There was no OSU game yesterday, but it sure was an eventful weekend in college football. Here goes:
* There were coaching changes, fights on the field and much more this weekend. But what there weren't a bunch of were upsets that would have changed the course of the Bowl Championship Series pairings.
Your Ohio State Buckeyes seem destined to face Miami (Fla.) in a rematch of last year's national championship game in the Orange Bowl. (That game is at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 1, by the way.)
If everything holds, the teams would meet in Pro Player Stadium, which has been host to the Orange Bowl for the last several years and not the Orange Bowl Stadium, where Miami calls home (did that make sense?).
Beyond that, it seems like if Oklahoma can defeat Kansas State in the Big 12 title game and USC can polish off Oregon State next weekend at the L.A. Coliseum, OU and USC will play for the national title at the Sugar Bowl.
Barring an Oklahoma upset, the Fiesta Bowl looks to take Texas as an at-large team. The Rose Bowl would then choose between LSU, which must defeat tough-as-nails Georgia a second time at the SEC title game, or ACC champion Florida State. It is possible if LSU gets knocked off that the Fiesta may covet Ohio State to face Texas.
All of these machinations have put almost the entire bowl ladder on hold, particularly in the Big Ten. If OSU goes to a BCS game, look for co-runner-up Purdue to face the SEC title game loser at the Capital One Bowl. Iowa would then likely get Tennessee in the Outback Bowl (by the way, those would be two tough assignments for Big Ten teams).
My guess is that Michigan State would then get the Alamo, Minnesota would take the Sun, Wisconsin has already pretty much been cleared for the Music City and Northwestern would go to the Motor City to play an MAC team, maybe Bowling Green.
Everything looks good -- until Oklahoma and LSU lose. If Oklahoma loses, they still get at least an at-large bid to the BCS and maybe even the title game. But K-State would replace Texas. If LSU loses, Georgia would replace the Tigers in the BCS rotation and LSU would be headed to one of the SEC tie-ins (possibly Capital One or maybe even the Cotton).
I honestly don't see any scenarios where Ohio State would be knocked out of a BCS game. At fifth in the rankings, OSU is not guaranteed a BCS bid -- only schools in non-BCS leagues are guaranteed spots with a top-six finish.
However, it is my understanding that a top-three finish or a top-four finish when all three teams ahead of them are automatic qualifiers would guarantee OSU a spot. That could happen, obviously, if USC or LSU are upset.
* The Game of the Week was at Gainesville, Fla., where a collection of seven ACC officials conspired to rob the home team. No. 9 Florida State prevailed over No. 11 Florida 38-34 in a wild one, marred by a fight at midfield after the game as FSU players tried to dance on the "F" in the center of The Swamp.
This game illustrates why neutral officials should be brought in to call these big non-conference games. It is part of the contract for this series that the visiting team brings the officials. They botched no fewer than three fumble calls, all in favor of Florida State. Plus, they twisted the knife by calling a personal foul on a Florida player who spiked the ball after the Gators appeared to recover a Florida State fumble at the Florida 2-yard line. Three plays later, FSU scored a key touchdown.
Ohio State fans felt the same way, certainly, after a number of key calls -- particularly about 200 pass interference calls -- went against OSU in a triple overtime win over N.C. State called by an ACC crew earlier this year in Columbus. At least the home team was able to pull that game out. That did not happen this time, leaving a bad taste in a lot of peoples' mouths.
CBS commentator Todd Blackledge, who calls SEC action all year for the network, described it as "unusual."
Associated Press reports on college football games are typically unbiased. To show the depth and breadth of how the home team had been, well, screwed, this was the report on this game: "The officials didn't do much to decrease the tension. They got things going on the opening kickoff, when they ruled FSU returner Antonio Cromartie down, even though it looked like his knee hadn't hit before he fumbled and the Gators recovered.
"ACC observer Earnest Benson declined comment on the calls, but said games are reviewed weekly by the league. The ACC's director of officials probably won't like what he sees from his guys when he gets this tape, although he certainly will get to watch a great game."
Wow. That's telling them. Then everybody wonders why the players are left to stand there and fight each other out of frustration after such a horribly officiated game.
Oh, by the way, the Seminoles pulled out the victory when Chris Dix followed a fourth-and-14 completion for a first-down with a 52-yard touchdown pass to P.K. Sam. That came with 55 seconds remaining and was the fourth lead change of the fourth quarter. Florida had gone ahead 34-31 on Ben Troupe's 26-yard reception from Chris Leak with 2:55 left.
The Gators got one more chance following the Seminoles' last score, but time ran out as they pushed the ball inside the FSU 30-yard line. The win gave FSU a 10-2 record, the first time since 2000 the Noles have had ten wins. Florida fell to 8-4 and missed out on a chance to represent the SEC East in next week's title game.
Bobby Bowden, who has now coached in 28 Florida-FSU games, said this was the best one he's ever seen. When asked about all the questionable calls, Bowden laughed and said, "I like it better when they go my way."
I'm sure you do.
* LSU wrapped up the SEC West with a 55-24 win over Arkansas. As noted above, the Tigers will likely face Georgia, which defeated rival Georgia Tech 34-17. Georgia finished in a three-way tie for the SEC East lead with Florida and Tennessee, which defeated Kentucky 20-7.
SEC athletic directors decided to base the East tiebreaker on the BCS standings, where Georgia figures to outpoint UT and Florida. That announcement is due later today.
* If there was a game where officiating could have factored, it would have been the final Big East game ever for No. 10 Miami (Fla.) at No. 20 Pittsburgh. But the Hurricanes never gave the Panthers an opening, rolling to an easy 28-14 win to share the Big East crown with West Virginia.
Miami rode the running exploits of Jarrett Payton and Tyrone Moss to the win as it left the Big East for the ACC the same dominating way it entered in 1992 -- on top. Miami is almost certainly ticketed for the hometown Orange Bowl, where they last played during the 1994 season.
Moss ran for touchdowns of 30 and 6 yards and Payton had a 1-yard touchdown run as Miami scored on three consecutive first-half possessions to turn a 7-0 deficit into a 21-7 lead. Pitt's rushing defense is 80th among the nation's 117 Division One-A schools. Seven rushers have gone over 100 yards this season on 8-4 Pitt, which likely is going to the Continental Tire Bowl against Virginia.
West Virginia has a share of its first Big East football title since 1993. Jason Colson rushed for two touchdowns in his first career start to help the 24th-ranked Mountaineers beat Temple 45-28.
* The other shoe finally dropped for Nebraska coach Frank Solich. He met with athletic director (and former OSU recruiting coordinator) Steve Pederson for five minutes Saturday night before being given his walking papers. The dismissal came 24 hours after the ‘Huskers ended the regular season with a 31-22 win at Colorado to finish 9-3.
"All I know is we did the best we could. We mustered up nine wins. To a man, we can hold our heads high," offensive coordinator Barney Cotton told the Associated Press.
Solich was 58-19 in six seasons. Pinnacle Sports Network, the rights holder for Nebraska radio broadcasts, reported that first-year defensive coordinator (and former Buckeye) Bo Pelini would be the interim head coach. The current group of assistants will coach the in Nebraska's upcoming bowl game. It was unknown whether any of the assistants will be retained after the bowl.
Nebraska will be on the hook for a $1.8 million buyout of Solich's current contract, which runs through June 2006. Solich took over after legendary Tom Osborne retired after the 1997 season. The Cornhuskers won at least a share of the national title in three of Osborne's final four seasons. Solich was 42-9 in his first four seasons. He was Big 12 coach of the year in 1999 and 2001, won the '99 conference title and his team played for the national championship after the '01 season.
Speculation immediately shifted to Pitt coach Walt Harris as Pederson just arrived in Nebraska after serving as Pitt's AD.
* Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has been hired to replace John Mackovic at Arizona. Stoops will stay with his brother, OU coach Bob Stoops, through next week's Big 12 title game, but will then move to Arizona. He will only be an advisor for OU's bowl game.
"We're going to be ready to play when we start in September," Mike Stoops said. "We're going to have a defense that attacks people from a bunch of different ways, and we're going to have an offense that's going to spread people out and make them defend the whole field."
Mike Stoops inherits a team that went 2-10 and finished last in the Pac-10 for the first time.
Southern California offensive coordinator Norm Chow, also considered a front-runner, let it be known he wanted to stay with the Trojans until their bowl game. Others considered were: Cincinnati Bengals assistant Ricky Hunley, New York Giants defensive coordinator Johnnie Lynn and Mike Hankwitz, Mackovic's defensive coordinator, who took over after Mackovic was fired on Sept. 28.
University president Peter Likins, who interviewed the finalists, said Stoops was the first choice.
Mike Stoops is taking his brother, Miami (Fla.) secondary coach Mark Stoops, with him as the new defensive coordinator at Arizona.
* Auburn's athletic director and president had a lot of explaining to do after it was revealed they recently flew to Indiana to meet with first-year Louisville coach (and former Auburn assistant) Bobby Petrino to discuss Auburn's coaching position.
The rub is that Tommy Tuberville had not been relieved of his duties as the Auburn coach … and he still hasn't been. Would you believe that Tuberville has so much class he picked up the phone and called the Louisville athletic director to apologize for the entire mess. Everybody is staying put … for now. But the whole episode has left fans wondering exactly who is pulling the strings at Auburn.
* Mississippi State could be close to making history. The school has reportedly offered its head coaching job to Green Bay Packers assistant Sylvester Croom, a move that would make Croom the first-ever black head coach in SEC history. He would follow Jackie Sherrill, who wrapped up a 13-year run in Starkville with a 31-0 loss to rival Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl Thanksgiving night.
* Virginia Tech, once considered a national title game contender, ended its regular season at 8-4 after a 35-21 loss at rival Virginia. The Cavs (7-5) ended a four-year losing streak to the Hokies. Wali Lundy scored four touchdowns, three on the ground and one on a reception. Two of the Cavalier touchdowns came on fourth-down plays from the 1-yard line.
* A pair of Ohio teams will decide the MAC championship Thursday night as No. 15 Miami (Ohio) visits No. 22 Bowling Green.
BG rallied from down 14-7 at halftime to defeat visiting Toledo 31-23 in an MAC West showdown Saturday. The Falcons scored on their first four possessions of the second half. Josh Harris threw three touchdown passes and caught one. He accounted for 379 of Bowling Green's 433 offensive yards. Harris threw for 256 yards, ran for 75 and picked up 48 on his throwback TD reception.
Miami had clinched the SEC East weeks earlier but wrapped up the regular season with a 56-21 rout of host Central Michigan. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 327 yards and five TDs in that win. The RedHawks won their regular-season meeting with BG 33-10 four weeks ago in Oxford.
* Would you believe that Notre Dame is on the cusp of a possible bowl game after blasting Stanford 57-7?
Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham was triumphant in his return to Stanford. Notre Dame launched into its third straight win with an unanswered 34 points in the first half, and finished with its highest score since beating Navy 58-21 in 1994. A victory next week at Syracuse, which dropped a 24-7 decision to Rutgers Saturday, would make ND 6-6 and possibly give the Irish a lower-tier bowl bid on the Big East's ladder.
Running back Julius Jones had 218 yards for Notre Dame, and quarterback Brady Quinn was 8-for-13 for 177 yards.
* It is my plan to have one more Sunday Morning QB column next weekend. Then we will be on hiatus until the Sundays before and after the Jan. 1 bowl games. In January, I plan to unveil a new feature called Monday Morning Point Guard, a similarly styled column to look at OSU men's basketball as well as the Big Ten and the nation at large.
* My new Heisman Trophy ballot (subject to change, of course, before I have to send it in next week): Oklahoma's Jason White, Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Michigan's Chris Perry, Ole Miss' Eli Manning and Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones.
* My new top 15 (which is the same as last week's): Oklahoma, Southern California, LSU, Michigan, Texas, Georgia, Ohio State, Tennessee, Miami (Fla), Purdue, Florida State, Iowa, Miami (Ohio), Kansas State, Michigan State.
* Games to watch next week include: Miami-Bowling Green (MAC title game Thursday at BGSU), Notre Dame-Syracuse, Oregon State-USC, Army-Navy (in Philadelphia), Oklahoma-Kansas State (Big 12 title game in Kansas City), LSU-Georgia (SEC title game in Atlanta), Boise State-Hawaii.
We will wrap up each week with a look at how OSU's opponents fared and check out who they face next week, followed by the Big Ten standings.
Date (Time, TV), Opponent (Record), This Week's Result, Next Week's Game
Aug. 30, Washington (6-6), season complete
Sept. 6, San Diego State (6-6), season complete
Sept. 13, N.C. State (7-5), season complete
Sept. 20, Bowling Green (10-2), beat Toledo 31-23, Nov. 29; vs. Miami (Ohio), MAC championship game, Dec. 4
Sept. 27, Northwestern (6-6), season complete
Oct. 11, at Wisconsin (7-5), season complete
Oct. 18, Iowa (9-3), season complete
Oct. 25, at Indiana (2-10), season complete
Nov. 1, at Penn State (3-9), season complete
Nov. 8, Michigan State (8-4), season complete
Nov. 15, Purdue (9-3), season complete
Nov. 22, at Michigan (10-2), season complete
Big Ten StandingsTeam (Overall, Big Ten) Michigan (10-2, 7-1) Ohio State (10-2, 6-2) Purdue (9-3, 6-2) Minnesota (9-3, 5-3) Iowa (9-3, 5-3) Michigan State (8-4, 5-3) Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4) Northwestern (6-6, 4-4) Penn State (3-9, 1-7) Indiana (2-10, 1-7) Illinois (1-11, 0-8)
Regular Season Complete