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The College Football Notebook


November 9, 2009 7:00 PM

New Hope In The Pac-10

When I closed last week’s previews on Friday, I predicted that Stanford’s Toby Gerhart would run for 150 yards and led an upset over Oregon. I blew it. Gerhart actually went off for 223. And in the process gave new hope to the rest of the Pac-10 in the race for the Rose Bowl. Oregon still controls its own destiny at 5-1 and is still the smart money pick to be in Pasadena on January 1, but now the pressure is on. Arizona also controls their destiny, tied in the loss column and just a half-game back. In two weeks the Ducks to go to Tucson for a showdown. And if the winner of that game should lose before or after? Then USC, Stanford and Oregon State are all ready to jump into a wild-tiebreaker situation.

USC again looked unimpressive in a win and continues to be unable to put it together on both sides of the ball. The defense returned to action against Arizona State, but the offense was AWOL as they had to grind out a 14-9 win. Oregon State did look good in beating up Cal 31-14. The Golden Bears head up any short list of big disappointments, while Beaver quarterback Sean Canfield continues to emerge as a bona fide star and a potent 1-2 punch along with Jacquizz Rodgers in the backfield.

In the Big East, Pitt got another big game from Dion Lewis, who probably deserves at least a look by Heisman voters. The Panthers easily beat Syracuse and now have a big home game with Notre Dame. If the Irish don’t make a BCS game, they fall into the Big East’s pecking order when it comes to giving out bowl dates. Which means they could sneak in and get the January 1 Gator slot that would otherwise go to the #2 team in the coming Cincy/Pitt/West Virginia battles. Which is most likely Pitt. A trip to Jacksonville likely awaits the winner of Pitt-ND on Saturday night. The potential opponents would be Virginia Tech or Miami, whomever is the #3 choice in the ACC (#2 goes Chick-fil-A). Pitt-Virginia Tech would renew an old Big East rivalry. I was in attendance back in 2003 when Pitt drove the length of the field and Larry Fitzgerald caught the winning touchdown pass in a 28-24 thriller. My toes were also frozen numb that night too. And another possible Gator scenario is Miami-Notre Dame. If you watched college football in the late 1980s and early 1990s, nothing more need be said.

The SEC East below Florida is starting to resemble a disaster area. South Carolina was utterly dismantled by Arkansas 33-16, as Ryan Mallett carved up the Gamecocks secondary. Steve Spurrier’s program has a hard time closing strong. This year appears to be no exception, and with Clemson still looming, Spurrier better find a Mariano Rivera in his bullpen to close this out before it becomes a disaster. Either Tennessee, Georgia or South Carolina will get a New Year’s ticket to the Outback Bowl and the way the three have played it looks like no one wants it. The Big Ten half of the Outback cleared up a bit. Wisconsin clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack. It wasn’t by the caliber of their win. A 31-28 survival game in Indiana was marked by a poor pass rush from the Badgers that nearly helped the Hoosiers pull the upset. But it was a win, and that was more than other middle-class Big Ten teams like Minnesota or Michigan got. Wisconsin stands clearly as #4 in the conference, and so long as the league gets an at-large BCS bid, they are likely Tampa-bound.

That’s it for this week. On Wednesday, we’re back to look at the Big East & ACC.

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