Conference Title Games Set
by Mike Mitchell
Virginia Tech, Colorado, West Virginia, Tulsa, Akron, Northern Illinois and LSU all secured conference or division titles over the Thanksgiving holiday. Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Boise State and Nevada all grabbed a share of their conference crowns.
Colorado backed into the Big 12 title game while Iowa State, UTEP, Louisiana-Monroe, South Florida and Bowling Green all blew their conference title shots. Fresno State coughed up the opportunity to win the WAC title outright.
Nine teams became eligible to receive bowl bids as Akron, Arizona State, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Houston, N.C. State, Kansas and Southern Miss all won their sixth game of the season. But Akron's bowl life likely hinges on the Zips winning the MAC title game. And Louisiana-Lafayette is unlikely to get a bid as the second qualified team in the Sun Belt, despite their co-champion status.
Seven other teams failed in their bids to become bowl eligible as
Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, UAB, Louisiana-Monroe, Maryland, North Carolina and Stanford all went down to defeat.
Connecticut clung to bowl life for one more week.
Texas, LSU and Notre Dame avoided the upsets but Fresno State couldn't do the same.
The computer's top-ranked team certainly didn't play perfect Friday, and they needed a little help from late Texas A&M miscues, but Texas managed to outlast their arch-rival 40-29 in College Station on Friday to improve to 11-0.
The Aggies turned the ball over on a fumble deep in Texas territory in the fourth quarter, then fumbled the punt return when they held the Longhorns. Texas didn't get any points out of either mistake but clung to their 37-29 lead until they converted on a field goal with 2:24 left for the final margin.
Texas A&M will miss the postseason as the Aggies dropped to 5-6 with the loss. The Longhorns had already clinched the Big 12 south division title and found out Saturday they'll be playing Colorado in the conference championship.
Colorado could have clinched the north division title on Friday with a home win over Nebraska but the Buffaloes were trampled 30-3. That gave Iowa State a shot at the division title on Saturday but Iowa State gave it right back to Colorado when the Cyclones blew a late 21-14 lead and lost in overtime to Kansas 24-21. At least Kansas did something right - they became bowl eligible with the comeback victory.
Virginia Tech secured the ACC's coastal division title with a 30-3 rout of North Carolina that kept the Tar Heels from becoming bowl eligible. The Hokies will play Florida State in the first conference championship game at Jacksonville next Saturday.
Florida State lost a 3rd-straight game for the first time since 1983 when state rival Florida walloped the Seminoles 34-7 in "The Swamp".
LSU on Friday survived the upset bid by Arkansas and clinched the SEC West's berth in the conference championship game with a 19-17 victory. LSU picked off Arkansas on a 4th-and-18 desperation heave with under a minute left to secure the win. LSU and Auburn finished with identical 7-1 conference marks but the Bayou Bengals own the tie-breaker with their 20-17 overtime win over the Tigers on October 22nd.
LSU will face Georgia in Atlanta next Saturday for the SEC title and the accompanying automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. Georgia and LSU did not meet in the regular season.
Stanford did its best to become bowl eligible and kick Notre Dame out of the BCS, but the Irish easily drove the length of the field and erased the 1-point lead Stanford had taken with less than two minutes to play. So, instead of a 31-30 upset victory by the Cardinal, the Irish eked out the 38-31 win and became BCS eligible with its ninth win of the season.
Fresno State couldn't avoid the upset. A week after coming ever-so-close to knocking off USC, the Bulldogs fell victim to the upset bug themselves in a 38-35 loss to Nevada in Reno. As a result, Fresno State lost its chance to win the WAC title outright with a victory next week over Louisiana Tech. Instead, the best they can hope for is a share of the title with Boise State and Nevada.
South Florida was just one game away from hosting a Big East conference title showdown with West Virginia until they became surprising 15-10 losers at Connecticut. The loss by the Bulls enabled West Virginia to go ahead and clinch the conference title and an accompanying BCS bowl slot.
West Virginia did its part to help itself with a 45-13 clubbing of Pittsburgh last Thursday in the "Backyard Brawl". The Mountaineers broke open a 14-13 contest by scoring the final 31 points of the game.
UTEP only needed to beat SMU on Saturday to clinch a berth in the first CUSA title game against Central Florida. But the Mustangs uncorked a 34-point second half and ripped the Miners 40-27.
UTEP's loss was Tulsa's gain. The idle Golden Hurricane became the outright west division champs and will play UCF in Orlando next Saturday.
Louisiana-Monroe only needed a home win over rival Louisiana-Lafayette to secure an outright Sun Belt conference title. But the Ragin' Cajuns needed a win to become bowl eligible and earn a share of the conference title so they routed their rival 54-21. The Monroe Indians failed to win the outright title or even become bowl eligible at 5-6.
Together with Arkansas State's 31-24 win at North Texas, the conference wound up in a three-way tie for first place between ASU, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe. The Jonesboro Indians will be the league's representative in the New Orleans Bowl.
Akron blasted Kent State 35-3 on Thanksgiving Day to earn the east division's spot in the MAC title game. A three-way tie had to be broken by going deep into tie-breaker rules that looked at each teams' west division foes' records.
Northern Illinois captured the west division on Wednesday with a resounding 42-7 win over Western Michigan. The Huskies finished tied with Toledo at the top of the division standings but won the tie-breaker with their 35-17 win over Toledo just last week.
Akron has never won a conference, or even division, title. Northern Illinois captured their only conference championship in 1983 (see MAC Champions).
The Broncos finished the season 7-4 over-all, 5-3 in the MAC, a year after going 1-10 over-all and 0-8 in the conference. Their conference title hopes disappeared when Toledo beat Bowling Green 44-41 in double-overtime on Tuesday night. Toledo's hopes vanished with Western Michigan's loss open Wednesday.
On Monday night, Miami (Ohio) rolled over Ohio 38-7 and seemingly took Akron out of the MAC east division puzzle. But Toledo's win over BGSU on Tuesday gave Akron new life.
Barry Alvarez won his last regular season game as coach of Wisconsin. The Badgers beat Hawaii 41-24 to snap a two-game losing streak and finish 9-3.
A 20-yard field goal with 9 seconds left lifted Arizona State over Arizona 23-20 in the Territorial Cup. In the process, the Sun Devils became bowl eligible at 6-5. The Wildcats led 20-5 in the 3rd quarter before ASU scored the game's final 18 points.
Still Winning: USC and Texas are still on course for a Rose Bowl showdown of the nation's only two remaining undefeated teams. The Longhorns escaped a severe threat from Texas A&M with a 40-29 win at College Station. USC faces rival UCLA next Saturday while Texas plays Colorado in the Big 12 Championship in Houston. The Longhorns crushed the Buffaloes 42-17 earlier in the year.
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: Two teams finished the season winless.
New Mexico State (0-12) came close but lost its season finale to Utah State 24-21.
Temple (0-11) had already ended its season with a 38-17 loss at Navy last week.
The Aggies have lost 13 straight while the Owls have lost 12 in-a-row.
At this point last year, UCF was the only winless team.
1-AA Schools Strike Out: 54 games were played this season between 1-A teams and lower-division foes. No such games were played this past week. The 1-A teams went 52-2. Since the beginning of the 2003 season, 1-A teams are 164-18 (.901).
Streaks: USC was idle last week and carries a number of streaks into this week's home game against UCLA. The Trojans have won 33 straight over-all, 26 at home and 22 against conference foes. 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. USC has won 44 of its last 45 games.
Texas won its 18 straight game, 40-29 over Texas A&M.
Boise State has a nation-leading streak of 31 home wins. This past week's 30-13 victory over Louisiana Tech took place in Ruston, La. so it did not add to the streak.
New Mexico State escaped victory and kept is record a perfect 0-12. The Aggies now own the nation's longest losing streak all by themselves at 13 games. They were tied with Temple but the Owls finished their season last week with a 12th straight loss as they fell 38-17 to Navy.
New Coaches: The 2005 season began with 23 coaching changes.
Here is how each has fared for the season, by order of success, and how they performed this past week:
LSU, 10-1 under Les Miles, beat Arkansas 19-17.
Notre Dame, 9-2 under Charlie Weis, won at Stanford 38-31.
Florida, 8-3 under Urban Meyer, beat Florida State 34-7.
Miami, O., 7-4 under Shane Montgomery, won at Ohio 38-7.
South Carolina, 7-4 under Steve Spurrier. Regular season complete.
Western Michigan, 7-4 under Bill Cubit, lost at No. Illinois 42-7.
BYU, 6-5 under Bronco Mendenhall. Regular season complete.
Utah, 6-5 under Kyle Whittingham. Regular season complete.
East Carolina, 5-6 under Skip Holtz, beat UAB 31-23.
Pittsburgh, 5-6 under Dave Wannstedt, lost at West Virginia 45-13.
Stanford, 5-6 under Walt Harris, lost to Notre Dame 38-31.
Indiana, 4-7 under Terry Hoeppner. Regular season complete.
Marshall, 4-7 under Mark Snyder, lost at Memphis 26-3.
Ohio, 4-7 under Frank Solich, lost to Miami, Ohio 38-7.
Oklahoma St, 4-7 under Mike Gundy, lost at Oklahoma 42-14.
Mississippi, 3-8 under Ed Orgeron, lost at Mississippi State 35-14.
San Jose St., 3-8 under Dick Tomey, beat Idaho 26-18.
Utah State, 3-8 under Brent Guy, won at New Mexico State 24-21.
Illinois, 2-9 under Ron Zook. Regular season complete.
UNLV, 2-9 under Mike Sanford. Regular season complete.
Washington, 2-9 under Ty Willingham. Regular season complete.
Syracuse, 1-10 under Greg Robinson, lost at Louisville 41-17.
New Mexico St., 0-12 under Hal Mumme, lost to Utah State 24-21.