Miami crashed and burned Saturday. No surprise there for a program that constantly plays on the edge.
|Dodd's Power Poll|
|(Week of Nov. 9)|
|4. Ohio State|
|12. Washington State|
|14. Boise State|
|15. Virginia Tech|
|16. Michigan State|
|18. Miami (Fla.)|
|19. Florida State|
|22. Miami (Ohio)|
|23. Northern Illinois|
|25. Kansas State|
|Non-BCS Top 10|
|2. Boise State|
|3. Miami (Ohio)|
|4. Northern Illinois|
|5. Southern Miss|
|8. Bowling Green|
|10. North Texas|
The difference is the Hurricanes lost for the second week in a row. That's the first time that has happened in four years. For a program that has arguably been the best overall in the past 20 years, that qualifies as a crisis.
The latest version of the Hurricanes dynasty ended not because of Kellen Winslow's inflammatory comments, not just because of all the penalties and thuggish behavior and, really, not because of Tennessee. The Vols were just kind of there at the end of a 10-6 victory but didn't distinguish themselves.
No, the story, like it usually is in its meltdown scenarios, was all about Miami. To get a clear picture of Hurricanes football at this moment, pull up the mental snapshot of Jarrett Payton being caught from behind in the first half after a long run. Miami had to settle for a field goal.
Willis McGahee would have scored had he stayed for his senior year. The same for Frank Gore if he hadn't gotten injured. No offense to Payton, but he is a third-string back if his team is fully equipped.
So for the first time in 19 years, Miami doesn't score a touchdown at home. The last time Miami lost two in a row four years ago roughly coincides with the arrival of Ken Dorsey. The offense began perking behind an NFL-quality offensive line. Larry Coker kept recruiting going at a crucial time when Butch Davis left.
Now? Now, there's not enough talent to compete for a national championship. We are seeing the reasons why Brock Berlin couldn't beat out Rex Grossman. That's because this week he's going to have a hard time beating out Derrick Crudup, a quarterback battle that threatens to divide the team.
Vince Wilfork, a first-round quality pick when he shows up, seems to pick his spots when to show up on the defensive line. The secondary hasn't been the same since Glenn Sharpe was flagged for that controversial penalty in the Fiesta Bowl.
The biggest indicator? All those penalties that Miami has gotten during the Coker era didn't usually matter. There were times when the 'Canes could get flagged 15 times and win big. That's not the optimum performance, but it spoke to the depth of talent.
When they win like that, they are precocious. When the 'Canes lose like they are now, they are undisciplined thugs, which is what it looked like on Saturday. At one point, Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen had his helmet ripped right off his head.
Winslow continued his transformation from bright, young talent to original gangsta with a post-game blast that included obscenities and labeling himself "a soldier."
That was disrespectful enough with Americans being killed every day in Iraq. After Sept. 11, there should have been a ban in every locker room and newsroom from using "hero", "war," "battle" and "soldier" in a sports context.
Apparently Winslow didn't get the memo, although he did issue a statement attempting to apologize Sunday.
"I'm pissed! I'm pissed!" Winslow said after being asked about a block that took out two Vols. "I don't give a damn about anyone except those in this (uniform). Write that. Put that in your papers. They're going after my legs! I'm going to come right back at them!"
Winslow's personality began to turn that night in Tempe beneath the stands of Sun Devil Stadium. It was as if the world suddenly owed him something. After his team was whipped on both lines by Ohio State and letting officials decide the game, he said, "We're still the better team."
Only in your mind, Kellen. Let's hope Jeremy Shockey only left you his mouth and not his overhyped NFL game.
These Hurricanes followed up a week trading accusations with Virginia Tech with a fine 12-penalty, 121-yard performance against Tennessee. This time, Kellen, you helped make Tennessee the better team.
It's hard to admit now that it's over. It's such a fine line between great, good and immortal. Ten months ago, Miami was bordering on the latter. Now the Hurricanes are out of the national championship chase, which in South Florida means, "Drive safely folks. See you next season."
Let's see how many diehards show up for the Gator Bowl when there were more Tostitos logos than Miami fans at the Fiesta Bowl.
|Projected BCS rankings, Nov. 10|
|3. Ohio State|
Miami is 41-3 in its past 44. It could be back as soon as next year if redshirt freshman-to-be quarterback Kyle Wright brings some consistency to the position and tailback Tyrone Moss is ready to start.
This team is still projected to produce as many as five first-round draft choices. It's not that far away.
But it trades the comparably soft Big East for the hyper-competitive ACC next year. Florida State kicks off the season on Labor Day. Between now and then, Coker must deal with the Berlin Wail from fans, recruit and become something more than a caretaker.
He must be a difference maker program-wide. He must bust some ass and make a show of it. Start with suspending the Kellen Winslows of the world. Then he has to somehow smile through the sadness and shake hands when those Gator Bowl officials come into the locker room later this month to make it official.
For now, the latest Miami dynasty is over.
Scoping the nation
Oklahoma's victories are starting to resemble mob hits. The Sooners don't just win, they maim. The 77-0 victory over Texas A&M was the worst loss in Aggies history and prompted critics to ask, how much is enough?
Quarterback Jason White was out at halftime, but the No. 1 defense was still in when Derrick Strait picked up a fumble with two minutes left in the third quarter for the game's final touchdown.
"It was an odd situation to be in," coach Bob Stoops said. "I believe in being decent to people."
Please Hammer, don't hurt 'em. The result matched that of the infamous "Norman Conquest" against Missouri in 1986. Those were the Barry Switzer days. It doesn't look like much has changed. Oklahoma was within 3 yards of another touchdown in the fourth quarter but ran the ball into the line four consecutive times with offensive linemen all but laying down to keep it "decent."
Stoops always seems to find a cause. Texas paid (by 52 points) in the Red River Shootout. Oklahoma State got taken to the woodshed in the So We've Heard game. Apparently there will still some sore feelings at Oklahoma after A&M beat the Sooners last year.
The Sooners go from zero to 60 quicker than a Porsche. The result marked a school-record sixth time scoring at least 52 points this season. ...
Nos. 3, 4 and 6 in the BCS lost meaning the biggest beneficiary Saturday was, swallow hard America, Ohio State. The team that won't go away beat Michigan State 33-23 on Saturday and is likely to rise to No. 3 in the BCS.
The Buckeyes are a heartbeat away from the Sugar Bowl should Oklahoma or USC stumble. There are even rumblings that Ohio State could jump USC down the stretch and get to New Orleans.
Please, Lord, give us the best game (Oklahoma-USC), not the best computer matchup. ...
Saturday's results make it a lot more likely that at least one of the BCS at-large teams is going to have two losses. Among the BCS leagues, there are only four teams (out of 63) with fewer than two -- Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State and LSU. Come to think of it, that's probably the order, one through four, in this week's BCS. ...
There is a three-way tie atop the Big Ten between Purdue, Michigan and Ohio State, all at 5-1. Ohio State and Michigan control their own destiny. If it beats Ohio State this weekend, Purdue then needs Ohio State to beat Michigan. There is one far-out scenario that would create a five-way tie that includes Minnesota and Michigan State. Suffice to say the league is probably going to come down to Ohio State-Michigan again. ...
The Rose Bowl moved closer to having a Pac-10-Big Ten matchup for the first time in three years. Washington State took care of business, beating UCLA 31-13. That will give the Cougars a huge boost in jumping into the BCS top 12. It needs to be there to grab the Rose Bowl berth as Pac-10 co-champ with USC if the two teams win out. ...
The decision by the SEC to change its tiebreaking procedure on Friday is a validation of the BCS. But what else would you expect from the conference that invented the system?
The league decided Friday to break any possible three-way ties in the future with the BCS standings. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee all can still tie for the SEC East title. In that scenario, the final tiebreaker was a vote of the eight conference athletic directors not involved in the process.
While it is assumed the vote would favor the highest-ranked BCS team (as of Saturday, that was No. 10 Georgia), nothing is certain when subjectivity is introduced. The Big Ten twice used an ADs vote to break a tie between Ohio State and Michigan to decide the Rose Bowl berth in the 1970s. Ill feelings still linger today.
If those three schools tie, the highest ranked BCS team goes to Atlanta. Unless ... a team that won a head-to-head battle is no more than five spots behind the team it beat. That comes into play most likely if Tennessee finishes ahead of Georgia.
That means Tennessee's victory over Miami was huge. The new tiebreaker takes into account all games instead of just conference games. The Vols (No. 13 in the BCS) essentially would have to finish more than five spots ahead of Georgia in the BCS to win the division if everyone continues to win.
Florida (7-3, 5-2) beat Vanderbilt on Saturday and has only one conference game left next week at South Carolina. The Gators went into the weekend No. 17 in the BCS. ...
Florida State is still favored to win the ACC, but it should be noted that North Carolina State can win out and share the title. The teams play Saturday in Tallahassee with Philip Rivers on a hot streak. ...
When the best quarterback in the state of Florida is an 18-year-old freshman, something is wrong. Florida State's Chris Rix and Berlin continued to throw up on themselves in big games.
Berlin was largely to blame for Miami's last two losses against Virginia Tech and Tennessee. He has four interceptions in the past two games including two more on Saturday. The Hurricanes scored a combined 13 points in those games.
That makes it nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions for Berlin who walked out of the Orange Bowl with his girlfriend, his parents and two security guards.
It will be an interesting week in Coral Gables as Miami prepares to play Syracuse. ...
Meanwhile, Rix didn't distinguish himself -- again -- throwing for 194 yards and two interceptions against Clemson in that 26-10 loss. Backup Fabian Walker came in and almost matched Rix, throwing for 164 yards.
Did that save Tommy Bowden's job? Doubtful. Clemson still has to win out to finish 9-4. Before the season it was thought that 8-4 (before the bowl game) wasn't going to get it. ...
Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald solidified his Heisman credentials with a clutch performance on Pittsburgh's game-winning drive against Virginia Tech. Forty-nine of Fitzgerald's 108 receiving yards came on the final drive that resulted in Lousaka Polite scoring the game-winning touchdown with 47 seconds left in a 31-28 victory.
As mentioned, the Panthers (7-2, 4-0) are in control in the Big East and have West Virginia, Temple and Miami left to play. Don't count out West Virginia (5-4, 3-1), which beat Boston College on Saturday. The Mountaineers could win out against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Temple and gain at least a share of the title. ...
Duke won its first ACC game since 1999, beating Georgia Tech 41-17. And while they were tearing down the goalposts in Durham, they were hanging their heads at Tech.
Chan Gailey had the Yellow Jackets (5-4) in the Gator Bowl hunt before one of the school's worst losses in recent years. Gailey was being mentioned for ACC coach of the year. Uh, no more
"It might not get any lower than this," said Tech receiver Jonathan Smith.
"I feel embarrassed," safety James Butler said. "Like we just got our butts handed to us by Duke."
The numbers: In losing 30 consecutive conference games, the Blue Devils were beaten by an average of 23.5 points. Interim coach Ted Roof, promised an interview as the coaching search goes on, might have made his definitive statement before even typing out his resume. ...
Notre Dame (3-6) started what could be a late-season bowl run with a 27-24 victory over Navy extending the streak over the Middies to 40 consecutive years.
"I hope the celebration is just getting going," Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham said.
Excuse Notre Dame Nation if it doesn't start running into the streets, Ty.
Navy (6-4) hurt its bowl prospects. At 9-3, it would have been attractive to a lower-level bowl that came open because a conference couldn't fill all its slots. ...
Best BCS at-large candidate at this moment? Probably Texas is 8-2 after destroying Oklahoma State, 55-16. The Horns should finish 10-2 and will be attractive to a major bowl with blossoming quarterback Vince Young, rejuvenated tailback Cedric Benson and a pretty good (except against Oklahoma) defense.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have been outscored 107-25 in their past two games. ...
A couple more lingering images from a great college football game Saturday at Auburn:
Archie Manning stood at the back of the interview room smiling at the end of an amazing week. It started with Peyton being the favorite for NFL MVP, a story on son Cooper in Sports Illustrated and Eli getting ready for Auburn.
It ended with Eli beating the Tigers and Peyton involved in a legal matter involving a former trainer at Tennessee.
"My cup runneth over for years and years and years," said Archie after Ole Miss' 24-20 victory. "This year really has been wonderful. I told my wife last Monday, 'Things are really too good.' In that case the hammer drops. Sure enough it did, a little bit with this stuff with Peyton." ...
In a book written with his father, Peyton recalled an incident when he allegedly "mooned" persons in the training room at Tennessee. The female trainer says it was something worse and something much more in proximity to her.
Still, Archie was proud of Eli, who led a late 80-yard scoring drive for the winning touchdown.
"It's been so many years for Ole Miss," Archie said. "That's what it's about. It's not the day you throw for 400 yards, it's the day you play a smart game and get your team a win." ...
Eli Manning's stats weren't great (218 yards, two touchdowns) but they were dramatic. Ole Miss is in control of its own destiny in the SEC West. Beat LSU in two weeks, and it's in the SEC title game for the first time.
In fact, Eli's numbers were slightly behind Auburn's Jason Campbell (231 yards, one touchdown) who has been maligned as a passer.
"We haven't gotten any respect all season," Eli said. "We've been the underdog all season. I don't know if the image of Ole Miss has changed. We've started to gain some respect hopefully. When they come and play us, they're not thinking it's an easy game. In previous years, some teams probably thought that. I think over the past couple of years we can beat everybody in this league."
The LSU-Ole Miss game in a couple of weeks will be an SEC classic. ...
It warms the heart to see John Gagliardi win his record 409th game. St. John's exciting 29-26 victory over Bethel came before a record crowd of 13,107. It's interesting to note that among the top five winningest coaches of all time, Bear Bryant still has the highest winning percentage (.780). Gagliardi is at .776.