Miami Wins Big East; Georgia Takes SEC East
by Mike Mitchell
Miami claimed another Big East title in its last season with the conference by throttling Larry Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh 28-14. Meanwhile, the SEC says Georgia has sewn up the east division title and will play LSU for the conference crown
Miami left little doubt which team was better on Saturday, extending a 21-7 halftime lead to 28-7 in the third quarter. Fitzgerald was held to just three catches for 26 yards and an 18-yard touchdown reception late in the game. That score was totally meaningless except that it extended his NCAA record streak to 18 games with at least one TD catch.
West Virginia grabbed a share of the Big East title and a likely Gator Bowl bid by tying the Hurricanes with a 6-1 league record after their 45-28 win over Temple. The Mountaineers lost in the final seconds to Miami, 22-20, back on October 2. West Virginia finished the year with an over-all record of 8-4 and on a 7-game winning streak.
Pittsburgh fell to 8-4, 5-2 with the loss and a third-place conference finish.
Virginia Tech completed another late-season swoon with a 35-21 loss to Virginia, the Hokies' fourth setback in their last six games to finish 8-4 over-all, 4-3 in league play and in fourth place in their final year of Big East play.
Miami and Virginia Tech are headed to the ACC next season.
Georgia beat Georgia Tech, 34-17, to finish the year at 10-2 and in a three-way tie for the SEC East title with Tennessee and Florida. Each had 6-2 conference marks.
The three teams all split their head-to-head meetings - the Bulldogs lost to the Gators and beat the Vols; Tennessee lost to Georgia and beat Florida; Florida beat Georgia and lost to Tennessee - so the BCS Standings were the determining factor factor in who advances to the conference championship game against LSU on December 6.
The Bulldogs were No. 7 heading into the weekend, one spot ahead of the Volunteers who beat Kentucky 20-7 for their 19th consecutive win over the Wildcats. The team that is highest in those standings gets to advance and nothing indicated that it wouldn't be Georgia. Apparently, the SEC got a sneak peek at the BCS numbers on Sunday to prove that to be the case.
LSU and Mississippi each finished with 7-1 conference marks in the SEC west, but the Tigers ascended to the league title game when it edged the Rebels 17-14 two weeks ago, and obliterated Arkansas 55-24 in its season finale on Friday.
Florida would have gotten the east division's SEC championship game berth if Tennessee had lost to Kentucky. That would have eliminated the Vols from the tie and reduced the tie-breaker to the Gators' regular season win over the Bulldogs. As it turned out, Florida was the only one of the three teams to come up short on Saturday, dropping a 38-34 non-conference home game to rival Florida State.
The Sunshine State rivalry game was marred by questionable, if not awful, officiating and a melee that followed the game when Seminole players celebrated by jumping up and down on the "F" that decorates the center of the field in "The Swamp." Pepper spray was used by police to disperse the players and halt the confrontation.
Aside from Coaching Changes at Arizona, Nebraska and Nevada, here are the other major developments over the Thanksgiving holiday:
- Southern Miss claimed the outright CUSA title with a 38-21 win at East Carolina to finish the season unbeaten at 8-0 in conference play. The Golden Eagles are headed to the Liberty Bowl where they will confront Mountain West champion Utah.
- Bowling Green defeated Toledo, 31-23, to claim the west division title of the MAC. The Falcons will host Miami this Thursday for that conference's championship. Miami had already clinched the east title and finished the year undefeated in conference play at 8-0 with a 56-21 romp over Central Florida on Friday.
- Boise State clinched the outright WAC title with a 56-3 pounding of Nevada. The Broncos have won 17 straight conference games.
- Hawaii was a somewhat surprising 37-29 home winner over Alabama.
- Rutgers ended the season with a 24-7 home upset of Syracuse to improve the Scarlet Knights to 5-7 over-all and 2-5 in the Big East, tied with the Orangemen in the conference standings. The Orangemen (5-6) need a home victory over Notre Dame next Saturday to become bowl-eligible.
- Notre Dame stomped Stanford, 57-7, to creep within one game of becoming eligible for the postseason. The Irish are 5-6 after dismantling the team that Ty Willingham left to become head coach in South Bend.
- Navy (7-4) accepted an invitation to the Houston Bowl where they will compete in the postseason for the first time since 1996 and only the second time since 1981. That's also the last year they won the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy but it will be theirs if they defeat Army on Saturday.
Bad Streaking: Army goes into the annual Army-Navy game on Saturday having lost 14 straight.
SMU has lost 12 straight games after a 20-13 loss to TCU.
Baylor fell to 5-59 lifetime in the Big 12 with its 38-21 loss to Oklahoma State on 11/22.
Iowa State has lost 10 straight since opening the season with a pair of victories.
Coaching Record: Bobby Bowden increased his lead over Joe Paterno for NCAA Division 1-A career coaching wins with a 38-34 win over Florida on Saturday. Bowden's record is 342-98-4 in 38 seasons, 28 at Florida State.
Paterno finished the season at 339-109-3 in 38 seasons at Penn State.
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, seven schools have made coaching changes since the season began.
The latest was Nebraska which fired Frank Solich on Saturday after a 9-3 season, one win better than the computer's (Congrove Computer Rankings Preseason Rankings) projected mark.
Lee Owens was "reassigned" at 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 finished 1-6 as interim coach for Arizona. He replaced John Mackovic when he was let go on September 29 after a 1-4 start. Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was named the new head coach on Saturday (11/29). Stoops is the younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.
Ted Roof was 2-3 as interim coach of Duke after the Blue Devils scored a 30-22 win over rival North Carolina last week (11/22). Duke, at one point, had lost 30 straight ACC games. Under Roof, they won two of their last three conference games.
John Mumford is 0-6 with Army after the Cadets lost 59-28 to Hawaii on 11/22.
Alan Gooch finished 0-2 as interim coach at UCF after the Golden Knights were bombed 56-21 by Miami (Ohio) on Friday.