November 11, 2007

Illinois creates more BCS suspense

Let the debate begin.

There's just one unbeaten team left from a major conference - Kansas at 10-0. And with just three weeks left in the season, the Jayhawks still have a lot of work to do to get in position to play for the national title. They have regular-season games remaining with Iowa State and Missouri, then a possible Big 12 Championship game.

Sure, there were some rumblings that Ohio State wasn't the best team in the nation even before OSU lost to Illinois on Saturday. After all, the Buckeyes had beaten just two ranked teams, and neither of those was ranked higher than 23rd at the time. But after 28 regular-season wins in a row, The Ohio State University had earned the benefit of the doubt and the respect of the voters. Since this is not basketball we're talking about, don't expect the same for Kansas.

If the Jayhawks win out, they will earn some respect - and with it some votes. The question is: Will it be enough?

It should be very interesting. Last night in Oregon, they were toasting Illinois and enjoying the fact that the Ducks have a chance to move up to No. 2 in the BCS standings - behind LSU - despite not playing this weekend.

It would be ironic, then, if in three weeks Oregon found itself bumped from the national title game despite not losing down the stretch. Both Kansas and Oklahoma are in position to make that happen if they complete an impressive run to the Big 12 title.

The BCS giveth, and the BCS taketh away.

Team of the week: Illinois

Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Illini's upset of Ohio State was how they did it. Illinois rushed for 260 yards against a defense that was allowing just 65 yards per game on the ground.

Daniel Dufrene's 80-yard run on Illinois' first carry of the day could have been passed off as a fluke, but after that the Illini rushed for 180 yards on 49 carries.

The 50 total attempts are the most against Ohio State this season. And while it's certainly easier to keep running the ball when you have the lead, it's not like Ohio State didn't know what was coming. Illinois came into the game ranked sixth in the nation in rushing and 113th in passing. It's not often anyone goes into Columbus with the idea of just pounding it at the Buckeyes and lives to tell about it.

Breakouts & Breakdowns

Breakout: The development of Illinois quarterback Juice Williams continues. After completing less than 40 percent of his passes last season, Williams had improved to a 56-percent passer this season heading into the Ohio State game. Against the Buckeyes, Williams threw for just 140 yards but hurt Ohio State with big plays. Williams threw four touchdown passes, including two for more than 30 yards. He also was successful running the ball. On his way to 70 yards rushing, Williams converted four times on third or fourth down to keep the game's final drive alive and keep the ball away from the Ohio State offense.

Breakdown: Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman, on the other hand, had his worst day of the season. Boeckman hit just 13 of 23 passes for 156 yards and threw three interceptions - including a badly underthrown deep ball in the fourth quarter.

Breakdown: Michigan seemed to revert back to September form, especially on defense. While the Wolverines can still go to the Rose Bowl with a win over Ohio State, their eight-game winning streak seems like a distant memory. Perhaps the offense can be excused with Mike Hart out and Chad Henne going down early, but Wisconsin did whatever they wanted to the UM defense. The Badgers never trailed, and they rushed for 232 yards and threw for 245.

What you might have missed
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan tied the NCAA career record for touchdown passes with his 121st in the Warriors' 37-30 win over Fresno State late Saturday night. Brennan was 28 of 39 for 396 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score before leaving in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Ty Detmer set the record in 46 games, while Brennan tied it in his 34th career game. He gets his first shot to break it at Nevada on Friday night.
While Brennan appeared to be OK after being knocked out of the game, it was a bit scarier at Oregon State where Washington quarterback Jake Locker left the field in an ambulance after being knocked out. Locker was taken to the hospital but was released in time to return to the sideline in a neck brace. All tests on Locker's neck were negative, but his status going forward is unknown.
Fresh of the win over Notre Dame, Navy is still rolling. The Midshipmen and North Texas scored a major-college record 136 points in Navy's 74-62 victory Saturday. Navy rolled up 680 yards of offense, 572 of it on the ground, while North Texas threw for 478 of its 635 yards.
A quick list of teams that won to become bowl-eligible this weekend: Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Navy, Northwestern, Oregon State and Rutgers.

Breakout: Do we have another quarterback trying to push his way into the Heisman race? Missouri's Chase Daniel torched Texas A&M on Saturday, hitting 27 of 35 passes for 352 yards and six touchdowns. Daniel now has thrown for 3,306 yards and 26 scores this season and he still has two regular season games remaining.

Breakdown: On the other hand, preseason Heisman favorite Darren McFadden may have fallen out of the race again. McFadden was not bad against Tennessee, rushing for 117 yards on 22 carries. But now that his team has four losses, he needed to be spectacular as he was against South Carolina - when he tied an SEC record with 321 rushing yards. Perhaps the real breakdown here belongs to the Razorbacks staff for giving him just 22 carries.

Breakdown: One week after nearly taking down LSU, Alabama fell flat at Mississippi State. The Tide defense played well enough, but the Bulldogs turned two John Parker Wilson interceptions into 14 points in a 17-12 win. One of those interceptions was returned 100 yards for a touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half, and it's one that will haunt Wilson. He threw blindly into the end zone under heavy pressure. Instead of increasing a 9-3 lead before the half, Alabama found itself trailing.

Breakout: Mississippi State and coach Sylvester Croom are now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2000 thanks to their second consecutive win over Alabama. After winning three games in each of his first three seasons, Croom is starting to see results in Starkville. While six wins does not guarantee a bowl bid with so many eligible teams, the Bulldogs are looking good with two consecutive wins over ranked teams and Arkansas and Ole Miss left on the schedule.

Breakout: Virginia Tech true freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor is beginning to show why Rivals.com rated him the top ranked dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2007. Taylor did it all in a 40-21 win over Florida State, hitting 10 of 15 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 92 yards and another score. His only blemish was an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the third quarter, but Taylor looks like he is going to cause headaches for ACC foes in the years to come.

Breakout: We're not huge fans of Georgia going to black jerseys and messing with one of the best uniforms in college football, but we can't argue with the results. The Bulldogs were impressive in routing Auburn, 45-20, even if they did blow a 17-3 lead and trailed before scoring the game's final 28 points. Georgia still needs Tennessee to lose if it wants a shot at the SEC title game, but the future looks bright in Athens. Consider this: The Bulldogs are starting three freshmen on the offensive line, and they are opening huge holes for redshirt freshman running back Knowshon Moreno. Quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to get better, having played in all 23 games since arriving on campus.

Breakout: Oklahoma freshman quarterback Sam Bradford had another big day in leading the Sooners past Baylor. Bradford hit 20 of 25 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Oklahoma is still very much in the race to get to the national title game if it can win out.

Breakdown: Connecticut still controls its own destiny in the Big East title race, and therefore still has a shot at a BCS bid. However, it's hard to imagine the Huskies hanging with West Virginia in a couple weeks. UConn went into Cincinnati and was dominated in every way on Saturday, falling 27-3. The Bearcats rolled up 420 yards to UConn's 204. Cincinnati beat a ranked team for the third time this season.

Breakdown: That's not exactly how we imagined Miami closing the Orange Bowl, a place where the Hurricanes once won 58 games in a row. Miami got smoked by Virginia, 48-0. Perhaps it's not giving enough credit to the No. 23 Cavs to call this just a Miami breakdown, but we're sure Michael Irvin and Ray Lewis are sick right now. Miami gained just 189 yards (95 rushing, 94 passing) and turned the ball over six times.

Breakout: It's a testament to how good Tim Tebow has been this season that it took us this long to mention him. The Florida quarterback was a one-man wrecking crew again against South Carolina. Tebow hit 22 of 32 passes for 304 yards and rushed for 120 yards on 26 carries oh yeah, and he accounted for all seven Gators touchdowns in a 51-31 win. Five of the scores came on the ground, and Tebow now has at least one touchdown rushing and passing in all 10 games this season. No sophomore has ever won the Heisman, and his team does have three losses but what more can he do?

Breakout: Before the season, USC at Cal looked like a game with national title implications. It was easy to picture a high-flying Pac-10 shootout. Instead, we got a slugfest in the rain. The game featured two running backs, USC's Chauncey Washington and Cal's Justin Forsett, trading haymakers. In the end, the Trojans prevailed 24-17 as Washington's 220 yards on 29 carries topped Forsett's 164 yards on 31 carries. Washington accounted for 66 yards on the 97-yard drive to the winning score.

Breakout: The Kansas-Oklahoma State game did not disappoint, as the teams combined for exactly 1,000 yards of total offense. Most of the Jayhawks' damage was done by seniors Brandon McAnderson (25 carries, 142 yards, two TDs) and Marcus Henry (eight catches, 199 yards, three TDs), while Cowboys' freshman receiver Dez Bryant had the biggest day of his young career. Bryant grabbed eight passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Breakdown: Unbeaten just eight days ago, Boston College now is in a must-win situation just to get to the ACC title game. The Eagles were stunned, 42-35 in Maryland, falling to a beat up Terrapins team that had lost three in a row. Matt Ryan, considered the Heisman front-runner not long ago, had another up-and-down day. Ryan threw for 421 yards and three scores, but also tossed two more interceptions.

Quote of the weekend

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has always been good for a quote. He may have outdone himself this time, but for a change he wasn't trying to be funny. Unhappy with the officiating in a 59-43 loss at Texas, and with the fact that game referee Randy Christal lives in Austin, Leach let loose:

"I think it's disturbing that Austin residents are involved in this. People work too hard, too long, there's too much money invested in these games to allow that. Am I condemning the crew? Hell yeah, I'm condemning the crew.

"Unless this can change, the Big 12 Conference needs to take a serious look at having out-of-conference officials officiate the Texas Tech-Texas games and perhaps other games where there is proven to be a bias by officiating. It's unfortunate and does the bowl picture enter into it? I don't know. Does the money enter into it? I don't know. It may be incompetence, bias, I don't know. Maybe it's something as simple as guys sitting over the water cooler at their office in Austin talking about how the great game they're going to see - and then perhaps a preconceived notion develops as to how it's going to come out."

Stat that counts: 28, 20, 18

They are all over now, but the streaks that Ohio State had going before the loss to Illinois on Saturday were certainly impressive. The Buckeyes had won 28 consecutive regular-season games since a 14-10 loss at Penn State on Oct. 8, 2005. They had also won 20 in a row in the Big Ten since that same loss. And they had not lost at home since falling 25-22 to eventual national champ Texas on Sept. 10, 2005, a string of 18 in a row.

All eyes on ...

Oregon and LSU: The top two spots have been dangerous places to be this season. LSU will likely move to No. 1 for the second time this season, and it's unlikely the Tigers will lose at Ole Miss like they did at Kentucky. Oregon has a tougher test at Arizona on Thursday night. The Wildcats are just 4-6, but they are 3-2 at home and have won two in a row. Arizona nearly upset USC earlier this season, leading the Trojans at the start of the fourth quarter. With undefeated Kansas (10-0) and Oklahoma (9-1) on their heels, the Ducks need to keep winning in impressive fashion.

Ohio State at Michigan: No doubt, this one has lost some luster with both teams coming off losses. This marks the first time since 1959 that each team is coming off a loss entering the rivalry game, and the national title implications are gone. But it's still Ohio State-Michigan, and it's still for the Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Boston College at Clemson: Not long ago, B.C. was thinking national title. Now, the Eagles must win just to play for the ACC title. Clemson has won four in a row by an average score of 48-13, but they were games Clemson should have won. Tigers coach Tommy Bowden would love to win the ACC title and erase the memory of last season's collapse after a 7-1 start.

Top Performers
Passing
Joe Ganz, Nebraska
30 of 40, 510 yards, seven touchdowns in the Huskers' 73-31 win over Kansas State.
Maybe Nebraska was just playing the wrong quarterback all season; Ganz was outstanding in his first career start.
Giovanni Vizza, North Texas
40 of 50, 478 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions in the Mean Green's 74-62 loss to Navy.
Vizza also rushed for 93 yards ... hard to believe his team could possibly lose - by 12 - with these kinds of numbers.
Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
36 of 48, 466 yards, five touchdowns, one interception in the Red Raiders' 59-43 loss at Texas.
Harrell's biggest passing day since September was still not enough against the Longhorns.
Alex Brink, Washington State
32 of 47, 449 yards, one touchdown in the Cougars' 33-17 win over Stanford.
Brink's touchdown pass was the 71st in his career, breaking the school record of 70 set by Jason Gesser from 1999-2002.
Matt Ryan, Boston College
33 of 56, 421 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions in the Eagles' 42-35 loss at Maryland.
"Matty Ice" didn't exactly melt under the pressure, but he didn't have enough to erase a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit.
Rushing
Kevin Smith, Central Florida
41 carries, 320 yards, four touchdowns in the Knights' 45-31 win over UAB.
Smith's third score broke a 17-17 halftime tie, and his fourth iced the game late in the fourth quarter.
Ray Rice, Rutgers
34 carries, 243 yards, two touchdowns in Rutgers' 41-6 win at Army.
Rice outgained Army by 91 yards and had more yards than both teams combined for through the air.
Chauncey Washington, USC
29 carries, 220 yards, one touchdown in the Trojans' 24-17 win at Cal.
The much-maligned senior took the Trojans on his back and carried them to a win on a rainy night.
Frank Summers, UNLV
26 carries, 187 yards in the Rebels' 38-30 loss to San Diego State.
Summers' fourth 100-yard day of the season was not enough as UNLV lost despite a 482-318 edge in total yards.
Matt Desormeaux, Louisiana-Lafayette
19 carries, 175 yards in the Ragin' Cajuns' 34-24 win at Middle Tennessee State.
Desormeaux also hit 13 of 20 passes for 152 yards and led a 97-yard drive to the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Jamaal Charles, Texas
23 carries, 174 yards, one touchdown in the Longhorns' 59-43 win over Texas Tech.
Charles' last three games: 72 carries, 644 yards, 8.9 ypc, seven touchdowns.
Receiving
Kevin Jurovich, San Jose State
10 catches, 233 yards, two touchdowns in the Spartans' 51-17 win over New Mexico State.
Jurovich's third 10-catch day of the season comes one week after Boise State held him to 7 yards on four catches.
Marcus Henry, Kansas
Eight catches, 199 yards, three touchdowns in the Jayhawks' 43-28 win over Oklahoma State.
Henry is heating up at the right time, rolling up 400 yards and four scores in the last two games.
Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech
Nine catches, 195 yards, two touchdowns in the Red Raiders' 59-43 loss at Texas.
The freshman now has 113 grabs for 1,707 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
Jeremy Williams, Tulane
Eight catches, 188 yards, two touchdowns in the Green Wave's 34-19 win over UTEP.
Williams' touchdowns both came early and staked Tulane to a big lead it would not relinquish.
Johnny Walker, Colorado State
Seven catches, 177 yards, two touchdowns in the Rams' 26-23 loss at New Mexico.
The biggest day of the senior's career went by the wayside when the Lobos hit the winning field goal as time expired.

John Gworek is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at jgworek@rivals.com.



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