November 1, 2008

Saturday's winners and losers

On an absolutely huge day, Florida got revenge, extended its winning streak, took control in the SEC Eastern Division race and enhanced its profile in the national championship picture.

A few hours later, No. 7 Texas Tech came out on the right end of a roller-coaster finish against No. 1 Texas, putting the Red Raiders in control of not only their Big 12 South destiny but likely their BCS title game destiny, as well.

Florida's 49-10 thrashing of rival Georgia gives the Gators (7-1, 5-1) sole possession of first place in the division. They will advance to the SEC title game with a win over Vanderbilt next week.

More importantly, if they win the remainder of their games and prevail in the SEC championship game the Gators could be in position to play in the BCS national championship game.

Texas Tech is also in great position, but there are potholes which must be dodged. The red Raiders play host to No. 9 Oklahoma State next week and must travel to No. 4 Oklahoma and face Baylor at home before the Big 12 title game. But all that's for later.

Here's a look at more of Saturday's winners and losers:

Winners

Texas Tech. Mike Leach will probably detest this statement as much as he hates the "system" quarterback label: The Red Raiders' wild 39-33 win over Texas legitimizes Texas Tech in the Big 12 and national title races. Leach brought consistency to Lubbock, but not necessarily big wins. This victory disproved every stereotype for Leach's Texas Tech teams. The Red Raiders won the big one - the biggest, really. They did it with defense, other than the 91-yard touchdown catch from Malcolm Williams. They ran the ball effectively. And most importantly, they won despite falling behind in the final minute and a half.

The Red Raiders' decisions. This could have backfired in a major way, but Leach wouldn't be conventional - even at the end. When Tech faced a first and 10 from the Texas 28 with a timeout in his pocket, a more conservative coach would have run to set up a game-winning field goal. With a shaky kicking situation, Leach kept passing, almost to his detriment. In fact, what looked to be an easy interception slipped through the hands of freshman Blake Gideon. On the final play from scrimmage, Tech receiver Michael Crabtree followed Leach's lead by fighting for the end zone when he could have stepped out of bounds to set up a short field goal.

Penn State. The Nittany Lions had an off week, but they were among the biggest winners of the week. Penn State will likely move into the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings with the Texas' loss. The Nittany Lions will be favored in their remaining games at Iowa and at home against Indiana and Michigan State. All they have to do is win those three and hope either Alabama or Texas Tech loses - or doesn't pass them in the rankings in the final month of the season.

Tim Tebow. Florida's quarterback may be back in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race after throwing for two touchdowns and running for three more in Florida's victory over Georgia. With his first rushing touchdown, Tebow broke Emmitt Smith's school record for career rushing touchdowns. A 1-yard run in the second quarter that staked the Gators to a 14-3 lead was Tebow's 37th rushing touchdown. He now has 39.

LeSean McCoy. The Pittsburgh running back rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown in a 36-33 four overtime victory over Notre Dame. It was the fifth consecutive game in which McCoy exceeded 140 rushing yards. McCoy had an 18-yard run to set up a game-winning field goal as Pittsburgh clinched bowl eligibility for the first time in four seasons.

Heisman contenders not named Colt. Now we have a bona fide Heisman Trophy race again. Colt McCoy seemed to be running away with the award when the week started. Texas Tech's win re-opens the race to Harrell and Crabtree, who provided the highlight reel play for the Pass/Catch 2008 Heisman campaign. Penn State's Daryll Clark, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and maybe even Florida's Tim Tebow are back in the mix.

The Big 12. Look at the bright side, Texas. Your league will be must-see viewing for the remainder of the season. Think of the recruiting advantages. The Big 12's new contract with ABC/ESPN couldn't come at a better time. After three weeks of Texas playing games of national championship importance, the rest of the league will follow with these giants in consecutive weeks: Oklahoma State at Texas Tech, Texas at Kansas, Texas Tech at Oklahoma, Oklahoma at Oklahoma State and then the Big 12 Championship.

Pac-10 viewers. The West Coast will get a treat next week to see a game that actually means something. Cal fought through a rain-soaked 26-16 win over Oregon, and next week faces USC - a 56-0 winner over Washington. It's the second game in three weeks where the Trojans will have the Pac-10 lead on the line (USC beat Arizona 17-10 in the first matchup). The bad news: There will still be an Apple Cup game this year.

Utah, Boise State and TCU. These three are a little closer to crashing the BCS. Boise State shut out New Mexico State. TCU had no trouble with UNLV, and Utah squeaked by New Mexico in Albuquerque. Another will be eliminated this week when BCS No. 10 Utah plays host to No. 13 TCU on Thursday. (Unbeaten Ball State didn't play Saturday and will face Northern Illinois on Wednesday.)

Tyrell Fenroy and fans of trivia. The Louisiana-Lafayette running back became the seventh player in FBS (formerly Division I-A) history to have four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The others: Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett, North Carolina's Amos Lawrence, New Mexico State's Denvis Manns, Wisconsin's Ron Dayne, Texas' Cedric Benson and New Mexico's DonTrell Moore. Fenroy rushed for 81 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-20 win over Florida International.

North Texas. The Mean Green finally found a game they could win by defeating Western Kentucky 51-40. It's a shame - North Texas won't be able to count this as a Sun Belt win until next year. The not-so-Mean Green still allowed six touchdowns and 504 yards.

Justin Siller. The Purdue QB passed for three touchdowns and ran for another in his first career start. The highlight was a game-winning hook-and-lateral, in which Siller passed to Greg Orton - who then pitched to Desmond Tardy. Tardy ran into the end zone to complete a 28-yard touchdown pass for a 48-42 lead with 26 seconds left.

Northwestern. Safety Brendan Smith intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 48 yards for a game-winning touchdown with just 12 seconds remaining in a 24-17 victory over No. 17 Minnesota. The Wildcats were hoping to just send the game into overtime, but Adam Weber's pass bounced off the hands of receiver Eric Decker - and then off cornerback David Oredugba. Smith picked the ball out of the air and weaved his way down the sideline for the score. It was the only touchdown in the second half. Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka had not started a game since 2006, but made the most of his chance to get back with the first unit. Filling in for an injured C.J. Bacher, Kafka set a school rushing record for quarterbacks with 216 yards. He also threw two touchdown passes in the Wildcats' 24-17 win.

Jacory Harris. The Miami freshman quarterback made a compelling argument that he should take over as the Hurricanes' starter in a 24-17 win over Virginia. Harris, who replaced starter Robert Marve, led Miami on a 15-play, 90-yard drive for a game-tying 26-yard touchdown pass to Laron Byrd with 55 seconds left in regulation. He also threw a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime.

Ole Miss. The Rebels inched within one victory of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2003 - when Eli Manning quarterbacked the Rebels. A 17-7 victory over Auburn gives Ole Miss five wins. The Rebels can clinch bowl eligibility with a victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 15.

Jake Sharp. The Kansas running back rushed for 181 yards and tied a school record with four touchdowns in a 52-21 victory over Kansas State. Sharp, who had 257 yards of total offense, scored on runs of 4, 20 and 47 yards in the first quarter to give KU a 21-0 lead. The Jayhawks posted their third consecutive victory over their state rival. The last time Kansas won three in a row over K-State was 1988-90.

The Alabama defense. The unit posted its first shutout in three seasons in a 35-0 victory over Arkansas State. The Crimson Tide's last shutout was 17-0 over Mississippi State in November 2005. Alabama's Rashad Johnson returned an interception for a touchdown and had 13 tackles to lead the defensive effort.

Pat White. The West Virginia quarterback rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns and passed for another touchdown to reach a couple of milestones in a 35-13 win over Connecticut. White surpassed 4,000 rushing yards and 5,000 passing yards during the game. He's also accounted for 91 touchdowns in his career. In the process, White led the Mountaineers to their fifth consecutive victory.

Brock Christopher. His interception with one minute and four seconds remaining enabled No. 14 Missouri to avoid an upset against. The Tigers prevailed 31-28. Christopher's interception at the Baylor 34-yard line was the first of the season for Baylor freshman quarterback Robert Griffin, who had thrown 210 passes without a pick.

Brian Brunner. The backup quarterback threw four touchdown passes, rushed for another and set a Central Michigan record with 485 passing yards in a 37-34 victory over Indiana. Brunner was filling in for reigning MAC offensive player of the year Dan LeFevour, who has a sprained ankle. Brunner scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 8:52 remaining in the game.

Brett Swenson. The Michigan State kicker was too hot to be iced. Swenson kicked four field goals and hit from 50 and 44 yards in the final 5:16 to lift the Spartans over Wisconsin 25-24. Swenson removed his helmet and laughed when Wisconsin called two time-outs in an attempt to ice him just before he hit the game-winning 44-yarder with seven seconds to play.

Losers

Fans rushing the field. Texas Tech fans rushed the field with 1 second remaining, a review pending and the Texas Tech kickoff ensuing. The Red Raiders kicked off from their 7 -yard line and the ball was fielded on inside their own 45-yard line because of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. A reminder: Wait until the game is actually over before rushing the field. Signed, University of Kentucky Class of 2002.

Phillip Fulmer. Patience has to be wearing thin in Knoxville. Tennessee needs to beat Wyoming, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to be bowl eligible. Winning all three is no guarantee. The Volunteers are winless against the SEC East this year, losing in a rout to Florida and (kind of) staying competitive against Georgia. The 27-6 loss to South Carolina was another low point. The Gamecocks, who were 3-23 all-time against Tennessee going into the game, weren't sharp and lost starting quarterback Stephen Garcia in the third quarter to a knee injury.

Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were a long shot to march into Norman and pull the upset, but this game was downright ugly. Oklahoma's scout team might have fared better in the first quarter when Oklahoma took a 28-0 lead in the first 5:33. The Big 12 is the top conference in the country, and Nebraska is barely treading water. The Cornhuskers' only conference wins are over Iowa State and Baylor. However, their best performance of the year is a 37-31 overtime loss to Texas Tech.

Steve Kragthorpe. Let's put this plainly: Greg Robinson has three Big East wins at Syracuse. Two are over Kragthorpe's Louisville teams. Robinson has been in the league for four years. Kragthorpe has been in the league for 20 games. Losing to Syracuse in consecutive seasons is not good for job security.

Thursday night viewers. Thursday's game between TCU and Utah is slated to be on CBS College Sports, formerly CSTV. The game could determine a BCS at-large bid and should be the game of the year in the Mountain West. The game between top-15 teams is banished to the premium sports package, which is available on only some cable and satellite providers. The national ESPN game is Maryland at Virginia Tech. Yuck.

BYU's defense. Remember when the Cougars used to be one of the country's better defensive teams? Something happened - starting with the loss to TCU - to cause BYU to lose its defensive mojo. The Cougars ranked second in the nation in scoring defense before allowing 32 points to TCU, 35 to UNLV and 42 to Colorado State. The Cougars needed a touchdown pass in the final 22 seconds to secure the 45-42 win over the Rams.

Michigan. The Wolverines' streak of 33 consecutive bowl game appearances the nation's longest is officially over after a 48-42 loss to Purdue. Now 2-7 with just three games remaining, Michigan has no chance to post the six victories required to gain bowl eligibility. The loss was also Michigan's fifth in a row.

Unlucky 17. The No. 17 team fell again. When Minnesota lost to Northwestern it marked the fifth time this season and third time in a row the 17th ranked team in the Associated Press poll has lost. Last week No. 17 Pittsburgh lost to Rutgers 54-34. The previous week, No. 17 Virginia Tech lost to Boston College 28-23. Virginia Tech was also ranked No. 17 when it lost its season-opener 27-22 to East Carolina on Aug. 30. Oregon was ranked 17th when it was beaten by Boise State 37-32 on Sept. 20.

Auburn. Coach Tommy Tuberville's hopes for reaching a bowl game took a significant blow following a 17-10 loss to Ole Miss. The Tigers have lost four in a row and are now 4-5. They would have to win two of their last three to become bowl eligible, meaning they will have to defeat either Georgia or Alabama to make it.

Tulsa. Its aspirations of reaching a BCS bowl came crashing down in a 30-23 loss to Arkansas. Tulsa was ranked No. 18 and was undefeated entering the game. A victory over a "Big Six" opponent would have helped legitimatize its bid for a BCS bowl. Tulsa came into the game averaging 56.6 points, but managed only three touchdowns against the Razorbacks. Tulsa threatened to force overtime, but turned the ball over on downs at the Arkansas 5-yard line with 41 seconds to play.

Matthew Stafford. The Georgia quarterback threw three interceptions and the Bulldogs squandered several scoring opportunities in a 49-10 loss to Florida. The loss knocked Georgia out of the national championship picture and all but ended its hopes of reaching the SEC championship game.

Marcus Sims. The Florida State running back lost a fumble in the end zone in the final minute to put an abrupt end to the Seminoles' four-game winning streak. Florida State was facing second-and-goal from the Georgia Tech 3-yard line when Sims fumbled at the 1. The ball bounced into the end zone and Georgia Tech recovered to clinch a 31-28 victory. It was the third and obviously most costly turnover the Seminoles committed.

Wisconsin. The Badgers' defense collapsed again in the fourth quarter. Earlier this year, Wisconsin blew a 19-point lead in a loss to Michigan. It couldn't hold an 11-point lead against Michigan State. The Badgers held a 24-13 lead with nine minutes remaining, but allowed a touchdown and two field goals in the final eight minutes and 13 seconds. A 44-yard Michigan State field goal with seven seconds remaining dealt the Badgers who were once ranked as high as No. 9 their fifth loss of the season.

Connecticut. Its 11-game home field winning streak came to an end with a 35-13 loss to West Virginia. UConn's last home loss was 26-23 to Cincinnati in 2006. The loss also dropped the Huskies to 0-5 all-time against the Mountaineers.

Iowa. The Hawkeyes' offensive line allowed six sacks in a 27-24 loss to Illinois. Defensive back Dere Hicks forced a fumble on one of the sacks, picked it up and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.



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