Big Day For Ohio Football Teams
by Mike Mitchell
Ohio State won "The Game" 42-39 over Michigan, clinching the Big 10 title and a berth in the BCS title game. Later, Cincinnati made noise with a 30-11 win over previously unbeaten Rutgers.
The question now is how far Michigan will drop in the rankings. A rematch may not be completely out of the question.
A day after the death of legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, the Wolverines put every ounce of their heart and soul into the effort to dethrone the top-ranked Buckeyes in a battle of unbeaten teams. Even after Ohio State stretched its' lead to 42-31 with 5:38 left in the game, Michigan battled back and closed the gap to 42-39 with 2:16 to go. But the Buckeyes recovered the ensuing onside kick and ran out the clock as Jim Tressel improved to 5-1 against the Wolverines.
USC scored the final 17 points of the game to sink California 23-9. The win guaranteed the Trojans at least a share of the PAC-10 title and the conference's automatic BCS berth. It also kept USC's hopes alive for a BCS title showdown with Ohio State, but the Trojans still have to host Notre Dame and visit UCLA.
Arizona and UCLA each became bowl eligible on Saturday with victories that improved their records to 6-5.
A week after their home upset of California, Arizona beat Oregon in convincing fashion 37-10 in Eugene. It was virtually the same score as the Ducks' loss last week at USC (35-10) and sent Oregon to a third loss in its' last four PAC-10 games.
Conversely, Arizona has won three straight games for the first time since 2001, and three consecutive PAC-10 games for the first time since 2000. The Wildcats' last bowl appearance was the 1998 Holiday Bowl for its' longest stretch of bowl-less years since 1980-1984.
UCLA pocketed its' 6th win with a 24-12 upset at Arizona State. A loss would have assuredly kept the Bruins from bowling for the first time since 2001.
Washington won the Apple Cup rivalry, 35-32, over Washington State in Pullman. It was the third straight loss for the Cougars who finished the season 6-6 after being ranked 25th in the BCS Standings on October 22. The Huskies had lost the last two matches with their state rival after claiming six straight victories in the series from 1998-2003.
Oregon State moved into third place in the conference at 5-3 with a 30-7 win at Stanford. The Beavers began the season 2-3 but have now won five of their last six games and handed USC their only loss.
Stanford and Washington are the only two teams in the conference which are not bowl eligible.
Rutgers saw its' national championship hopes go down the tubes in a 30-11 loss at Cincinnati. The Bearcats jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and never looked back, improving their record to 6-5 in the process and making themselves eligible for bowl consideration.
The Scarlet Knights are still alive in the Big East title chase, tied with Louisville and West Virginia with 4-1 conference records. Rutgers visits the Mountaineers on December 2.
Louisville did its part in creating the three-team logjam by dispatching South Florida 31-8.
Six of the eight Big East teams have the requisite 6 wins to receive bowl bids.
Boise State remained undefeated and clinched at least a share of the WAC title for the fifth straight year, and the WAC's top bowl bid, with a 49-10 home win over Utah State. The Broncos are 24-0 in home games against WAC foes since joining the league in 2001.
Nevada scored its' second straight shutout with a 42-0 road win over Louisiana Tech. The beat Utah State by that same score last week, and clobbered Idaho 45-7 two weeks ago.
Hawaii improved to 9-2 with a 54-17 home win over San Jose State. It's the Warriors' 8th straight win since losing 41-34 at Boise State on September 23. Hawaii has scored at least 41 points in all eight victories, and topped 60 points on four occasions. The Warriors' 13-game season includes a four-game homestand to end the year with Purdue and Oregon State still left on the agenda.
Fresno State improved to 3-3 in the conference, but just 3-7 over-all, by taking advantage of Idaho 34-0.
In the ACC, Virginia Tech rained on Wake Forest's parade with a 27-6 win in Winston-Salem. The Hokies dropped the Demon Deacons to 5-2 in the conference, tied with Maryland and Boston College. Because it defeated Boston College on November 4, Wake Forest still controls its' own destiny and a win at Maryland next week would send them to the ACC Championship.
Boston College would get the Atlantic Division's conference title slot if the Eagles win at Miami, and Maryland beats Wake Forest. And Maryland can get into the ACC Championship game if the Terps beat Wake, and the Hurricanes down the Eagles.
Boston College is still alive because the Eagles scored three defensive touchdowns in a 38-16 romp over Maryland. Boston College had two fumble returns for touchdowns in the first quarter and had a 14-0 lead before the offense ever took the field. The Eagles added an interception return in the third quarter for another touchdown.
Florida State (6-5) survived Western Michigan 28-20 to become eligible for the bowl season.
Georgia Tech beat Duke 49-21 to finish its' ACC slate at 7-1. Already guaranteed at least a share of the Coastal Division title, the Yellow Jackets now own that distinction outright. Georgia Tech had already clinched their division's berth in the ACC Championship.
Miami and Virginia are each 5-6 after the 'Canes suffered their fourth straight defeat. The Cavaliers won 17-7 in Charlottesville. Miami has to beat Boston College just to become bowl eligible, and Virginia will stay home for the holidays if they don't win at Virginia Tech.
North Carolina ended 10-game losing streak to 1-A schools, and a 7-game over-all losing skid, with a 23-9 win over North Carolina State. It's been a miserable year for both teams with the Tar Heels now 2-9 under lame-duck coach John Bunting, and the Wolfpack just 3-8.
Arkansas clinched the SEC West with a 28-14 win over Mississippi State. The Razorbacks will play Florida in the SEC title game.
Auburn won the Iron Bowl 22-15 over Alabama for their fifth straight victory in the series. The Tide still leads the rivalry 38-32-1.
LSU rallied from a 20-7 deficit at home against Ole Miss to win 23-20 in overtime. The Tigers knotted the score at 20-20 on a 4th-down, 5-yard throw with 14 seconds left in regulation but the Rebels blocked LSU's extra point attempt. Mississippi, which entered the game a four-touchdown underdog, fumbled on the opening possession of overtime.
Tennessee beat state rival Vanderbilt 39-10 in Nashville to gain a measure of revenge. Last year, the second-longest futility streak in major college football came to an end with Vanderbilt's 28-24 win in Knoxville. The Commodores had lost 22 straight games to the Volunteers since their last victory over their state rival in 1982. (Incidentally, Navy owns the longest losing streak of one team to another with 43 consecutive losses to Notre Dame dating back to 1963).
Kentucky survived a scare from Louisiana-Monroe, winning 42-40 when the Warhawks 2-point conversion attempt failed with a minute left in the game and the Wildcats recovered the onside kick.
South Carolina was the last of nine SEC teams to become eligible for bowl invitations when the Gamecocks beat Middle Tennessee 52-7 to end a 3-game losing streak.
BYU secured the Mountain West title with a 42-17 demolition of New Mexico and then accepted a bid to the Las Vegas Bowl where they lost 35-28 to California last year. The Cougars have won eight straight games after a 1-2 start. The Lobos have to defeat San Diego State at home next week to qualify for a bowl bid.
TCU improved to 8-2 with a 52-0 romp over San Diego State, and Utah kept pace with the Horned Frogs for second place in the MWC with a 17-14 win at Air Force. The Falcons must now win their last two games on the road against UNLV and TCU to reach bowl eligibility.
Wyoming won 34-26 at UNLV in the Cowboys' final game to meet bowl invitation requirements.
Idle Colorado State could get to 6-6 if it beats TCU and San Diego State in the last two games.
Oklahoma kept its' Big 12 South title hopes alive with a 36-10 win at Baylor. But the Sooners only chance at clinching a championship game berth rest on Texas losing at home to Texas A&M, and Oklahoma defeating state rival Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Texas and Texas A&M were both idle on Saturday. So was Nebraska, which has already secured the Big 12 North's spot in the conference championship game. The Cornhuskers conclude their season on Friday against Colorado in Lincoln.
Oklahoma State lost 30-24 at Texas Tech.
Kansas became the conference's ninth, and final, bowl eligible team with a 39-20 home win over rival Kansas State.
Iowa State, which won't be going bowling, pulled off the conference's biggest surprise of Saturday with a 21-16 home win over Missouri.
Houston clinched the CUSA West Division title, and home field in the CUSA Championship game, with a 23-20 win at Memphis in overtime.
East Carolina failed to clinch the CUSA East title as Rice downed the Pirates 18-17 on a 40-yard field goal with 3 seconds left in the game. It was the fifth straight win for the Owls who improved to 6-5 with the win and became eligible for bowl selection under first-year head coach Todd Graham.
Southern Miss, which is hosting UAB on Saturday night, now has the inside track to the east division crown.
SMU became bowl eligible with a 34-24 win over Tulsa, handing the Golden Hurricane their third straight loss after a 7-1 start. If selected, it would be the Mustangs' first bowl game since the 1984 Aloha Bowl.
Marshall kept UTEP from becoming bowl eligible as the Herd thundered past the Miners 49-21 in Huntington, West Virginia. Both schools are now 5-6 and finish the season next Saturday with Marshall traveling to Southern Miss while UTEP hosts Memphis.
Notre Dame completed its' trifecta over the military academies with a 41-9 rout of Army. The Irish also beat Navy (38-14) and Air Force (39-17) this year as they played all three institutions in the same season for the first time since 1995. It was also the first time Notre Dame played Army since 1998, and they haven't lost to the Black Knights since 1958.
Troy suffered its' first Sun Belt loss, 33-26, at home to Arkansas State. However, the Trojans still control their own destiny to the conference title as they visit Middle Tennessee, 6-0 in Sun Belt play, next week. A win in Murfreesboro, followed by a victory at FIU, would send the Trojans to the New Orleans Bowl. A win by MTSU over Troy next week would guarantee an outright Sun Belt title for the Blue Raiders. Arkansas State was eliminated from the title race when it lost 38-10 at home to Middle Tennessee last week.
West Virginia pounded Pitt 21-0 in the second half to pull away for a 45-27 win in the annual Backyard Brawl on Thursday night in Pittsburgh.
The 99th meeting the two schools was a back-and-forth track meet in the first half with the Panthers taking a 27-24 lead just before intermission. But it was all West Virginia in the second half as the Panthers' defense had no answer to stopping Slaton and White.
Normally, my recaps aren't about individual accomplishments - you can read detailed accounts of games and view box scores anywhere. I usually focus on revealing the team aspect of the outcome, and the effect that results have on standings, rankings and the BCS title chase. But I would be missing the boat on the whole outcome of this game if I didn't point out the stats of White and Slaton.
Unofficially, White had 219 yards rushing and 195 yards passing. Slaton racked up 215 yards rushing and 130 yards receiving. Slaton ran for two scores and added two more touchdowns on receptions. White ran for one score and had the two TD passes to Slaton. West Virginia totaled 639 net yards of offense.
West Virginia won the border war for the fourth time in the last five meetings and kept its' hopes alive for a Big East title, an invitation to a second straight BCS bowl game and, less likely, a BCS title shot.
Pitt has dropped four straight games and is now just 6-5 over-all, 2-4 in the Big East, after a promising 6-1 start.
Also on Thursday night, Ohio clinched a berth in the MAC Championship game with a 17-7 home win over Akron. The Bobcats will be playing Central Michigan, a 31-10 loser to Northern Illinois on Friday night, for their first MAC title since 1968. That opportunity arrives in Frank Solich's second year as head coach.
The Chippewas clinched the West Division title with a 31-7 win over Western Michigan on November 10. Central Michigan hasn't won a MAC title since 1994, and neither Central Michigan or Ohio have ever played in a MAC Championship game since the league went to a two-division format in 1997.
Last year's championship game was also staged between two teams that had not previously played in the MAC title game. Akron beat Northern Illinois on a TD pass with 10 seconds left for the first conference championship in school history.
In another MAC game on Friday night, Kent State (6-5, 5-2 MAC East) kept its' bowl hopes alive with a 14-6 win over Eastern Michigan (1-10, 1-6 MAC West). The MAC's third bowl slot, after Ohio and Central Michigan, will likely go to either The Golden Flashes or Western Michigan. Right now, the Broncos (7-3, 5-2 MAC West) would appear to have the upper hand with the better over-all record.
In a mud bowl at Bowling Green on Wednesday night, Miami beat the Falcons for the seventh time in their last eight meetings 9-7. The loss ended any hopes the Falcons had of going bowling as they dropped to 4-7 over-all. Bowling Green hasn't beaten Miami on its own turf since 1997.
For the RedHawks, it was just their second win of the year as they improved to 2-9 over-all, 2-5 in the MAC East.
Toledo, the computer's preseason pick to win the MAC, was eliminated from bowl consideration with a 20-17 loss to Ball State Tuesday night. The Rockets fell to 4-7 over-all, 2-5 in the MAC West. The Cardinals, who saw their bowl hopes disappear when they lost to Michigan on November 4, improved to 4-7 over-all, 4-3 in the MAC.
Toledo played in five of the conference's first eight championship games after the MAC went to a two-division format in the 1997 season. The Rockets just missed going to the championship game last year when Northern Illinois was the west's representative by virtue of a tie-breaking win over Toledo in the regular season.
Incidentally, Marshall played in the MAC's first six championship games and won five of those, including the first four.
The list shrunk to two teams as Ohio State knocked Michigan out of the club 42-39, and Rutgers was rocked 30-11 at Cincinnati.
Boise State kept its' perfect record intact with a 49-10 romp over Utah State.
Stanford was scratched from the list when The Cardinal broke ranks and defeated Washington 20-3 last week. Duke and FIU are the only two teams remaining with goose eggs in the win column.
This week, Duke lost 49-21 to Georgia Tech. Louisiana-Lafayette visits FIU and lame-duck coach Don Strock who resigned early this week.
1-A vs. 1-AA
There was one game this week between 1-A and 1-AA schools as Florida hosted Western Carolina and won 62-0.
1-AA teams are 7-71 for the season against their higher-classified brethren. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, 1-A teams hold the upper hand by a huge margin, 235-25 (.904).
Over 75 schools took the opportunity of a 12th game to schedule a cupcake opponent.
Ohio State has won 19 straight games afer a 42-39 win over Michigan.
Michigan saw its' winning streak end at 11 games with the 42-39 loss to Ohio State.
Boise State has won 13 straight regular season games, 11 straight over-all, and 36 consecutive regular season home games. The Broncos have never lost a home game to a WAC opponent (24-0). Boise State beat Utah State 49-10.
Rutgers saw winning streaks of 9 straight games and 10 straight regular season games come to an end with a 30-11 loss at Cincinnati.
USC has won a nation's-best 32 consecutive home games after a 23-9 victory over California.
Duke has lost 19 games over-all, and 21 straight to 1-A teams after a 49-21 loss to Georgia Tech.
UNLV has lost 10 straight games. The Rebels fell 34-26 to Wyoming.
FIU has lost 10 straight games after a 17-7 setback to La.-Lafayette.
New Mexico State has lost 21 straight to 1-A teams. The Aggies were idle.
The 2006 season introduces 11 coaching changes. We're tracking their progress throughout the season.
Boise State, 11-0 under Chris Petersen, beat Utah State 49-10.
Wisconsin, 11-1 under Bret Bielema, beat Buffalo 35-3
Middle Tennessee, 7-4 under Rick Stockstill, lost to South Carolina 52-7.
Kansas State, 7-5 under Ron Prince, lost to Kansas 39-20.
Rice, 6-5 under Todd Graham, beat East Carolina 18-17.
Idaho, 4-7 under Dennis Erickson, lost to Fresno State 34-0.
Northwestern, 4-8 under Pat Fitzgerald, beat Illinois 27-16.
Buffalo, 2-9 with Turner Gill, lost to Wisconsin 35-3.
San Diego State, 2-8 under Chuck Long, lost to TCU 52-0.
Colorado, 2-9 under Dan Hawkins, was idle.
Temple, 1-11 under Al Golden, lost to Navy 42-6.