Big Tex, battling Bama and a plan for JoePa Print
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Sunday, 19 October 2008 12:48
NCAAF Headline News

 Texas flexes. Alabama escapes. And Penn State pushes forward to a Big Ten showdown with Ohio State as JoePa continues to lead the Nittany Lions via long distance.
Week 8 brought a return to order, relatively speaking, in college football. It also produced a clear Heisman Trophy favorite and an even more muddled ACC. Oh yeah, and the BCS standings are out.
The Big Story
Maybe Joe Paterno should just stay in the press box. Seriously.
That's not meant as a knock on major college football's winningest coach. It's a plan that could allow the 81-year-old Hall of Famer to remain Penn State's patriarch and head football coach for a few more years, even if his body isn't quite up to the task.
Penn State has played its last three games with Paterno working from the press box and his assistants, led by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, handling the sideline.
Continuity is key to making this work.
no, Joe's son, has been working for his dad for 14 seasons.
While Paterno's inability to roam the sideline because of a sore leg and hip makes news and fuels speculation that his 43rd season as Penn State coach may finally be his last, it hasn't stopped the Nittany Lions from becoming a national championship contender.
No. 3 Penn State (8-0) scored the last 39 points against Michigan in a 46-17 victory Saturday.
Bradley was quick to point out after the game that Paterno is still a presence on the sideline, barking instructions and suggestions through the headset to his lieutenants.
And even though Paterno insists he doesn't like being upstairs and never will, he does sound as if he's warming up to his new perch.
``I get a better view of football games from up there than I ever do on the sideline,'' he said.
It could be argued that at this point Paterno's greatest contribution to Penn State football is his mere presence. He is the brand, and the strongest connection to many of the program's big-dollar donors. That will be impossible to replace, even if the next coach comes from within.
So maybe Penn State and Paterno should be embracing this new arrangement and considering making it permanent if it keeps him in charge.
BCS breakdown
orns vs. Crimson Tide in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 8 in Miami.
Texas is first in the standings and Alabama is second, and third-place Penn State is too far behind to catch either if all three keep winning. Texas' schedule is the toughest of the three. After crushing Missouri 56-31 to take a huge lead in the polls, there's no way the Longhorns will slip significantly in the rankings while winning.
Alabama's schedule is next best. Even ugly wins - such as the 24-20 hold-on-for-dear-life effort against Mississippi - should keep the Tide rolling.
Penn State's best chance for a big BCS bump comes this week when it plays at Ohio State, but the Nittany Lions' other remaining opponents are all unranked.
Four times in his career, Paterno has coached a team to an unbeaten season and not won a national title, the last in 1994. He's set up to make it five.
Heisman-worthy
Just like Texas in the BCS, Colt McCoy has a comfortable lead in the Heisman Trophy race. The Longhorns' quarterback completed a ridiculous 29 of 32 passes for 337 yards, and accounted for four touchdowns against Mizzou. The race is far from over, but everybody is chasing McCoy at this point.
Atlantic Coast Carousel
Don't hate the ACC because it has no dominant team. Embrace the league for it's depth and unpredictability.
nia Tech and North Carolina. Three more moved in - No. 21 Georgia Tech, No. 23 Boston College and No. 24 Florida State.
Clemson, the preseason favorite, appears to be headed for a total washout. Virginia looked like the worst team in conference the first month of the season and now the Cavaliers can't lose. Maryland does Virginia one better. One week it's Fear the Turtle. The next week, the Terps are as helpless as a turtle on its back.
What team will emerge from this mess as champ? Who knows? But here's a prediction: the participants in the ACC championship game at Tampa, Fla., on Dec. 6 will have at least five losses combined.
Quick hits
-Few outside of Arkansas are rooting for this, but don't be surprised if Bobby Petrino gets his Razorbacks (3-4) to .500 at the finish and into a minor bowl.
-Here's how to get noticed: No. 22 Tulsa (7-0) moved into the rankings for the first time since 1991 by beating UTEP 77-35 and rolling up 791 yards. The game was tied at 28 after the first quarter.
-Chuck Long may have committed career suicide by taking the San Diego State job. The Aztecs fell to 1-6 with a 70-7 loss at New Mexico. Long was a hot commodity when he was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, but since taking over the Aztecs he is 8-23.
Lookahead
aten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 1978, going 0-7 since.
No. 1 Texas faces another big test at home, this time No. 7 Oklahoma State.
No. 9 Georgia goes to No. 11 LSU. Both have one loss and can't afford another.
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Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. He can be reached at rrusso(at)ap.org
 

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