Saturday, November 25, 2006

College Football Week 13 Wrap: USC Glendale bound

Another day, another slew of championship game wannabes getting flushed out of the BCS picture. Two one-loss teams, West Virginia & Notre Dame, kissed their slim shot at championship glory goodbye with losses to USF & USC, respectively, and with USC's victory they all but wrapped up a date with Ohio State on January 8th in the BCS Championship Game. If the Trojans knock off intra-city rival UCLA next week they will be the Buckeyes opponent, you can mark that down.
That's because all the other contenders have really turned out to be pretenders in an end-of-the-season bloodbath that has seen 9 teams suffer title-crushing losses in the past 3 weeks. Don't believe me? here's the 9 Not Ready for Primetime Players: Louisville, Auburn, Cal, Texas (2x), Michigan, Rutgers, West Virginia, Notre Dame & Arkansas. All of them had a chance to get a piece of the BCS pie if they could just win out, but alas none of them could.
So what went down today to further narrow the field? Lets review.

- Trojans trounce Irish, 44-24, to creep one step closer to the title game

Petey Carroll has got his Trojans headed back to the title game

It was supposed to be an all-out battle between two stellar offenses & two stout defenses that would resemble a heavyweight fight, 4 quarters to decide who should face Ohio State for the championship.

Too bad someone forgot to tell Notre Dame that the game started at 5PM Pacific time, because while they were recovering from their jet lag the Trojans were jumping out to a 21-3 lead that the Irish never recovered from.

The Trojans got the lead on their first drive, marching 71 yards in 8 plays capped by a touchdown pass from John David Booty to Dwayne Jarrett. It was the first of a number of spectacular catches Jarrett (7 recs, 132yds, 3TDs) made on the night, including a one-handed-while-falling -out-of-bounds masterpiece that is a sure Play of the Year candidate; he was the thorn in Notre Dame's side that they just could not get rid of. After holding the Irish to 3& out the Trojans got a a 43 yard punt return to the ND 26; 3 plays later Booty(17-28, 265, 3TDs, 2INTs) found Jarrett for touchdown #2, and it was 14-0 USC halfway thru the first quarter. ND got on the board late in the quarter when Brady Quinn(22-45, 74, 3TDs) directed a 70-yard dive that ended in a field goal, but when Booty ran one in from 1 yard out to make it 21-3, even die hard Irish fans knew what was in store for their team on this night.

The Irish did have some hope in a sloppy second quarter. First they blocked a USC punt that Quinn turned into a 7-yard touchdown pass on the very next play, then they intercepted a shaky Booty (wink wink) twice within a 3:00 span. But as was the case for the Irish all night, they just weren't lucky (or good) enough to cash in on those gifts. The teams traded TDs in the third, USC scoring on a yard run from Chauncey Washington (6 carries for 24 yards), who saw little action due to the play of freshman CJ Gable (20 carries, 107 yards) and Notre Dame getting a yard reception from Rhema McNight (6 recs, 109yds, TD.) But even though the Irish were in striking distance to begin the 4th at 28-17, the Trojans quickly put the game out of reach with 2 quick scores, a 32 yard field goal and then a 43-yard gem from Jarrett to make it 37-17, and the pollsters were already penciling USC into the #2 slot.

So it looks like the Trojans will met Ohio State if they can just get past the Bruins (they've won 7 straight against their crosstown rivals.) Meanwhile the Irish lost a lot on this night. Quinn lost the Heisman for sure- he can play caddy to Troy Smith in Manhattan in 3 weeks- and Notre Dame lost their slim chance at a title bout. Oh yeah, and they also lost 4 out of 6 times when trying to go for it on 4th down. Nice play calling, Hooded Genius, Jr.-mix in a kicker on that team, will ya Charlie. ?

-Gators win ain't pretty, 21-14, but for Noles it's another ugly loss

"Dadgummitt Urbie, y'all are just better'n us right now"

In a game that could have been an audition tape for a new reality show- Who Wants to Be a D-1 Quarterback?- Florida's Chris Leak played well enough to keep Tim Tebow on the sidelines and the Gators slapped back their hated rivals behind 3 spectacular plays and a lot of hanging on. Trouble is, the Noles offense is so anemic holding on against this team means the defense barely needs to take the field. Seriously this Florida State offense is so pathetic, such a disgrace to the great Nole offenses of the past, that I think a team could play about 9 guys and still prevent them from scoring.

The win did nothing to boost the star power of the Gators in the eys of the BCS voters; in fact, it may have hurt them. Remember, the Demon Deacons came into Doak 2 weeks ago and put a 30-0 whipping on this same team. Basically Florida, which has a spastic, occasionally dramatic offense, won the game because of 3 big scoring plays: a 66-yard touchdown from Chris Leak (21-34, 283yds,2TDs) to Andre Caldwell in the first quarter; a 41-yard run by electric freshman Percy Harvin (who was on his way to a big day with 4 carries for 86yds & a TD when he went out of the game after a vicious hit in the 2nd ) near halftime; and the backbreaker, a 25-yd TD from Leak to Dallas Baker n the 4th, just minutes after the Noles had tied the game at 14 on a 5-yard TD from Drew Weatherford to Gregg Carr (3recs, 42yds, TD.)

That's it. That's all the Gators could muster against one of the weakest defenses in the NCAA. Granted their 2 running backs went out of the game with injuries (after Harvin went down, DeShawn Wynn left in the 3rd with a shoulder injury), but to only score 21 when they needed to put up about 40 speaks more about the Gators than it does the Noles. Florida State tried to bring in Xavier Lee to spark the troops, but he was ineffective (who isn't?) in his brief appearance, going -6 for 8 yards. Problem is Weatherford (16-37, 183 yds, 1TD, 3INTs)was no better- he either threw the ball to the wrong team, couldn't hit wide open receivers, or had his passes dropped by receivers who were surprised to find a ball in their hands.

So the Gators have now won 3 straight against the Noles, and Leak ran his record to an impressive 3-1 vs. the enemy. In fact he played so well that Urbie decided to curtail his secret weapon, frosh QB Tim Tebow, who only got in for 5 snaps. They appear out of the national title hunt, but will play in the SEC Championship game next week and possible a major BCS bowl. Florida State, meanwhile, has (hopefully) hit rock bottom, because it doesn't get much worse for a Bobby Bowden coached team. A 6-6 record, his first non-winning campaign since his first year on campus (1976), an offense that couldn't score with a fistful of $100's at the Bunny Ranch, a new offensive coordinator (whoever that may be), and not much help on the horizon: they have the 100th rated recruiting class, with only 1 of the top 100 player committed to play for the Garnet & Gold. Lean times, indeed. But with a little help, another year of experience under Weatherford's belt, and hopefully someone who can run the ball, they'll be back. It's just a question of when, and will Bobby still be there to see it?

Now we are left with 3 possible opponents for Ohio State. We can all but rule out the Wolverines, because with USC's win over the Irish they will jump ahead of them in the polls and virtually ensure Michigan of a Rose Bowl berth. Florida is the other candidate, but with a lackluster win over a mediocre Florida State squad, coming on the heels of a beating up Western Carolina, they aren't about to impress the voters, or sponsors, enough to head to Arizona. Which leaves the Trojans, pending their beatdown of the Bruins, to head to Glendale and take on the Buckeyes in what could be a championship game for the ages.

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