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College Football Season

Florida, Oklahoma, USC, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Troy, Buffalo Win Titles

by Mike Mitchell and Dave Congrove
December 7, 2008

The conference champions are:
ACC: Virginia Tech
BIG EAST: Cincinnati

BIG 10: Penn State clinched BCS bid; co-champs with Ohio State.
BIG 12: Oklahoma
CUSA: East Carolina
SEC: Florida
MAC: Buffalo
Boise State

On Saturday, Alabama was bounced from the unbeaten ranks as Florida won the SEC title game 31-20; Oklahoma won 62-21 to squash Missouri's BCS bowl hopes; USC clinched the PAC-10 with a 28-7 win at UCLA; Virginia Tech beat Boston College 30-12 to claim the ACC again; East Carolina upset Tulsa 27-24 for the CUSA crown; and Troy rolled over Arkansas State 35-9 for the Sun Belt title.

In the SEC Championship game at Atlanta, Florida did its' part to set up a Florida-Oklahoma national title game. The Gators scored the final 14 points of the contest to rally for a 31-20 victory and spoil Alabama's perfect season. The loss prevented the Tide from securing their first SEC title since 1999, and from playing for its' first national championship since 1992. Florida now has the opportunity to give the SEC a third consecutive national champion. A conference representative has captured 4 of the 10 BCS titles, with Tennessee winning in 1998; LSU in 2003 and 2007, and Florida is 2006.

Oklahoma also did its' part to set up a showdown with Florida. For a fifth straight game, the Sooners scored 60-plus points in a 62-21 rout of Missouri. No team had done that since Tulsa in 1919. In the process, Oklahoma set a record for points scored in a single season with 702 while holding its' opponents to 319, an average victory of 54-24.5. The Sooners have won 7 straight games since suffering their only loss of the season to Texas by an average score of 59.8-29.28. Oklahoma has now won 5 of the last 7 conference titles, and 6 of the last 9. They are 6-1 in Big 12 championship games. The Sooners have won 52 of the last 61 meetings vs. Missouri.

USC capped an 11-1 season with a 28-7 win over UCLA to clinch the outright PAC-10 title, and punch a ticket to the Rose Bowl. The Trojans have at least shared the last seven PAC-10 titles.

For the second straight season, Virginia Tech avenged a regular season defeat to Boston College by beating the Eagles in the ACC Championship game. The 30-12 victory on Saturday was the Hokies' largest margin of victory in any game of the 2008 season, and marked only the second time all year that they manage to hit the 30-point mark. Of course, that was accomplished with a stellar defensive effort that included a fumble return for a touchdown to produce their final points. Virginia Tech has won three ACC titles in its' five season in the league. The ACC has staged a championship game just four times, and Virginia Tech has played in three of ethos. The Hokies clinched a second consecutive Orange Bowl bid with the win and will make their sixth major bowl appearance (3 Sugars, 3 Oranges) since 1995 after making none prior to that. A victory in their 16th straight bowl appearance would secure their fifth straight season of double-digit wins.

East Carolina became the surprising winner of the CUSA with a 27-24 win at Tulsa in the championship game. The Golden Hurricane had seven turnovers in the contest, including five interceptions by QB David Johnson who had thrown only 13 all year. The Pirates started their season strong with victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia en route to a 3-0 start. But they followed those up with 3 straight losses before ending the season with victories in 6 of their last 7. Tulsa started the year 8-0 but lost to Arkansas, Houston and the Pirates down the stretch to finish the campaign with a 10-3 mark. This was just the fourth conference championship game staged by CUSA, and the third that included Tulsa. The conference title is East Carolina's first since claiming the Southern Conference crown in 1976 when it went 4-1 against league members Appalachian State, William & Mary, The Citadel, Furman, and VMI.

Last year, Troy gave away the outright Sun Belt conference title in a season finale loss at home to FAU, and sat at home during the bowl season despite an 8-4 record. This time around, the Trojans secured the title with a 35-9 rout of Arkansas State and accepted the New Orleans Bowl bid that comes with that distinction. Troy has won or shared the last three Sun Belt titles.

After the MAC Championship at Detroit on Friday, we have decided that Buffalo head coach Turner Gill is seeming more and more like Bullwinkle - "Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat" - but unlike Bullwinkle, his tricks often work. A 42-24 win over previously undefeated, and heavily favored, Ball State was a shocker. Buffalo returned two 3rd-quarter fumbles for touchdowns of 92 and 74 yards. The first one came two plays after Ball State had clearly scored a touchdown, but was ruled out of bounds, and replay failed to correct the obvious mistake. The 92-yarder kept the Cardinals from stretching their lead to 24-14 and put Buffalo ahead 21-17. The second fumble return occurred on the very next drive after a called completed pass was overturned by the replay official, even though the replays failed to provide conclusive evidence that there wasn't a catch. Those were two of Ball State's four fumbles on the night, equaling its' total from the entire 12-game regular season.

The loss prevented Ball State from becoming the first MAC team to finish a full season undefeated, including bowl game, since Marshall went 13-0 in 1999. The last current member of the MAC to go unbeaten was Toledo (11-0-1) in 1995. Gill has taken just three seasons to rescue the Bulls from the bottom of the FBS and turn them into MAC Champions. Before Gill's arrival, the Bulls were 10-69 in 7 FBS seasons. They are 15-22 in his three years at the helm, 13-12 over the last two campaigns, and 11-6 in MAC games over past two seasons.

Thursday night, Rutgers improved its' bowl resume with a 63-14 destruction of Louisville as Mike Teel threw 7 TD passes. Six of Teel's scoring strikes came in the first two quarters when Rutgers raced to a 49-0 halftime advantage. The Scarlet Knights improved to 7-5 and ended the regular season on a 6-game winning streak. The Cardinals lost their last five games to end 5-7 for their worst record since a 1-10 debacle in 1997.

The college football week kicked off on Wednesday night with Louisiana-Lafayette beating  Middle Tennessee 42-28 in a battle for bowl eligibility - both teams needed a win to get to 6-6. The Ragin' Cajuns have a good chance of receiving a bowl bid with the nearby Independence (Shreveport, La.) and (Birmingham) Bowls unable to fill their slots with teams from their primary conferences. The Sun Belt is the backup supplier of teams to both conferences but a 6-6 Sun Belt team does not have to be taken. Still, the Independence may strive to create a regional matchup between Louisiana Tech and Louisiana-Lafayette to fill the seats. The Bulldogs are already selling tickets. Those teams haven't played since 2004 and are not scheduled to meet next year.

Deja vu: The seven conferences that still needed their champion to be determined this week were the same seven conferences that were decided in the final week last year. And just like last year, all we knew going into this week was that Penn State had won the Big Ten and Cincinnati had claimed the Big East to be the only conferences that had determined their automatic entrant in the BCS conglomerate of bowls (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls, plus the BCS title game).

Further Deja vu: The ACC and Big 12 Championships were rematches of last year's title game. In Virginia Tech and Boston College's case, the ACC title game marks the fourth meeting between those teams in the last fourteen months.

The Greatest Rivalry: Navy (8-4) routed Army (3-9) 34-0 at Philadelphia to give the Midshipmen their 13th straight win over the other two academies - Air Force and Army - en route to its' sixth consecutive Commander-In-Chief's Trophy.

Other Games: Cincinnati rallied from a 24-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to win 29-24 at Hawaii. An interception return for a touchdown, and a safety, helped fuel the comeback. The Bearcats are likely headed to the Orange Bowl to face a 9-4 Virginia Tech team. Had Cincinnati lost to the Warriors, their BCS game would have featured two teams with at least 3 losses. As it is, the Bearcats finished 11-2 for their best single-season win total in school history. Hawaii completed the season 7-6 and will host the Hawaii Bowl in its' first season under head coach Greg McMackin. The former June Jones assistant took over the team when Jones opted to go coach SMU (1-11) after leading the Warriors to an undefeated regular season and a Sugar Bowl berth last year.

Made it this week:

Louisiana-Lafayette (won 42-28 vs. Middle Tennessee)

Eliminated this week:
Middle Tennessee (lost 42-28 at Louisiana-Lafayette)
Louisville (Lost 63-14 at Rutgers)
Arizona State (Lost 31-10 at Arizona)

4 teams finished the regular season unbeaten: Alabama, Ball State, Boise State and Utah all went 12-0. However, Alabama fell 31-20 to Florida in the SEC Championship, and Ball State lost 42-24 to Buffalo in the MAC Championship. That leaves Boise State and Utah as the only unbeaten teams remaining heading into the bowl season.

Only Hawaii made it through the 2007 regular season unscathed, and the Warriors were blown out 41-10 by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It was the first season since 2002 that no team recorded a perfect record.

Boise State was the only team to finish the entire 2006 season undefeated, while Texas did it in 2005. Auburn, USC and Utah all had unblemished records in 2004.

Washington was the only team to finish the season winless. The Huskies wrapped up a perfect 0-12 year with a 48-7 loss at California on Saturday.

Last season, FIU beat North Texas in its final regular season game to avoid being the only winless team. FIU was one of two schools to go winless in 2006 (Duke was the other).

3 teams failed to defeat a FBS school: SMU, Washington, and Western Kentucky.

FBS vs. FCS:
The divisions were renamed late in 2006. 1-A was given the new moniker of Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) while 1-AA was labeled the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

FBS teams went 85-2 (.977) against FCS teams this season, and are 375-37 (.910) since 2003.

Here are the losses by the FBS this season:
Cal Poly 29, San Diego State 27 (Week 1)
New Hampshire 28, Army 10 (Week 2)

This year, 82 different FBS teams participated in a total of 87 games that pit the FCS against the FBS. Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Texas Tech and Western Kentucky each played two such games.

ACC teams played more games versus FCS schools than any other conference. Here is the number of FCS games for each conference:

Conference Teams In Conf. Games vs. FCS Avg. Per Team
ACC 12 14 1.167
Big East 8 7 0.875
Big 12 12 10 0.833
Big 10 11 9 0.818
MWC 9 7 0.778
WAC 9 7 0.778
SEC 12 9 0.750
Independents 3 2 0.667
MAC 13 8 0.615
CUSA 12 7 0.583
Sun Belt 9 5 0.555
PAC-10 10 2 0.200
Totals 120 87 0.725

Utah has won 13 straight games. Regular season complete.

Boise State has won 12 straight overall, 19 consecutive home games, 49 straight regular season home games, and has never lost at home to a fellow WAC conference member (32-0). Overall, the Broncos have won 38 straight conference home games since losing to Idaho in the final game of the 1998 season when it was a member of the Big West. Regular season complete.

Alabama had its' 13-game winning streak snapped in a 31-20 loss to Florida in the SEC Championship game.

Ball State had its' 12-game winning streak snapped in a 42-24 loss to Buffalo in the MAC Championship game.

Oklahoma has won 23 straight home games. Beat Missouri 62-21 in the Big 12 Championship game.

BYU has won 18 consecutive home games. Regular season complete.

Washington has the longest losing streak in the nation at 14 games, and has lost 8 consecutive home games. The Huskies lost 48-7 at California.

SMU has lost 10 straight overall, 17 straight conference games, 15 consecutive road games, and 21 straight to FBS teams. Season complete.

Iowa State has lost 10 straight overall, and 17 consecutive road games. Season complete.

NEW COACHES: The 2007 season featured 24 new head coaches. Nine led their team to a bowl game. This year began with 18 2008 coaching changes, and grew to 19 when Tommy Bowden stepped down from Clemson on October 13.

Only one team with a new coach failed to defeat an FBS school - SMU.

Arkansas 5-7 Bobby Petrino Season complete
Baylor 4-8 Art Briles Season complete
Colorado State 6-6 Steve Fairchild Regular season complete
Duke 4-8 David Cutcliffe Season complete
Georgia Tech 9-3 Paul Johnson Regular season complete
Hawaii 7-6 Greg McMackin Lost to Cincinnati 29-24
Houston 7-5 Kevin Sumlin Regular season complete
Michigan 3-9 Rich Rodriguez Season complete
Mississippi 8-4 Houston Nutt Regular season complete
Navy 8-4 Ken Nuimatalolo Defeated Army (at Philadelphia) 34-0
Nebraska 8-4 Bo Pelini Regular season complete
Northern Illinois 6-6 Jerry Kill Regular season complete
SMU 1-11 June Jones Season complete
Southern Miss 6-6 Larry Fedora Regular season complete
Texas A&M 4-8 Mike Sherman Season complete
UCLA 4-8 Rick Neuheisel Lost 28-7 to USC
Washington State 2-11 Paul Wulff Regular season complete
West Virginia 8-4 Bill Stewart Defeated USF 13-7

Midseason Change:      
Clemson 4-2 Dabo Swinney Regular season complete

COACHES WHO WON'T BE BACK: The 2008 season wasn't close to being over when jobs started opening up for 2009.
(See Coaching Changes for details):

Auburn - Tommy Tuberville out.
Bowling Green - Gregg Brandon out.
Clemson - Tommy Bowden out. Dabo Swinney in.
Eastern Michigan - Jeff Genyk out.
Kansas State - Ron Prince out. Bill Snyder in.
Miami (O.) - Shane Montgomery out.
Mississippi State - Sylvester Croom out.
New Mexico - Rocky Long out.
New Mexico State - Hal Mumme out.
San Diego State - Chuck Long out.
Syracuse - Greg Robinson out.
Tennessee - Phillip Fulmer out. Lane Kiffin in.
Toledo - Tom Amstutz out. Tim Beckman in.
Utah State - Brent Guy out. Gray Andersen in.
Washington - Ty Willingham out. Steve Sarkisian in.
Wyoming - Joe Glenn out. Dave Christensen in.

Purdue - Joe Tiller announced in January that this would be his last season, and former assistant Danny Hope was hired away from Eastern Kentucky to become his successor. Tiller was 87-62 in 12 seasons at Purdue, and 126-92-1 when you include his 6 seasons at Wyoming from 1991-1996. Purdue was just 4-8 (2-6, Big Ten) this year.


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