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Bowden's big decision, Ole Miss lays an Egg, more Snap Judgments

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida State's 37-10 loss at Florida may have left Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden rethinking his decision to coach in 2010.

After his team escaped Maryland last week, Bowden said he never even gave a thought to the possibility that it might have been his last game at Doak Campbell Stadium. After Saturday's beating in The Swamp, Bowden sounded very different.

"I want to coach next year," Bowden told reporters from The Associated Press and ESPN.com. "Now let me say that I want to go home and do some soul-searching."

That's a drastic shift in tone from previous interviews, and it suggests either Saturday's loss or something that happened this past week has caused Bowden to re-evaluate his status. Last Sunday, Bowden was very careful to point out that he and coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher would select the replacement for defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews. Did FSU administrators tell him Fisher would make that call, as well as any critical program decisions in the future? I don't know, but Bowden seems too proud to coach with no real power.

ESPN.com cited a source close to the situation as saying Bowden and Fisher will meet with President T.K. Wetherell and athletic director Randy Spetman as early as Monday to discuss Bowden's future. Depending on what Bowden finds during his soul-search, there could be a monumental announcement this week.

USC coach Pete Carroll doesn't get to ask "What's your deal?" ever again.

Carroll played the victim two weeks ago after Stanford punched in a late touchdown to break half-a-hundred. He famously asked Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh about his deal during the postgame handshake.

Up 14 late Saturday, Carroll allowed quarterback Matt Barkley to throw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Damian Williams with 44 seconds remaining. Sure, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel had just called a timeout, but USC could have handed off until the clock expired.

Had Carroll not whined to Harbaugh, the late toss wouldn't be such a big deal. USC and UCLA are hated rivals, and if UCLA didn't want to get embarrassed, it should have kept USC from scoring. But Carroll seemed so offended when Harbaugh ran up the score. Now, that complaint rings hollow.

So run it up all you want, coach. Just don't get upset the next time someone hangs 50 on you.

I owe the Pac-10 an apology. Last week, as the league's teams beat up on one another, I joked on Twitter that on the East Coast, we call that kind of parity the ACC.

I'm sorry, Pac-10, for even including you in the same sentence as the ACC. You deserve better than that.

How else am I supposed to feel on a Saturday when the ACC's two division champs (Georgia Tech and Clemson) lost intrastate rivalry games to mediocre SEC teams (Georgia and South Carolina)? Maybe both teams were looking ahead to next week's ACC title game, but what does it say about the conference when its two division champs lost to teams that went 4-4 and 3-5 in SEC play?

Sure, it's only one game for both teams. And both teams were playing rivalry games. Neither is an acceptable excuse. Georgia Tech's defense looked like a clean, old-fashioned sieve as Georgia backs Caleb King and Washaun Ealey combined to rush for 349 yards. Meanwhile, Clemson's offense stalled, and C.J. Spiller's Heisman campaign died a slow death on the Williams-Brice Stadium turf.

The two teams will play next week for the conference title, and the Orange Bowl will welcome the winner. But it will take a while for the ACC to earn back the respect it lost on Saturday.

Les Miles can learn from his mistakes. The LSU coach bungled the clock at the end of last week's loss at Ole Miss. He did not repeat his mistakes during a critical drive at the end of regulation Saturday against Arkansas.

Last week, Miles allowed valuable seconds to tick off the clock before he called timeout. Later, he appeared to signal for quarterback Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball with one second remaining. This week, down three with no timeouts, Miles and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton made all the right calls, as Jefferson calmly led the Tigers down the field to set up a 41-yard Josh Jasper field goal to force overtime. Jasper made his overtime attempt, and Razorbacks kicker Alex Tejada missed his.

And just like that, the Mad Hatter redeemed himself.

Speaking of LSU's win, it helped clarify the SEC bowl picture, which appears to be nearly set. Here's my best guess of the SEC slate based on Saturday's results. Stewart Mandel will offer full bowl projections Monday on SI.com.

BCS championship: SEC champion (Florida or Alabama)

Sugar Bowl: SEC runner-up (Florida or Alabama)

Capital One Bowl: LSU

Cotton Bowl: Ole Miss

Outback Bowl: Tennessee

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Georgia

Liberty Bowl: Arkansas

Music City Bowl: Kentucky

Independence Bowl: South Carolina

Papajohns.com Bowl: Auburn

Congratulations to the Boise State Broncos, who might not get stiffed out of a BCS at-large bid after all. Oklahoma's pounding of Oklahoma State eliminated the Cowboys from contention, so if chalk rules on conference championship weekend, it's likely Boise State will face a Big Ten opponent in the Fiesta Bowl.

The most deserving Big Ten team would be Iowa, but the thought of a Boise State-Iowa matchup probably makes Fox executives glad this is their last year in the BCS biz. Don't be shocked if the Fiesta takes Penn State, even though the Nittany Lions lost to the Hawkeyes at home.

Just when we thought Ole Miss might live up to a fraction of its preseason hype, the Rebels went out and laid an Egg Bowl. Dan Mullen couldn't lead Mississippi State to a bowl game in his first season, but claiming the Golden Egg with a 41-27 victory will help the Bulldogs win some of the fierce recruiting skirmishes in the talent-rich Magnolia State.

Since Mullen landed the job, one of his popular talking points has been that the state of Mississippi produced Jerry Rice, Brett Favre and Steve McNair, and none of them went to Mississippi State or Ole Miss. Mullen wants the next Rice, Favre or McNair to play in Starkville, and he'll have a much better shot at landing any in-state target after his team's dominant win Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Rebels have to be wondering how their season could have started and ended so poorly. Fresh off a thrilling-but-lucky win against LSU, Rebels quarterback Jevan Snead threw three interceptions. Snead, who started the season as a potential 2010 first-rounder, probably can sign another apartment lease in Oxford.

Rebels coach Houston Nutt won't get fired like the last two Egg Bowl losers (Ed Ogeron and Sylvester Croom), but he will face an entirely new challenge this offseason. After the game, Mullen threw down the gauntlet. He grabbed the mic and told the Scott Field crowd, in so many words, that at least one program in the state is headed in the right direction.

Kansas lost a heartbreaker to Missouri on Saturday, and after the loss -- the Jayhawks' seventh in a row after a 5-0 start -- coach Mark Mangino had to answer another round of tough questions. Will it be the last round of tough questions Mangino faces as the Kansas coach? He doesn't know.

"Why don't you ask the decision-makers?" Mangino asked reporters after the 41-39 loss in Kansas City. "I've been answering a lot of questions for two weeks. I haven't run. I've been up-front with nothing to hide. Sometimes people ask me questions, and I'm not the one to be answering them."

Mangino said he plans to coach Kansas next year, and he said he didn't know when the school would finish its investigation into accusations he mistreated players. Mangino said his coaching style did not require changing. He also said his style helped him build the program in recent years.

"I'm confident in my ability, and I feel good about everything I've done," he said. "When I was hired at Kansas, they told me that they desperately needed structure and discipline in the football program. The people who hired me said it was the key point. I've done that the right way."

Mangino also didn't sound like a man who would quit without a fight.

"I don't have anything to say to any decision-makers," he said. "I'll leave you with what a friend of mine told me one time that I think is a very good way to go about life. That is, 'I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.'"

Nike's Pro Combat uniform rollout the past few weeks was hit-and-miss. The subtle alteration to the iconic Texas uniform (numbers over the Longhorn) looked pretty cool. So did Virginia Tech's whiteout gear. But the pewter-and-black Missouri helmets looked ridiculous, as did the horrific stitching on Florida's jerseys, which looked like either alligator paw prints or a cannabis leaf.

I like the classics when it comes to unis. Michigan, Penn State and Alabama are particular favorites. I understand the desire to sell gear, but hopefully all that fancy technology can be blended into a more eye-pleasing kit.

I also have one question for Nike executives: With all the people who worked on this project, did no one speak up and ask why you were calling it Pro Combat when so many college-age Americans are overseas right now wearing real professional combat gear to protect them from enemy fire? For a company with as much PR savvy as Nike, that's a pretty offensive misstep.

Well, we know one participant in the ACC title game was looking ahead to Tampa. Other than C.J. Spiller returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Clemson looked completely uninterested in beating South Carolina. The Gamecocks, though, were more than happy to pound the Tigers, 34-17.

South Carolina, which had lost three in a row entering Saturday, needed the win badly. Now after Saturday's feel-good victory the Gamecocks can enjoy a month of positive momentum before their bowl game, which might be the Chick-fil-A in Atlanta.

Clemson, meanwhile, still has a big prize to play for, though ACC officials can't be thrilled about the prospect of a four-loss conference champ. If you think a win against Georgia Tech is impossible given the way the Tigers played Saturday, don't be so hasty.

Clemson looked awful in the first half of the matchup with Tech in Atlanta on Sept. 9, but came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Two late field goal drives saved the Yellow Jackets that night.

If the Tigers put all their eggs in the ACC title-game basket, I wouldn't be shocked. We'll have to wait until later tonight to find out whether Georgia Tech adopts the same attitude.

Contrary to popular superstition, a puff of white smoke did not appear above Florida Field when Gators quarterback Tim Tebow emerged from the tunnel for his Senior Day introduction.

Tebow got a big hug from Florida coach Urban Meyer and a thunderous roar from the Florida Field crowd. While Tebow received the loudest cheer, he did not have the most elaborate Senior Day entrance. That belonged to senior cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis, who stopped on the five-yard line and executed a textbook LeBron James talcum toss.

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