Monday, December 5, 2011
Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs
By Andrea Adelson
Let's take a look back at the week that was in the non-AQs:
And then there were none. For the first time since the BCS expanded to five games beginning in the 2006 season, there are no non-AQs represented in BCS games. The shocker of the weekend, of course, was Houston losing to Southern Miss 49-28. The Cougars were the best hope for the non-AQs to get an automatic spot into the BCS for the sixth straight season. All they had to do was win the Conference USA championship game. But Southern Miss came to play with a defense that wreaked havoc for most of the afternoon. The Golden Eagles had six tackles for loss, two interceptions, eight pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown -- the eighth of the season to set a new FBS record. Tracey Lampley had 240 all-purpose yards as Southern Miss set championship game records for points scored and touchdowns (seven). Heading into the game, most would have guessed it would be Houston setting the records. But the Cougars were held to season lows in scoring and total offense. The loss opened the door for perhaps TCU to sneak in as an automatic qualifier. All the Horned Frogs had to do was move up two spots from No. 18 to No. 16 in the final BCS standings. But they did not move at all, ending up at 18. Boise State, the top-ranked of the non-AQs at No. 7, was disqualified from automatic selection because it failed to win its conference.
But what feels so inexcusable to Boise State and non-AQ fans is the fact that the Broncos were passed over for an-at large berth into the Sugar Bowl by both Michigan and Virginia Tech, ranked lower than them and with more losses than them. Virginia Tech is most galling, considering the Hokies got blown out in two games against Clemson, lost the ACC championship game and have not beaten anybody ranked in the Top 25 this season. So what if the Hokies travel well? That should not be the reason one team gets picked over another just as deserving. The bottom line is this: No one-loss team from the non-AQs has ever been taken as an at-large team. Boise State has now been passed over four times for BCS games as a top-10 team. That includes 2008, when the Broncos went undefeated. Now you know why they want to join the Big East. That conference's representative in the BCS, West Virginia, went 9-3.
MAC comeback. Usually it is Northern Illinois on the losing end of heartbreakers in the MAC title game. So maybe it was about time for the Huskies to feel a little bit of love. If you turned your TV set away from the game after Ohio took a 20-0 lead Friday night, you were probably not alone. Northern Illinois appeared lifeless, was mistake prone, with three first-half turnovers. Quarterback Chandler Harnish had 13 yards rushing and 35 passing yards at halftime. But it was Ohio's turn to make mistakes in the second half, with three interceptions that allowed Northern Illinois to come back and win. Ohio had just 70 total yards after halftime with 31 on the ground and 39 passing. Mathew Sims kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give Northern Illinois a 23-20 win and cap its largest comeback in modern-day history. Harnish finished the game with 250 yards passing and three touchdowns, and help avenge a heartbreaking, last-minute loss to Miami (Ohio) in last year's MAC game.
Coaching carousel. Fresno State fired longtime coach Pat Hill after the Bulldogs went 4-9, tying for the most losses in school history. Hill was at the school for 15 seasons and certainly put this program on the national map. But the Bulldogs slipped in recent years, and in the end he simply did not win enough games at the end of his career. Colorado State also fired coach Steve Fairchild after a third straight 3-9 season. UAB hired Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee to replace Neil Callaway. FAU hired Carl Pelini, Nebraska defensive coordinator and brother of Huskers head coach Bo Pelini, to take over for the retired Howard Schnellenberger. Also, according to reports, Ole Miss will hire Arkansas State coach Hugh Freeze after one season on the job with the Red Wolves, and Tulane will hire Saints assistant Curtis Johnson. Hawaii coach Greg McMackin met with the school's chancellor and athletic director on Sunday, and a decision on his future could come soon. The Warriors went a disappointing 6-7 this season after being the preseason choice to win the WAC.