The College Football Notebook

November 19, 2010 6:34 AM

Two Unlikely Bowl Contenders

TaurenPoole.jpgBoston College's game with Virginia and Tennessee's matchup with Vanderbilt were probably not high on anyone's "must-watch" list for Saturday. But BC and Tennessee are two teams who are quietly starting to play pretty good football coming down the stretch. "Pretty good" is a relative term, and it's measured against the low standard each team set early on. They've each bounced back and are in position to go to bowl games, a circumstance that seemed highly unlikely in early October. Each team has a top running back to thank for its resurgence.

Tennessee was sitting at 2-6 after coming through a four-game stretch where they lost to LSU, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina in succession. The schedule was softer coming down the stretch, but the Vols had done nothing to that point which suggested they could win four straight and become bowl-eligible. Then they came out and hung half-a-hundred on both Memphis and Ole Miss, in winning the two games by a combined score of 102-28. Tauren Poole is a big reason why--he's got six 100-yard games for the season, including against Alabama and he does with only 15-20 carries per game. If Tennessee wins at Vandy, it sets up a final showdown with Kentucky, a border war with a bowl bid on the line. No one's going to confuse the game with Alabama-Auburn in the SEC, but a month ago the thought that the Vols could be in a bowl, or even beat an average team like Kentucky would have been farfetched. Today it's real and I think they are going to do it.

Boston College gave tough fights to Florida State & Maryland in October and earned a little respect in doing so. But the losses dropped them to 2-5 and they had Clemson on deck. BC stepped up and edged the Tigers 16-10, and followed that up with wins over Wake Forest and Duke. They don't look pretty doing it, but now they need only one win in their last two and have Virginia at home on Saturday. Running back Montel Harris has been overpowering during this entire stretch. He's rushed for 100-plus in five straight, including the close losses to FSU & Maryland that really started the surge. Against the Seminoles, Harris piled up 191 yards, and he tacked on 183 against Wake. To a certain extent he has benefited from a quarterback change. When BC went to Chase Rettig it gave the offense a spark and someone else for defenses to focus on. But there's no doubt that Montel is the man in Chestnut Hill, and while I expect Virginia to play well on Saturday, I see BC holding them off and getting their sixth win.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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