The Weekly Sports Review

<b>Around the Conferences</b><br><br> <b>Big East</b><br> Syracuse lost a great chance at a huge upset win over Miami in the Orange Bowl when Paul Pasqueloni played "not to lose." The Orangemen attempted to sit on a 10-7 lead in the 2nd half by playing ultra-conservatively on offense. They ran the ball on virtually every 1st down and never seriously threatened to add to their lead.

Predictably, Miami's sputtering offense finally wore down Syracuse's game but tired defense in the 4th quarter.

After tying the game on a Jon Peattie field goal, the Canes scored the winning TD behind the great running of freshman Tyrone Moss. Moss carried 16 times for 91 yards in the 2nd half. The Canes again struggled mightily in the passing game with new starter Derrick Crudup. The victory keeps Miami very much alive for the Big East title and BCS Bowl berth.

The other two teams alive for the Big East title tangled in the "Backyard Brawl" in Morgantown on National TV (ESPN2) Saturday night. The 1st half was filled with spectacular plays on offense and special teams. Pittsburgh's All-Everything WR Larry Fitzgerald hauled in 2 Rod Rutherford TD passes while West Virginia's ground game was churning up the yards with Quincy Wilson doing most of the damage. The Mountaineers tied the game at 24 on a Rasheed Marshall pass with under a minute remaining in the half.

The 2nd half was all WVU. Pitt took the opening kickoff and quickly drove down the field. With a 2nd and goal at the WVU 3 yard line, the Panthers were hit with a very costly motion penalty. With the ball now on WVU's 8, Rutherford tried to force a throw to TE Kris Wilson in the end zone. Wilson was surrounded by at least 4 defenders and the pass was intercepted. Pitt's offense seemed to totally fall apart after that turnover as they only managed a late and meaningless score while turning the ball over on two more Rutherford interceptions and incurring numerous penalties.

The key to the 2nd half was WVU's decision to basically ignore Pitt's ineffective ground game and concentrate on putting pressure on Rutherford. Meanwhile, WVU was able to continue to move the ball consistently on the ground behind Wilson, who finished with 208 yards and 4 TDs. Pitt Head Coach Walt Harris needs to figure out in a hurry why his more experienced offensive and defensive lines were so badly outplayed by their Mountaineer counterparts!

Both Greg Schiano of Rutgers and Bobby Wallace of Temple must be two frustrated gentlemen! The Scarlet Knights appeared ready to break their long home conference losing streak against Boston College before over 31K fans. Rutgers led 22-13 at the half, but squandered numerous opportunities to put the Eagles away in the 2nd half. B.C. QB Paul Peterson tossed 2 TD passes (ironically, to New Jersey natives FB Greg Toal and WR Larry Lester) sandwiched around a Knights FG by Ryan Sands to take a 28-25 lead. Sands had a chance to tie the game with 1:32 remaining, but his 41-yard FG sailed wide right. He'd missed another FG attempt earlier in the 4th quarter. B.C. then put the game out of reach when Derrick Knight scored on a 15 yard run with 1:06 remaining. Earlier in the drive, Knight, who wound up with 224 yards and 3 TDs on 27 carries, scampered for 60 yards to set up the final TD.

Temple, whose only victory to date is over Middle Tennessee, lost their 3rd overtime game of the season against Virginia Tech. With the Hokies ahead 17-14, Owls kicker Jared Davis became a temporary hero when he hit a 37-yard FG with only 40 seconds remaining. Davis had a chance to win it after the Owls intercepted a Hokie pass, but his 50 yarder missed as time expired. In OT, Tech struck first when Randall scampered 23 yards for a TD on the 2nd play. The PAT was good. Temple quickly responded on a 22 yard WR screen pass from Walter Washington to Zamir Cobb. Amazingly, Davis' PAT was wide left and the Owls were left with another heartbreaking defeat. Washington, subbing for the injured Mike McGann, was impressive in defeat. He ran for 151 yards, the 1st time a Temple QB has ever broken the century mark rushing.

ACC
Florida State clinched their 11th ACC title in 12 years with a thrilling 50-44 two overtime win over North Carolina State in Tallahassee. Wolfpack coach Chuck D'Amato again made a controversial decision in an overtime situation that may have cost N.C. State a victory. With the 1st possession of the 2nd OT, D'Amato elected to go for a 1st down on 4th and short instead of trying a FG. The Seminoles held and then got the win when RB Leon Washington ran around left end for a 12 yard TD. Wolfpack QB Philip Rivers was brilliant in defeat, completing 28-38 for 422 yards and 4 TDs. Rivers' stats are worthy of serious Heisman consideration, but his team's 4 losses will greatly hurt his chances.

Will Tommy Bowden keep his job at Clemson? Things looked bleak until their upset win over his dad two weeks ago. The Tigers followed up with an easy 40-7 pounding of Duke on Saturday and now stand at 7-4. A win over huge rival South Carolina in Columbia this week will silence his remaining critics.

Big Ten
To (greatly) paraphrase Winston Churchill, regarding Ohio State, "Never has so much been accomplished with so little offense." The Buckeyes topped Purdue 16-13 in OT, winning for the 3rd time this season without scoring an offensive TD! The win sets up a showdown this Saturday with Michigan in Ann Arbor with the Big Ten title on the line. The winner has a moderate chance of playing for the National Championship in the Sugar Bowl also. The Buckeyes survived when Purdue kicker Ben Jones was wide left on a 36-yard FG in OT that would have sent the game to a 2nd extra session. Jones also badly missed a 28-yard FG in the 3rd quarter when the game was tied 6-6. Ohio State's only TD came on DE Mike Kudla's recovery of Purdue QB Kyle Orton's fumble in the end zone early in the 4th quarter. The score put the Buckeyes ahead 13-6, but Purdue tied it on an 11-yard TD run by Jerod Void with 4:36 left on the clock.

Michigan stayed even with Ohio St. with an impressive 41-10 road win over Northwestern. A 24-point 2nd quarter put the game away early for the Wolverines.

Minnesota ended their regular season with a 40-22 loss at Iowa. This was the only road loss of the year for the 9-3 Gophers who are continuing to improve under Glen Mason. The big question around Minneapolis is whether Mason will stick around next year. Both he and Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz are hot properties.

Iowa is 8-3 with their final game coming on Saturday at Wisconsin. The Badgers rode a record-setting game by WR Lee Evans in routing previously ranked Michigan St., 56-21. Evans grabbed 10 passes for 258 yards and 5 TDs! The 258 yards set a school record and his 5 TD catches tied the Big 10 mark.

Penn State broke their six game losing streak by pounding Indiana, 52-7 in State College. With their final game at suddenly reeling Michigan St., Joe Paterno has a good chance to end a terrible year with a modest 2 game win streak.

Big Twelve
Oklahoma continued on their way to New Orleans with a 41-3 victory over outclassed Baylor. The Sooners have now gone 3 games without allowing a TD. The only surprise is that the Bears managed to score at all, and that Oklahoma failed to cover the astronomical 53 point spread!

Nebraska fans are STILL seeing red (pun intended) after the Huskers were humiliated 38-9 at home by Kansas State. For the Wildcats, a win at home this Saturday over Missouri puts them in the Big 12 Championship game against Oklahoma. The two teams did not meet during the regular season.

Texas stayed very much alive for an at-large BCS Bowl bid by squeaking past Texas Tech, 43-40. Longhorns QB Chance Mock directed a last ditch 86-yard drive in the final 1:57, which culminated in a 9 yard TD pass to B.J. Johnson.

Missouri was the latest team to shred Texas A&M's defense, routing the Aggies 45-22. If the Tigers can upset Kansas St. on Saturday, they'll tie the Wildcats in the Big 12 North and (presumably) win the tiebreaker.

SEC
Georgia's 26-7 victory over Auburn puts the Bulldogs in the driver's seat to capture the SEC East. They just need a home victory over Kentucky on Saturday. Odell Thurman sparked the victory by returning an interception 99 yards for a TD.

In the unlikely event that the Bulldogs stumble, Tennessee can take the East if they can win their final two games against doormats Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The Vols walked over another SEC doormat on Saturday, thrashing Mississippi St. 59-21. Unfortunately, Jackie Sherrill must endure two more games before he can hang up his whistle for good.

In the SEC West, LSU prepared for their Saturday showdown against Ole Miss for the title by routing Alabama 27-3 in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers obviously were not caught looking ahead.

Finally, congrats to Vanderbilt and Head Coach Bobby Johnson for recording their 1st conference victory. The Commodores surprised Kentucky, 28-17. For Wildcat fans, it's a relief that basketball season is now underway!

PAC Ten
Another ho-hum week on the left coast as USC coasted over Arizona, 45-0. The highlight was the performance of USC soph WR Mike Williams, the West's answer to Larry Fitzgerald. Williams caught 11 passes for 157 yards and 3 TDs. He now has 26 TDs in his career, which breaks the all-time USC mark of 25 held by Kevin Williams.

The other L.A. school did not fare as well, as erratic Oregon whipped UCLA 31-13. Washington State remained in the hunt for an at-large BCS Bowl bid with a solid 34-19 pasting of Arizona St.

Finally, California absolutely humiliated the once powerful Washington Huskies, 54-7! The Huskies will finish with a losing record unless they can upset in-state rival Washington St. in Seattle on Saturday.

Others
- Notre Dame "improved" to 4-6 with a 33-14 win over BYU. If the Irish can win on the road against Stanford and Syracuse, they will steal a bowl bid from a more deserving team. CUSA officials were thrilled with Saturday's results.

- TCU remained undefeated by crushing Big East bound Cincinnati 43-10. The 10-0 Frogs are currently 3 point UNDERDOGS in their Thursday night ESPN game with Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles are on a 4 game winning streak, but should not be favored over TCU. The Horned Frogs have a solid chance of going to a BCS bowl if they can win out.

- Memphis also had a big win over another Big East defector. They shocked Louisville, 37-7. Both TCU and Memphis unsuccessfully lobbied for invitations to join the Big East, so the payback was sweet!

- The Big East did some paying back of their own. UConn went into Winston-Salem and thoroughly defeated the ACC's Wake Forest, 51-17. Though the Huskies will not be official football members of the Big East until next season, their victory was welcomed throughout the conference!

- Finally, congratulations to Penn and Head Coach Al Bagnoli for clinching another Ivy League title. The Quakers can cap an undefeated season with a victory over Cornell on Saturday. The Quakers only loss last season came at the hands of 1AA power Villanova.

Coaching Merry-Go-Round
This looks like it will be a very active off-season for coaching changes. There could easily be nine NFL vacancies, some of which will be filled by current college head coaches. The names most often mentioned are Nick Saban of LSU and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma. Other possibilities include Kirk Ferentz of Iowa and Glen Mason of Minesota. Within the college ranks, openings already exist at Arizona, Duke, Mississippi St., and Central Florida. There will be many more.

Here's the way I see things:

ACC - In addition to the Duke post, I'd be shocked if John Bunting returns at North Carolina. Bunting followed up a solid 1st year with a 3-9 mark last season and must defeat Duke on Saturday just to reach 3-9 again. Tommy Bowden and Chan Gailey figure to get another year at Clemson & Georgia Tech respectively.

Big East – Tom O'Brien may be in some trouble at B.C. He's fortunate the Eagles rallied to beat Rutgers on Saturday. Temple could let Bobby Wallace go, but do they really think they'll be able to attract a better coach, especially with their forthcoming exit from the Big East?

Big 10 – The biggest question is whether Joe Paterno stays on for another year. Expect the Penn State administration to handle the situation VERY privately. As mentioned above, Glen Mason and especially Kirk Ferentz could get head coaching offers from the NFL. If I were Gerry DiNardo (Indiana) or Ron Turner (Illinois), I'd be VERY worried. DiNardo is only in his 2nd year at Bloomington, so he may get one more chance. Northwestern's Randy Walker appears to be safe for now, especially if the Wildcats finish with a win at Illinois on Saturday to end the year at 6-6.

Big Twelve – The head coach on the hottest seat is Frank Solich of Nebraska. After a 7-7 record last year, Solich was ordered to replace most of his staff. The Huskers are currently 8-3 with a final game at Colorado. While that's good enough at most schools, Nebraska fans expect a lot more. The 38-9 loss to Kansas St. suffered in front of the Big Red faithful on Saturday may have put the final nail in Solich's coffin. New A.D. Steve Pederson will not need much of an excuse to bring in his own hire. An interesting rumor has Butch Davis leaving the Browns to take over in Lincoln. Stranger things have happened! Changes could also be brewing in Boulder. Gary Barnett is seemingly treading water, needing a win over Nebraska to finish at ..500. This is Barnett's 5th year at the helm, so the Buffs may decide to go in a new direction.

SEC – It appeared Ron Zook was in trouble at Florida, but the Gators' have now won 5 straight so he seems safe. Has the old magician Lou Holtz run out of tricks at South Carolina? The Gamecocks need to defeat huge rival Clemson at home just to finish 6-6. Look for Holtz to return. For a team picked by The Sporting News to win the National Championship, Auburn has been a major bust. The Tigers are a very disappointing 6-5 heading into their annual war with Alabama. Tommy Tuberville is in his 5th season and could be in trouble, especially if they fail to defeat The Crimson Tide.

Pac Ten – When Washington fired Rick Neuheisel and replaced him with Offensive Coordinator Keith Gilbertson, they surely didn't expect the wheels to fall off but they have. Look for a change in Seattle. Buddy Teevens went 2-9 in his 1st year at the helm of Stanford. The Cardinals have already won 4 games this year with home games remaining against rival California and Notre Dame. Expect Teevens to return. Dirk Koetter could be in trouble in Tempe. The Sun Devils were expected to be a bowl team this year, but currently are 4-7 with the finale vs. Arizona coming up the day after Thanksgiving.

Next week, I'll look at some lower level D1 and D1AA coaches that could get the call to fill some of the projected vacancies.

Bob Freschi
PittInsiders.com


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