USC Dodges Fresno St. Bullet; Georgia Tech Upsets Miami
by Mike Mitchell
Fresno State was up to the task and took USC to the wire before a fourth costly interception sealed a 50-42 Trojan victory.
Fresno State held a 21-13 halftime lead but, as you would expect, USC scored the first 21 points of the second half to go out in front 34-21. Unlike past opponents that USC has trailed at halftime, the Bulldogs refused to lie down and stop barking.
Instead, Fresno State rallied to take a 42-41 lead in the fourth quarter. USC responded and went ahead 50-42 but the Bulldogs still had some fight left. They marched from their own 10-yard line to the USC 25 with 1:37 still left in the game. But from there, Fresno State was picked-off for the fourth time in the second half to seal the USC victory.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over 5 times. USC had one solitary fumble which was coughed up by Reggie Bush on a kick-off return that helped Fresno State retake the lead at 42-41. Bush more than redeemed himself by racking up 513 all-purpose yards to keep USC in the game.
The win preserves a potential matchup of the nation's only two remaining undefeated teams in the BCS title game between USC and Texas. Both of those teams have challenges ahead as Texas travels to Texas A&M next week and USC faces UCLA on December 3rd. Texas also has to win the Big 12 championship game against the winner of the Iowa State-Colorado game next week.
While USC managed to dodge the bullet, Miami stared prosperity in the face and promptly shot it. After clobbering Virginia Tech in Blacksburg two weeks ago, the Hurricanes simply needed to finish the season with home victories over Georgia Tech and Virginia to win the ACC's Coastal division. They were even next in line for a shot at the national championship if Texas or USC should falter down the stretch.
Instead, Georgia Tech beat Miami 14-10 and blew the Hurricanes back out of the ACC title game. The Yellow Jackets intercepted a Miami pass deep in their own territory with 1:40 left to play, then ran out the clock to preserve the upset. The Miami loss puts Virginia Tech back in control of its own destiny to win the coastal division title with a home victory over North Carolina next week.
Virginia Tech, which had not played since the loss to Miami, delivered a merciless pounding to traditional rival Virginia. Little did they know at the time that their 52-14 romp over the Cavaliers would have them back at the top of their division by the end of the day. The Hokies' win over the Cavaliers was their sixth in the last seven games of the series and their biggest margin of victory over UVa since a 48-0 rout in 1983.
North Carolina needs a win over Virginia Tech to become bowl eligible. The Tar Heels kept their postseason hopes alive with a 24-21 comeback victory over Duke that left the Blue Devils winless in the conference for the fourth time in the last six seasons. Duke has won a total of 3 ACC games from 2000-2005.
In other action, Ohio State rallied from a 21-12 fourth quarter deficit to beat Michigan 25-21 on a 3-yard TD run with 24 seconds left in the game. Later in the day, Penn State's 31-22 win over Michigan State eliminated the Spartans from postseason contention and left the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions tied atop the Big 10 standings at 7-1. Penn State, however, earned the conference's top bowl spot by virtue of its win over the Buckeyes on October 8th. The Nittany Lions' only loss came at Michigan on the last play of the game. Ohio State also lost, at home, to Texas in a non-conference game earlier in the year.
For Penn State, it's their first conference title since the 1994 team went unbeaten and won the Congrove Computer Rankings' national championship. That team, however, went uncrowned by the two top polls of the time - the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls.
Georgia clinched the SEC east as the Bulldogs chomped on Kentucky 45-13 for their ninth straight win over the Wildcats. The west division titlist is yet to be decided.
Alabama lost for the second straight week and has no chance of winning the division after falling 28-18 to state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. LSU controls their fate in the west with victories in-hand over both Auburn and Alabama. The Bayou Bengals beat Mississippi handily on Saturday, 40-7. LSU hosts Arkansas in their season finale next weekend.
Also in the SEC, the second-longest futility streak in major college football came to an end with Vanderbilt's 28-24 win over Tennessee. Vanderbilt scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:11 left and then saved the win with an endzone interception on the final play of the game. The loss locks Tennessee out of the bowl season as they fell to 4-6. Vanderbilt ended a six-game losing streak that had already knocked them from bowl contention after they began the season with four straight wins.
The Commodores had lost 22 straight games to the Volunteers since their last victory over their state rival in 1982. Navy owns the longest losing streak of one team to another with 42 consecutive losses to Notre Dame dating back to 1963.
Central Florida shook-off the upset bid by Rice as the Golden Knights scored the game-winning points on a TD pass with 1:25 left to clinch the CUSA east division title with a 31-28 road victory. The win was UCF's eighth in its last nine games after beginning the year with two losses to extend, what was then, the nation's longest losing streak to 17 games.
UTEP could have clinched a berth in the CUSA championship as the west division winner with a victory at home over UAB, but the Blazers prevailed 35-23 to keep their bowl hopes alive. UAB evened their record at 5-5 while UTEP gets one more shot at clinching the division when they visit SMU next week. A loss by the Miners next week puts Tulsa in the league title game.
Tulsa stayed in the CUSA west division title hunt with a 38-14 smackdown of Tulane in a game played at Monroe, Louisiana. The Golden Hurricane finished the season at 6-2 in conference play, 7-4 over-all.
Marshall, which joined Central Florida in defecting from the MAC to CUSA this year, was disqualified from the postseason when the Thundering Herd were upset at home 34-29 by East Carolina. Marshall has gone to a bowl game in all but one previous year (2003) since rejoining the 1-A ranks in 1997.
South Florida kept its Big East title hopes alive with a 31-16 home win over Cincinnati. The Bulls became bowl eligible at 6-3 and eliminated the Bearcats from the postseason at 4-6. USF hosts West Virginia on December 3rd.
Louisiana-Monroe is one win away from snagging the Sun Belt championship after a 24-19 victory at North Texas. The Indians can win the conference title outright with a win at home over Louisiana-Lafayette next week. If the Ragin' Cajuns win and North Texas beats Arkansas State next week, the Cajuns will represent the league at the New Orleans Bowl. If Louisiana-Lafayette wins and Arkansas State wins, ASU gets the New Orleans Bowl invitation. Incidentally, the New Orleans Bowl has been moved to Cajun Field on the Louisiana-Lafayette campus this year as a result of the damage inflicted on the Louisiana Superdome by Hurricane Katrina.
North Texas has fallen on hard times this season after winning all four previous Sun Belt titles. The Mean Green had a 26-game conference winning streak snapped on October 4th by Troy. Since then, North Texas is just 1-5 and on a five-game losing streak.
Oregon avenged last year's loss to Oregon State that prevented the Ducks from becoming bowl eligible by pelting the Beavers 56-14 in the 109th "Civil War". The loss eliminated Oregon State from bowl consideration.
California won the 108th "Big Game" 27-3 over Stanford to drop The Cardinal to 5-5. Stanford is now in the unenviable position of having to defeat Notre Dame at home next week to qualify for the postseason.
Notre Dame improved to 8-2 on Saturday with a 34-10 peeling of the Syracuse Orange.
Washington State ended a 7-game losing streak with its first PAC-10 victory of the year in the "Apple Cup", 26-22 over Washington. The Huskies still lead the series 63-29-6 and have a 31-12 advantage in "Apple Cup" games.
In other rivalry games, Purdue routed Indiana 41-14 in the 81st Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, and Northwestern dumped Illinois 38-21 to win the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy and reduce the Fighting Illini's advantage in the series to 51-43-5.
Clemson beat South Carolina, 13-9, without incident and each team finished the season 7-4. Clemson has won four straight in the series but this was the first time the two teams met with a Bowden (Tommy) facing Steve Spurrier.
Texas Tech beat Oklahoma 23-21 on a 2-yard touchdown run on the game's final play, a score that went to video review for confirmation, giving former Oklahoma offensive coordinator Mike Leach his first win over former boss Bob Stoops in six tries. The win helped the Red Raiders rebound from last week's inexplicable loss at Oklahoma State.
Maryland is down to one last shot at bowl eligibility when they visit N.C. State next week. A 31-16 loss to Boston College dropped the Terrapins to 5-5. The Eagles finished the regular season 8-3 over-all and in a statistical tie with Florida State in the ACC Atlantic division at 5-3. But FSU had already clinched the division title by virtue of its win over B.C. earlier in the year.
Central Michigan gained entry into the pool of eligible bowl teams with a 31-24 overtime win over Ball State. The Chippewas had lost their last two games while the Cardinals had won three in-a-row.
Army won its fourth straight game with a 38-10 destruction of Arkansas State. The Cadets will face Navy in the season finale on December 3rd with the winner taking home the Commander-In-Chief trophy.
Utah became bowl eligible at 6-5 with a 41-34 overtime win at Brigham Young, their fourth straight victory in the series. BYU is also 6-5.
In another Mountain West game, Colorado State became qualified for bowl consideration with a 31-27 win at UNLV.
In games played earlier in the week:
Northern Illinois ended an 11-game losing streak to Toledo, a streak that began in 1990, with a 35-17 win on a cold and blustery Wednesday night. It was also the first win for the Huskies in Toledo since 1972.
Now, Northern Illinois will advance to the MAC championship game with a win at home over Western Michigan next week. Western Michigan, which went 0-8 in the MAC last year and 1-10 over-all, can claim the division title if it beats Northern Illinois AND Toledo loses at Bowling Green. Toledo can still win the division with a victory next week IF Northern Illinois loses.
The east division race is just as crazy.
In a game delayed over two-and-a-half hours due to bad weather, Bowling Green stormed past Miami (Ohio) for a 42-14 win on Tuesday night. Strong storms and the threat of tornadoes caused officials to empty the stands and clear the field.
Bowling Green tied an NCAA record by scoring three safeties on Miami's inability to get a punt off. Two snaps sailed over the punter's head. When another snap was mishandled, the punter picked it up and retreated through his own endzone. Another snap was blown later in the game and the RedHawks added to their woes by tossing five interceptions.
In another MAC game on Tuesday night, Akron zipped past Ohio 27-3. The Bobcats were held to 11 yards rushing and 110 total yards as they fell out of east division title contention, and bowl contention, with a 4-6 record.
The east division title belongs to Bowling Green so long as the Falcons beat Toledo at home next week. If Bowling Green loses and Miami wins at Ohio, the RedHawks capture the title. Akron can claim the division if the Zips defeat Kent State at home AND both Bowling Green and Miami lose.
Akron has never won a conference, or even division, title. Northern Illinois captured their only conference championship in 1983.
Still Winning: If USC and Texas do their part, the BCS officials will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. No doubt they were hyperventilating late Saturday night when Fresno State came close to knocking off the vaunted Trojans. USC survived that scare 50-42 when a late interception thwarted the Bulldogs' last-second potential game-tying drive, but the Trojans still have to get past UCLA on December 3rd. Texas visits rival Texas A&M next week and will play either Colorado or Iowa State in the Big 12 title game.
In case you were wondering - at this point last season, there were still five undefeated teams - Auburn, Boise State, Oklahoma, USC and Utah.
Still Losing: Only two teams remain on the ubiquitous winless list.
New Mexico State (0-11) lost to lost to San Jose State 27-10 to provide the Spartans (2-8) with their only win over a 1-A team this season.
Temple (0-11) lost at Navy 38-17.
The Aggies and Owls have each lost 12 in-a-row.
At this point last year, UCF was the only winless team.
1-AA Schools Strike Out: Only one 1-A school faced a lower-division school on Saturday. FIU beat Western Kentucky 38-35. That may not seem like much of a feat but the Golden Panthers were trounced by the Hilltoppers 35-14 last year in FIU's last season as a 1-AA team. Earlier this year, Western Kentucky lost at Auburn 37-14.
Fifty-four games have been played this season between 1-A teams and lower-division foes. The 1-A teams are 52-2. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, 1-A teams are 164-18 (.901).
Streaks: USC extended the nation's longest winning streak to 33 with a 50-42 nail biting win over Fresno State. The Trojans have now won 44 of their last 45 games. USC also owns streaks of 26 straight home wins and 22 consecutive PAC-10 victories. The 33-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 17 straight. The Longhorns were idle.
Boise State extended its nation-leading streak of home wins to 31 with a 70-35 victory over state rival Idaho. The Broncos outscored the Vandals 35-14 in the fourth quarter to pull away.
New Mexico State endured its 12th straight loss, 27-10, at lowly San Jose State. It was the Spartans first win over a 1-A team this year and their first victory since defeating 1-AA Eastern Washington 35-24. in the season opener.
Temple lost its 12th straight game, 38-17, to Navy.
New Coaches: The 2005 season began with 23 coaching changes.
San Jose State beat New Mexico State for its first over a 1-A team under new head coach Dick Tomey. 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, 9-1 under Les Miles, won at Mississippi 40-7.
Notre Dame, 8-2 under Charlie Weis, beat Syracuse 34-10.
Florida, 7-3 under Urban Meyer, was idle.
Western Michigan, 7-3 under Bill Cubit, was idle.
South Carolina, 7-4 under Steve Spurrier, lost to Clemson 13-9.
Miami, O., 6-4 under Shane Montgomery, lost to Bowling Gr. 42-14.
BYU, 6-5 under Bronco Mendenhall, lost to Utah 41-34 in OT.
Utah, 6-5 under Kyle Whittingham, beat BYU 41-34 in OT.
Stanford, 5-5 under Walt Harris, lost to California 27-3.
Pittsburgh, 5-5 under Dave Wannstedt, was idle.
East Carolina, 4-6 under Skip Holtz, won at Marshall 34-29.
Marshall, 4-6 under Mark Snyder, lost to East Carolina 34-29.
Ohio, 4-6 under Frank Solich, lost at Akron 27-3.
Oklahoma St, 4-6 under Mike Gundy, lost at Baylor 44-34.
Indiana, 4-7 under Terry Hoeppner, lost at Purdue 41.14.
Mississippi, 3-7 under Ed Orgeron, lost to LSU 40-7.
San Jose St., 2-8 under Dick Tomey, beat New Mexico St. 27-10.
Utah State, 2-8 under Brent Guy, lost to Nevada 30-24.
Illinois, 2-9 under Ron Zook, to Northwestern 38-21.
UNLV, 2-9 under Mike Sanford, lost at Colorado St. 31-27.
Washington, 2-9 under Ty Willingham, lost to Wash. St. 26-22.
Syracuse, 1-9 under Greg Robinson, lost at Notre Dame 34-10.
New Mexico St., 0-11 under Hal Mumme, lost at San Jose St. 27-10.