Oklahoma, USC Each One Win Away From Clinching BCS Title Match
by Mike Mitchell
A trio of events on Saturday all but insured a BCS title match between Oklahoma and Southern California, but each has one more game to win.
Southern Cal scored an easy 47-22 win over UCLA to claim at least a share of the PAC-10 title and secure the conference's BCS bowl bid. Oregon State was eliminated from any shot with they were bounced by Oregon, 34-20. Washington State, which lost 27-19 to Washington, can still take a share of the crown but can not unseat USC from the conference's top bowl slot because of the Cougars' 43-16 loss to the Trojans on November 1. USC finishes the regular season at home against the Beavers on December 6. The Trojans will win the outright PAC-10 title with a win.
Oklahoma rolled to a 56-25 win over Texas Tech in a battle that featured two of the nation's top quarterbacks. Oklahoma's Jason White won the duel with two TD tosses while the Red Raiders' B.J. Symons was picked five times and threw just one scoring toss.
Symons, however, did capture the NCAA single-season record for passing yardage. His 230 yards against the Sooners gave Symons 5,336 for the season, surpassing Ty Detmer who threw for 5,188 with Brigham Young in 1990.
Michigan played a huge role in setting up the potential Oklahoma-USC title game by knocking off Ohio State, 35-21, for the Wolverines' first win over Buckeye coach Jim Tressel. Michigan claimed the Big 10 title in the process.
Oklahoma must still get past Kansas State in the Big 12 title game on December 6, though even a loss in that game might not eliminate them.
Kansas State earned the Big 12 north division with a 24-14 victory over Missouri. The Wildcats concluded a big season turnaround that saw them finish the regular season with six straight wins after an early-season swoon had them slip to 4-3.
LSU has the next best shot at ascending to the national championship game. The Tigers took a tough 17-14 win at Mississippi to nail down the west division entry into the SEC Championship game on December 6 in Atlanta.
LSU's opponent is still unknown. Florida and Georgia's fate lay in Tennessee's hands when the Vols visit Kentucky next Saturday. Georgia would go the conference title game if the Vols win, and Florida will go if Tennessee loses.
LSU hosts Arkansas in their regular season finale on Friday.
Utah claimed the Mountain West title with a 3-0 win over Brigham Young in the snow at Provo.
In the MAC, Bowling Green and Toledo each won their respective games to set up a showdown between those two teams for the west division on Friday. The Falcons host the affair and the winner will host the MAC championship game against Miami (Ohio).
Miami, Pittsburgh and West Virginia remain tied for the Big East title. All three teams are 5-1 as the Hurricanes travel to Pitt on Saturday and the Mountaineers host Temple.
Before last week's action began, Florida State had already secured the ACC title and North Texas had wrapped up the Sun Belt crown. Connecticut finished as kings of the four Independent programs.
Boise State clinched at least a tie for the WAC championship with a 31-17 win over Fresno State on Friday night. The Broncos improved to 10-1 over-all, 6-0 in WAC play, as they pocketed their 16th consecutive win over a league opponent.
Boise State only needs to win one of its two remaining games to take the outright WAC title. The Broncos host Nevada next weekend and travel to Hawaii for their season finale on December 6.
Hawaii is the only team remaining that could steal the league's top bowl slot. For that to happen, Boise State must lose to Nevada. That would set up the season-ending showdown between the Broncos and the Warriors.
Tulsa (8-4, 6-2) is one of the year's biggest surprises and will head to the postseason somewhere. In Steve Kragthorpe's first season, the Golden Hurricane improved from 1-11 last season.
The Congrove Computer Rankings preaseason conference projections had the Golden Hurricane winning just two games all year, and most analysts predicted a similar fate. But Kragthorpe picked up his first win as head coach in the third week of the season and the Golden Hurricane is 8-2 in its last ten games. Only a pair of one touchdown losses to Nevada and Boise State has prevented them from being undefeated in conference action. They squeaked past San Jose State, 34-32, in their season finale on Saturday.
Southern Mississippi claimed the Conference USA title with a 40-28 win over TCU in Hattiesburg on Thursday night. The loss snapped the Horned Frogs' 12-game winning streak and not only knocked them from BCS consideration, but likely relegated them to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
TCU can still claim a piece of the title if the Golden Eagles falter at East Carolina on November 29. But the head-to-head victory would seem to have guaranteed a Liberty Bowl berth for Southern Miss.
Give TCU credit. Facing a 31-6 deficit in the fourth quarter, the Horned Frogs ignited for 22 points in four-and-a-half minutes to put themselves back into position to win.
An initial touchdown and failed two-point conversion was followed by two successful onside kicks that led to two more touchdowns, each with successful two-point tries tacked on.
But Southern Miss regrouped and a field goal put the Golden Eagles up 34-28. A blitz on TCU's quarterback produced a fumble that USM recovered inside the Horned Frogs' 20 and later resulted in the game's final touchdown.
Give Gary Patterson credit, too. The TCU coach never publicly whined or complained about his team's position in the BCS Standings, opting to simply play the games and let the chips fall where they may.
On this night in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss left with the chips and their first CUSA title since 1999.
Still Streaking: Army has lost 14 straight after its 59-28 loss to Hawaii.
SMU has lost 11 consecutive games. The Mustangs were idle this past weekend.
Baylor fell to 5-59 lifetime in the Big 12 with its 38-21 loss to Oklahoma State.
Unhappy Valley: Penn State finished the season with a 41-10 loss at Michigan State, securing the first 9-loss season in the school's history.
The loss dropped Joe Paterno's coaching record to 339-109-3 in 38 seasons at Penn State.
Bobby Bowden holds the career mark with a record 341-98-4 in 38 seasons, 28 at Florida State. The 'Noles were idle on Saturday.
Tracking the new coaches: There were eighteen head coaching changes in the off-season and all of them have at least one win this year. Now, there have been six coaching changes made since the season began.
The latest was the dismissal of Lee Owens from Akron after the Zips completed a 7-5 season, one win shy of the computer's projected 8-4 mark.
Al Lavan slipped to 2-1 as interim coach of Eastern Michigan when the Eagles lost to Northern Illinois, 38-24. Lavan took over when Jeff Woodruff was canned.
Mike Hankwitz is 1-5 with Arizona. The Wildcats were idle Saturday.
Ted Roof is 2-3 at Duke after the Blue Devils scored a 30-22 win over rival North Carolina on Saturday. Duke, at one point, had lost 30 straight ACC games. Under Roof, they have now won two of their last three.
John Mumford is 0-6 with Army after the Cadets lost 59-28 to Hawaii.
Alan Gooch lost his inaugural game as interim coach at UCF, replacing Mike Kruczek. Marshall beat the Golden Knights, 21-7, last Wednesday.