Week 13 Recap
To be honest, the 2007 college football season has not been for the faint of heart. Close finishes and amazing upsets have made an absolute mess of the college football landscape. But boy has it been fun to watch. With one weekend of games remaining, we’re close to finding out who will play for the national title. But, given the way this season has gone, the only surprise would be that things go exactly as planned. Here’s a recap of week thirteen.
1. Arkansas 50, #1 LSU 48 (3 OT).
While the Razorbacks winning the “Boot” may not be enough to save Houston Nutt’s job, it was more than enough to ruin LSU’s national title chances and get Darren McFadden back into the Heisman discussion. McFadden accounted for more that 200 yards on the ground and four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) in the Arkansas win, but don’t forget about sidekicks Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Jones ran for eighty-five yards and had another seventy-three in kick return yards. Hillis ran for eighty-nine and two touchdowns, not to mention another sixty-two yards receiving. I don’t think it would be fair to call LSU’s defense overrated, but you have to wonder if a season full of close calls combined with the recent “Les Miles to Michigan” talk became a burden too heavy to bear. But the SEC and a Sugar Bowl berth is still to be had next week against Tennessee.
2. #4 Missouri 36, #2 Kansas 28.
In the most anticipated game of the weekend (as well as the history of this rivalry), Missouri jumped out to a fast start on both sides of the football and held off the Jayhawks in Kansas City. Chase Daniel, who went 40-49 for 361 yards and three touchdowns, put up one of the best performances of the year in a big game situation. The win earned the Tigers a rematch with Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, and keep in mind that Mizzou led after three quarters in Norman back in October. The difference between then and now for Missouri: Tony Temple is in the lineup. Temple ran for ninety-eight yards on 22 carries Saturday night against a Kansas defense whose tackling was a flashback to their poor performance last season. KU did their best to get into position to win the game late, but a safety sealed the deal. The indoor Field Turf in San Antonio should be a good fit for the Missouri offense, but the Sooners will also have their fair share of weapons.
3. #3 West Virginia 66, #20 Connecticut 21.
The first half score was WVU 24, UConn 14. But the Huskies somehow outgained the Mountaineers in the first half. The problem was two turnovers that West Virginia converted into fourteen points. Now, while it’s anyone’s guess what was said in the locker room, whatever Rich Rodriguez told his players worked just fine. 257 rushing yards and fifteen minutes later, there was no doubt that the Big East champion was West Virginia. WVU put up 517 yards on the ground in the rout, a game that managed to send a powerful message to the rest of the nation focused on bigger and more competitive games. With 4-7 Pittsburgh coming in for the “Backyard Brawl”, there could have been the opportunity for a letdown. But after seeing just how focused WVU was on Saturday, don’t count on it.
4. Coaching changes at Nebraska, Texas A&M and Mississippi.
While two of the three weren’t a surprise, it was quite interesting to see how things played out in College Station. No more than an hour after beating rival Texas for the second straight year, Dennis Franchione announced his “resignation”. Let’s just say that it was clear he wasn’t going out on his terms. And when it was time for the AD to say some words of thanks, Coach Fran was up from his seat and out of the room. Reports have Houston Texans offensive coordinator (and former Green Bay Packers head coach) Mike Sherman being the leading candidate for the job. Guess a lot of the powers that be at A&M really like the former Texas A&M assistant.
Just hours after giving up 65 points at Colorado, Bill Callahan was fired at Nebraska in what had to have been one of the worst-kept secrets in sports. Was there really a chance that Callahan would keep his job, especially considering how he alienated the loyal fan base? Names being thrown around for the job include LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pellini, Buffalo head coach and former Nebraska quarterback Turner Gill and Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe.
In what has to be the most surprising move thus far, Ole Miss fired Ed Orgeron after just three years in Oxford. This was just weeks after receiving that dreaded “vote of confidence” from the AD and president. But when you conclude a winless conference season with a 17-14 loss to your bitter rival after leading 14-0 well into the fourth quarter, that vote of confidence means nothing. Now, cynics may say that Ole Miss got exactly what they deserved since they fired David Cutcliffe just when it looked as if he had the program on solid ground. Not really sure where they go here, but I’d like to see someone such as longtime Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong or Kentucky offensive coordinator Joker Phillips get a shot, especially given the time they’ve put in at SEC schools.
5. Tennessee escapes Lexington with the SEC East.
Saturday’s triple overtime win was the Volunteers’ 23rd straight over Kentucky, a game in which the Vols held a 24-7 lead only to have UK tie the game on the last play of regulation. Somehow, when given up for dead, Tennessee and Philip Fulmer find a win to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Winners of five straight, they may be catching LSU at just the right time in Atlanta next weekend. Once again when the chips were down on the table, Kentucky’s defense folded, giving up a forty yard touchdown pass on the first play of the third overtime. Hindsight is 20/20, but could things have worked out better for Kentucky had they used the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to move their offense half the distance to the goal instead of pushing Tennessee back fifteen yards? Maybe, but they did make the right decision in pushing the Vols back. It’s just that you don’t count on missed assignments at that point in the game.
6. Tennessee’s win = BCS bid for Georgia.
The bad news for Georgia fans was that Tennessee winning kept them out of the SEC title game. The good news was that their 31-17 win over rival Georgia Tech may have been enough to put them into the BCS. Now ranked fourth in the BCS standings, the Bulldogs can pretty much only move up at this point. They most likely won’t leapfrog Ohio State if one of the top two were to lose next week, but being in the top 6 would guarantee an at-large berth. But where would they go? The Sugar is out with LSU’s loss, so could it be the Orange? Or maybe even the Rose? I know the Tournament of Roses committee would love to get that traditional Big Ten/ Pac-10 matchup, but if Ohio State heads to New Orleans, which is more attractive to fans and television: Georgia/ USC (if the Trojans beat UCLA) or Illinois/ USC? Even if you switch USC with Arizona State, I’d still take Georgia and their legions of fans. No disrespect to Illinois, but they do have three losses to Georgia’s two.
7. The most valuable player in the country is Oregon’s Dennis Dixon.
If there was any doubt of this before Dixon went down with a torn ACL, you can remove it now. Seven quarters without their senior quarterback and without a doubt the seven worst quarters of Oregon football since last season. This weekend brought a 16-0 loss to a UCLA team dealing with injury woes of its own, who somehow still harbor hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl. All they’d need is a win over USC combined with an Arizona win over Arizona State. Unlikely, yes, but given the way this season has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow Karl Dorrell is on the sidelines in Pasadena on January 1st. But back to Dixon, whose play masked some of the injuries suffered by other key Ducks such as Jeremiah Johnson, Cameron Colvin and Brian Paysinger. The shutout marked their first scoreless effort since a 63-0 pasting against Nebraska in 1985.
8. If he were at a “brand name” school, UCF’s Kevin Smith would be a Heisman frontrunner.
Smith, who has now run for 2,164 yards this season, has the highest single-season rushing total for any running back ever to play major college football in the State of Florida. In the Golden Knights’ 36-20 win over UTEP, Smith ran for another 219 yards on forty-six carries. And it’s not like teams don’t pack the box with eight and nine defenders when playing UCF. In Saturday’s Conference USA title game, Smith will face a Tulsa defense ranked 90th against the run. Now while Smith surely won’t catch Barry Sanders 2,628 yards this coming weekend, he could stand to put a sizeable dent in the distance between the two numbers if the Golden Hurricane aren’t careful. And no to take anything away from Smith, but Barry accomplished his number in eleven games without the benefit of adding his bowl stats. On the same token, however, people know that Smith is getting the ball and still can’t stop him. Rumble, young man rumble.
9. Tim Tebow should be the Heisman frontrunner.
Note to Florida State and linebacker Geno Hayes: don’t give Tim Tebow any bulletin board material heading into the game. He’s going to carve you up one way or the other, so you may as well focus your game week thoughts on how to stop him instead of how to get him going. Five total touchdowns later (he’s now got fifty-one), the Gators had a 45-12 win over their rivals from the state capital. For as bad as Oregon has looked without Dennis Dixon, how many wins would Florida have without Tebow? What he’s done this season has never been done by a quarterback, and three losses or not, sophomore or not, the man must be given his due. The award is supposed to go to the “best collegiate football player in the United States”, and in my opinion that man is Tebow, even though my partisanship should lead me to pick Pat White.
10. #8 Virginia Tech 33, #16 Virginia 21.
Looking at Miami and Florida State, you can understand why someone once said that “when you have two quarterbacks, you have none”. But on the other side of that coin is a Virginia Tech team that has played noticeably better since Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor began to split reps. Although opponents pretty much know what each guy is in the game for (Glennon to throw, Taylor to run), the Hokies have had little trouble moving the football of late. Now comes a rematch with Boston College in Jacksonville for the ACC title, and this is a really good time to have running back Branden Ore clicking as well. Ore put up his first 100-yard rushing effort of the season on Saturday; something that Tech will need more of this coming weekend.
11. Hawaii is one game away from the BCS.
Friday’s 39-27 win over Boise State not only got the Warriors their first outright WAC title ever, it also put them right at number twelve in the new BCS standings. Colt Brennan threw for 494 yards and five touchdowns, passing Ty Detmer for the career touchdowns mark in the process. How Hawaii has only moved three or four spots for most of the season can be blamed on their schedule, but there are other teams ahead of them with losses who didn’t exactly schedule non-conference juggernauts themselves. All that stands between Hawaii and the proving ground they’ve wanted all along is a Washington team coming off a heartbreaking loss in the Apple Cup to rival Washington State.
12. A quick pat on the back for Alex Brink.
While this season hasn’t turned out the way that Wazzu fans would have hoped for, it’s time to give quarterback Alex Brink some due mention. For all the quarterbacks to have come through Washington State, guys like Timm Rosenbach, Drew Bledsoe, Jack Thompson and Ryan Leaf to name a few, only one has won three Apple Cups. His name: Alex Brink. Nice work, Alex.
13. My Top 5 Teams
1. West Virginia
3. Ohio State