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November 3, 2008
Conference races really heating up
It's early November, which means everyone is focused on the BCS. But the conference races are especially intriguing this season. Here's a look at how they're going in the "Big Six" conferences.
Here's a look at the non-"Big Sixers." No non-"Big Sixer" has a realistic shot at the national title, but a few have a shot at a BCS bid.
The Big Ten was the place to be Saturday. There were five games involving league teams, and none of the five was decided by more than a touchdown.
Further, four came down to the final 30 seconds:
Michigan State kicked a field goal with seven seconds left to edge Wisconsin 25-24.
Illinois kicked a field goal with 24 seconds left to defeat Iowa 27-24.
Georgia's Matthew Stafford and Florida's Tim Tebow were in the same recruiting class and both were considered among the top three quarterbacks nationally. Saturday's game may have been their last meeting as collegians, because Stafford is expected to go pro. As freshmen, Stafford started for the Bulldogs but Tebow was a key component of UF's national title team as a reserve. As sophomores, Tebow won the Heisman but Stafford won the head-to-head meeting and the Bulldogs finished ahead of the Gators in the SEC East. Saturday's win basically guarantees that Florida wins the SEC East this season, and Stafford's three second-half interceptions played a huge part in Florida's 39-point victory. While Tebow is going to wind up with the more successful college career, Stafford looks as if he could make more NFL money than his counterpart.
BYU's come-from-behind 45-42 victory over Colorado State definitely was a family affair for the Cougars. BYU QB Max Hall threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to TE Dennis Pitta, including the game-winner with 22 seconds. Hall and Pitta are brothers-in-law, married to sisters. The Halls have been married for two years, the Pittas for just over two months.
At first glance, these games don't jump out at you. But upon further review, they look a whole lot more interesting.
Louisville at Pittsburgh, noon: Louisville is coming off an embarrassing loss at Syracuse and needs a win to get back in the race for the Big East crown. Meanwhile, which Pitt team will show up – the one that got blown out at home by Rutgers or the won that went on the road and won in overtime at Notre Dame?
Illinois vs. Western Michigan in Detroit: Western Michigan is 7-2 and can take a big step toward a possible bowl bid with a victory over the Illini, who are coming off a win over Iowa. Western Michigan has a chance if QB Tim Hiller has a big day. This could be a shootout and should be fun to watch.
Oklahoma's game against Nebraska was over early. OU scored on its first possession. On Nebraska's first play of the game, QB Joe Ganz threw an interception that Dominique Franks returned for a touchdown. On the second play of Nebraska's next possession, the Huskers fumbled; OU scored three plays later to make it 21-0. On the second play of Nebraska's next possession, Ganz threw another interception. OU scored on its first play of the ensuing possession to make it 28-0 with 9:32 left in the first quarter.
Give it up for Iowa State true freshman CB Leonard Johnson. He set a FBS (i.e., Division I-A) record with 319 kickoff-return yards in the Cyclones' loss to Oklahoma State. He compiled the yardage on nine kickoff returns. His two longest covered 72 and 73 yards. The record had been 282 by Clemson's Justin Miller against Florida State in 2004.
Some numbers from the weekend: Ole Miss' victory over Auburn gave the Rebels three SEC wins in their first season under coach Houston Nutt. That's as many as the Rebels managed in three seasons under former coach Ed Orgeron. … Arkansas beat Tulsa 30-23 and held the Golden Hurricane scoreless in the fourth quarter. That was the first time Tulsa was held scoreless in a quarter this season. … Army threw the ball 26 times in its 16-7 loss to Air Force, more than a quarter of its 93 attempts this season. … UNLV scored a fourth-quarter touchdown in its 44-14 loss to TCU. That score was noteworthy because those were the first points allowed by TCU in the fourth period this season. The Horned Frogs now have outscored foes 85-7 in the quarter. … Oklahoma State has started 8-1 for just the third time in school history, and the Cowboys have won eight games in a season for the first time since 2003. … Boise State beat New Mexico State 49-0. In the past two seasons, Boise has beaten the Aggies by a combined 107-0. … USC scored touchdowns on its first six possessions in its 56-0 victory over Washington. That means the Trojans beat the Pac-10's two Washington schools by a combined 125-0.