Overcoming an anticipated scare from rival Alabama, the Auburn Tigers are one step away from playing for the BCS national championship. Thousands of miles away in Eugene, the Oregon Ducks have to get past in-state rival Oregon State in college football's final weekend before meeting the Tigers in Glendale, Arizona on January 10.
Locally, the much-anticipated Backyard Brawl was worth the wait for Mountaineer fans, as WVU took care of Pitt with the help of four Panther turnovers. The loss essentially ended any BCS hopes the Panthers have; only losses by both WVU (against league-worst Rutgers) and Connecticut (at South Florida) in addition to a Pitt victory over Cincinnati would put the Panthers in a BCS bowl.
In Happy Valley, Michigan State jumped out to an early lead against Penn State and never looked back, though things did get interesting in the fourth quarter. The Spartans held on for their first victory in State College since before Joe Paterno was the head coach and also clinched a share of the Big Ten title. In a cruel twist of fate, though, Michigan State will probably not be selected for a BCS at-large bid over Ohio State. Had this Big Ten season played out next year, with divisions and a conference championship game, Michigan State would be playing Wisconsin next week for the conference title. Instead, it will likely end up in the Capital One Bowl.
The Polls/Computer Rankings
(Legend: A&H = Anderson/Hester; RB = Richard Billingsley; CM = Colley Matrix; KM = Ken Massey; JS = Jeff Sagarin; PW = Peter Wolfe)
Penn State dropped 4.25 computer points (and out of the two human polls' "Receiving Votes" categories) to end the season as a Top 40 team. Overall, the season will be seen as a disappointment. But the silver lining is that many of the young players on this team saw valuable playing time, setting the stage for a bowl game and an improved 2011 season.
Pitt dropped 8.5 computer points and will likely finish the season as the third-best team in the region. Like Penn State, this season for Pitt will be a disappointment, as high hopes coming into the year had the Panthers on the fast track for a BCS bowl.
WVU jumped 6.75 points with the Backyard Brawl victory. More importantly for the Mountaineers (and maybe for the Big East Conference overall), WVU is now ranked in the BCS. Ironically, the team ahead of WVU in the Big East standings is behind them in the rankings. WVU needs a UConn loss to get to the BCS, in addition to taking out Rutgers in the final Big East football weekend.
The bowl picture is starting to take shape, but a big weekend of college football stands between now and a definitive bowl schedule. Three conferences will have their championship game on Saturday (SEC, Big Twelve, and ACC), while the Big East and Pac Ten have big games on the slate. Only the Big Ten has finished conference play, the last time the conference champion will be decided without a conference championship game. Barring major upsets on Saturday, Wisconsin is likely headed to the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champion (shared with Ohio State and Michigan State, but due to Wisconsin's higher BCS ranking, they will head to Pasadena). Stay tuned for a bowl primer later in the week, but check out the good Dr. Saturday's reading before we go in depth.
SBN Power Rankings
- West Virginia - Three overall losses (including @ LSU) and a realistic shot at a Big East title have the WVU fans hopeful for a good end to a solid 2010 season
- Penn State - Expectations were not high coming into 2010, but no one likes to finish the regular season with five losses (even though two of them were @ Alabama and Ohio State)
- Pitt - The preseason Big East favorite has dropped five games this season, yet only one of those opponents appears in the Top 25 this week (Utah)
Pitt - @ Cincinnati (Saturday, noon)
WVU - vs. Rutgers (Saturday, noon)
Penn State - regular season over