Week 12 Recap...even more craziness
1. Two more national title contenders fall out of the race.
On Thursday, #2 Oregon lost at Arizona, and lost QB Dennis Dixon for good with a torn ACL. The injury was actually suffered at the end of their win over Arizona State on November 3rd. Up eleven with little more than a minute left, it can be argued that Dixon shouldn't have even been on the field. But he was, and a scramble right turned into something bad when the knee gave out. No swelling, so he thought he could give it a go on Thursday, and to be frank Dixon wore out the Arizona defense. But on an attempt to cut back the left knee gave out again, and that was it for the Ducks. Now, they've still got a shot at the Rose Bowl, but with all the injuries just how strong can they be mentally at this point?
In Lubbock on Saturday, an injury to their own quarterback, Sam Bradford, began the tailspin out of the number four spot fo Oklahoma. Texas Tech raced out to a big lead, only to have to hold on for dear life at the end as the Red Raiders recovered an onside kick. What also remains to be seen is just how serious the injury to DeMarco Murray is, who hurt his right knee (just like Dixon's...untouched) on the onside kick. Bradford, who suffered a concussion, should be back. As for Murray, let's hope the injury isn't a serious one.
2. Ohio State continues their dominance of Michigan.
Michigan's seniors pointed to this very game as the main reason for their returning to school. So much was put into getting their first win over the Buckeyes, you have to wonder if they wanted it too much this time around. A pregame "meeting of the minds" at midfield, which included Mike Hart having to be carried away from the fray, may have been more about Michigan's desperation rather than a desire to win the game. Ninety-one total yards later, the senior class walked out of the "Big House" 0-4 against OSU. Beanie Wells, who's normally been a second half force this season, was hot from the start and finished with 222 yards. Neither team did anything through the air, but it was Wells who stole the show. Hart? He didn't even surpass fifty yards on the ground.
Jim Tressel moves to 6-1 against Michigan, and clinched OSU's second straight outright Big Ten title. The Rose Bowl is the likely destination, but given the way this season has played out don't close the door on New Orleans just yet. As for Lloyd Carr, he confirmed his decision to retire in a team meeting this afternoon. There will be an official press conference Monday at 10 AM.
3. "Matty Ice" (and Clemson) do it again.
For the past three seasons, it's seemed to be one thing (or play) that has conspired to keep Tommy Bowden out of the ACC Title Game. This year, Matt Ryan hit Rich Gunnell for a forty-three yard touchdown as Boston College beat the Tigers in Death Valley 20-17. With a Heisman race changed by the injury to Dixon, Ryan my very well have at least punched his ticket to New York with his second "defining play" of the season (the gamewinner at Virginia Tech being the first). Clemson had control of this game until late, when they were unable to "finish the job". Now BC is off to the title game, where they will meet the winner of next week's Virginia Tech/ Virginia showdown.
4. Kansas and Missouri win to set up the biggest game in the rivalry's history.
Their wins over Iowa State (Kansas) and Kansas State (Missouri) were quite routine, but the end result is anything but. Ranked two and three in the polls, the bitter Big 12 rivals will meet in Arrowhead Stadium next week with a lot on the line. Big 12 North and national title hopes will be decided in this one, and the Heisman campaigns of Todd Reesing (KU) and Chase Daniel (MU) will get the marquee stage. But don't ignore Missouri's Jeremy Maclin, who broke the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season by a freshman. Has there even been a game this big between the two in basketball? I'm not sure, but the game next Saturday night will be a raucous affair.
5. Indiana will indeed "Play 13".
Amidst all the craziness at the top of the polls, one of the great feel-good stories in all of sports this season was writing its twelfth chapter n Saturday night. Needing a win to ensure going to a bowl game, Indiana got a field goal with thirty seconds remaining to beat rival Purdue 27-24. The widow of the late Terry Hoeppner was there for Senior Day, greeting each Hoosier with a hug before the game. Bill Lynch, who's been the interim head coach all year, has done one of the better coaching jobs in the nation. I think it's time to remove the "interim" tag.
6. Tennessee escapes Vanderbilt...meaning that Georgia still needs some help.
All that separates Tennessee from the Georgia Dome is a win at Kentucky, thanks to a comeback from 24-9 down to beat Vandy on Saturday. The Commodores hd control of this one for about three quarters, only to have the Vols snatch victory away from the jaws of defeat. The key play on the gamewinning drive? A forty-five yard punt return by Dennis Rogan, who also had a forty-one yard kick return in the game. Daniel Lincoln hit the gamewinner from thirty-three, while Vanderbilt had their kick hit off the upright. You must be sound in the kicking game...and Vandy found that out the hard way this weekend.
7. West Virginia holds on to set up a showdown with Connecticut next week.
While the Huskies made short work of Syracuse earlier in the day, things weren't as easy for West Virginia. Leading Cincinnati 28-10 and looking to be well on their way to an easy win, the Mountaineers began to put the ball on the ground. More specifically, Pat White fumbled twice, allowing the Bearcats to get within 28-23 late. But, the Mountaineers recovered the onside kick and a nice dose of Steve Slaton had the visiting fans singing "Country Roads" when it was all said and done. White put on a masterful performance last night, other than the two fumbles. Now comes the home game with UConn that will decide the Big East title. The Huskies don't have the offensive firepower to keep up with White and Slaton, but if West Virginia doesn't take care of the ball, then you never know what could happen.
8. Hawaii survives Nevada...Boise State visits next week with the WAC title on the line.
No Colt Brennan...nearly a big problem for the Warriors. But backup Tyler Graunke was able to lead Hawaii down the field, and Dan Kelly hit the gamewinner...twice. Yes, Nevada coach Chris Ault was able to get the timeout in before the snap, ruling out Kelly's first make. But it didn't matter to the junior, who calmly knocked in the kick again for the win. Now comes Boise State for the WAC title and maybe a shot at a BCS berth for the winner. A team from a non-BCS conference can earn a bid one of two ways: finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings, or finish ahead of the champion of a BCS league. Both scenarios are possible at this point, and it helps Hawaii that Brennan will be ready to play on Friday night.
9. UL Monroe 21, Alabama 14.
When a loss forces the head coach to apologize to the fans, then you know something went terribly wrong. In a game that was supposed to serve as a glorified bye before the Iron Bowl, Alabama lost to the Warhawks in Tuscaloosa. But, there's only one game in the state that remains on everyone's minds for 365 days, and the Tide haven't lost that one just yet. The Tigers, who got one for the thumb last season (five straight wins in the series), will look to work on the other hand while Coach Saban hopes to get a win in the game that ultimately cost Mike Shula his job.
10. Ron Zook should be Big Ten Coach of the Year.
All that Coach Zook has done this year is take a team many thought to be one year away from competing in the Big Ten to a 9-3 record and a tie for second place. After the Illini's 41-22 win over Northwestern, Illinois has possession of the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk for the first time since 2002 as well. After going 2-10 last season, they should be playing somewhere warm on January 1st. And that's much better than many expected before the season began.
My Top 5 Teams
4. West Virginia
5. Ohio State
Top 5 Heisman Candidates
1. Tim Tebow (Florida)
2. Chase Daniel (Missouri)
3. Todd Reesing (Kansas)
4. Pat White (West Virginia)
5. Matt Ryan (Boston College)