 'Bama leads the Iron Bowl rivalry 38-30-1 but Mike Shula has never beaten Auburn as the Tigers have captured all three meetings under his watch. Both schools suffered their only conference loss this year at the hands of LSU so the winner can claim the west division title only if LSU loses one of its last two games. LSU (8-1, 5-1) travels to Mississippi this Saturday before closing the season at home against Arkansas on November 26.
New Mexico State (0-10) at San Jose State - The Aggies have lost 11 in-a-row. The Spartans have lost 8 straight after winning their season-opener against 1-AA Eastern Washington.
Temple (0-10) at Navy - Temple has lost 11 straight games and has been outscored this season by an incredible 460-90.
OTHER Conference Games (not reviewed above)
Duke at North Carolina - North Carolina must beat Duke this week and Virginia Tech next week to become bowl eligible. That would leave UNC at 6-5 against the toughest schedule in the country. The Tar Heels lead the series 52-35-4 and have won 14 of the last 15 meetings. Duke's won in 1989 when Steve Spurrier was the head coach and not again until 2003. On both of those occasions, North Carolina was suffering through horrible seasons. The 1989 club was 1-10, the 2003 team went 2-10.
Virginia Tech at Virginia - The Commonwealth Cup. Virginia Tech leads the series 44-37-5 and has taken five of the last six. Virginia's last win in the series came two years ago in Charlottesville. The Hokies must win out to have a chance at an at-large BCS bowl bid and to keep their faint hopes alive of getting back into the BCS title picture. Virginia would be eliminated from the division title chase with a Miami win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, regardles of what the Cavaliers do against Virginia Tech.
Boston College at Maryland - Maryland must win this game, or beat N.C. State next week, to become bowl eligible.
Georgia Tech at Miami, Fla. - The Yellow Jackets this week, and Virginia next week, are all that stand in the way of a Coastal division title for the 'Canes and a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship.
Cincinnati at South Florida - One more loss and the Bearcats are definitely staying home for the holidays. USF needs to keep winning to set up a December 3rd showdown with West Virginia in Tampa for the Big East title.
Purdue at Indiana - The 81st Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket (Purdue leads 52-25-3) and the 108th meeting over-all (Purdue leads 66-35-6). Both teams are 4-6 and locked out of the bowl picture, ending a run of seven straight postseason appearances for the Boilermakers. Last year, Purdue piled up 763 yards of offense in a 63-24 rout. The Hoosiers' won in 2001 for their only victory in the last eight meetings.
Northwestern at Illinois - The teams meet for the 99th time with Illinois holding a 51-42-5 advantage. They have played for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy each year since 1945. The rivalry has been uninterrupted since 1927.
Ohio State at Michigan - Not a state rivalry but widely recognized as one of the biggest rivalries in college football. The Buckeyes need to win and hope for a Penn State loss at Michigan State to win the title outright and claim the conference's top bowl spot. Michigan would claim that spot with a win over Ohio State and a Penn State loss to the Spartans. In that scenario, all three teams would share the conference title but Michigan would get the top bowl spot by virtue of what would be a 2-0 record against the other two. The Wolverines lead the series 57-38-6 and have won 7 of the last 8 in Ann Arbor.
Minnesota at Iowa - This is a big game for Iowa when it comes to the pecking order of bowl games. The Hawkeyes are barely eligible at 6-4, Minnesota is 7-3. Iowa lost at home to Michigan in overtime in its last home game three weeks ago. That was the Hawkeyes' first loss in Kinnick Stadium in over three years. The Golden Gophers lead the series 58-38-2. The "Floyd Of Rosedale" trophy entered the mix in 1935. Floyd was a prize pig from Rosedale Farms won by Minnesota in a wager between two state governors when the Golden Gophers won the 1935 game 13-6. The pig, of course, is long-since dead and the trophy is a 21-inch bronze model. The Gophers lead the trophy series 38-30-2.
Penn State at Michigan State - Penn State wraps up the conference's automatic BCS bowl spot with a win over Michigan State. Michigan State must win to become bowl eligible. The two teams have only met 22 times previously with the Spartans holding a slim 11-10-1 advantage.
Oklahoma State at Baylor - Baylor started the season 4-1 and Oklahoma got out of the gates with a 3-0 start. Since then, these teams are a combined 1-10. Baylor has finished in the division cellar every year since the conference was formed in 1996. They'll do so again if they lose this game to the Cowboys.
Missouri at Kansas State - Missouri, a 31-16 winner over Baylor, can claim the north division title if it beats Kansas State and a three-way tie occurs for first place in the division with Iowa State and Colorado. Kansas State failed to qualify for the postseason for the second straight year after making 11 consecutive bowl appearances from 1993-2003. The Wildcats are also losing their coach, Bill Snyder, who announced he's retiring after the game. The 66-year-old is 135-68-1 in 17 seasons with KSU.
Oklahoma at Texas Tech - The Sooners aim for their fifth straight win while the Red Raiders look to rebound from a shocking 24-17 loss at Oklahoma State last week, the Cowboys' first conference win of the year. Oklahoma has won five straight over Texas Tech by a cumulative score of 201-79.
SMU at Houston - These former Southwest Conference foes meet for the first time since 2000. The Cougars lead the series 11-8-1.
UCF at Rice - Central Florida lays claim to the east division title with a win over the Owls who beat Tulane last week to end a 14-game losing streak. UCF snapped a 17-game losing streak in the third game of the season and has won 7 of its last 8 games since then. Keep UCF away from teams with "south" in its title - their only losses this year have come against South Carolina, South Florida and Southern Mississippi.
UAB at UTEP - UTEP clinches the west division with a victory. UAB was thought to be the front-runner for the east title but enters this game at just 4-5 and in need of two season-ending victories to become bowl eligible.
Memphis at Southern Miss - The Golden Eagles can sneak back into the conference championship if they beat the Tigers and then take care of Tulane in the season finale, but only if UCF loses at Rice. Southern Miss was in the driver's seat until its loss last week to Houston.
East Carolina at Marshall
Tulsa vs. Tulane (at Monroe, La.)
Ohio at Akron (Tuesday) - The teams are 10-10-1, but Akron has won five of the last six and the last three at Rubber Bowl Stadium. An Ohio win, coupled with a Miami victory over Bowling Green tonight, would make next week's game against the RedHawks a showdown for the east division title. Akron can win the division with victories in its final two games IF Miami loses its final two gams and Bowling Green falls to Toledo next week.
Northern Illinois at Toledo (Wednesday) - Both teams control their own destiny to the west division title. If either one wins their final two games, they advance to the conference championship game in Detroit. Western Michigan can claim the division title if they win their final two games AND Northern Illinois wins this week AND Toledo loses next week.
Central Michigan at Ball State
Eastern Michigan at Buffalo
Utah at BYU - Utah leads series 48-28-4. BYU enters the contest with its first 5-game winning streak since 2001. Utah needs a victory or the Utes will miss the postseason completely after going undefeated last year and earning an at-large bid to the BCS' Fiesta Bowl.
Air Force at New Mexico
Colorado State at UNLV
Wyoming at San Diego State
California at Stanford - The 108th "Big Game". Stanford leads series 54-42-11 but California is 3-0 under Jeff Tedford. The Cardinal becomes bowl eligible with a win in the same season they lost to 1-AA upstart UC-Davis. The Golden Bears have lost four of their last five games after a 5-0 start.
Oregon State at Oregon - The Civil War. - Last year, Oregon State eliminated Oregon from the postseason with a 50-21 demoralization of the Ducks. This year, Oregon enters the game with a 9-1 record and the Beavers are on the cusp with a 5-5 mark. In 108 previous meetings, Oregon holds a 55-44-10 advantage but a slimmer 25-23-4 edge at home.
Washington State at Washington - Washington leads the series 63-28-6 and holds a 31-11 advantage in "Apple Cup" games. The Cougars are winless in conference games after opening the season with three non-conference wins Idaho, Nevada and Grambling State. The Huskies pocketed their first conference win last week, a 38-14 romp over the same Arizona team that knocked UCLA from the unbeaten ranks with a 52-14 pasting just a week earlier.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee - After beginning the season with four straight wins, Vanderbilt looked as though they were headed toward their first bowl game since 1982. Instead, the Commodores went on a six-game losing binge and will be staying home for the 23rd consecutive season. Tennessee, on the other hand, will miss the postseason for the first time since 1988 if they fail to win their final two games. Tennessee leads the series 67-26-5 and has won the last 22 meetings.
Kentucky at Georgia - A Georgia win sends the Bulldogs to the SEC title game. A loss sends South Carolina to the conference championship. Georgia holds a commanding 46-10-2 edge in the series and has not lost to the Wildcats since 1996. Kentucky hasn't won in Athens since 1977.
LSU at Mississippi - The west division title belongs to LSU as long as they don't lose either of their final two games.
Mississippi State at Arkansas
Louisiana-Monroe at North Texas - Louisiana-Monroe controls its own destiny in the Sun Belt. If the Indians beat UNT and La.-Lafayette they will claim the conference's berth in the New Orleans Bowl which has been moved to Lafayette for this season. The Indians have never played in a bowl game. North Texas had won all four previous Sun Belt titles and 26 straight conference games but is just 2-3 in league play this year including a 26-23 loss to conference newcomer FAU last week. This is FAU's first year in 1-A football.
Idaho at Boise State
Nevada at Utah State
Western Kentucky at FIU - The Golden Panthers were a 35-14 loser to 1-AA Western Kentucky last year. This year's Hilltoppers squad enters this game with a 6-4 record and ranked 23rd in the 1-AA poll. They lost to Auburn 37-14 in their only other game this season against a 1-A squad.
Clemson at South Carolina - Absolutely amazing but a South Carolina win, coupled with a highly unexpected Georgia loss to Kentucky, would send the Gamecocks to the SEC title game. Clemson could use a 7th win to improve their bowl stock.
Other Interesting Non-Conference Games:
Middle Tennessee at N.C. State - MTSU won at Vanderbilt to start the Commodores' downfall after they had jumped out to a 4-0 start. The Wolfpack must win their last two games to become bowl eligible. They host Maryland next week.
Syracuse at Notre Dame - This game would've been a lot more interesting if Syracuse had a fighting chance.
Arkansas State at Army
Pick On Someone Your Own Size:
Florida International hosts 1-AA Western Kentucky in the only game this week where a 1-A team plays a school from a lower classification. There have been 53 such games played this season with the 1-A schools winning 51.
From the beginning of the 2003 season through Saturday, 1-A teams are 163-18 in such games.
USC has won 32 straight games over-all, 25 in-a-row at home and 22 consecutive PAC-10 games. The Trojans have won
43-of-44 since losing at Washington State on October 5, 2002. The 32-game over-all winning streak is the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933. USC hosts Fresno State on Saturday.
Texas has won 17 straight games, second-longest streak in the nation behind USC. The Longhorns are idle.
TCU has won 9 straight. It's regular season is complete.
Miami (Fla.) has won 8 in-a-row. The Hurricanes host Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Boise State owns a nation-leading streak of 30 straight home wins. The Broncos host Idaho on Saturday.
New Mexico State and Temple share the nation's longest losing streak at 11 games. The Aggies visit San Jose State (1-8) on Saturday. The Owls visit Navy (5-4).
The 2005 season began with 23 coaching changes.
San Jose State has not beaten a 1-A team yet. New Mexico State is still looking for its first win over anybody under Hal Mumme.
Here is how each has fared, by order of success, and who they face this week:
LSU, 8-1 under Les Miles, visits Mississippi.
Notre Dame, 7-2 under Charlie Weis, hosts Syracuse.
Florida, 7-3 under Urban Meyer, is idle.
South Carolina, 7-3 under Steve Spurrier, hosts Clemson.
Western Michigan, 7-3 under Bill Cubit, is idle.
Miami, O., 6-3 under Shane Montgomery, hosts Bowling Gr. (Tues.)
BYU, 6-4 under Bronco Mendenhall, hosts Utah.
Stanford, 5-4 under Walt Harris, hosts California.
Pittsburgh, 5-5 under Dave Wannstedt, is idle.
Utah, 5-5 under Kyle Whittingham, visits Brigham Young.
Marshall, 4-5 under Mark Snyder, hosts East Carolina.
Ohio, 4-5 under Frank Solich, visits Akron (Tues).
Oklahoma St, 4-5 under Mike Gundy, visits Baylor.
Indiana, 4-6 under Terry Hoeppner, visits Purdue.
East Carolina, 3-6 under Skip Holtz, visits Marshall.
Mississippi, 3-6 under Ed Orgeron, hosts LSU.
Utah State, 2-7 under Brent Guy, hosts Nevada.
Illinois, 2-8 under Ron Zook, hosts Northwestern.
Nevada-Las Vegas, 2-8 under Mike Sanford, hosts Colorado State.
Washington, 2-8 under Ty Willingham, hosts Washington State.
San Jose St., 1-8 under Dick Tomey, hosts New Mexico State.
Syracuse, 1-8 under Greg Robinson, visits Notre Dame.
New Mexico St., 0-10 under Hal Mumme, visits San Jose State.