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College Football Season

Week Fifteen Preview

by Mike Mitchell and Dave Congrove
December 2, 2008

Talk about deja vu - the seven conferences that determined their champion on the final week of the season last year, are the same seven conferences that will be decided this week. And just like last year, we go into this week with the knowledge that the Big Ten (Penn State) and the Big East (Cincinnati) are the only conferences that have determined their automatic entrant in the BCS conglomerate of bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls, plus the BCS title game).

The champions of the PAC-10 and Sun Belt conferences will be determined this week, in addition to the championship games being staged by the ACC, Big 12, CUSA, MAC and SEC. Furthermore, the ACC and Big 12 championship games are encore performances of last year's bouts.

Utah is virtually guaranteed an at-large bid to a BCS bowl, most likely the Sugar or Fiesta. Boise State is virtually guaranteed to be left out.

Here is the conference title situation at-a-glance.

These conference titles are decided:
BIG EAST: Cincinnati
BIG 10: Penn State clinched BCS bid; co-champs with Ohio State.
MWC: Utah
WAC: Boise State

These conferences are hosting championship games this week:
ACC: Virginia Tech vs. Boston College
BIG 12: Missouri vs. Oklahoma
CUSA: East Carolina vs. Tulsa
MAC: Buffalo vs. Ball State
SEC: Florida vs. Alabama

These conferences will be decided by regular season games this week:
PAC-10: USC takes outright title with win at UCLA. A USC loss gives Oregon State the Rose Bowl bid.
Troy hosts Arkansas. Winner gets New Orleans Bowl bid. Troy has clinched at least a share of title.

Big 12 Championship at Kansas City
Oklahoma (11-1) vs. Missouri (9-3)
- This is a rematch of last year's title game which Oklahoma won 38-17. The teams did not play in the regular season. Last year, the Sooners beat Missouri twice for the Tigers' only losses. The Tigers come into this game on the heels of a 40-37 upset loss to Kansas in Kansas City at the same venue of this week's championship showdown. The Big 12 title game took place in San Antonio last season. Oklahoma enters on a 6-game winning streak since suffering its' only loss of the season to Texas. The Sooners have scored no fewer than 61 points in each of their last four contests, including impressive routs of Nebraska, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. This is Oklahoma's 6th appearance in the Big 12 title game in the last 7 years, and 7th out of the last 9. The Sooners have won 4 of the last 6 conference titles, and 5 of the last 8. They are 5-1 in Big 12 championship games. Missouri is in the title game for the second straight year after not making any appearances in this game in the first eleven years of existence of the Big 12 conference. Missouri has not won a conference title since it was co-champs of the Big Eight in 1969, and outright champs in 1960. Oklahoma is 6-1 vs. Missouri since the formation of the Big 12, and 6-0 since losing to the TIgers in 1998. Oklahoma has won 18 of the last 19 meetings, and 51 of the last 60.

SEC Championship at Atlanta
Alabama (12-0) vs. Florida (11-1)
- It is widely expected that the winner of this game will advance to the BCS title game in Miami on January 8. Alabama comes in as the No. 1 team in the BCS Standings, while Florida is No. 4. Their rankings are reversed in the CCR Top 120. The Gators have an advantage in 4-out-of-5 "common opponent" comparisons that total 106 points difference. Both teams have faced Georgia, LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and Ole Miss. The Gators beat Georgia by 28 points more, LSU by 24 more, Kentucky by 55 more, and Tennessee by 4 more. The only common opponent playing to the Bulldogs' advantage is Ole Miss - Alabama beat the Rebels by 4 while the Gators lost by 1. Since the 31-30 loss to Mississippi in Gainesville on September 27, the Gators have won eight straight games by no fewer than 28 points while outscoring their opponents by a cumulative 414-97. Alabama has scored 385 points all year, and has not scored more than 36 points in any of its' last seven games. The Tide surrendered just 135 points on the season, but Florida gave up just 137 points while scoring 556. Alabama is playing for the SEC title for the first time since 1999 after playing in 5 of the first 8 SEC Championship games. These teams haven't met since 2006 when Florida ended a three-game losing streak to the Tide with a 28-13 win in Gainesville.

ACC Championship at Tampa, FL
Virginia Tech (8-4) vs. Boston College (9-3)
- A rematch of last year's game which the Hokies won 30-16 in Jacksonville to avenge a 14-10 regular season loss. This year, the game switches to Tampa but not much else is different. - Virginia Tech is looking to avenge a 28-23 regular season loss in Chestnut Hill earlier this year and the winner advances to the Orange Bowl where it will most likely face Cincinnati. In the last meeting, the Hokies scored two touchdowns on interception returns; the Eagles scored a TD on a punt return; and the Virginia Tech offense only managed three field goals. In last season's ACC Championship game, the Hokies scored 2 points on the return of a blocked PAT, and returned an interception for a touchdown; the Eagles scored on a 51-yard fumble return. When you add it all up, defense and special teams have accounted for more than 1/3rd of the total points scored in those two meetings. Statistics say this meeting may not be any different - Virginia Tech ranks 6th in total defense, and Boston College ranks 8th. On offense, the Hokies rank 103rd and the Eagles rank 93rd. These teams have alternated victories over the last six meetings, but Boston College trails in the series 10-5.

CUSA Championship at Tulsa
East Carolina (8-4) at Tulsa (10-2)
- Both teams stormed out of the box, then stumbled. East Carolina beat Virginia Tech and West Virginia en route to a 3-0 start. But the Pirates then lost 3 straight games before ending the season with victories in 5 of their last 6. Tulsa was 8-0 before encountering back-to-back losses at Arkansas and Houston. The Golden Hurricane recovered with wins in their last two games, but almost succumbed at Marshall in a 38-35 win last Saturday. This is just the fourth conference championship game staged by CUSA, and the third that has included Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane beat UCF in the 2005 title, and lost to the Golden Knights last year. East Carolina is making its' first appearance and looking for its' first conference title since claiming the Southern Conference crown in 1976 when it went 4-1 against league members Appalachian State, William & Mary, The Citadel, Furman, and VMI.

MAC Championship at Detroit - Friday
Ball State (12-0) vs. Buffalo (7-5)
- Ball State may be the best team in the country that has no shot of getting a BCS bid. QB Nate Davis and RB MiQuale Lewis are studs, and receiver Dante Love was among the nation's top NFL prospects before suffering a career-ending spinal injury in a 42-20 win at Indiana on September 20. The Cardinals also have a 32-year old former Marine for a defensive end, Brandon Crawford. No MAC team has finished a full season undefeated, including bowl game, since Marshall was a member and went 13-0 in 1999. The last current member of the MAC to go unbeaten was Toledo (11-0-1) in 1995. Buffalo was on fire until the final game of the season when it lost at home to lowly 24-21. That loss snapped a Bull run of 5 straight victories, including three overtime victories. In all, Buffalo played four overtime games this year and a total of 8 extra stanzas. Head coach Turner Gill has turned a perennial loser into a conference championship contender in just three seasons. Before Gill's arrival, the Bulls were 10-69 in 7 FBS seasons. They are 14-22 in his three years at the helm, and 12-12 over the last two campaigns.

The Greatest Rivalry
Navy (7-4) vs. Army (3-8) at Philadelphia -
This hasn't been a very competitive series for a while as Navy has won 6 in-a-row and 8-of-9, 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. Navy hasn't missed a beat since losing head coach Paul Johnson to Georgia Tech, an accomplishment that can be credited to the promotion of Johnson assistant Ken Niumatalolo to replace him. Army has scored just 177 points on offense this year, 29 fewer than last season through 11 games. But the Black Knight defense has yielded 76 fewer points than last season. All-in-all, don't expect a different result but take some time to savor how special this game truly is, and how much it means to those who have, and those who will, defend America.

Watch Out
USC (10-1) at UCLA (4-7) -
Thanks to Oregon State's home loss to Oregon last week, the Trojans can assure themselves of the outright conference title with a win over the Bruins. However, an upset loss like the one suffered two years ago, would hand the conference crown right back to the Beavers.

Sun Belt Championship
Arkansas State (6-5) at Troy (7-4) -
Last year, Troy gave away the outright conference title in a season finale loss at home to FAU, and sat at home during the bowl season despite an 8-4 record. A win this week can wipe away some of those bad memories and return the Trojans to the New Orleans Bowl where they upended Rice in 2006.

BOWL ELIGIBILITY: Middle Tennessee (5-6) at Louisiana-Lafayette (5-6) - Wednesday - Both teams need a victory to become bowl eligible, and with 34 games to fill, the victor has a good shot at landing a postseason bid. A Ragin' Cajun victory would tie them for the Sun Belt title, if Arkansas State upsets Troy. However, Louisiana can't win the tie-breakers that would advance it to the New Orleans Bowl.

Louisville (5-6) at Rutgers (6-5) - Thursday - The Cardinals become bowl eligible with a win, or finish 5-7 for their worst season since 1997 (1-10).

Arizona State (5-6) at Arizona (6-5) - Arizona State can become just the sixth PAC-10 team to reach bowl eligibility if it wins the Territorial Cup rivalry at Arizona. The Sun Devils would seem to have an advantage as they enter the contest on a 3-game winning streak while the WIldcats have lost 2 in-a-row. But ASU's wins have come against Washington, Washington State and UCLA (combined 6-29) while Arizona's losses have been to Oregon and Oregon State (combined 17-7) by a total of 12 points.

4 teams finished the regular season unbeaten: Alabama, Ball State, Boise State and Utah all went 12-0.

Only Hawaii made it through the 2007 regular season unscathed, and the Warriors were blown out 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It was the first season since 2002 that no team recorded a perfect record.

Boise State was the only team to finish the entire 2006 season undefeated, while Texas did it in 2005. Auburn, USC and Utah all had unblemished records in 2004.

Washington is the only remaining winless team.

Last season, FIU beat North Texas in its final regular season game to avoid being the only winless team. FIU was one of two schools to go winless in 2006 (Duke was the other).

3 teams have yet to defeat a FBS school: SMU, Washington, and Western Kentucky.

FBS vs. FCS:
The divisions were renamed late in 2006. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

FBS teams went 85-2 (.977) against FCS teams this season, and are 375-37 (.910) since 2003.

Here are the losses by the FBS this season:
Cal Poly 29, San Diego State 27 (Week 1)
New Hampshire 28, Army 10 (Week 2)

This year, 82 different FBS teams participated in a total of 87 games that pit the FCS against the FBS. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky each played two such games.

ACC teams played more games versus FCS schools than any other conference. Here is the number of FCS games for each conference:

Conference Teams In Conf. Games vs. FCS Avg. Per Team
ACC 12 14 1.167
Big East 8 7 0.875
Big 12 12 10 0.833
Big 10 11 9 0.818
MWC 9 7 0.778
WAC 9 7 0.778
SEC 12 9 0.750
Independents 3 2 0.667
MAC 13 8 0.615
CUSA 12 7 0.583
Sun Belt 9 5 0.555
PAC-10 10 2 0.200
Totals 120 87 0.725

Utah has won 13 straight games. Regular season complete.

Alabama has won 13 straight games. Versus Florida in the SEC Championship game.

Ball State has won 12 straight games. Versus Buffalo in the MAC Championship game.

Boise State has won 12 straight overall, 19 consecutive home games, 49 straight regular season home games, and has never lost at home to a fellow WAC conference member (32-0). Overall, the Broncos have won 38 straight conference home games since losing to Idaho in the final game of the 1998 season when it was a member of the Big West. Regular season complete.

Oklahoma has won 23 straight home games. Versus Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game.

BYU has won 18 consecutive home games. Regular season complete.

Washington has the longest losing streak in the nation at 13 games, and has lost 8 consecutive home games. The Huskies visit California.

SMU has lost 10 straight overall, 17 straight conference games, 15 consecutive road games, and 21 straight to FBS teams. Season complete.

Iowa State has lost 10 straight overall, and 17 consecutive road games. Season complete.

The 2007 season featured 24 new head coaches. Nine led their team to a bowl game. This year began with 18 2008 coaching changes, and grew to 19 when Tommy Bowden stepped down from Clemson on October 13.

Only one team with a new coach failed to defeat an FBS school - SMU.

Arkansas 5-7 Bobby Petrino Season complete
Baylor 4-8 Art Briles Season complete
Colorado State 6-6 Steve Fairchild Regular season complete
Duke 4-8 David Cutcliffe Season complete
Georgia Tech 9-3 Paul Johnson Regular season complete
Hawaii 7-5 Greg McMackin 12/6, vs. Cincinnati
Houston 7-5 Kevin Sumlin Regular season complete
Michigan 3-9 Rich Rodriguez Season complete
Mississippi 8-4 Houston Nutt Regular season complete
Navy 7-4 Ken Nuimatalolo 12/6, vs. Army (at Philadelphia)
Nebraska 8-4 Bo Pelini Regular season complete
Northern Illinois 6-6 Jerry Kill Regular season complete
SMU 1-11 June Jones Season complete
Southern Miss 6-6 Larry Fedora Regular season complete
Texas A&M 4-8 Mike Sherman Season complete
UCLA 4-7 Rick Neuheisel 12/6, vs. USC
Washington State 2-11 Paul Wulff Regular season complete
West Virginia 7-4 Bill Stewart 12/6, vs. USF

Midseason Change:      
Clemson 4-2 Dabo Swinney Regular season complete

The 2008 season wasn't close to being over when jobs started opening up for 2009.
(See Coaching Changes for details):

Auburn - Tommy Tuberville out.
Bowling Green - Gregg Brandon out.
Clemson - Tommy Bowden out. Dabo Swinney in.
Eastern Michigan - Jeff Genyk out.
Kansas State - Ron Prince out. Bill Snyder in.
Miami (O.) - Shane Montgomery out.
Mississippi State - Sylvester Croom out.
New Mexico - Rocky Long out.
New Mexico State - Hal Mumme out.
San Diego State - Chuck Long out.
Syracuse - Greg Robinson out.
Tennessee - Phillip Fulmer out. Lane Kiffin in.
Toledo - Tom Amstutz out. Tim Beckman in.
Utah State - Brent Guy out. Gray Andersen in.
Washington - Ty Willingham out.
Wyoming - Joe Glenn out. Dave Christensen in.

Purdue -
Joe Tiller announced in January that this would be his last season, and former assistant Danny Hope was hired away from Eastern Kentucky to become his successor. Tiller was 87-62 in 12 seasons at Purdue, and 126-92-1 when you include his 6 seasons at Wyoming from 1991-1996. Purdue was just 4-8 (2-6, Big Ten) this year.


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