The Weekly Sports Review

<b>Around The Conferences</b><br><br> <b>Big East</b><br> West Virginia barely survived their "sandwich game" on the road vs. Boston College. With starting QB Rasheed Marshall sidelined by a concussion, backup Charles Hales rallied the Mountaineers from a 14-0 deficit by tossing 3 TD passes. The Eagles rallied from a 35-21 deficit with a late TD to draw within 7 points, but WVU stopped the Eagles on four plays inside the 10 in the final seconds to barely hang on.

The victory puts WVU in a solid position to win the Big East. If they can defeat Pitt on Saturday, they'll only need to beat Syracuse in the Dome and Temple at home to win the crown. They'd win the tiebreaker over the winner of the Pitt-Miami game if that team also finishes with only one conference loss since they own victories over both. Commissioner Mike Tranghese is doubtless pulling for Pitt to run the table and capture the title. An 8-4 WVU team representing the Big East in the BCS would be hard to swallow for the bowl that gets them. That Tranghese doesn't want Miami to represent the Big East in the BCS requires no further comment!

Speaking of the Canes, their upset at the hands of Tennessee not only ended any National Championship hopes, it also ended the longest current home winning streak in the country at 26 games. While Miami's defense held the Vols to a total of only 170 yards, their offense continued their recent pattern of self-destruction with costly turnovers and penalties. Coach Larry Coker is benching QB Brock Berlin when the Canes host Syracuse on Saturday in favor of fellow junior Derrick Crudup, sort of. Coker is hedging his bet, since he said "Berlin will play in the game." Note to Larry – playing quarterback roulette seldom works.

For Pitt, the question is whether they can put the euphoria of their dramatic win over Virginia Tech behind and put their focus squarely on beating WVU. If the Mountaineer fans burned couches and other assorted items after their home win over Virginia Tech, I wonder what they'll incinerate if they manage to defeat their most hated rival on Saturday night - especially with a BCS Bowl bid very much at stake. Despite temperatures that should be below freezing, it could get pretty hot in MoTown after the game.

Rutgers and UConn staged a rather remarkable game. It was tied 28 all with just over a minute remaining when Rutgers punt returner Tres Moses attempted to field a bouncing ball on the Knights' 11 yard line. He never got control and Uconn linebacker Michael McIntosh recovered on the 6 yard line. On 3rd down, the Huskies' Cornell Brockington scored from a yard out with 26 seconds left for the winning score. Rutgers had huge statistical advantages in almost all key categories but one: They turned the ball over five times to none for UConn.

This may turn out to be a nice rivalry in the new Big East. Both teams have made big strides this season. With their victory over Temple, Syracuse stands at 5-3, 2-2 in the conference. With home games remaining against WVU and Notre Dame and road contests with Miami and Rutgers, the Orangemen could greatly influence the Big East Championship picture and also wind up with a bowl bid.

ACC
Florida State's loss in the "Bowden Bowl" means that once again the ACC Champ will not be a highly ranked team. The Seminoles still have two tough games - home vs. North Carolina St. and at Florida. The Seminoles are #13 in the current A.P. Poll, the only ACC team in the Top 25.

Only North Carolina State is in the "Also Receiving Votes" category. It appears that ACC Commissioner John Swofford knew how low his conference was sinking in football, prompting the raid on the Big East. Kudos to Duke! Their surprising 41-17 rout of Georgia Tech ended a 30-game conference losing streak. Not surprising that the Blue Devils were one of the foes of ACC expansion!

Big Ten (Eleven)
Purdue can win the conference championship if they win out and Ohio State beats Michigan at Ann Arbor on November 22nd. The Wolverines would capture the title with victories at Northwestern and over OSU.

How far has Illinois fallen? The Illini won the Big Ten and a Sugar Bowl berth in 2001. Last season, they fell to 5-7. This season, they are an embarrassing 1-10 with their only victory over D1AA Illinois St. Their latest humiliation came in a 17-14 loss to Indiana, a Hoosier team whose only other win had come against D1AA Indiana St.

If Joe Paterno is still feeling as depressed as he sounded after suffering his 6th consecutive defeat, it's probably time to pass the baton at State College. If the Nittany Lions can't handle Indiana at home this week, well I guess it COULD get even uglier in Not-So-Happy Valley.

SEC
Maybe it really is Ole Miss' year! The Rebels had more than a few huge breaks in defeating Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Their 6-0 mark in the SEC is the Rebels' best in 40 years.

Give some credit to John Zook for turning around Florida's season and probably saving his job. After a 3-3 start which is decidedly not acceptable in Gainesville, he led the Gators to consecutive road wins over LSU, Arkansas, and Georgia. Florida's win streak is now at four after beating SEC doormat Vanderbilt. The Gators' recent hot streak came after Zook finally decided on true freshman Chris Leak as his starting QB.

I think Jackie Sherrill regrets his decision to come back for his unlucky 13th season at Mississippi St. The Bulldogs are 2-7 after suffering a 38-0 pasting from Sherrill's alma mater, Alabama. Their remaining games include road contests at Tennessee and Arkansas and a home finale in the "Egg Bowl" with Ole Miss. It seems unlikely that Jackie will get to experience the thrill of victory again before he retires.

Big Twelve
If Oklahoma has any weaknesses, I haven't seen any so far. I'll bet Dennis Franchione would agree after seeing his Texas A&M Aggies get destroyed by a 77-0 count. Did the sideline mikes pick up Franchione humming "Sweet Home Alabama" during the 4th quarter? Even though the Sooners could lose one game and still play for the National Championship, don't expect it to happen.

Texas racked up a very impressive road win in Stillwater, drubbing Oklahoma St. 55-16. The Longhorns have the talent to beat everyone except Oklahoma as long as Mack Brown's coaching doesn't get in the way.

PAC Ten
This is the least exciting BCS conference this year. Barring a huge upset, USC should run the table. Washington State could secure an at-large BCS berth if they can win out. If they hadn't blown what appeared to be a sure win in South Bend in September, it would be a lock. The other eight teams range from mediocre to bad.

Others
- It will be very interesting to see if TCU gets an at-large BCS bid if they win out by defeating Cincinnati at home and then Southern Mississippi and SMU on the road. The Bearcats have been inconsistent all year, but on their best day could give the Horned Frogs a game. The real test should come on Thursday night, November 20th when they must visit Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are 5-0 in CUSA and figure to be 6-0 after this week's home game against Tulane. The winner of the TCU-Southern Mississippi contest will almost certainly be the CUSA champ. If TCU does in fact run the table, will they receive one of the two at-large invitations to the BCS party? As of the latest rankings, they're #6 in the BCS standings (though only #10 in the A.P. Poll). If they remain at least in the top six in the BCS standings, they are guaranteed a BCS bowl bid. If they fall to between 7th and 12th, they are eligible but not assured of a bid. If the latter scenario occurs and TCU is shut out of the BCS, expect to hear a whole lot of flack from the non-BCS conferences, especially CUSA!

- You have to be impressed that the MAC Conference has 3 teams in the Top 25 of both the BCS standings and A.P. Poll. Miami (Ohio) is #16 in the BCS and #23 in the A.P. Northern Illinois is #21 in the BCS and also #21 in the A.P. Bowling Green is #23 in the BCS and # 25 in the A.P.

Heisman Update
Last week's games didn't hurt any of the top Heisman contenders, but some were helped more than the others. Jason White of Oklahoma was nearly perfect against the overmatched defense of Texas A&M. White hit on 16 of 18 passes for 283 yards and five TDs. He also played very little in the 2nd half or the Sooners could have threatened the century mark. Eli Manning had a decent statistical day, completing 19 of 30 passes for 218 yards and 2 TDs. However, he was most impressive in leading the Rebels on their winning TD drive in the final minute at Auburn. Kevin Jones had a monster game against Pitt on national TV in prime time. Jones set the all-time Virginia Tech one-game rushing record with 238 yards and also scored all four of the Hokies' TDs. In that same game, Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald extended his NCAA record consecutive games with a TD reception to 15. More importantly, he was on the receiving end of 3 Rod Rutherford passes during Pitt's game winning final drive. He finished with 8 catches for 108 yards.

My current Top 5

1. Fitzgerald – Receiving a lot of support from the ESPN commentators and broadcasters, which helps a lot. Must overcome the bias against wide receivers and sophomores. If Pitt fails to win the Big East championship, it could be too much for him to overcome.

2. White – Very difficult to knock a quality starting QB on the best team in the country.

3. Manning – Will have very strong support in the South. If he can lead the Rebels to the SEC Championship, he'll have a very good chance.

4. Jones – It will be tough to impress the voters with the Hokies out of the BCS picture. Will have to have huge performances in his final three games to have any chance.

5. Perry – Has excellent stats. If he can lead the Wolverines over Ohio State on November 22nd, he will be a serious contender.

Games Of The Week
1. Purdue at Ohio State – Baring a miracle, the loser is out of the Big 10 title picture.

2. Pittsburgh at West Virginia – The Backyard Brawl will go a long way in deciding the Big East champ.

3. LSU at Alabama – Ole Miss gets the week off before hosting LSU. Tigers can't afford to look ahead.

4. Kansas State at Nebraska – Winner will probably have to face Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game.

5. Baylor at Oklahoma – Just to see if Sooners can cover an enormous 53 point spread!

Bob Freschi
PittInsiders.com


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