Iowa State, Boston College Blow Title Chances;
Virginia Tech Sets Up ACC Showdown With Miami
by Mike Mitchell
Iowa State lost 17-14 to Missouri in overtime and Boston College was derailed 43-17 by Syracuse as each missed their opportunity to claim division or conference titles on Saturday.
Iowa State simply needed to win their final game at home against the Tigers but missed a potential game-winning field goal with just over a minute left in regulation. In overtime, Missouri converted a field goal on their opening possession and then picked off a Cyclones' pass in the end zone to secure the victory.
Oddsmakers had listed Iowa State as a home favorite but the computer, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings, forecasted a Missouri win.
The loss by Iowa State gave Colorado the Big 12 north title and puts the Buffaloes in the conference championship game against Oklahoma next week.
Colorado stayed in the hunt by beating Nebraska 26-20 in Lincoln on Friday, a result that will keep the Cornhuskers from going bowling for the first time since 1968. Nebraska ended the year at 5-6 for their first losing season since 1961.
The Buffaloes led 26-7 late in the fourth quarter of Friday's game before the 'Huskers were able to stage a rally that came up short and ended when they failed to recover an on-side kick with over a minute left to play.
Oddsmakers had Nebraska listed as the favorite but the computer had projected Colorado to win by 1.
Nebraska's first season under Bill Callahan was filled with negative firsts. It was the first time in eight meetings that they lost to Texas Tech and they were bombed 70-10. Their home loss to Southern Miss was the first to a non-conference team since 1991. This season was also the first time Nebraska failed to win a conference road game since 1959 when the league was known as the Big 7.
On Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Boston College could have claimed the Big East championship with a win over Syracuse. But the Orangemen needed a win just to become bowl eligible and routed the Eagles 43-17.
Pittsburgh kept alive with a 16-13 home win over West Virginia in the Backyard (thank God it wasn't a) Brawl. The Panthers never led Thursday night's game until the game-winning touchdown was scored with 4:06 left to play.
The loss eliminated the Mountaineers from the BCS and made another computer upset pick come true.
Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia all finished 4-2 in the conference. But the Eagles and Mountaineers were eliminated from the BCS chase by their 1-2 records against the other three. If Pittsburgh wins their season finale at South Florida next week, the Panthers will get the big-money bid. Even a loss in the non-conference make-up game, caused by Hurricane Frances on Labor Day weekend, could leave the Panthers with the BCS bonanza due to a higher ranking than Syracuse.
At best, the Big East representative will be an 8-3 Pittsburgh team. At worst, the conference could send a 6-5 Syracuse team to one of the nation's biggest bowl games.
Virginia Tech clinched at least a share of the ACC title with a 24-10 home win over Virginia on Saturday. The win improved the Hokies' conference record to 6-1 and puts them in position to claim the conference title outright with a win at Miami (5-2) next week. Miami can claim a share of the conference title if they win. Even more importantly, the victor takes the ACC's automatic berth in a BCS bowl game.
Both Tech and Miami are in their first season of ACC play. As Big East members, they won or shared that conference's championship nine times in twelve seasons.
In other holiday weekend action:
Louisville clinched the CUSA title with a pathetically easy 70-7 rout over Cincinnati. The Bearcats finished the year tied for the second-best conference record at 5-3 with Memphis, UAB and Southern Miss.
Memphis beat South Florida 31-15 and Southern Miss defeated UAB 26-21 on Saturday.
TCU (5-6) was eliminated from bowl consideration with a 35-31 loss to Tulane. The upset killed the Horned Frog's chances of playing in what might have been their hometown Ft. Worth Bowl. Tulane (5-5) can become bowl eligible if they upset Louisville next Saturday.
Georgia beat Georgia Tech 19-13 in a game that wasn't decided until the Yellow Jackets mistakenly threw the ball away on fourth down while driving for the possible game-winning score.
Northwestern (6-6) was eliminated from the bowl chase by Hawaii. The Warriors kept their thin bowl hopes alive by outscoring the Wildcats 49-41. Hawaii (6-5) must beat Michigan State next week at home to become bowl eligible.
UTEP had a seven-game winning streak snapped at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane finished 4-8 with the 37-35 win. UTEP still improved by seven games over last year. The Miners were 2-11 in 2003 and 8-3 this season.
Texas concluded its regular season with a 26-13 home win over Texas A&M on Friday. The game included the scoring of a rare one-point safety when Texas' kicker dribbled an extra point attempt into the line where it was recovered by Texas A&M. In an effort to pick up and return the ball, the Aggies fumbled it backward into their own endzone where they fell on it for a safety. (The NCAA rulebook explains this in combination of rules 8-3-2 How Scored and 8-7-2 Responsibility and Impetus).
The Longhorns finished the year in second place in the Big 12 south with a 7-1 conference mark and 10-1 over-all record. The Aggies slipped to 7-4 over-all, 5-3 in the conference in Dennis Franchione's second season as head coach.
Texas Tech and Oklahoma State both finished the year at 7-4 over-all after the Red Raiders' 31-15 win over the visiting Cowboys. But Texas Tech moved ahead of OSU for fourth place in the Big 12 conference south division standings with a 5-3 record versus the Cowboys' 4-4 mark. Texas A&M took third by virtue of their win over Texas Tech two weeks ago.
Arizona upset Arizona State 34-27 on Friday to drop the Sun Devils to 8-3 over-all, 5-3 in the PAC-10, still good enough for third place in the conference. The Wildcats (3-8, 2-6) wrapped up Mike Stoops' first season as head coach with what could easily be called their biggest win of the year.
LSU's 43-14 romp over Arkansas on Friday kept the Razorbacks from becoming bowl eligible. LSU improved to 9-2, 6-2 in the SEC west. Arkansas ended the season at 5-6, 3-5 in the SEC west.
Connecticut beat Rutgers 41-35 in a Thanksgiving Day game that started at 10am on the east coast. The victory likely secured a Continental Tire Bowl berth for the Huskies, their first bowl game in five seasons as a Division 1-A program.
UConn's record improved to 7-4 over-all and 3-3 in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights finished 4-7, 1-5 for their tenth consecutive losing season. Rutgers was 5-5-1 in 1994. Their last winning season was a 7-4 campaign in 1992. The Scarlet Knights have not been to a bowl game since the 1978 Garden State Bowl.
It was a tale of two halves on Tuesday night at the Glass Bowl in Toledo. After trailing 27-7 at halftime, Toledo outscored Bowling Green 42-14 in the second half and claimed the MAC's west division title with a 49-41 win.
The Rockets will play Miami (Ohio) next Thursday night in Detroit in the conference championship game.
George O'Leary is infamous for lying on his resume. Now he must be wondering who lied to him when he was told UCF had a football team. O'Leary's inaugural season at Central Florida mercifully ended Tuesday night with a 41-24 home loss to Kent State that left the Golden Knights with an 0-11 record, 0-8 in the MAC. It won't get any easier next year when UCF joins Marshall in defecting to CUSA.
Central Florida has now lost 15 consecutive games and is the first Division 1 team in the state of Florida to go winless since Florida went 0-10-1 in 1979.
Mississippi beat Mississippi State 20-3 to win the Egg Bowl in Oxford. The win by the Rebels ended a disappointing season that began with the computer forecasting a 10-1 record for Ole Miss. They were expected to win six games by six points or less. Instead, they lost four games by seven points or less and finished just 4-7 over-all, 3-5 in the SEC.
Racking Up Points: Louisville and Boise State have been racking up the points. Each has scored 55 or more points in every one of their last four games. The Cardinals have averaged 61.5 per game while the Broncos have averaged 59.5. On defense, the Cards have allowed 27.75 while the Broncos have given up 21.75.
Computer Streak: The computer picks on this site have a streak of their own involving Boise State. It has correctly picked the winner of 39 consecutive regular season Bronco games dating to November 10, 2001. It is 18-20 ATS on those games.
Computer Hits Three-Out-Of-Four Upsets: The computer's weekly picks based on the Congrove Computer Rankings continued its amazing run of outright upset picks against the Vegas spreads. It is 48-25 ATS for the season with its upset picks after going 3-1 ATS over the holiday.
This week, it nailed the outright "upsets" of Pittsburgh over West Virginia, Missouri over Iowa State and Colorado over Nebraska. It's only miss was on Virginia-Virginia Tech.
No Blemishes: Auburn, Boise State, Oklahoma and Utah all completed the regular season with 11-0 records. USC is hoping to do the same. Auburn moves on to the SEC Championship in Atlanta agianst Tennessee and Oklahoma faces Colorado in the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.
Tennessee scored the game-winning touchdown with just 38 seconds left to beat Kentucky 37-31 on Saturday. The Volunteers' only other lead in the game was at 7-3 in the first quarter. A loss to one of the conference's worst team would have been a major embarrassment heading into the SEC title game next week in Atlanta in which Tennessee will take on Auburn. The Tigers beat the Vols in Knoxville 34-10 in the regular season.
On Saturday, USC pulled away from Notre Dame for a 41-10 win after leading just 17-10 at halftime. The Trojans wrap up the season next week at UCLA.
Boise State completed their season unbeaten with a 58-21 romp over Nevada in the snow at Reno.
Streaking: Boise State has won 22 straight games over-all, 25 straight at home, and 26 straight over WAC foes. The Broncos beat Nevada 58-21 Saturday night.
USC has the nation's second-longest winning streak at 20 games. The Trojans have won 21 straight at home and 14 consecutive PAC-10 games. They methodically obliterated Notre Dame 41-10 Saturday night at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.
Utah has won 15 straight games after a season-ending 52-21 win over BYU. The Utes have won 11 straight Mountain West games and 18 of their last 19 against league foes.
Auburn has 13 consecutive wins after a 21-13 victory over Alabama to end their regular season. They will tackle Tennessee in the SEC Championship game next week.
Iowa has won 18 straight home games after ending the year with a 30-7 win over Wisconsin.
North Texas has won 25 straight over Sun Belt conference foes after the Mean Green concluded their season with a 31-7 win over Arkansas State 31-7. UNT has also won four consecutive Sun Belt titles as they have topped the conference in every year of its existence.
Central Florida ended the season with the nation's longest losing streak at 15 games. The Golden Knights lost 41-24 at home to Kent State on Tuesday.