- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 20, 2008



Based on the evidence available, it’s difficult to believe three of the top 30 teams in this week’s AP poll came out of the Mid-American Conference. Ball State entered the week unbeaten, so it was deserving. But the Cardinals’ notable wins were against Navy and Indiana. Central Michigan topped Indiana and Western Michigan, while the Broncos defeated Illinois. The records are nice, but the overall profile isn’t.



You can play the “what if” game all day, but the Mountaineers could be 8-1 without a couple overtime losses to Colorado and Cincinnati. OK, they deserved to lose to the Bearcats, but it’s interesting Bill Stewart’s 6-3 team isn’t drawing a little more attention. The Mountaineers’ defense remains stout, and talent remains on offense to make a difference in a rough three-game finishing stretch.



Every BCS conference is already assured of at least one new coach next season. Purdue’s Joe Tiller is retiring, and Clemson (ACC), Syracuse (Big East), Kansas State (Big 12), Washington (Pac-10) and Tennessee (SEC) have already nudged coaches aside. That might be it until after Thanksgiving, but at this rate another dismissal or two wouldn’t be a surprise.


A look at the contenders for the Heisman Trophy (last week’s rank in parentheses):

1. QB Graham Harrell, Texas Tech (1): A sweep of the Big 12’s powers and gaudy numbers will make it difficult for anyone to ignore the Red Raiders’ QB.

2. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma (2): Of the nation’s top 30 passers, only one has been sacked less than the seven times Bradford’s gone down — Harrell (five).

3. QB Colt McCoy, Texas (3): Makes completing 77.2 percent of his passes look extremely easy, which more than justifies this ranking.

4. WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (NR): Sophomore’s 18 touchdown receptions lead the nation; will be interesting to see if he and Harrell split any votes.

5. QB Tim Tebow, Florida (6): Late-season stat-padding opportunity arrives Saturday when The Citadel visits, though Tebow shouldn’t play more than a half in an anticipated rout.

6. QB Chase Clement, Rice (NR): More an excuse to mention the Owls are off to their best start in conference play (5-1) since 1960 than anything else, though Clement is a big reason why.


Six suggested games to devour during an afternoon on the couch:

Michigan State at Penn State, 3:30, ESPN2: Remember when the Nittany Lions’ arrival in the Big Ten meant the faithful from Happy Valley would regularly trek to Pasadena? With a win, JoePa gets his first Rose Bowl trip since the 1994 season.

Boston College at Wake Forest, 3:30, Chs. 7, 2: An ACC Atlantic elimination game, and the loser could tumble far — as in West Coast far — down the conference’s bowl pecking order.

Brigham Young at Utah, 6: The Utes are heading to a BCS game if they fend off their in-state rivals. Outside of Salt Lake City, about 739 people will see this game because the Mountain West’s in-house network — nicknamed “The Mtn.” — is carrying it. Boo.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, 7, ESPN2: Here is the latest shred of praise for Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly — the Bearcats are two wins away from a Big East championship.

Florida State at Maryland, 7:45, ESPN: Yes, Maryland is ranked and Florida State isn’t. What a wacky college football reality.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma, 8, Chs. 7, 2: The Big 12 South’s round-robin between these two teams plus Oklahoma State and Texas is magnificent. Too bad it’s almost over, so be sure to savor this one.


Five predictions for the coming weekend:

1. National TV aside, Ohio State-Michigan will be ignored. Two years ago, it was No. 1 vs. No. 2. Last year, it was presumed (correctly) to be Lloyd Carr’s finale at the Big House. This time? When the clock hits all zeros, the countdown to spring practice begins in Ann Arbor.

2. Boise State will survive. The Broncos haven’t been seriously challenged in two months. But their final road game takes them to Nevada, where “pistol” innovator Chris Ault will find some way to give the titans of the Smurf Turf a run.

3. South Florida’s free fall continues. Things are getting bad for the Bulls, who were fortunate to get to 6-1 by mid-October. They’ve lost three straight since, and remaining games against Connecticut and West Virginia should make them thankful the St. Petersburg Bowl has a Big East tie-in.

4. The ACC will keep surprising. Sure, Boston College-Wake Forest and Florida State-Maryland are the marquee Saturday games, but Clemson-Virginia and N.C. State-North Carolina could provide some surprises, too. At least the Land of 8-4 Teams keeps up the suspense.

5. Washington-Washington State will end in a tie. Well, no it won’t. But if there were any justice in the world, two teams that enter a rivalry game a combined 1-20 would deadlock. Given the mutual futility, why not rename it the Rotten Apple Cup and be done with it?

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