Monday, October 05, 2009

Any Given Saturday: ACC and CUSA Turned Upside Down

This weekend saw a couple of huge upsets in both the ACC and Conference USA that could have a profound on the eventual league champ.

UAB 30 Southern Miss 17

How'd it Happen? The Blazers upset the Golden Eagles despite passing for 23 total yards in the game (21 yards came on one pass) thanks to 3 Southern Miss turnovers and the feet of quarterback Joe Webb. Webb rushed for 138 yards in what amounted to a glorified single-wing offense. Overall, Webb accounted for 161 of the team's 245 total yards (nearly 66%). Nursing a 6-point lead with about a minute to play, the Blazers got a pick-6 to ice it.

What Does it Mean? For the Golden Eagles, they drop to 1-1 in Conference USA play with Houston, Tulsa, and East Carolina still on the schedule. For the Blazers, they improve to 2-1 in conference and 2-3 overall. However, 5 of their final 7 games are on the road, so a bowl game is still a long shot.

UTEP 58 Houston 41

How'd it Happen? UTEP running back Donald Buckram ran for 262 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Miners tallied 581 yards of offense exactly one week after gaining 53 yards of total offense in a loss to Texas. Don't fault Houston quarterback Case Keenum for the loss. He threw for 536 yards and 5 touchdowns without an interception in a losing effort.

What Does it Mean? For the Cougars, not only are their BCS hopes gone, but their conference title hopes may be dashed as well. UTEP now owns the tie-breaker with the head-to-head win and the Cougars still have league games left against Southern Miss and at Tulsa. For UTEP, the memories of their awful 1-3 non-conference start are forgotten (for now). The Miners have an early leg up on the league race, but they have a long way to go to even get to a bowl game, much less win the division.

Maryland 24 Clemson 21

How'd it Happen? Maryland turned an early 10-point deficit into a slim lead with 2 extended touchdown drives (their only 2 of the game) of 76 and 81 yards. With Clemson in field goal range at the end of the game, quarterback Kyle Parker took a sack (bad) and fumbled (worse) to seal the loss.

What Does it Mean? For Clemson, this had all the trappings of a Tommy Bowden game. Big favorite. Check. Early lead. Check. Fall behind. Check. Do something totally un-clutch to seal the loss. Check. Clemson has now lost 3 of 4 to Maryland, with the 3 losses coming when the Tigers were double-digit favorites. For Maryland, it just goes to show that you just never know, especially in the ACC. The Terps still need 4 more wins to get to bowl eligibility, but if you can get any kind of read on this team, I urge you to head straight to Vegas.

Virginia 16 North Carolina 3

How'd it Happen? Virginia held the trendy preseason darkhorse North Carolina to 174 yards of offense (one week after Georgia Tech held them to 154 yards) in a defensive slugfest.

What Does it Mean? For the Tar Heels, the loss irreparably damages their ACC title hopes. With games left against Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Boston College, and rival NC State a bowl game is also not a sure thing. The Tar Heels play 2 IAA teams this season (The Citadel and Georgia Southern), so they need 7 wins to qualify for a bowl. For the Cavs, like Maryland, they just keep going the other way just when you think you have them figured out. If they don't turn the ball over (none against the Tar Heels), you can be sure their defense will lead them to another upset or 2.

Idaho 31 Colorado State 29

How'd it Happen? The kicking game. Both teams scored 4 touchdowns and kicked a field goal. However, the Vandals blocked an extra point following a Rams touchdown. That forced the Rams to go for 2 to tie following their final touchdown with under 2 minutes to go. They didn't make it and the Vandals are now 4-1.

What Does it Mean? For the Rams, they are still nicely positioned to qualify for a bowl game. After playing the remainder the of the Mountain West triumverate, Utah and TCU (played BYU last week), the schedule lightens up a good bit. For the Vandals, they are 4-1 and have 7 games remaing against WAC opponents. Win 2 and they are bowl eligible. Win 3, and a bowl is almost assured (would be their second ever).

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