Kansas St. Surprises Everyone But Themselves In 35-7 Rout Of Sooners
by Mike Mitchell
They were two touchdown underdogs by the oddsmakers, and the Congrove Computer Rankings listed them as 19-point losers. But Kansas State listened to no one and claimed their first conference football championship since 1934 with a 35-7 romp over mighty Oklahoma.
Not since the Big 12 was known as the Big 6 had Kansas State won a football title. But on Saturday night in Kansas City, the Wildcats spotted the Sooners a 7-0 lead and then reeled off 35 straight points to stun what had previously appeared to be an unbeatable team.
On the same day, USC outscored Oregon State 52-28 and LSU rolled to a 34-13 win over Georgia to claim the SEC title.
All of it leaves the nation to await the announcement on Sunday from the BCS as to who will play in the Sugar Bowl, site of this year's "national championship" game. The Congrove Computer Rankings still have Oklahoma number one, followed by USC and LSU. The results of Saturday's games tightened up the distance between the trio but did not force any shuffling of their placement.
It was widely believed before the Big 12 title game that the Sooners could lose without being forced out of the BCS championship. But no one really expected Oklahoma to get beat, let alone to be trashed by 28 points. It was an upset of epic proportions and, without a doubt, the biggest win in KSU's history.
While the loss may not have knocked OU from the national title picture, it may have shaken Jason White off of the Heisman pedestal. And it may have given impetus to voters to consider Kansas State RB Darren Sproles.
White was 27-of-50 passing for 298 yards with 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, including one that was returned 27 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He had thrown just six interceptions in his twelve previous games this year.
Meanwhile, Sproles racked up 235 yards rushing for the Wildcats and 88 yards receiving. He hooked up with Ell Roberson for a 60-yard touchdown pass, one of Roberson's four touchdown tosses of the night.
In the SEC title game, LSU beat Georgia for the second time this season after handing them a 17-10 loss back on September 20. The Bayou Bengal defense put choker collars on the Bulldogs all night. The defense scored twice with a safety and an interception return for a touchdown. On offense, RB Justin Vincent rambled for 201 yards and two touchdowns.
In USC's win, the Trojans went over 40 points for the seventh consecutive game as they finished the season with a PAC-10 record 506 points for the season. Their Heisman Trophy candidate, QB Matt Leinart, threw two touchdown passes each to Mike Williams and Reggie Bush, and another to Steve Smith.
The scary thing about USC is that Bush and Smith are just freshmen. Leinart and Williams are sophomores.
Leinart finished 22-of-38 for 278 yards, 5 TDs and an uncharacteristic 2 interceptions. He finished the regular season 232-of-368 for 3,229 yards with 35 TDs and 9 INTs.
The first of three conference championship games went in the books on Thursday when Miami administered a 49-27 thrashing to Bowling Green to claim the MAC title.
Ben Roethlisberger threw 440 yards and four touchdowns as the RedHawks won their first MAC title since 1986. They were the first team other than Marshall to represent the east in the title game since the conference split into two divisions upon the Thundering Herd's entry to the conference in 1997.
The championship was a rematch of a regular season meeting that Miami won 33-10.
The RedHawks led 21-17 at halftime but blew the game open by converting three BGSU turnovers into touchdowns in the third quarter.
Miami had already accepted an invitation to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile where they will play Louisville. Bowling Green is expected to head to the Motor City Bowl.
In other games on Saturday, Syracuse avoided a losing season with a 38-12 crushing of Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome. The defeat gave the Irish their third losing campaign in the last five years with a 5-7 record for 2003. They were 5-6 in 2001 and 5-7 in 1999.
The Naval Academy claimed the Commander-In-Chiefs Trophy for the first time since 1981 with a 34-6 demolition of Army. The Trophy is claimed by the team that wins the seasonal round-robin competition between the three military academies - Air Force, Army and Navy. The Midshipmen beat Air Force earlier this season, 28-25.
Army still leads the series, 49-48-7, but the Black Knights have now lost 15 straight and became the first major college football team in history to finish a season with an 0-13 record.
For Navy, QB Craig Candeto and RB Kyle Eckel became the first tandem of backs to both pass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in the same season.
Late Saturday night, Boise State concluded its tour of the WAC with a 45-28 win at Hawaii. The Broncos finished the regular season 12-1 over-all and 8-0 in conference play.
That Computes: The Congrove Computer Rankings and Weekly Picks correctly projected the winner of every game for 10 of the 117 Division 1-A teams. It missed just one time with 16 others.
The computer's preseason forecast came within two wins or less of predicting the final regular season records of 80 teams. It was exactly right for 16 teams, missed by one win on 32 teams, and missed by two wins on another 32 teams. It predicted the exact conference records of 23 teams.
It correctly projected the winners of both Big 12 divisions, Connecticut as the top independent, Miami (Ohio) as east division winner of the MAC, Georgia as east division winner of the SEC, USC as conference champ of the PAC-10, and North Texas as conference titlist of the Sun Belt.
Conference Juggling: Florida Atlantic and Florida International accepted invitations Thursday to join the Sun Belt Conference in football beginning next season. Florida International was already a member of the Sun Belt in all other sports. Both schools have been Division I-AA independents in football. Both schools would spend the 2004 and 2005 seasons as conditional I-A members before gaining full membership in 2006.
Streaking: Oklahoma's win streak was snapped at 14. Miami (Ohio) now has the nation's longest winning streak with 12-in-a-row. Boise State has won 10 straight.
North Texas has won 18 straight over Sun Belt conference opponents.
Boise State has won 18 straight over WAC foes.
Army has lost 15 straight.
SMU has lost 12 straight.