Hokies, Bruins Go Down In Flames
by Mike Mitchell
Virginia Tech and UCLA fell from the unbeaten ranks as each wound up on the wrong end of the whipping stick. Miami crushed the Hokies 27-7 while Arizona ambushed UCLA 52-14. Meanwhile, thanks to North Carolina's upset of Boston College, Florida State clinched the ACC's Atlantic Division title despite their own 20-15 loss to N.C. State. Elsewhere, Kansas ended a 36-game losing streak to Nebraska with its first win over the 'Huskers since 1968.
Virginia Tech had turned the ball over seven times all year. Saturday night, Marcus Vick gave Miami four fumbles and two interceptions in an uncharacteristic sloppy performance with GameDay in town. In three past games with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit in attendance, the Hokies obliterated their opponents - Syracuse (62-0) and Miami (43-10) in 1999, and Georgia Tech (51-7) earlier this year. Virginia Tech had allowed no more than 17 points in any game this season and Miami nearly doubled that. It was very similar to the beatdown the Hokies took at West Virginia in 2003 when they went to Morgantown ranked third in the BCS and were blown out 28-7. Ironically, they whipped Miami 31-7 the following week but tanked the rest of the season.
Unbelievably, UCLA only had one turnover in the Bruins' 52-14 loss at Arizona. The Wildcats simply ran all over UCLA, piling up over 500 yards in offense and making sure there would be no fourth-quarter comeback by taking a 52-7 lead into the final period. The Bruins had been living on the edge for several weeks, rallying from deficits of 10 points against lowly Washington, 14 to California, 17 to Washington State and 21 to Stanford last week.
Florida State, meanwhile, was handed the ACC's Coastal Division title when Boston College lost at North Carolina 16-14. But the Seminoles looked every bit unlike a conference championship contender with a 20-15 loss at home to a North Carolina State team that went to Tallahassee with an unthreatening record of 3-4 over-all and 1-4 in the conference. FSU shot themselves in the foot on numerous occasions. In the fourth quarter alone, they blocked back-to-back Wolfpack punts deep in NCSU's own territory and managed to get just three points off of the turnovers.
Florida State's opponent in the title game is still very much undecided. Miami has the upper hand with just one conference loss but still has games to play against Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Virginia. Virginia Tech is still in the hunt with a 5-1 conference mark and games left against Virginia and North Carolina. Georgia Tech (4-2) and North Carolina (3-2) are not eliminated, either.
Elsewhere, Kansas beat Nebraska for the first time in 37 years. The computer forecasted the upset over the slightly-favored Cornhuskers who had not played the Jayhawks under Bill Callahan. Callahan has coached Nebraska to a number of ubiquitous firsts - last year they endured their first losing season since 1961 and failed to go bowling for the first time since 1968; they suffered their first loss to Texas Tech by a 70-10 margin that was the worst defeat in Cornhusker history; this season, Texas Tech handed Nebraska their first homecoming loss since 1968; their home loss to Southern Miss last year was the first to a non-conference team since 1991; 2004 was the first season in which Nebraska failed to win a conference road game since 1959 when the league was known as the Big 7. Indeed, Callahan is rewriting Nebraska's record books and it ain't pretty.
At Penn State, smiles are replacing the frowns found at Happy Valley over the past five season. After a 10-3 campaign in 1999, the Nittany Lions had experience just one winning season and were a combined 26-33 over that time-frame. After a methodical 35-14 win over Wisconsin on Saturday, Penn State controls their own destiny to the Big 10 title. The Nittany Lions and Badgers were each 8-1 over-all and 5-1 in the conference prior to the game. Now, Penn State's closest challenger is Ohio State (7-2, 5-1) whom the Nittany Lions have already defeated. Penn State closes the season at Michigan State on November 19.
TCU became the first school to clinch a conference title when the Horned Frogs crushed Colorado State 33-6 in a key Mountain West battle. The Rams, who entered the game with just one conference loss, were the only team that still had a serious shot at catching TCU. It is the Horned Frogs' inaugural season in the conference.
In CUSA, Central Florida owns the best record in the east division after beating Houston 31-29. The Golden Knights, who were in the throes of a 17-game losing streak earlier this season, are now 6-3 over-all and 5-1 in the conference. There is no doubt that UCF will be hoping for a Marshall win over Southern Miss this Tuesday night. Like the Golden Knights, Southern Miss has just one conference loss and the Golden Eagles own the tie-breaker over UCF by virtue of their head-to-head win on October 15. In fact, that's the only loss UCF has suffered in their last seven games.
UTEP gave itself a boost toward winning the west division of CUSA with a 41-38 victory over Tulsa. Each team had entered the game with 4-1 conference records. The Miners only need a win in one of their last two games to clinch a berth in the first CUSA championship game and are ontrack to claim homefield advantage for that clash.
In the MAC, Miami and Bowling Green each won on Saturday to set up their east division confrontation on November 15. The RedHawks and Falcons are both 4-2 in the conference and a game ahead of Akron and Ohio. This past weekend, Miami thrashed Buffalo 54-13 and BGSU got past Kent State 24-14 without their star quarterback. Omar Jacobs is expected to return to action in time for the showdown with Miami.
Toledo retook control of the west with a 30-21 win at Ohio last Friday and Central Michigan's 31-28 loss to Northern Illinois on Saturday. The division title had been CMU's to lose after the Chippewas defeated Toledo two weeks ago.
In the SEC, undefeated Alabama struggled past Mississippi State 17-0 to remain undefeated and atop the west division. Auburn and LSU continue to nip on the Crimson Tide's heels. The two teams named "Tigers" each have one conference loss and have upcoming games against Alabama. LSU visits Alabama next week and Alabama goes to Auburn the following week. For Auburn to have a crack at the title, they must first survive a trip to Georgia next week.
LSU beat 1-AA Appalachian State 24-0 on Saturday while Auburn was was thumping Kentucky 49-27.
Georgia, which was idle this past week, has a precarious hold on the east division but controls its own destiny. The Bulldogs are a game ahead of Florida in the loss column. After Auburn comes to Athens next week, the Dawgs get a home date with Kentucky to conclude their SEC schedule.
Florida faces a daunting road trip to South Carolina next week where they'll battle former coach, Steve Spurrier. Spurrier has the Gamecocks on a four-game winning streak and all have come against SEC teams. The only other time South Carolina managed that feat was in 2001 under Lou Holtz. The Gamecocks joined the conference in 1992.
On Saturday, Florida barely survived Vanderbilt at home. The Gators needed double-overtime to down the Commodores 49-42.
In the WAC, Boise State and Fresno State set-up their showdown this Thursday with victories over the conference's cellar-dwellers. BSU routed New Mexico State 56-6 while Fresno State clobbered San Jose State 45-7. The Broncos and Bulldogs will meet in Fresno with identical 5-0 conference records. Boise State has won four straight over Fresno State and their last conference loss came on November 3, 2001 at Louisiana Tech.
In the Sun Belt, Louisiana-Monroe was upset at home by FIU to give the Indians their first conference loss and the Golden Panthers their first conference win. Really, it's no great surprise as UL-M has lost six straight games to 1-AA opponents and FIU is in its first season as a 1-A school. Louisiana-Monroe still leads the conference with a league mark of 3-1 but an over-all record of just 3-5. No team in the conference has a winning record and only Arkansas State is even. Every team in the Sun Belt is still mathematically alive for the conference title.
In games played earlier in the week:
Toledo prevailed 30-21 over Ohio and that win, combined with Central Michigan's loss on Saturday, has put the Rockets back in control of their own destiny for the MAC west division title. The Bobcats' first home loss of the season knocked them out of a first-place tie in the MAC east.
On Thursday night, Louisville didn't dominate Pittsburgh like they had every other home opponent this season, but they shut out the Panthers in the second half for a 42-20 Big East victory. The Cardinals had destroyed Oregon State, FAU and North Carolina in their three previous home games by an average score of 64-17 while hanging more than 60 points on every one of those teams. Louisville became bowl eligible at 6-2 over-all while Pittsburgh fell to 4-5 and must beat UConn at home and West Virginia on the road to avoid staying home for the holidays.
West Virginia moved closer to a Big East title with a Wednesday night 45-13 romp over Connecticut in Morgantown. The Mountaineers scored 28 points in an 8:20 span of the first half to put the Huskies away early. West Virginia improved to 7-1 in conference play and 4-0 over-all. USF is the only one-loss team left in the conference after the Bulls knocked off Rutgers 45-31 on Saturday. The Mountaineers have to go to South Florida at the end of the season to make up a game that was postponed by Hurricane Wilma.
UConn slipped to 4-4, 1-3 with the loss to West Virginia and is danger of missing the postseason. Last year, Connecticut earned its first bowl-trip in the school's short five-year history as a 1-A program.
Last Tuesday night, UAB stormed back from an early 17-3 deficit to defeat Memphis 37-20. It was just the second conference win of the year for the preseason CUSA title favorites and kept the Blazers (4-4, 2-3) mathematically in the hunt for the east division championship. But, with three games still to play, the Blazers are only in fifth place in their six-team division. They host UCF next week before concluding the season with road trips to UTEP and East Carolina.
Memphis fell to 4-4, 3-3 with the loss to UAB, dropping the Tigers to 4th in the division but still a half-game ahead of UAB.
Spurrier Springs Another Upset: Don't look now but Steve Spurrier has South Carolina in 3rd-place in the SEC east with a home game looming next Saturday against Florida. Of course, Spurrier isn't only the former coach of the Gators, he won a Heisman Trophy while playing quarterback for the Gainesville school in 1966. If his Gamecocks beat Florida, and handle Clemson in their finale, they would improve their bowl stock tremendously. Their 14-10 comeback win at Arkansas on Saturday has already made them bowl eligible. In fact, the Gamecocks are still mathematically in the division title hunt.
Rice Is Nice On Any Day: Rice was fried 27-7 at SMU on Saturday for its nation-leading 14th straight loss.
Choo-Choo Ch'Boogie: Purdue halted a 6-game losing streak with a 28-21 comeback win over Michigan State for their first conference win of the season. The Boilermakers were a preseason favorite of many to win the Big 10 title and the computer forecasted Purdue to go 11-0.
Rocky Mountain High: Colorado all but secured a bid to the Big 12 title game with a 41-12 romp over Missouri. The home win improved the Buffaloes to 7-2, 5-1 and in position to clinch a conference championship berth when they visit Iowa State (6-3, 3-3) next Saturday.
Still Winning: Virginia Tech and UCLA were rudely expelled from the undefeated club leaving just three undefeated teams - USC, Texas and Alabama.
In case you were wondering - at this point last season, there were still six undefeated teams - Auburn, Boise State, Oklahoma, USC, Utah and Wisconsin.
Still Losing: Four teams stayed on the ubiquitous winless list; Buffalo, New Mexico State, Rice and Temple. None came close to victory this past weekend and Rice was the only team to keep the margin of defeat under 48 points.
Buffalo lost 54-13 at Miami (Ohio); New Mexico State fell 56-6 at Boise State; Temple was trounced 51-3 at Virginia; Rice lost 27-7 at SMU.
At this point last year, UCF was the only winless team.
1-AA Schools Strike Out: For the first time in the past four weeks, a 1-A school battled a team from a smaller classification. LSU blanked 1-AA Appalachian State 24-0. Fifty-one such games have now been played this season and the 1-A teams are 49-2. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, 1-A teams are 161-18 (.899).
Streaks: USC extended the nation's longest winning streak to 31 with a 51-21 home win over Stanford. They have now won 42 of their last 43 games. USC also owns streaks of 25 straight home wins and 21 consecutive PAC-10 victories. The 31-game over-all winning streak is the longest in PAC-10 history, breaking their own record of 25 games set in 1931-1933.
Texas has won 16 straight games after its 62-0 victory at Baylor.
Virginia Tech had two streaks come to an end. Miami's 27-7 upset win ended the Hokies' string of 16 consecutive regular season wins and 11 straight conference victories.
Boise State owns nation-leading streaks of 30 straight home wins and 31 straight conference victories after their 56-6 rout of New Mexico State.
Rice extended its losing streak to 14 games with a 27-7 loss at SMU.
New Coaches: 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 for the season, by order of success, and how they performed this past week:
LSU, 7-1 under Les Miles, beat 1-AA Appalachian State 24-0.
Florida, 7-2 under Urban Meyer, beat Vanderbilt in 2 ot's 49-42.
Notre Dame, 6-2 under Charlie Weis, beat Tennessee 41-21.
Miami, O., 6-3 under Shane Montgomery, beat Buffalo 54-13.
South Carolina, 6-3 under Steve Spurrier, won at Arkansas 14-10.
Western Michigan, 6-3 under Bill Cubit, won at Eastern Mich. 44-36.
BYU, 5-4 under Bronco Mendenhall, won at UNLV 55-14.
Utah, 5-4 under Kyle Whittingham, beat Wyoming 43-13.
Stanford, 4-4 under Walt Harris, lost at USC 51-21.
Marshall, 4-4 under Mark Snyder, was idle.
Indiana, 4-5 under Terry Hoeppner, lost to Minnesota 42-21.
Ohio, 4-5 under Frank Solich, lost to Toledo 30-21.
Pittsburgh, 4-5 under Dave Wannstedt, lost at Louisville 42-20.
East Carolina, 3-5 under Skip Holtz, was idle.
Mississippi, 3-5 under Ed Orgeron, was idle.
Oklahoma St, 3-5 under Mike Gundy, was idle.
Utah State, 2-6 under Brent Guy, lost to Lousiana Tech 27-17.
Illinois, 2-7 under Ron Zook, lost at Ohio State 40-2.
Nevada-Las Vegas, 2-7 under Mike Sanford, lost to BYU 55-14.
Syracuse, 1-7 under Greg Robinson, was idle.
San Jose St., 1-8 under Dick Tomey, lost at Fresno State 45-7.
Washington, 1-8 under Ty Willingham, lost to Oregon State 18-10.
New Mexico St., 0-9 under Hal Mumme, lost at Boise State 56-6.