By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
During week 13 of the college football season, two top ranked teams had their mettle tested in crucial road games in-conference against ranked opponents this past Friday.
The results: Auburn passed, Boise State failed.
Trailing 24-0, no one would have blamed Auburn if they had folded the tents and lost to archrival Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Auburn’s Cam Newton clearly wasn’t ready for his team’s BCS title hopes to end and led a historic comeback.
Ahead 24-7 at the half, Boise State was 30 minutes away from not only a win, but inching a step closer to possibly playing for a national title or at worst, being selected for an at-large BCS game for a $14 million payout.
The Nevada Wolfpack derailed the Broncos’ plans by staging a furious comeback, aided by two missed late-game field goals by Boise State’s Kyle Brotzman.
After prevailing 34-31, Nevada not only gained the adoration of its celebrating fans as they emptied the stands and rushed the field after the overtime winning field goal sailed through the uprights, but they probably elicited a good response from Stanford, Wisconsin and Arkansas fans whose teams seem certain to take Boise’s spot as an at-large selection.
Meanwhile, Oregon cruised past Arizona. The Ducks were rewarded by dropping to No. 2 while Auburn moved to No. 1.
The switch is just a formality. If Oregon defeats Oregon State in the Civil War rivalry and Auburn beats South Carolina in the SEC Championship this week, they will meet in Glendale, AZ for the national title.
On the outside looking in with Boise’s loss is TCU. The third-ranked Horned Frogs roughed up an overmatched New Mexico squad and finished the season undefeated.
With the regular season concluding for most of the nation’s teams, one school didn’t waste any time firing its coach hours after a loss, while two other high profile coaches hang by a thread.
There were a number of impressive performances last weekend, and there are sure to be more as several conferences hold their conference championship games this Saturday.
The odds and history were both stacked against Auburn as it trailed at Alabama. Down 21-0 and being out gained 314 total yards to two, Auburn was on the ropes again following a season-long trend, where it has trailed in eight of its 12 games.
Newton led Auburn back by throwing three touchdown passes and running for another, as the Tigers won 28-27 in front of more than 100,000 people at Tuscaloosa. Auburn’s comeback was the largest deficit ever to be overcome at Alabama.
The win helped Auburn jump to No. 1 in the BCS and likely wrapped up the Heisman for Newton, who took a victory lap around the stadium after some pre-game taunting by an Alabama employee who played songs such as “Take The Money And Run” and “Son Of A Preacher Man” in reference to the recent allegations about the quarterback’s father.
The Wisconsin Badgers continued to score basketball-like scores by defeating Northwestern, 70-23. The Badgers prolific offense also scored 83 points two weeks ago against Indiana.
With the Badgers’ lead tailback John Clay being limited due to injury, his reserves stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. Montee Ball had 20 carries for 178 yards and four touchdowns while James White had 20 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown.
Oklahoma outgunned Oklahoma State on the road and won 47-41, wrapping up the Big 12 South, allowing the Sooners to meet Nebraska Saturday in the conference’s championship game.
Defense was nonexistent as both teams marched up and down the field at-will. But Oklahoma pulled away behind the play of quarterback Landry Jones who finished 37-of-62 passing for 468 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Arkansas was also impressive in its 31-23 win at home against LSU; Stanford blanked Oregon State, 38-0; Ohio State crushed rival Michigan 37-7 and Michigan State beat Penn State 28-22 for its 11th win.
Miami coach fired, Pitt and Michigan, next?
Hours after Miami lost 23-20 at home to South Florida, coach Randy Shannon was fired after four seasons.
Shannon compiled a 28-22 overall record while at the helm, failed to win a bowl game and never reached the ACC title game. The Hurricanes finished 7-5 overall, and played in front of a mere 26,000 fans in its season finale.
With Shannon’s firing, there are 12 Black coaches remaining among the Football Bowl Subdivision’s 120 teams. The NCAA has been criticized for several years for its lack of outreach toward minority coaching candidates by many.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, initiated contact with Miami and expressed interest in the job. However, Gruden, an ESPN commentator, denied the report.
The coaching carousel could also be on the move at Michigan and Pittsburgh.
Rich Rodriguez’s job at Michigan is in jeopardy after it lost at Ohio State, dropping his record to 1-10 against ranked teams during his three-year tenure.
Dave Wannstedt’s future at Pittsburgh is in question after its 35-10 home loss to West Virginia. Pittsburgh, which began the season ranked in the top-15 and was the favorite to win the Big East, needs a win against Cincinnati Saturday to qualify for a bowl game.
Big games this week
BCS bids are at stake in several games this week, as teams do battle on neutral fields.
No.1 Auburn takes on South Carolina in the SEC title game in Atlanta, while No. 9 Oklahoma faces No.13 Nebraska in the Big 12 championship. No. 21 Florida State will play 15th ranked Virginia Tech for the ACC title.
No. 2 Oregon will visit Oregon State, and USC will play UCLA at the Rose Bowl this Saturday.