Saturday, December 02, 2006

College Football Week 14 Wrap up

An unbelievable final weekend caps an incredible season

The Bruins prayers were answered as it pulled the biggest upset of '06

Where do you go from here? The final weekend of the 2006 college football season had more surprises than a Michael Richards stand up routine. Although we did not get any closure regarding who Ohio State's opponent will be in the BCS title game we did get some of the most thrilling, upsetting, spectacularly dramatic football of the entire season. And the way this season has gone, that's saying a lot.

Scratch USC off the list of potential Buckeye busters because the Trojans got upended by cross-town rival UCLA 13-9 in what was the most shocking upset of this upset-filled year. Add Florida to the (short) list of potential suitors after their impressive 38-28 dismantling of Arkansas in the SEC title game. And let the debate begin about which team- Florida or Michigan- deserves the shot at knocking Ohio State from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Luckily for all of us with "who will it be?" burnout will only last less than 24 hours until the bowl selection show tomorrow night at 7:30 on FOX. Then we will finally find out who the lucky winner of Willy Wonka's golden ticket to Glendale will be. For now we must sift through the wreckage of what went wrong for all the prognosticators (myself included) who had already penciled in USC/ Ohio State in the championship game.

-Trojans held to lowest point total in 63 games as UCLA literally shocks the world
UCLA 13, USC 9 MY PICK: USC 43-17 (oops)
Immediately following the Bruins epic win over their arch rival and neighbor USC on Saturday afternoon, ESPN on ABC sideline reporter Lisa Salters asked UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell who besides the Bruin players & coaches thought it could pull the upset today. Dorrell answered matter-of-factly "nobody", and he was absolutely correct. The series had been so lopsided for the better part of the last decade, especially last year when the Trojans humiliated UCLA 66-19, that no one in their right mind thought a 6-5 team had a chance to knock off the 2-time national champs. But to paraphrase Herm Edwards, that's why you play the games- to win the games- and UCLA figured that hey, since the game is on the schedule, let's go ahead and play it and see what happens.

What happened was the biggest upset since Britney Spears was photographed wearing panties as the Bruins used a complex, stifling defense to confuse the mighty Trojan offense en route to a mind-blowing 13-9 win. How mind blowing was it? In last year's drubbing the Trojans amassed 679 total yards, 430 on the ground and a staggering 35 first downs. Today it held the still-mighty (despite the loss of Leinart & Bush) Trojans to 329 yards, 55 on the ground, and only 14 first downs. USC did not score in the 1st, 3rd or 4th quarter, and was held to a safety (thanks to an awesome punt that pinned UCLA at their 1 yard line) and a 1-yard TD run by CJ Gable. Meanwhile Bruin starting QB Patrick Cowan, a sophomore who took over the position when regular starter Ben Olsen got hurt in October, keyed an opportunistic Bruin attack with his arm and legs. Cowan threw for only 114 yards with no TDs or INTs, but it was his ability to scramble that made Dorrell give him the nod over a now healthy Olsen and that ability proved to be the difference in the game.

Cowan ran 10 times for 55 yards and led the Bruins to their first score that sent a message to USC that it was not going to be an easy day like last year. Cowan rushed for all of his yards on UCLA's first quarter scoring drive, including a 1-yd TD plunge that made it 7-0 UCLA heading into the 2nd. Although the Trojans would go ahead on the safety & Gable's TD, the damage had been done to the psyche of the perhaps overconfident USC players. After they tacked on two 2nd half field goals and continued to baffle the Trojan offense, USC still had a chance to pull off the win and seal their BCS title ticket. But on the last drive, after USC moved the ball from their 29 to the UCLA 19, John David Booty's (23-39, 274 yards) pass on 3rd & 4 was tipped and intercepted by Eric McNeil and the quest for a 3rd consecutive championship game appearance went out the window for the Trojans.

So USC is left to ponder "what if" for another year before it gets a shot at revenge for this stinging loss. Until then it will have to be content with a Rose Bowl appearance against possibly Michigan, unless the Wolverines get the invite to Glendale that seemed earmarked for the Trojans just a few hours ago. But I'm not so sure that the Trojans want to play on this field again. After all, it is the site of their title game defeat last year at the hands of Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, one of the greatest championship games ever played, and today it was the site of one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Talk about bad karma, hey Petey.

-Gators run it up against the Razorbacks to win SEC Championship
Florida 38, Arkansas 28 MY PICK: Arkansas 27-24 (oops II)

Who said Florida had only won a bunch of dull, close games without scoring hardly any points? Oh yeah, everyone but obnoxious Gator fans and monotone Gator coach Urban Meyer, who had been preaching the Al Davis motto of "just win baby" and everything else would take care of itself. Urbie found out how well that theory works with poll voters last week when he and his team were crucified for scoring "only" 21 points and winning by "only" 7 points in the Gators 21-14 win over arch rival Florida State. So much for old Al's philosophy. The Gators came out tonight and outplayed, out-thought, and outscored the supposedly superior Razorbacks and in doing so had to impress the voters with their highest point total of the season.

Led by exciting freshman Percy Harvin, who had 167 total yards & 2 Tds, the Gators just kept tacking on scores as the befuddled Razorbacks tried vainly to match Florida point for point. UF jumped out to a 17-0 lead courtesy of a FG, a 9-yard TD run by QB Chris Leak (16-30, 189 yards, 1 TD pass, 1 TD rush, 2 INTs) and Harvin's 37 yard TD reception all before halftime. Meanwhile the normally potent Arkansas offense was mainly running in place. Their vaunted "wildcat" offense, where tailback Darren McFadden (102 total yards, 1 TD pass) either lines up behind center or in the slot while the rest of the offense looks for something to do, served to confuse the Hogs more than the Gators. But despite their woes Arkansas managed to get a key score right before halftime on a 48 yard TD pass from QB Casey Dick (10-22, 148, 1TD, 2INTs) to Marcus Monk. When it came out after the break and bookended that score with a 2-yard TD pass by McFadden to make it 17-14, suddenly it was game again. And after a 40 yard interception return for a score made it 21-17 it looked as if the Gators would collapse under the pressure of having to put up more than 30 points, something it hadn't done against a D1 school since October.

But a boneheaded fumble at the goal line by Arkansas on a punt gave Florida an easy TD, and when Harvin scored on a 67 yard run to begin the 4th to give Florida a 31-21 lead, it was all but over and the Gatrors were on their way to a critic-silencing win that could catapult them into the BCS title game. To me, a notorious Gator Hater, the win speaks volumes about the quality of the SEC than the Gators. I mean if that is the best conference in the country then I must be Borat. Two weeks many experts were hailing Arkansas as the best 1-loss team in America. After humiliating losses to LSU and now Florida, it looks like a flash in the pan, a one-trick pony (McFadden) that when the tricks aren't working is a jumbled mess of a team that can't stop the other team from scoring because they're so busy trying to script their next trick play. Whatever. I hope the Gators do get a shot at the Buckeyes because they will get torn limb from limb, and then all us Gator bashers can chomp those guys all the way back to their Swamp.
-Rutgers BCS bowl dreams go up in smoke in thrilling 3OT loss to West Virginia
West Virginia 41, Rutgers 39 MY PICK: WVU 30-24
The Cinderella season of the Scarlet Knights ended up with the darlings of the 2006 season headed to the Texas Bowl instead of a BCS bowl because it could not pull off one more miraculous win. Rutgers gave the Mountaineers a fight to the finish, but in the end could not pull off the 2-point conversion needed to send the game into a 4th OT and continue the magical season the entire college football world had enjoyed. West Virginia started off in a hole when it was learned that stud QB Pat White could not go due to numerous leg & foot ailments, so the call went out to redshirt freshman Jarrett Brown to lead the Mountaineer offense. All the kid did was throw for 244 yards with 1 TD & 1 INT on 14-29 passing, including a beautiful pass in the second OT that kept the Mountaineers in the game as they pulled off the win on a chilly night in Morgantown. Ray Rice ran for 129 yards & 2 TDs for Rutgers, including a couple of huge carries in the overtime periods that gave the Scarlet Knights a chance at the win and the Big East BCS berth that would have went along with it. But on the final play of the night Rice couldn't haul in a tough pass from QB Mike Teel (19-26, 278 yards, 1TD) on the two-point attempt and the hopes and dreams of a fantastic finish to an incredible season went by the wayside for Scarlet Nation. West Virginia running back Steve Slaton (23 carries, 112 yards, 2 TDs) carried the load for the Mountaineers, but it was the poise and precision of Brown that kept WVU from losing this dogfight. So it is a disappointing loss for Greg Schiano and Rutgers, but a 10-win season and bowl berth is nothing to be ashamed about for a team that was the laughingstock of the NCAA for the better part of the past 2 decades. Now the Knights & their fans just have to hope that Schiano doesn't take his rebuilding prowess to another depleted squad- the Miami Hurricanes.
Other scores of note:
Big 12 Championship: Oklahoma 21, Nebraska 7
MY PICK: Oklahoma 30-27
The resilient Sooners survived the loss of All America back Adrian Peterson to be crowned the champs of the Big 12 thanks to the stellar play of QB Paul Thompson. Thompson threw for 265 yards & 2 TDs as the Sooners jumped out to an early 14-0 lead and never looked back. Although the Sooners only rushed for 42 yards and allowed 366 yards of offense to the Huskers, their defense forced 5 turnovers, including a fumble on the first play of the game that led to a quick 7-0 lead, and Oklahoma never looked back. Now it appears Oklahoma will be headed to the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska will have to settle for the Cotton.
ACC Championship:Wake Forest 9, Georgia Tech 6
MY PICK: Tech 24-23
Wow was this game ugly. But the Demon Deacons will take it as the win catapults them to their first ACC title since 1970. Wake freshman QB Riley Skinner was effective in going 14-25 for 201 yards and no turnovers, while his counterpart Reggie Ball ended his Yellow Jacket career much the same way he conducted all of it- erratically. Ball was a disappointing 9-28 for 129 yards & 2 picks, capping a horrendous final 2 games of his collegiate career: 15-51, 171 yards, no TDs & 4 INTs. Nice way to go out, Reggie. The game was won when Skinner found receiver Willie Idellette for a 45 yard gain midway thru the 4th, setting up the game-winning 22-yard field goal. Not exactly a thriller, but the Deacons will take an 11-win season ACC Championship -winning season and the BCS bid that goes along with it.
-Oregon State 35, Hawaii 32
MY PICK: Hawaii 50, OSU 33
Rainbow quarterback Colt Brennan needed 4 touchdown passes to surpass the all-time single-season record of 54 set by Houston's David Klingler in 1990. He had to settle for runner-up as he threw 3 touchdowns but Hawaii couldn't overcome an awesome Beaver offense and a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown as it ended its season on a down note in breezy Honolulu. Brennan still put up staggering numbers in June Jones' run-n-gun offense (4990 yards, 53 TDs) but what he really wanted was the all-time mark. Unfortunately the Beavers didn't make the trip to, paradise just to enjoy the sights, and the team that was the only squad to knock off the Trojans before today took it right to the Rainbows and their pass-happy attack. Still, Brennan's eye-popping numbers should earn him a trip to Manhattan for the Heisman ceremony, where he will have to settle for runner-up status yet again.

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