Oklahoma’s win surely had people dancing in Idaho, as Boise State now stands as the favorite to secure the final at-large bid to the BCS (assuming the first three go to Alabama/Florida loser, Penn State/Iowa, & TCU). The only roadblock left would be whether the Sugar Bowl, who has the final pick, would be so skittish about a second midmajor team crashing the party that they instead opted for Virginia Tech or Miami out of the ACC. Both teams finished 9-3, capping off their seasons with wins over Virginia & South Florida respectively. If the SEC representative in the Sugar Bowl is Florida, the chances of Boise being screwed do increase. Because if it were Alabama, the Sugar wouldn’t rematch them with Va Tech. And with the Gators, the possibility of a rivalry game with the Hurricanes exists. I lean for Boise State to get the bid, as the BCS surely doesn’t want to spend another summer in Congress explaining why its favored conference teams can lose three games and get the nod, while a midmajor program that’s gone undefeated three times in four years and pulled one of the sport’s most memorable upsets can’t get an invite.
Elsewhere on the bowl scene, LSU needed overtime to survive Arkansas 33-30 in the Bayou. This game was the scene of a terrible judgment call. That being by your friendly neighborhood blogger. I wasn’t feeling all that great last night, and after the Tigers took a 17-3 lead, I just went to bed early figuring they had it under control. Should’ve toughed it out. The game probably seals LSU in the Capital One Bowl on January 1 against the loser of the Penn State/Iowa BCS sweepstakes.
The SEC West picture in general was rattled yesterday. Ole Miss reverted to underachieving form and lost to Mississippi State, with Jevan Snead throwing three interceptions. The Cotton Bowl has to make a tough call between the Rebels, Auburn and Arkansas to face what will probably be Oklahoma State out of the Big 12. Ole Miss could’ve made the pick easy with a win. Now it’s anybody’s guess.
Over in the SEC East, I had originally pegged the Tennessee-Kentucky game as a battle for the January 1 Outback Bowl. This was another overtime thriller, where Tennessee won behind a big night from Montario Hardesty. But my assumptions figured Georgia would lose to Georgia Tech. And that missed the mark, as the Bulldogs won it 30-24, salvaging something from a disappointing season, making them 7-5 and an attractive pick for the Tampa-based bowl game. As for Georgia Tech, they joined Clemson in suffering losses to SEC teams in preparation for their championship showdown next week. The Tigers were beaten badly in the fourth quarter in a 34-17 loss to South Carolina. It’s easy to say that Tech & Clemson had nothing to play for, and for the winner that’s true. But these losses, mean that that the loser of next week’s title tilt will almost surely fall behind North Carolina, Virginia Tech & Miami in the pecking order. It’s a long drop from the Orange to the Music City, and that’s what now at stake next week. In the meantime, congrats to the Gamecocks. They opened the season by pounding N.C. State and closed it by pounding Clemson. That they couldn’t do anything in between is a statement of pride for the SEC.
In the fight to become bowl-eligible, UConn got it done against Syracuse 56-31. On the same weekend their basketball team lost badly to Duke, the Huskie football program took out its revenge on former Blue Devil guard and current Orange quarterback Greg Paulus, and scored almost as many points as the hoops team did (68-59 in the Preseason NIT final). The Duke football team missed its chance to go bowling. Riley Skinner and Thaddeus Lewis hooked up in a classic duel, but Wake Forest fired a few more bullets and won 45-34. And in another shootout, Kansas’ season of discontent ended with a last-play loss to Missouri, 41-39, that ensures the Jayhawks have no bowl ahead of them.
We’ll wrap it up here with Charlie Weis’ probable swan song in Palo Alto. Toby Gerhart ran wild, for 205 yards, as the Cardinal scored a come-from-behind 45-38 win. But again, we sing the praises of Jimmy Clausen who single-handedly put his team in position to win. He won’t get Heisman consideration because his team struggled. But I’ve never understood the logic of holding a player’s weak supporting cast against him. If anything, is that not a further testament to his ability, that he can carry a team to a certain point singlehandedly.