Final 7 Conference Titles To Be Decided
by Mike Mitchell
November 28, 2007
It may not be a playoff, but it sure feels like one. In addition to the five conference championship games that will be held by the ACC, Big 12, CUSA, MAC and SEC, the champions of the PAC-10 and Sun Belt conferences will also be determined this week.
So far, Ohio State and West Virginia are the only schools that have gained automatic entry into the BCS conglomerate of bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls, plus the BCS title game).
The final week of the season also delivers the rivalry game with unparalleled pageantry and meaning - Army vs. Navy.
Here is a look at the key games this week.
The Top Game, Part 1
Big 12 Championship at San Antonio
Oklahoma vs. Missouri - The Sooners are making their sixth appearance in the Big 12 title game in the last eight years and are 4-1 in their previous appearances. However, this is the first time they have played for the title in San Antonio where it was last held in 1999. Missouri has never played for the championship of the Big 12 Conference which began in 1996 when members of the Southwest Conference merged with the Big Eight. The Tigers were co-champs of the Big Eight in 1969, and outright champs in 1960. Of course, the bigger picture is the fact that Missouri will play for the national championship if it wins. Oklahoma won the regular season meeting 41-31 in Norman.
The Top Game, Part 2
Pittsburgh at West Virginia
If West Virginia wins - and they are a four-touchdown favorite to do so - the Mountaineers will play for the national championship. West Virginia's high-powered, multi-dimensional offense ranks 11th in the nation, but Pittsburgh's defense also ranks 11th. The problem for Pitt is a 101st-ranked offense that will find tough sledding against the nation's No. 6 defense. It's the 100th edition of the Backyard Brawl.
ACC Championship at Jacksonville, FL
Virginia Tech vs. Boston College - The Hokies get what they hoped for, a rematch with the Eagles who defeated Virginia Tech 14-10 on October 25th when they scored 14 points in the final 2:11 of the game.
Were it not for that monumental collapse, the Hokies would be one of the front runners in the national championship mix. Virginia Tech is 2-3 in Jacksonville where it has played in four Gator Bowls and one ACC Championship. Boston College has never played there.
CUSA Championship at Orlando
Tulsa at UCF - Been there, done that. Two years ago, Tulsa journeyed to Orlando and whipped UCF 44-27 in the inaugural CUSA Championship game. If you don't plan to watch this year's edition live, you should at least record it on your DVR or Tivo system for the offensive fireworks. Golden Hurricane QB Paul Smith is 2nd nationally in passing yards (4,327) and TD's (39). Golden Knights RB Kevin Smith leads the nation in rushing yards (2,164) and TD's (25).
MAC Championship at Detroit
Central Michigan vs. Miami (Ohio) - The RedHawks enter the MAC Championship with a pedestrian 6-6 record and must win the title if they want to advance to a bowl game. The Chippewas sport a mediocre 7-5 record as they look to win consecutive titles under two different coaches. Brian Kelly left for Cincinnati after helping CMU win last year's crown over Ohio. Now, Butch Jones will try to help the school pull off a repeat performance. Central Michigan gave up 456 points this season and hit low-water marks with losses of 70-14 at Clemson, 52-7 at Kansas, and 44-14 at home to FCS member school North Dakota State. Miami only allowed 298 points during the season, but scored 17 points or fewer on seven occasions.
SEC Championship at Atlanta
LSU vs. Tennessee - The Tigers and Vols go toe-to-toe in Atlanta for the championship of a conference that was exceedingly unpredictable this year. LSU began the season on fire, looking like it would cakewalk through its schedule on the way to the BCS title game. Instead, five of the school's last seven games were decided by a touchdown or less, and two were lost in triple-overtime. Tennessee won three of its last five games by three points or less, including two in overtime. The two teams did not meet in the regular season. LSU beat Tennessee in the 2001 SEC Championship game. The Vols haven't won the title since 1998 when they also captured the first-ever BCS title.
UCLA at USC - The Trojans were favored by two touchdowns when these teams met in Pasadena last year, and the Bruins pulled off a huge 13-9 upset to knock the Trojans out of the BCS title game. This year, the stakes aren't quite as high but a Rose Bowl berth is on the line. USC controls its own destiny, while UCLA can claim the berth if it upsets the Trojans again, and Arizona upsets Arizona State.
Arizona at Arizona State - The Sun Devils can grab the Rose Bowl bid if they beat the Wildcats and the UCLA Bruins upset USC. Arizona will put up a staunch fight, however, as it looks to become eligible for its first postseason game since 1998.
On The Bubble
Louisiana Tech at Nevada - The winner will become bowl eligible and will likely play New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. That scenario hinges on Hawaii remaining undefeated and moving up to the BCS. Otherwise, a 6-6 record probably won't be enough for either of these teams to have a bowl slot left over.
Rutgers at Louisville - The Cardinals must beat the Scarlet Knights to improve to 6-6 and hope the bowl selection dominoes fall in a fashion that pries open a spot for them. Otherwise, Louisville fans will have one more reason to be extremely disappointed in Steve Kragthorpe's first campaign as head coach - the end of a 9-year bowl run.
The Greatest Rivalry
Army vs. Navy (at Baltimore) - It may not be the greatest game every year - after all, Navy has won five in-a-row and seven-of-eight - but it is the best rivalry in college football, and the most meaningful. Hundreds of thousands of active, and retired, military men and women around the world gather anywhere they can to cheer their service branch onto victory. Army may have a decent chance this year at ending the streak as it faces a Midshipmen team that is leaking on defense. Navy has given up more than 40 points to seven teams this year, and allowed a total of 435 points.
Hawaii is the only remaining undefeated team. The Warriors host Washington.
FIU is the only remaining winless team. The Golden Panthers host North Texas.
Idaho failed to beat a team from the bowl subdivision.
FBS vs. FCS
1-A is now classified by the NCAA as the "Football Bowl Subdivision", or "FBS", for short.
1-AA has been re-classified as the "Football Championship Subdivision", or "FCS", for short.
There are no games this week matching FBS teams with FCS schools. In such games this season, FBS teams were 70-10 (.875). FBS teams are 290-35 (.892) since 2003.
Hawaii has won 12 straight games over-all, and 15 consecutive WAC games. The Warriors host Washington.
BYU has won 8 straight games. The Cougars visit San Diego State.
Boise State has won 44 consecutive regular season home games, and has a perfect home record against
their fellow WAC conference members (29-0). Those strings will continue into next season.
FIU owns the nation's longest current losing streak at 23 games. The Golden Panthers host North Texas.
Minnesota has lost 10 straight. The Golden Gophers have completed their season (1-11).
Idaho has lost 10 straight. The Vandals have completed their regular season (1-11).
SMU has lost 10 straight. The Mustangs have completed their regular season (1-11).
The 2006 season featured 11 new head coaches. Five led their team to a bowl game.
This year, there are 24 coaching changes for the highest number since 2001 when there were 25. We'll track their progress throughout the season.
This week, there is one game where new coaches face each other - North Texas at FIU.
FIU is the only team that has yet to snag a win with its new head coach. Idaho failed to defeat an FBS team.
Here is how each of the new coaches are faring, in order, by won-loss record.
Boston College, 10-2 under Jeff Jagodzinski, vs. Virginia Tech (ACC Championship, Jacksonville).
Arizona State, 9-2 under Dennis Erickson, hosts Arizona.
Air Force, 9-3 under Troy Calhoun, has completed its regular season.
Tulsa, 9-3 under Todd Graham, at UCF (CUSA Championship, Orlando).
Cincinnati, 9-3 under Brian Kelly, has completed its regular season.
Central Michigan, 7-5 under Butch Jones, vs. Miami, Ohio (MAC Championship, Detroit).
Indiana, 7-5 under Bill Lynch, has completed its regular season.
Michigan State, 7-5 under Mark Dantonio, has completed its regular season.
Alabama, 6-6 under Nick Saban, has completed its regular season.
Louisiana Tech, 5-6 under Derek Dooley, visits Nevada.
Louisville, 5-6 under Steve Kragthorpe, hosts Rutgers.
Miami (Fla.), 5-7 under Randy Shannon, has completed its regular season.
N.C. State, 5-7 under Tom O'Brien, has completed its regular season.
North Carolina, 4-8 under Butch Davis, has completed its regular season.
Tulane, 4-8 under Bob Toledo, has completed its regular season.
Army, 3-8 under Stan Brock, vs. Navy (at Baltimore).
Stanford, 3-8 under Jim Harbaugh, hosts California.
Iowa State, 3-9 under Gene Chizik, has completed its regular season.
Rice, 3-9 under David Bailiff, has completed its regular season.
North Texas, 2-9 under Todd Dodge, visits FIU.
UAB, 2-10 under Neil Callaway, has completed its regular season.
Idaho, 1-11 under Robb Akey, has completed its regular season.
Minnesota, 1-11 under Tim Brewster, has completed its regular season.
FIU, 0-11 under Mario Cristobal, hosts North Texas.