Seven things we learned on the seventh day ...
The $13 million man ... is Darius Walker, whose 6-yard touchdown run with 55 seconds left made (bigger) millionaires of Notre Dame.
|Dodd's Power Poll|
|3. Penn State|
|5. Virginia Tech|
|6. Ohio State|
|7. Notre Dame|
|9. West Virginia|
|16. Texas Tech|
|18. Boston College|
|20. Georgia Tech|
|21. Central Florida|
|23. Fresno State|
|24. South Carolina|
|Non-BCS Top 10|
|2. Central Florida|
|3. Boise State|
|5. Fresno State|
|8. Northern Illinois|
The 38-31 victory at Stanford all but assures the Irish (9-2) of a Fiesta Bowl berth. That's important because this is the last year Notre Dame gets to keep its entire BCS share (at least $13 million in this case).
The BCS commissioners wisely decided last spring that college football's 800-pound gorilla had perhaps gotten a bit too gorged. Can't understand why. Counting NBC's $8 million-per-year rights fee, Walker's run made it approximately $21 million for Notre Dame this season just in appearance money.
Or slightly less than it would take for Tiger Woods to show up at a putt-putt tournament in Madagascar.
Starting in 2006, ND will receive a guaranteed $1 million per year in BCS money, and approximately $4.5 million when it actually qualifies to play in one of the five bowls.
Here's the power of ND and its legacy: It re-established itself by beating exactly three teams with winning records (Michigan, BYU, Navy), only one of those on the road. Brady Quinn became either a top draft choice or Heisman frontrunner for 2006.
In three games (Michigan State, Southern California, Stanford), Notre Dame needed fourth-quarter drives to either tie or take the lead. In those key drives, Quinn completed a combined 10 of 11 passes for 156 yards.
Meanwhile, Tyrone Willingham's legacy wouldn't go away. For all those questioning Charlie Weis' contract extension, it was Willingham who helped create the financial climate for it. With NFL interest growing, Weis got a 10-year deal after seven games because Notre Dame didn't want to risk returning to the mediocrity and missteps that marked the regimes of the previous three coaches. (Note that Willingham didn't get similar consideration after starting 8-0 in 2002.)
|While Tyrone Willingham toils away at Washington, Charlie Weis gets the big payday. (Getty Images)|
Willingham gets a tip of the helmet, still. By our count, 51 of the 69 points in the Stanford-Notre Dame game were scored by players recruited by T-Will, who coached at both schools.
What if? We're way ahead of you now that the final-weekend games are set.
What if, you're thinking, USC and/or Texas lose this week?
That's good news, it seems, for Penn State, currently No. 3 in the BCS.
A loss by USC to UCLA or Texas to Colorado on Saturday almost certainly would drop either out of the Rose Bowl. Why? The projection by Collegebcs.com's Jerry Palm is that the voters would penalize USC for living on the edge. It has had to rally from halftime deficits in four games to win this season.
Texas already is No. 2 and would almost certainly drop out of that spot with a loss.
At that point, USC or Texas would be competing in the polls with other one-loss teams (Penn State, LSU, Virginia Tech, maybe even UCLA). Penn State is finished. LSU and Virginia Tech would get a boost from winning their conference title games.
- If USC loses/Texas wins: Texas vs. Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
- If USC wins/Texas loses: USC vs. Penn State.
- If both lose: Penn State vs. LSU/Virginia Tech.
Remember Oklahoma lost the Big 12 title game two years ago but remained in the BCS title game. That's less likely to happen this year because the formula is weighted two-thirds toward the polls. Two years ago, it was one-fourth polls.
The Bret Culbertson Award goes to ... Bret Culbertson.
For the second consecutive year, Iowa State lost the regular-season finale in overtime with a Big 12 title game berth on the line. For the second consecutive year, the Cyclones' kicker, Culbertson, missed a late field goal that could have won it.
Last year, Culbertson missed a chip-shot 24-yearder with 64 seconds left that most likely would have beaten Missouri. The Tigers won in overtime. Saturday, his 41-yarder in overtime (with the wind) sailed wide right. Kansas took over and kicked the winning field goal on its possession.
"I was hoping and praying I could make up for everything last year," Culbertson told the Des Moines Register. "It sucks that it's happening all over again."
No big deal, except that makes it 94 consecutive years without a conference title (or even so much as a division title) for Iowa State, the longest streak in I-A.
Choke collar (continued) ... With division or conference titles on the line, Colorado, UTEP, Iowa State and Fresno State were a combined 0-6 in the past two weeks.
That includes Colorado losing its final two games but backing in as Big 12 North champion. UTEP had a chance to wrap up Conference USA's West Division but lost to UAB and SMU. Iowa State blew the game in overtime to Kansas.
A week after a supreme effort at USC, Fresno State dropped a 38-35 game at Nevada. That assures the Bulldogs of no more than a tie for the WAC crown.
In those six games, the wanna-be champions lost by an average of 11.3 points, gave up 403 yards per game and surrendered a combined 18 turnovers.
Florida State gets its own category: Those slumps don't compare to the faults being opened by seismic activity in Tallahassee.
Pick your form of embarrassment: In losing three in a row for the first time since 1983, Bobby Bowden ...
- Lost to former assistant Chuck Amato. North Carolina State's coach is the only ACC coach to beat Bowden in Tallahassee.
- Lost by three touchdowns to his son Tommy (at Clemson).
- Lost by the largest margin to Florida (27 points on Saturday) since the 1997 Sugar Bowl.
Of course, back then FSU was playing for the national championship. This time, it's backing into the ACC title game at 7-4.
We never thought we'd say this, but there are 19 teams from BCS conferences (plus Notre Dame) with a better record than the Seminoles. That's 30 percent of major-college football.
Falling off the cliff: New Mexico State (0-12) completed its worst season ever with a 24-21 loss to Utah State.
The only other winless team in I-A, Temple, was spared having the worst record in I-A by playing only 11 games.
First-year coach Hal Mumme attempted to rebuild his tarnished image in Las Cruces but was "completely miserable," to quote Sunday's lead in the Albuquerque Journal.
The Aggies lost 10 of the 12 games by at least 17 points and go into next season with the nation's longest losing streak, 13.
Honorable mention for cliff-diving: For the sixth time in the past seven years, a team has gone from playing in a BCS bowl to no postseason the next.
This year's honoree is Pittsburgh, which went from 8-4 (after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Utah) to 5-6 this year after losing to West Virginia.
Climbing up the hill: SMU (5-6) finished with its best season since 1997 with that convincing victory over UTEP.
If there is any program that deserves our sympathy, this is it. Coach Phil Bennett's wife was killed by a lightning strike while he was an assistant at Kansas State.
For most of the past 18 years, the NCAA has proved that the death penalty works. SMU came within a game of posting only its second winning season since The Big Haircut came down in 1987.
The program has its first three-game winning streak since 1999. SMU lost three of its games on the final possession. Five games came down to the last play. SMU was 2-3 in those.
"I'm not big on saying a program has turned the corner on a 5-6 record, but I think we've improved dramatically," Bennett said. "Right now, at this date, we're playing as good as any team in Conference USA. There's a belief that these guys can win."