College Football News and Notes Week 14

Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Victory Bell, Civil War, Territorial Cup and the Big Game on deck
Associated Press

It's rivalry week in the Pacific-10 Conference, which means anything can happen.

The Big Game? They've got The Play. The Victory Bell? We've seen what happens when Southern California plays UCLA. The Civil War? They've got that 0-0 Toilet Bowl.

And the Territorial Cup? Who would have thought the relatively unremarkable matchup between Arizona and Arizona State is played for what the NCAA calls the oldest intercollegiate rivalry trophy in the country?

Given all that, confusion reigns. Because of an unpredictable season, there is a multitude of scenarios for league standing and bowl prospects.

No. 8 USC against UCLA at Memorial Coliseum has the greatest implications.

If the Trojans (9-2, 6-2) win, they're headed back to the Rose Bowl. But incredibly, the Bruins (6-5, 5-3) would capture the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth if they win too - and get some help.

That's where the Territorial Cup figures in.

A loss by No. 13 Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) would keep the Bruins in Pasadena for the bowl season. But the Sun Devils have just as good of a chance at winning their third Pac-10 title and a slot in the Rose Bowl, if they beat Arizona and the Trojans lose to UCLA.

Got all that?

Then get ready for more. If USC heads to the Rose Bowl, Arizona State could still receive an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game, depending on whether Missouri or Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title game. The Sun Devils' likely destination: the Fiesta Bowl just down the road from campus.

The Pac-10 has agreements with six bowl games: The Rose Bowl, the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, the Las Vegas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas.

The Civil War between Oregon (8-3, 5-3) and Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) will help decide the Pac-10 pecking order. Expect there to be more scoring than the Toilet Bowl in 1983, when the two played to a futile, scoreless draw.

Cal (6-5, 3-5) will be trying to help its bowl resume against Stanford (3-8, 2-6) in The Game, on the 25th anniversary of the Golden Bears' famous five-lateral kickoff return through the Stanford marching band.

Washington State already has won its big rivalry game, beating Washington 42-35 in the Apple Cup. Despite the victory, Cougars coach Bill Doba agreed to step down after compiling a 30-29 record in five seasons.


HONORS: Washington State quarterback Alex Brink, USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson and UCLA kicker Kai Forbath were the conference players of the week.

Brink completed 27 of 40 passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-35 comeback victory over Washington in the Apple Cup. He threw scoring passes of 41, 19, 28, 40 and the game-winning 35-yard pass with 31 seconds left.

Brink finished his career with 10,913 yards, third on the Pac-10's passing list.

Jackson had eight tackles, including a school-record 5 1/2 tackles for loss and four sacks, in USC's 44-24 victory over Arizona State. He was also named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

Forbath made all three of his field goal attempts and his lone PAT attempt, accounting for 10 of UCLA's points in a 16-0 victory over Oregon. He has made 22 field goals this season, a new Pac-10 season record for freshmen.


PRICE IS RIGHT: Could the Washington State coaching vacancy mean the return of Mike Price?

That's what some Cougar boosters hope.

The school and coach Bill Doba mutually agreed for Doba to resign on Monday after Washington State finished 5-7 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-10. Athletic director Jim Sterk said there would be a nationwide search for a replacement, but there's no timetable for finding one.

The 61-year-old Price was 83-78 at Washington State from 1989-2002. He took the Cougars to their first Rose Bowl in 67 years, four other bowls, and was national coach of the year in 1997.

Price left to take the head job at Alabama, but never coached there after he was ousted following an embarrassing scandal stemming from his alleged actions in a topless bar in Pensacola, Fla.

Price landed at UTEP, where he has posted a record of 25-23 in four seasons. However, the Miners slumped to 5-7 in 2006 and 4-8 this season.


DESEAN'S DECISION:
California receiver and punt returner DeSean Jackson, who could declare himself eligible for the NFL draft after this season, is still nursing a badly bruised leg.

He said he's unsure if he'll be able to play in the 110th Big Game.

Jackson, who has 60 catches for 681 yards and five touchdowns this season, bruised his quadriceps during a second-quarter punt return in Cal's loss at Washington. The junior missed the rest of the game, and a week of rehabilitation hasn't healed it completely.

``I'm feeling pretty good, but still not back to where I want to be,'' Jackson said. ``Closer to game time, I'll see how I feel.

``Every year I've played in the Big Game, it's been one of those great years. It would be good to keep that tradition going on. Right now, I just want to protect my knee.''

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Tranghese hoping for better bowl structure for Big East in next BCS deal
Associated Press

Mike Tranghese remembers only too well what it was like negotiating the Big East's bowl tie-ins three years ago.

The conference had just lost Miami and Virginia Tech. Boston College was heading into a lame duck season before joining the Hurricanes and the Hokies in the ACC. Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati, hardly established powers, were getting ready to enter the new-look league.

When Tranghese went to tout the reeling conference to bowl officials, it wasn't exactly an easy sell.

``When we negotiated these contracts, this league had not even played a football game,'' Tranghese said during a teleconference Monday. ``When we negotiated these contracts, we had no leverage, and to be quite candid and blunt, we were lucky to get what we got.''

Tranghese ended up brokering deals with the PapaJohns.com, Gator, Sun, Meineke Car Care, Texas and International bowls, most of which didn't exist when the original Big East began in the early 1990s.

Not that Tranghese cared. The bowls gave the conference much-needed exposure and allowed it to prove itself against decent competition. The Big East went 5-0 in bowl games last year and has won the last two Bowl Championship Series games the conference champion has played in.

Now, with No. 2 West Virginia on the verge of playing for a national title and several other schools emerging as serious contenders, Tranghese would like to up the ante on the Big East's bowl tie-ins when the next BCS contract comes up in a couple of years.

At the top of the list is getting dates against teams from the Big Ten and the SEC, two conferences that are not affiliated with any of the non-BCS bowls the Big East could play in.

``I think if we play those kind of teams everything else will take care of itself,'' Tranghese said. ``The game would have tremendous meaning because of the nature of the two conferences. I've talked to (Big Ten commissioner) Jim (Delany) and (SEC commissioner) Mike Slive about whether we can get it done. That's a big goal of mine.''

Tranghese would also like to partner with one more bowl game so a bowl-eligible team from the conference won't be left out of the mix.

Pittsburgh stayed home last season despite a 6-6 record. Louisville could also be stuck this season if it finishes 6-6 by beating Rutgers on Thursday night.

``We're looking at the creation of new bowls and talking with current partners as a way to perhaps upgrade some things,'' Tranghese said. ``We've had some very low-level, initial conversations with bowls who next time around might be interested in us.''

Not that the coaches are complaining about the current bowl structure. After leading the Bearcats to their first nine-win season in 54 years, coach Brian Kelly is simply happy to be playing during the holidays. Cincinnati will face Southern Mississippi in the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 22.

``At the end of the day, we're all playing for a national championship,'' he said. ``After that, a bowl game is just the icing on the cake.''


NO MORE FRIDAYS: In addition to tweaking the bowl system, Tranghese said he'd like to adjust the conference's TV agreement so teams no longer have to play Friday games.

The conference played six Friday games this season. Rutgers and Louisville played on Friday twice, with USF, West Virginia, Syracuse and Connecticut each making one appearance.

Playing on Fridays is not ideal, Tranghese said. But like the situation with bowl tie-ins, the conference didn't have many choices when it negotiated the last TV deal.

``People were telling us our league was lousy, and now I have to negotiate a TV contract,'' Tranghese said. ``We were left with little, little choice. ... If we hadn't played Friday games, we'd not have a TV contract and programs can't sustain that.''


STILL BRAWLING: While the 100th edition of ``The Backyard Brawl'' between Pittsburgh and West Virginia will have national implications, Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said the game won't be much different than the 99 that came before it.

Long before the nation paid attention, the two schools located about 90 minutes apart judged their season based on how they did against the other.

Wannstedt was an offensive tackle for the Panthers from 1970-73. During his senior season, the Panthers won at Morgantown, beating coach Bobby Bowden and the Mountaineers 35-7. Wannstedt saw the game as a turning point in the program.

``We had had a few wins prior to that, but that was the first win I remember,'' said Wannstedt. ``The next week I think it gave our football team confidence. It was, 'Hey we beat a very good football team on the road and it can be a stepping stone.'''

The Panthers would go on to win the national championship in 1976.

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, a defensive back under coach Don Nehlen in the early 1980s, remembers thinking the Mountaineers had put the Panthers away during the 1982 game after teammate Darryl Talley blocked a punt.

Not exactly.

Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino led the Panthers to a comeback victory.

``We thought we got away with it,'' Rodriguez said. ``I'm sure it'll be the same intensity this weekend.''

The Panthers lead the all-time series 59-37-3, but the Mountaineers have won four of the last five and 11 of the last 15 in the series.


HONORS: Cincinnati quarterback Ben Mauk finished his breakout season for the Bearcats by putting together his finest performance of the season in a 52-31 win over Syracuse. He threw for 431 yards and four TDs and ran for another score, earning Big East offensive player of the week honors for the second time this season.

West Virginia linebacker Mortty Ivy was the defensive player of the week after recording a career-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble in a 66-21 win over Connecticut.

West Virginia kicker/punter Pat McAfee was the special teams player of the week for the third time this season after scoring 11 points and averaging 52.7 yards on three punts.


QUICK HITS: South Florida leads the nation in takeaways with 40. Cincinnati is second with 39. ... Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm became the conference's all-time leading passer in a loss at South Florida on Nov. 17. Brohm entered his final game against Rutgers with 9,719 yards in three seasons in the Big East, surpassing the record of 9,565 set by former Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey. ... Louisville kicker Art Carmody can become the all-time leading scorer in Football Bowl Subdivision history with two points against Rutgers. Carmody, the 2006 Lou Groza winner as the nation's top kicker, has 422 career points. Houston kicker Roman Anderson set the record of 423 between 1988-91.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Teams out of steam?: UT, LSU defenses coming off marathon regular-season enders

The Southeastern Conference Championship game might evolve into a battle of legs, and that has little to do with place-kickers and punters.

No. 14 Tennessee (9-3, 6-2 SEC), which won its first SEC Eastern Division title since 2004 with a 52-50, four-overtime win against Kentucky, faces fifth-ranked LSU, which fell from atop the college polls with a 50-48 three-overtime loss Friday against Arkansas.

After blowing leads of 24-7 and 31-14, the Vols’ defense was on the field 110 plays against the Wildcats. LSU’s defense surrendered 385 rushing yards and played 77 snaps against the Razorbacks.

“That will be a challenge, certainly,” said UT coach Phillip Fulmer, 2-2 in four SEC title games. “I think the fact we changed a few weeks ago to light work on Sunday and Monday off will help our team. And there will be a lot of adrenaline just in our preparations for this game.

“We have to get our work in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to prepare. But our defense was on the field for 110 snaps. I think that’s an NCAA record of some sorts. We have to take that into account but at the same time get our work in to prepare for a really fine LSU football team.”

The Tigers (10-2, 6-2), who spent much of the season ranked No. 1 or 2 in the polls but slipped because of their three-overtime losses to Arkansas and Kentucky, must overcome mental, rather than physical, obstacles, according to coach Les Miles. LSU likely would have played for a national championship if it had defeated Arkansas and then won an SEC title this week.

“I don’t think the fatigue coming off this weekend is the issue,” said Miles, who lost the 2005 SEC title game to Georgia. “I think the ability to put this game behind us and recognize that the opportunity, it’s not about playing in the Sugar Bowl or even the game after (the SEC Championship), it is fundamentally about winning a conference championship. And what a great opportunity it is for this team to be able to go to Atlanta and play for, in our opinion, the finest football conference championship in the country. There certainly is some disappointment off some goals left behind last Friday, but I think everybody in this building will come to recognize that when we start the season out, first and foremost it’s for the West and then the conference championship, and that opportunity is still before this team.”

While LSU clinched that opportunity several weeks ago, Tennessee needed the fourth overtime of its 12th game to ensure it would represent the SEC East. A loss would have dropped the Vols to third in their division and sent Georgia to its fourth SEC title contest since 2002.

“We’ve been an underdog all year long it seems like,” Fulmer said. “I’m sure we’ll be an underdog to LSU. There are probably not many people on this teleconference who think we’re going to win Saturday except for me. LSU is a very talented football team. They would not have been ranked No. 1 for a lot of the season if not. ... I like our football team. I like the way they’ve gone about their business. What shortcomings they have, it hasn’t been an unwillingness to work or prepare or play hard.”

TIGER TALES: Miles said quarterback Matt Flynn, who injured his shoulder on the last play of regulation against Arkansas, likely won’t practice until Tuesday but is expected to play. If Flynn can’t play or re-aggravates the injury, LSU would hand over its offense to sophomore Ryan Perrilloux.

“I think Ryan’s improved throughout the year,” Miles said. “He has a much greater command of the offense. I would have no problem with him stepping in and playing. Granted, our starter is flynn, but I would have no problem at any time inserting Ryan.”

Other banged up Tigers Miles said should return are tailback Trindon Holliday, an NCAA champion sprinter, and safety Curtis Taylor. All-America defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is battling a lower-back bruise but isn’t bothered by a knee injury, Miles said.

ORANGE PEELS: Fulmer said he’s worried that sophomore tailback Montario Hardesty might not be available this week. Hardesty tweaked a lingering ankle injury during the Kentucky game. If Hardesty can’t play, true freshman Lennon Creer would be the No. 2 back since LaMarcus Coker was kicked off the team earlier this month. Freshman cornerback Brent Vinson has a left shoulder injury that will require surgery after the season but Fulmer said he expects him to play. Vinson’s shoulder pops out of place with regularity, as it did in an overtime session against the Wildcats. Senior defensive end Xavier Mitchell suffered a shoulder/neck stinger for the second consecutive week and will have a light week in practice but should play.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Houston names Thurmond interim football coach
November 28th, 2007

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - The University of Houston named Chris Thurmond as its interim football coach to replace Art Briles, the school announced Wednesday.

Thurmond, who has been the team's recruiting coordinator and assistant coach the last two seasons, will guide the Cougars through the Texas Bowl on December 28.

"Chris Thurmond has a lot of experience," said Dave Maggard, the university's director of athletics. "He's been around a long time. He is somebody that is respected on the staff, and by the players. Right now he is the person best to be the interim (head coach) and take us through the bowl."

Prior to joining the Cougars' staff, Thurmond spent three years at Texas A&M. He also spent two seasons coaching cornerbacks at Alabama and had separate stints at TCU, Tulsa, Oklahoma and East Carolina.

"The whole season is a tribute to Coach Briles and the staff," said Thurmond, "and nothing ever happens by any one individual or any one group. It was a team effort throughout the year, and it will continue to be a team effort. That's all we can do.

"Right now, I have been designated as the guy to keep the team together, and that's what we'll do."

The announcement came the same day Briles resigned to accept the head coaching job at Baylor. He was 34-28 in five seasons at Houston.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Osborne designates himself interim Nebraska football coach so he can recruit
November 29, 2007

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -Tom Osborne is back as Nebraska's football coach - but just temporarily.

Osborne, already the interim athletic director, on Wednesday declared himself interim head coach until he hires a successor to Bill Callahan.

The interim coach designation lets Osborne visit prospective recruits away from campus, athletic department communications chief Randy York said Thursday.

The 70-year-old Osborne passed the NCAA certification test on his first try Wednesday, York said. Osborne went on the road to recruit Thursday and Friday, and the school sent a letter notifying the Big 12 of Osborne's new title, York said.

Once a hire is made, Osborne could continue to recruit until the new coach assembles a full staff of nine assistants, York said.

As the Cornhuskers' head coach from 1973 to 1997, Osborne won 255 games and three national championships.

Osborne said in a radio interview with the Husker Sports Network on Wednesday that he hoped to have a new coach selected by next week. He already interviewed Buffalo coach Turner Gill and LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and spoke informally with Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, according to media reports.

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly told local radio station WCKY on Wednesday that he had not been contacted by Nebraska.

Two assistants from Callahan's staff, defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove and cornerbacks coach Phil Elmassian, are no longer recruiting for Nebraska, York said.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Flynn is questionable for SEC championship

BATON ROUGE -- Preparing for a dome game on artificial turf, LSU has practiced indoors this week. On Wednesday, the Tigers did so without padded pants, and for at least part of the time without their starting quarterback.

Fifth-year senior Matt Flynn, who suffered a shoulder injury last week against Arkansas, was on the sideline toward the end of practice, which was closed to the media. Sophomore backup Ryan Perrilloux was running plays with the first team.

Flynn's status for the Southeastern Conference championship Saturday, in which No. 5 LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC) squares off against No. 14 Tennessee (9-3, 6-2), is uncertain.

LSU Coach Les Miles said Flynn participated in parts of practice Wednesday.

"Matt took snaps, threw balls," Miles said. When asked directly if Flynn would play against the Volunteers, Miles offered only, "I think so."

"He's limited some," he said. "But he practiced today, threw the ball well."

Flynn was noncommittal Monday during a teleconference. "We'll just have to see how it goes," he said.

Flynn started 11 games this season, throwing for 2,233 yards with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Against Arkansas, while diving for the goal line pylon on a successful two-point conversion, Flynn banged his right, throwing shoulder, and went to the locker room twice during the game. But he did not miss a snap.

Should he prove unable to play Saturday, the Tigers will turn to Perrilloux, who has had a rocky relationship with Miles because of repeated off-field indiscretions.

Perrilloux has played little since he was suspended for the Alabama game because of his involvement in a Baton Rouge nightclub brawl in which he was not charged. He is 31-of-45 passing for 461 yards and sevens touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed for two scores.

Miles remained spare Wednesday with his praise of Perrilloux, noting he was, "a second-team guy," when a reporter asked about his progress. When asked if he was fully comfortable with Perrilloux starting or seeing extensive time against the Vols, Miles said, "We'll cross that bridge when we have to. Right now that's not in our thoughts."

NOTES:

Sophomore defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, who was suspended before the 2007 Sugar Bowl and has not been active this season, will join the team and play in the SEC championship game, Miles said. Francois was lost because of academic reasons LSU has never specifically outlined, and Miles declined to say whether his season-long suspension was the result of a university or an NCAA ruling. Francois looked strong as a freshman last year and Miles has bemoaned Francois' absence several times, calling him one of the team's best defensive linemen. Despite the suspension, Francois has practiced all year and playing Saturday will not affect his NCAA eligibility because he already has redshirted. The team would "try to get him tired" this week in preparation, Miles said. "Do you want to play in the championship game? I think he does," Miles said.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Rutgers headed to International Bowl
November 29th, 2007

Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Rutgers accepted a bid on Thursday to play in the International Bowl, which is scheduled to be played on January 5, 2008 at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The Scarlet Knights, who will play in a bowl game for a third straight year for the first time in school history, will battle a yet to be announced opponent from the Mid-American Conference.

The International Bowl is the only Football Bowl Subdivision game that is played outside of the United States.

"We're thrilled to accept this invitation to play in the International Bowl and I know our team is excited about the opportunity to play in a bowl game for the third consecutive year," said Rutgers athletic director Robert E. Mulcahy III. "Toronto is a wonderful city and our alumni and fans are sure to have a great time there."

Rutgers closed out its regular season with an overall record of 7-4 and 3-3 mark in the Big East.

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Re: College Football News and Notes Week 14

Penn State headed to Alamo Bowl
November 30th, 2007

University Park, PA (Sports Network) - Penn State University has accepted an invitation to the 2007 Alamo Bowl.

The Nittany Lions will face a Big 12 Conference opponent -- likely Texas A&M or Texas Tech -- to be announced on Sunday evening.

The Alamo Bowl will be Joe Paterno's 500th game as head coach of the Nittany Lions and Penn State's second appearance in the San Antonio, Texas based-bowl.

The Nittany Lions whitewashed Texas A&M, 24-0, in the 1999 Alamo Bowl.

"We're delighted to have the opportunity to return to the Alamo Bowl," said Penn State athletic director Tim Curley. "Everyone from Penn State had a wonderful experience during our previous trip to San Antonio. The hospitality extended to our team and fans was outstanding. This will provide a chance for some of our alumni in the Southwest to see our team play in person. The Alamo Bowl has been a great partner with the Big Ten and all the Conference schools and we're excited about returning to San Antonio."

The Nittany Lions will be making their 34th post-season trip under Paterno, who is the all-time leader in bowl wins (22-10-1) and appearances.

"We are looking forward to playing in the Alamo Bowl and meeting a very good team from the Big 12 Conference," said Paterno. "This team has worked hard all season and has been a great group to work with. I'm happy for the squad that their efforts will be rewarded with an opportunity to go to San Antonio, where we had a great experience the last time, and be involved in a good, tough game."

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