SEC thrillers; West Virginia makes statement

Monday November 26th, 2007


Thomas B. Shea/Icon SMI 
At Least The SEC Is Delivering Drama
The Razorbacks and Volunteers are already in giving moods, kicking off the holiday season with instant classics. The combined seven overtimes and 200 points put up in the Arkansas-LSU and Tennessee-Kentucky games were the silver lining in what was ultimately a sour weekend for the conference that included: former No. 1 LSU getting McFaddened out of the national title debate; its hottest team, Georgia, being denied a shot at the league title with the Vols' win; its worst team, Ole Miss, capped a 0-8 SEC slate that got coach Ed Orgeron canned and Alabama and $4-million-man Nick Saban are no lock to make a bowl after losing to Auburn -- again. While Darren McFadden turned the LSU game into a personal showcase (206 rushing yards, four TDs), it was also the harshest blow, because barring a catastrophic chain of events, a conference whose fans vehemently believe it is the best, will be watching a Big 12, Big East or Big Ten team win the national title.
Go Tell It On The Mountain(eers)
Rich Rodriguez might as well call up his travel agent because his Mountaineers are headed for New Orleans. Fourth-ranked West Virginia laid a 66-21 licking on UConn to clinch the Big East crown, and while WVU is technically a win over Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl (a game in which it's favored by 27) from a spot in the BCS title game, this team is showing no signs of slowing down. The 'Eers operated largely in the shadows as they climbed up the BCS standings, but with LSU's loss, the spotlight was on WVU -- and it didn't disappoint. West Virginia put together arguably their most dominant game of the year, piling up 517 yards on the ground against the Huskies.
Hokies' Heavy Rotation
Frank Beamer may have found his perfect quarterback -- or should I say quarterbacks. The tandem of dual-threat freshman Tyrod Taylor (two rushing touchdowns) and junior dropback passer Sean Glennon (260 yards and one TD) provided an effective -- and clearly defined -- tandem as Virginia Tech won its fourth straight over rival Virginia to reach the ACC title game. Beamer succeeded by playing to each QB's strength. Case in point: Up two with less than 12 minutes left, Glennon had the Hokies facing third-and-two at the UVA five. Just before he took the snap, Beamer called time out and the offense re-emerged with Taylor behind center. Taylor took the ball, hit the corner and put the Hokies up 30-21.
No Menace Without Dennis
If we're handing out an MVP award -- and no the Heisman doesn't meet the "most valuable" description -- it's undoubtedly Oregon's Dennis Dixon. Before the senior quarterback left in the first quarter of the Ducks' national-title-hopes-dashing loss to Arizona, Oregon was averaging 42.7 points and 510 yards a game and was generating 6.61 yards a play. Since he left, the Ducks are averaging just 1.3 yards per play and have scored 13 points in seven quarters after going scoreless against UCLA -- in which backup Brady Leaf was hurt and coach Mike Bellotti had to go to redshirt freshmen Cody Kempt and Justin Roper.
Missouri Tigers
It was a weekend of firsts for Gary Pinkel's crew. Missouri got its first Big 12 North crown and No. 1 BCS ranking after beating Kansas. The firsts could get bigger: the Tigers are a win over Oklahoma (the only team to beat them) in the Big 12 championship game from playing for the BCS title.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Remember when the Gamecocks were No. 6? At this point, it has to be pretty hard for coach Steve Spurrier to think back that far. South Carolina lost its fifth straight since reaching the ranking as it fell to Clemson. At this point, would anyone be stunned if Spurrier left for LSU or Texas A&M?
Hawaii Warriors
Hawaii won its first outright WAC title, is the last unbeaten and now stands a win over Washington from locking up a BCS berth after beating Boise State. Colt Brennan again made history, breaking Ty Detmer's NCAA career TD pass mark in the first quarter. He has 126 in his career.
Kansas State Wildcats
It looked like '07 would be a breakthrough season for second-year coach Ron Prince in Manhattan as the Wildcats hung with Auburn and beat then-No. 7 Texas. But Kansas State missed out on bowl eligibility as it ended the year on a four-game losing streak capped with Saturday's loss to Fresno State.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes' regular season is over -- but they were big winners this weekend. Ohio State rose to third in the latest BCS standings and is either a Pitt win over West Virginia or an Oklahoma victory over Missouri away from playing for the national title for the second straight year.
Syracuse Orange
Greg Robinson may be the next coach to go. In three years, he's 7-28, including 2-10 this season, and the Orange have been outscored 868-354 in those defeats, including Saturday's 52-31 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. It's a sad state for a program that won 107 games under his predecessor, Paul Pasqualoni.
"I don't think it's hit us yet. Once we got older and [people] say that the last team to beat Miami was such and such, that's when it'll hit us."
--Boston College running back Andre Callender after the Eagles beat Miami 28-14, their first win over the Hurricanes since Doug Flutie's 48-yard pass to Gerard Phelan in '84.
"We call it 'magic happens.' Certain things happen to allow you to win games and I think that was definitely a magic play."
--BYU QB Max Hall, who hit Austie Collie for a 49-yard gain on fourth-and-18 with 1:05 left, leading to Harvey Unga's game-winning TD run in 17-10 win over Utah in the Holy War.
"We could not get him down. If he doesn't win the Heisman Trophy, it's because of the sophomore thing. But if he doesn't, he should win the next two years."
--Florida State coach Bobby Bowden on Florida QB Tim Tebow, who passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 89 yards and two more scores, in the Gators' 45-12 win.
John David BootyQB - USC
The Blitz has been waiting all season to say this ... we've got a Booty call. The Trojans QB looked like the Booty of '06, throwing for 375 yards and four TDs and running for one as USC beat Arizona State to stay in the Rose Bowl mix.
Erik AingeQB - Tennessee
Ainge was indeed working overtime in the Vols' four-OT, SEC-East clinching win over Kentucky. He threw for 397 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns, including three after regulation, as Tennessee ran its winning streak vs. UK to 23 games.
Dan LeFevourQB - Central Michigan
The MAC Daddy once again did it on the ground and through the air, passing for 382 yards and two scores and running for 136 and two more TDs in a win over Akron that earns the Chippewas a spot vs. Miami (Ohio) in the MAC title game.
Mark Richt pushed his regular season non-conference record in seven seasons at Georgia to 25-0 with Saturday's victory at Georgia Tech. Seven of Richt's wins have come vs. the Yellow Jackets.
Combined number of points Nebraska gave up in its last two losses to Kansas (76) and Colorado (65). The Cornhuskers gave up an average of 48.5 points in their seven defeats.
2,164 to 2,127
UCF's Kevin Smith won the nation's rushing title over Tulane's Matt Forte, running for 219 yards vs. UTEP to stand 37 yards ahead of Forte. Smith can build on his total vs. Tulsa in the C-USA title game on Dec. 1.

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Miami (Ohio) vs. Central Michigan -- MAC Title GameDECEMBER 1
The RedHawks backed their way into Ford Field, losing to Ohio and fell into a three-way tie for the MAC East title. A 6-6 Miami needs a win to guarantee a bowl bid -- but can the 105th-ranked scoring offense (20 ppg) counter CMU's LeFevour, who has accounted for four or more TDs in five games this season, including the last two?
Central Michigan 31, Miami (Ohio) 27
Tulsa vs. UCF -- C-USA Title GameDECEMBER 1
It's Smith vs. Smith as two of the nation's unsung stars square off in Tulsa QB Paul and UCF's Kevin. Each should be able to put on a show considering UCF is 98th against the pass and Tulsa is 90th vs. the rush. But the X-factor will be the balance of Tulsa's top-ranked offense with RB Tarrion Adams supplementing the QB Smith.
Tulsa 35, UCF 31
Boston College vs. Virginia Tech -- ACC Title GameDECEMBER 1
The last time they met in a raid-soaked Lane Stadium, Matt Ryan's heroics did in the Hokies. But this isn't the same Virginia Tech team that lost to Boston College on Oct. 25 without Taylor. The Hokies have strung together their most impressive run of the season since his return, averaging 391 yards and 39 points. Factor in Branden Ore's resurgence and it's evident a healthy VT is hitting its stride.
Virginia Tech 31, Boston College 24
Tennessee vs. LSU -- SEC Title GameDECEMBER 1
Could LSU actually tumble from a near-berth in the BCS title game all the way to the Chick-fil-A Bowl? It would be a remarkable fall for these Tigers, who like the Vols, have been playing too close for comfort as of late. Three of UT's last five wins have come by a combined six points, while five of LSU's last seven games have been decided by an average of five points. LSU should wake up after last weekend's heartbreak.
LSU 34, Tennessee 24
Oklahoma vs. Missouri -- Big 12 Title GameDECEMBER 1
Texas Tech ruined Oklahoma's BCS title hopes and now the Sooners have a chance to play spoilers and add another wrinkle in the race to the Superdome. OU has won 17 of 18 in the series, including 41-31 on Oct. 13; a game Mizzou led entering the fourth quarter (and was without RB Tony Temple). Mizzou's offense is rolling and ought to take advantage of the Sooners' 70th-ranked pass D and book a trip to New Orleans.
Missouri 34, Oklahoma 31

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