Notre Dame wins one for the limper. Steve Spurrier finds out what it's like to be Gator bait. Oregon State is two wins away from ruining the Rose Bowl.
The 12th week of the college football season was like a holding pattern, no big changes but the final descent is about to begin.
The Big Story
Notre Dame can't afford to fire Charlie Weis.
No, not just because it might cost the school upward of $10 million to buy out the remaining seven years of the 10-year contract he was (unwisely) given after the Fighting Irish came within a Reggie Bush push of beating Southern California in 2005.
New athletic director Jack Swarbrick can't fire Weis because it would be a bad move. Another coaching change would give Notre Dame three this decade. That type of instability is rarely healthy.
A big reason why Tryone Willingham was let go in 2004 was recruiting. Willingham went 21-15 in his three seasons in South Bend, Ind. Weis is now 28-19. What made Irish supporters even more uneasy about Willingham was his inability to bring in top talent.
inn and many of the players Weis took to two straight BCS bowls in his first two seasons. But Willingham's poor recruiting also was a big reason why the Fighting Irish went 3-9 last season.
Weis has consistently landed classes rated by the experts among the best in the nation, and he seems to be doing well on the recruiting trail again. currently has Notre Dame's 2009 class rated No. 9 in the country.
So, why aren't the Irish beating more good teams? Why are they going to have to settle for a second-tier bowl and probably seven wins this season?
The fact is the Irish are on schedule in their development and much improved over last season - though that's not saying much.
Next season, Weis' first two classes will be upperclassmen and his next two will be providing the depth necessary to win at least nine or 10 games.
Notre Dame fans don't want to hear that. They still have delusions of grandeur and feel entitled to root for a perennial national title contender.
They also see coaches such as Nick Saban at Alabama and Butch Davis at North Carolina, who have their inexperienced teams ahead of schedule and contending for championships while relying heavily on underclassmen.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame fans are gearing up for the Gator Bowl or the Sun Bowl after sweating out a 27-21 victory against Navy on Saturday in Baltimore.
who's only had the job for a few months, sidestepped a question about how the victory might have provided a little relief to an antsy fan base.
``You wish the end had been a little better, but we were trying to get some people some looks. I love the fact that in that situation we're putting young people in to see how they can do instead of trying to play it cautious and keep the first unit in and run up the score,'' he said.
Weis has literally been limping his way through this season on an injured left knee that will eventually require surgery. He'll be back next season with a fixed knee and an experienced football team. If he doesn't deliver a big season, it's doubtful any buyout will be too pricey for Notre Dame stick with him.
On the receiving end
For years, Steve Spurrier showed little humility and even less mercy as his Florida teams punished the rest of the Southeastern Conference.
It was Spurrier who nicknamed Ben Griffin Hill Stadium the Swamp - only Gators get out alive.
But there he was Saturday, on the sideline at Florida Field with South Carolina, taking the worst beating of his career. Urban Meyer's Gators pounded the Gamecocks 56-6.
This is Spurrier's fourth season in Columbia. The Gamecocks are better now then when he arrived at South Carolina and talked about accomplishing things that have never been done at school with no SEC championships.
eyer is at Florida and Mark Richt is coaching Georgia, it's hard to imagine Spurrier ever getting the Gamecocks past those two powers and into an SEC championship game.
Oh no, OSU
Oregon State (8-3) is having what's become a typical season for coach Mike Riley's team: start slow, come on strong at the end.
The difference is with two more victories, Oregon State can clinch its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1965, when the Beavers lost 34-7 to Michigan.
Nobody who doesn't bleed orange and black wants this to happen. Don't take it personally, Beavers.
Penn State vs. Southern California is must see TV. Penn State vs. Oregon State II is a sequel the BCS can live without. The Nittany Lions beat the Beavers 45-14 in Happy Valley in September.
Quick hits
- Northwestern (8-3) could be in line for its first New Year's Day bowl game since the 1996 Citrus Bowl, without or without a victory at home in against Illinois in its finale.
- Tulsa became third ranked team to allow 70 points in a game when it lost 70-30 to Houston. The others were Fresno State, No. 24 when it lost to Northern Illinois 73-18 in 1990, and BYU, which was No. 9 and unbeaten when it lost to Hawaii 72-54 in its 2001 regular-season finale.
The BCS standings were unchanged this week. That won't happen next week.
No. 2 Texas Tech is at No. 5 Oklahoma. If the Red Raiders win, they'll clinch the Big 12 South. A victory against Baylor would make the Big 12 championship the only obstacle to reaching the BCS title game.
If the Sooners win, the Big 12 South race gets confusing with Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech tied.
No. 7 Penn State can clinch a Rose Bowl bid by beating No. 17 Michigan State in State College.
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at

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