For those of you who wanted a rematch for the National Championship, you got one. For those of you who didn’t, watch the rematch anyway. The regular season is now over and the bowl season will soon be upon us. Some teams will be headed for sunny weather while others will be headed for dome weather which means no weather. Some will be headed for Idaho and others will just be headed home. That is just a thought however. Here they are, the winners and losers from Championship Week:
Northern Illinois is champion of the MAC conference after a come-from-behind 23-20 win over Ohio on Friday night in Detroit. The Huskies trailed 20-0 at halftime, but Chandler Harnish threw three touchdown passes in the second half to knot the game at 20. On the final play of the game, Mathew Sims knocked home a 33-yard field goal to give Northern Illinois the victory and its first MAC title since 1983. Northern Illinois fell in the MAC Championship late to Miami University last year, but came back and got it done this season. Harnish passed for 250 yards and three touchdowns in the victory.
Against a 5-6 South Florida team, West Virginia had to come from behind to pull out a 30-27 win. USF scored 17 unanswered points to take a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Dustin Garrison’s five-yard touchdown tied the game with 5:09 to play. South Florida mounted a drive, but quarterback B.J. Daniels fumbled and the Mountaineers recovered. Tyler Bitancurt’s 28-yard field goal as time expired gave West Virginia the 30-27 victory. On Sunday, West Virginia learned that it had a higher ranking than Cincinnati and Louisville, who each finished tied with the Mountaineers for first place in the Big East. Due to the highest BCS ranking, WVU will play Clemson in the Orange Bowl on January 4th.
The first Pac-12 Championship goes to the school that won the PAC-10 last season. At home on Friday night, Oregon defeated UCLA 49-31 in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship. LaMichael James rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Darron Thomas accounted for four scores in the victory. The Ducks put up 571 yards in the victory and will be headed to a BCS bowl for the third straight year.
North Texas RB Lance Dunbar
North Texas’ Lance Dunbar carried the ball 40 times for 313 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday as the Mean Green dominated Middle Tennessee State 59-7. North Texas accounted for 464 rushing yards in the victory.
Playing the Conference USA Championship on the road against an undefeated Houston team, Southern Mississippi played like the team with a trip to a BCS bowl on the line. Southern Miss scored on offense, defense and special teams as the Golden Eagles defeated Houston 49-28. Quarterback Austin Davis passed for 279 yards and four touchdowns. Running back Tracy Lampley accounted for nearly 200 yards of total offense as Southern Mississippi is headed to the Hawaii Bowl as Conference USA Champions.
Army and Navy
Army and Navy will play the final game of the regular season next Saturday. While they will be opponents on the field, the seniors at both academies will soon become teammates in service of the greatest country on Earth. While Saturday’s Army-Navy game won’t draw a huge television crowd or much pregame hype, their service and commitment to the United States gives all Americans something to be proud of.
After eight straight losses to arch-rival Oklahoma, the Cowboys of Oklahoma State made it clear that the state of Oklahoma belonged to the Pokes, on Saturday. With a Big XII Championship and an automatic BCS birth on the line, Oklahoma State dominated Oklahoma 44-10. Running back Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith combined for 270 yards and four touchdowns while the Cowboy defense forced five Oklahoma turnovers. Oklahoma State finishes the regular season 11-1 and will play in the Fiesta Bowl.
In the first ever Big Ten Championship, momentum swung back and forth all night, but Wisconsin was able to outlast Michigan State 42-39 to capture a second straight conference championship. Wisconsin trailed 39-34 and faced a fourth down with just over four minutes to play. Quarterback Russell Wilson scrambled left and threw across the field to Jeff Duckworth, who made a leaping catch inside the 10-yard line. MonteeBall’s 7-yard touchdown on the same drive along with a successful two-point-conversion gave the Badgers a 42-39 lead. Wisconsin forced the Spartans to punt, but Michigan State held the Badgers three-and-out. Brad Nortman’s punt was then returned inside the two-yard-line by Michigan State’s Keshawn Martin, but the Spartans were called for running into the kicker which gave Wisconsin a first down and a second straight Big Ten title. Wilson passed for three touchdowns for Wisconsin while Montee Ball rushed for 137 yards and three touchdowns while catching another. Ball now has 38 touchdowns on the season is one shy of Barry Sanders’ single season record. Wisconsin will take on Oregon in the Rose Bowl on January 2nd.
After losing three of four, Clemson met up witha Virginia Tech team that it had beaten by 20 earlier in the year, for a second time in the ACC Championship. Despite an impressive victory early in the season, the Tigers were healthy underdogs against #5 Virginia Tech. The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, but Clemson wasted no time taking control in the second half. Tajh Boyd threw two touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the third quarter and Andre Ellington scored from 29 yards out less than two minutes later to give Clemson a commanding 31-10 lead before completing the 38-10 victory. Boyd passed for three touchdowns with two coming to tight end Dwayne Allen; Boyd rushed for another. Ellington led Clemson with 125 yards rushing. The win gives Clemson its first ACC title since 1991.
Former Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Sherman
Early in the week, Texas A&M parted ways with head coach Mike Sherman. Sherman was 25-25 in four seasons with the Aggies including 6-6 this season. Texas A&M was a top 10 team in the preseason polls and severely underachieved. Texas A&M will be in search of a new head coach as it transitions to the SEC beginning next season.
Michigan State overcame an early 21-7 deficit in Saturday’s Big Ten Championship match-up with Wisconsin. The Spartans scored 22 straight second quarter points to grab a 29-21 halftime lead. The Badgers took the lead 42-39 on a Montee Ball touchdown with 3:45 remaining in the game. Michigan State forced a late Wisconsin punt which was nearly returned for a touchdown by Keshawn Martin, but the Spartans were called for running into the kicker. The penalty gave Wisconsin a first down and allowed the Badgers to run out the clock. Michigan State led much of the night, but was unable to make the plays when it mattered most. The Spartans out-gained Wisconsin by more than 100 yards of offense, but turned the ball over twice while never taking it away.
The Oklahoma Sooners began the year ranked first, but had fallen out of contention for a National Championship. Nevertheless, Oklahoma needed only to beat in-state rival Oklahoma State to win the Big XII conference and notch a second straight BCS bid. Those dreams however, died quickly as the Cowboys raced to an early 24-0 lead. Matters only got worse in the second half as Oklahoma State opened with 20 straight points to take a 44-3 lead. The Oklahoma defense gave up 495 yards on the night while the Oklahoma offense turned the ball over five times in a 44-10 loss. Not only will the preseason #1 not play for a national title, it will not even represent the conference in a BCS game.
Virginia Tech looked to avenge a 23-3 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship on Saturday night. After a 10-10 tie in the first half, the Hokies imploded and woundup losing worse than in the first meeting. Virginia Tech was outscored 28-0 in the second half while turning the ball over twice on interceptions and twice more on downs after opening the half with three straight three-and-outs in which it netted -13 yards. Clemson on the other hand, scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half as the Hokies fell 38-10 in Charlotte. Virginia Tech was going for a fourth conference title in six years, but with the loss, fell to 11-2. Virginia Tech was outscored 61-13 in two meetings with the Tigers this season.
Week 14’s Biggest Winner
The SEC Championship got off to a rough start for the top-ranked and undefeated LSU Tigers on Saturday after Georgia took an early 10-0 lead. LSU did not record a single first down in the first half, but trailed just 10-7 after a 62-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tyrann Mathieu. After recovering an Aaron Murray fumble on Georgia’s first drive of the second half, running back Kenny Hilliard scored from 15 yards out to give LSU the lead for good. LSU would score four more touchdowns in a 42-10 rout of the Bulldogs. Hilliard finished 72 yards rushing and three total touchdowns while Alfred Blue led all backs with94 yards on just eight carries. The SEC Championship is the first for LSU since its National Championship year of 2007. The last five SEC Champions have gone on to be National Champions; LSU will have a re-match with Alabama in the BCS National Championship on January 9th.
Week 14’s Biggest Loser
The Houston Cougars needed only to beat Southern Miss at home in the Conference USA Championship to become the Conference USA’s first ever representative in the BCS. Houston fell behind14-0, but rallied to tie the game midway through the second quarter, but Houston never could pull ahead. Southern Mississippi scored on offense, defense and special teams as the Golden Eagles outscored Houston 28-14 in the second half. Case Keenum Passed for 373 yards for the Cougars, but was intercepted twice with one being returned for a touchdown by Southern Miss’ Ronnie Thornton. The 49-28 loss is the first of the year for Houston and the Cougars will have to settle for a match-up with Penn State in the Ticketcity Bowl rather than a birth in the BCS.