After a tough New Year's, with West Virginia losing and Cincinnati being destroyed, the Big East stepped up to the plate and got two nice wins on Saturday. South Florida beating Northern Illinois was to be expected, but the Bulls did efficiently take care of business in putting on a rout. Meanwhile, UConn pulled off a shocker in beating South Carolina 20-7. Well, at least it was a shocker to me--in a bowl confidence pool I'm in, I rated South Carolina my top winner (straight-up, no point spread involved) of the entire bowl season. Stephen Garcia was terrible, while the Huskies pounded the ball on the ground.
Arkansas took advantage of East Carolina mistakes to win a game they richly deserved to lose--the Pirates missed three field goals and turned the ball over and because of it lost in overtime, 20-17. An otherwise great year for Hog quarterback Ryan
Mallett had a bad ending, as the Arkansas passing game was non-existent. The SEC was able to complete a two-game sweep when Ole Miss used two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Oklahoma State. Both quarterbacks did everything they could to lose the game for their respective teams, with Zac Robinson and Jevan Snead combining for eight interceptions. But Snead had a running back to bail him out--Dexter McCluster ran for 185 yards and the Rebels won the Cotton Bowl for the second straight year.
The SEC is again at the head of the class when it comes to bowl performance. The Big Ten missed a chance to keep pace when suspension-laden Michigan State lost to controversy-laden Texas Tech in an Alamo Bowl shootout. The Red Raiders can throw the ball on most anybody, and the Spartans haven't defended the pass all year. Tyler Potts' huge game was predictable, and MSU's offense couldn't quite keep up. The Big 12, with wins by Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa State
and Texas Tech--all against teams from BCS conferences--is having a strong bowl season themselves and standing a clear second place right now--and that certainly changes if Texas can beat Alabama. More than just the national title will be at stake when Big 12 meets SEC for the second straight year in the season finale.
See you here tomorrow for a Fiesta Bowl preview.