by Bill Holmes
My recap of the only football games that matter
This proved to be an exciting and surprising week in football.
Despite being finished with high school football for this season, there were still some Friday night lights. In the battle of Interstate 4, the 2-8 USF Bulls traveled the less than 100 miles from Tampa to Orlando to play the 9-1 #19 UCF Knights. Besides being an instate rivalry, it was an AAC conference game. With a win, UCF could lock up the league title. Should be an easy game right? So of course it wasn't. The Bulls played their usual good defensive game and this time also scored a few point. Alas it was not to be as the Knights won 23-20. The Bulls fell behind 13-6 in the first half. That usually spells doom, but USF came back. They actually took the lead early in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on. UCF scored the final touchdown with about 5:00 left in the game. Total yards were even and South Florida won the turnover battle 5-2. So why couldn't they win? Because they don't know how. They can't make the big play when needed and Central Florida can. The Bulls fall to 2-9, 2-5 and next go to New Jersey to play more knights, this time the 5-6, 2-5 Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
As we move to Saturday we have two more mismatches on paper. As is usually the case this year my teams were the underdogs. First up we have the 4-7 TCU Horned Frogs hosting the 9-1 #9 Baylor Bears. Another supposedly easy game for the favorite that turned into a battle. Baylor eventually prevailed 41-38. The Frogs fell behind early and trailed by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. They scored with about 30 seconds remaining in the game to pull within three points but ran out of time. The Frogs outgained the Bears but also had four turnovers. This concludes TCU's very disappointing season. They finish with a 4-8, 2-7 Big 12 record. There will be no bowl game this year.
The next game was absolutely no problem for the favored team. In another instate rivalry game the #2 ranked 11-0 FSU Seminoles traveled the 150 miles to Gainesville to play the hapless 4-7 Gators. Florida was a 28 point underdog and the Noles covered that spread with a 37-7 win. The game was close for about 25 minutes and then FSU scored two TDs in four minutes for a 17-0 halftime lead. The score got to 27-0 before the Gators somehow found the endzone in the fourth quarter. The Seminoles outgained the Gators 456 to 193 yards. Jameis Winston, the Noles Heisman Trophy candidate QB, threw for 327 yards to inflate his statistics. This ends the Gators miserable season. They finished with seven straight loses, including one to a Division II team, to go 4-8, 3-5 SEC. It is the worst Gator football season in 34 years. This team broke numerous all-time records, all negative. Two offensive coaches have already lost their jobs with more changes very probable. All Gator fans can now look forward to next year and move on to basketball season.
FSU goes to the ACC championship game in Charlotte against the 10-2 #20 Duke Blue Devils. The undefeated Noles go into the game ranked number one in the BCS polls. A win guarantees a spot in the BCS championship game in January.
The SEC teams finished their regular season this week. They did well in non-conference games with going 3-1. The biggest win was #10 South Carolina's win over #6 Clemson. In the conference games, many of which were rivalry matchups, there were no surprises except the Auburn - Alabama game. Speaking of BCS rankings, the game of the week pittted #1 ranked Alabama at #4 Auburn. The winner would take the SEC West title and a spot in the SEC championship game. There was a lot at stake in a much hyped game. Unlike what usually happens in these games, this one not only lived up to the hype it actually exceeded it. It was one of the most exciting big stakes games ever and it ended in a most bizarre manner. The whole game was good but it got ridiculous in the final minute. Auburn scored on a 39 yard pass play with 38 seconds remaining to tie the game. After the ensuing kickoff, amazingly 'Bama got to within long field goal range with one second on the clock. The 56 yard FG attempt was a little short and Auburn deep man Chris Davis caught the ball in the end zone. He then ran 100+ yards for the winning TD with no time on the clock. Auburn wins 34-28. Ecstasy for the Tigers, total shock fot the Tide. The lose knocks the Crimson Tide out of the SEC championship game and a chance to win a third consecutive national title. The #5 Missouri Tigers will play the #3 Auburn Tigers in the SEC championship game. I predict the Tigers will win.
In the latest BCS rankings FSU moves into the #1 slot. Auburn moves up to #3 and Alabama drops to #4. There are three SEC teams in the top five, four in the top eight and seven in the top 25. In spite of all that, there may not be an SEC team in the championship game this year. We'll know all the bowl matchups after next weeks games.
It was an 0-3 week for my college teams but there were several very exciting games. One more game for USF and my teams will be done. No bowl games this year.
There was better news in the pro ranks although I'm not sure wins are beneficial at this stage for cellar dweller teams vying for draft position. First up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended their three game win streak with a 27-6 lose to the Carolina Panthers. The Bucs had two field goals in the first quarter and then the offense apparently left the stadium. Nothing exciting with this game, although Cam Newton, former Auburn and current Carolina QB, got to keep the War Eagle celebrations going. The Bucs fall to 3-9 and next host the 4-8 Buffalo Bills. That should be exciting.
Next up the Jacksonville Jaguars exploded for 32 points in a 32-28 win over at the Cleveland Browns. That is the most points the Jags have scored in a game this year. It took a 20 yard pass play TD with 40 seconds remaining in the game to pull out the win. The Jags as usual lost the offensive statistical race as the Browns outgained the Jags by over a 100 yards although there were some highlights. Maurice Jones-Drew, the all-pro running back, threw an eight yard touchdown pass. He also had 77 yards rushing. Jacksonville is now at 3-9. The next game is at home against the even worse 2-10 Houston Texans in a nationally televised NFL Network Thursday night game. There will probably be dozens of people watching.
In the late game the Atlanta Falcons beat the Buffalo Bills 34-31 in overtime. The game was played at Rogers Centre in Toronto, the home of the baseball Blue Jays. The Falcons tied the game with 1:28 left in regulation. The game was tied at the half and at the end of three quarters as well as the end of regulation. Not sure, but the Falcons may be undefeated all-time in Canada. This win brings Atlanta to a 3-9 record. Their next game is at the frozen tundra against the 5-6 Packers.
All three of my NFL teams are 3-9, that's 9-27 overall, a .250 winning percentage. In the race for the #1 draft pick Houson leads at 2-10. There are now five teams with three wins, including my teams, although Minnesota also has a tie which is like a half win.
My great year continues. Next week are the final regular season games and conference championship games for the colleges. After those contests, we'll know the BCS matchups and the teams in the 762 other bowl games.