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December 2, 2008

SCS.comIt's been a long road from the end of August to the beginning of December, but here we stand on the cusp of another bowl season. This is the final regular week of articles from the SCS staff and the last chance to make those moves in your pickem pool before we all try to prove how well we know the bowls. Essentially those who beg for a playoff have their semifinals this week, and nobody would be complaining about the BCS if Oklahoma and Texas could rematch in the Big XII Championship. As it is, Missouri will play proxy for Texas and the other top 3 teams will battle it out this weekend to move one step closer to crystal football. Before we turn our attention to the upcoming limited slate of games and bowl season, let's look back at 2008 and discuss the major awards coming up as well as the conference surprises/disappointments.

ACC - This league featured the craziest and most competitive set of overall teams, as 10 of the league's 12 teams finished 5-3 or 4-4 in conference. Nobody could say Virginia at 3-5 or Duke at 1-7 in coach Cutliffe's first season were all that disappointing either. Surprise of the year goes to Boston College, who looked to be out of the conference race while breaking in new starters all over the field, including at QB and RB. Still, the Eagles are back for a second-straight ACC Championship. Most disappointing was Clemson, who took the most talented team in the league and barely scraped out bowl eligibility. Player of the year will go to Georgia Tech RB Jonathan Dwyer, who led an outstanding rushing attack in the new-look Yellowjacket offense. Coach of the yeat honors go to Florida State's Bobby Bowden, who came awfully close to another BCS berth when most counted him out for good.

BIG XII - Yet again, the conference turned into a tale of two divisions. It was the best of times (in the south), it was the worst of times (in the north), etc. Oklahoma may not deserve to be in the Big XII Championship, but rules are rules and it was a three-way tie no matter how unworthy fans think Texas Tech is. Surprise of the year is clearly the Red Raiders, who exceeded all expectations at 11-1 and are sadly going to be left out of a deserving BCS bowl. Disappointment of the year goes to Kansas State, who appeared poised to get back in the bowl mix with a 4-2 start but lost five in a row and lost their coach along the way. Player of the year is a tough choice, but Texas QB Colt McCoy has overcome the sophomore blues to become a dual-threat nightmare with 42 total touchdowns. Coach of the year is Mike Leach of Texas Tech.

BIG EAST - This conference seems to grow a new identity every year, and we'll call 2008 the year of the Bearcat. Not Bobcat Mr. Obama, Bearcat. Surprise of the year is your conference champion Cincinnati. A program on the ropes 3 years ago has truly benefited from great coaching and the jump to a BCS conference, and now will share the BCS spotlight in January. Disappointment of the year seemed locked up by Rutgers, but a furious finish gives the dishonor to Louisville who will finish dead last in the conference. Player of the year is awarded to West Virginia QB Pat White, who proved he is still amazing even without the support of a good offensive line or a star running back (though Noel Devine will be great soon). Coach of the year goes to Brian Kelly for dealing with the quarterback carousel and surviving.

BIG TEN - The league that has received an at-large bid to the BCS an outstanding seven times in ten seasons appears poised to do so again after Oregon opened the door for Ohio State to win the debate over Boise State. Surprise of the year is conference co-champion Penn State, picked to finish in the middle of the pack before showing off a new HD Spread offense and a dominating defense. Disappointment of the year is Illinois, who took two steps back to no bowl game after getting a surprising Rose Bowl berth in 2007. Player of the year is RB Shonn Greene from Iowa, who rushed for over 100 yards every single game and etched himself as a first-round draft pick this year. Coach of the year is Mark Dantonio of Michigan State. While winning the games you are supposed to is not flashy, it does give you NEw Year's Day bowl bids and opportunities at BCS bowls. Given a 20 year Rose Bowl drought, it's good to have MSU competitive again.

NON-BCS - Yeah these get lumped together, much like the BCS lumps all these teams together into one 50 team conference with no more than 1 bid to the big dance. Surprise of the year was Ball State, who took over a MAC recently dominated by directional Michigan schools. Disappointment of the year was East Carolina, who started with promising wins and will stumble to a likely 5 loss finish. Player of the year is Tulsa QB David Johnson, who went from backup to main man his senior season and led Tulsa back to another C-USA title game. Coach of the year is Kyle Wittingham of Utah, a school with BCS history that will be going back trying to make another statement.

PAC-10 - Surprise, surprise...look who's ascended to the outright conference title, their 7th title in a row. While there are some great programs in college football, USC is the best of the decade and proved it against the only other team with an argument in September. The Rose Bowl should actually be good this year, so pay attention! Surprise of the year is Oregon State, who has no reason to hang their heads after coming within one Civil War of the BCS. The Beavers did more with less than any other team in the conference. Disappointment of the year is shared by Washington and Washington State, as there's never been more terrible play from that state. Player of the year is RB Jacquizz Rodgers from Oregon State, who was probably the main reason the Ducks won on Saturday and sent USC to the Rose. Coach of the Year again goes to Pete Carroll at USC. The Trojans just keep reloading and fear nobody, which bodes well for future seasons.

SEC - Do you realize LSU and Tennessee are tied in league standings? In a down year for the SEC, weird things like that have happened. Still, the conference will play for a third-straight national title. Surprise of the year is no question: Alabama. The undefeated Tide roll into the SEC Championship despite being completely off the radar in August. Disappointment of the year is LSU, who apparently lost the will to win after the Alabama game. Not too many national champions look that bad. Player of the year is QB Tim Tebow of Florida, who may not have the stats to win the Heisman, but he is the MVP of the best team in the league. Coach of the year is Nick Saban, who overcame a ridiculously tough conference to rise to the cream of the crop again.

A couple interesting notes regarding Boise State came in this week as they polished off a 12-0 season. Despite their BCS Bowl prowess, the Broncos will likely be left out in favor of 10-2 Ohio State. The Fiesta Bowl could put together a dream Utah-Boise State matchup, but the allure of grabbing Texas or Oklahoma in this season is too great to set up such a matchup, at which point Ohio State becomes the better money-making choice. Assuming BSU is out of the BCS, the MAC and WAC are negotiating hard with their top tier bowl games to get Boise State and Ball State on the field to play in a battle of undefeateds. Most likely if it happens is the Motor City Bowl, who would have Ball State already and an open slot left by the Big Ten if OSU is the BCS pick. This would be a huge win for both conferences and both conference champions, so I hope the politics can be worked out and the revenue shared so that we have a non-BCS Championship of sorts. Speaking of the BCS...


BCS Championship - Oklahoma vs. Florida
Fiesta - Texas vs. Utah
Sugar - Alabama vs. Ohio State
Orange - Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
Rose - Penn State vs. USC

The third best game of the week is a repeat show of last year's ACC Championship. For the record, Boston College could not win that game. The conference with a bunch of above-average teams is playing for the right to play Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl, a winnable matchup by anyone's sense of the imagination. This matchup is all about defense, as these two boast top-10 ranked defenses. Boston College is especially rough on the running game, which will mean Hokies QB Tyrod Taylor will have to step up once again for the Hokies to repeat. Boston College QB Chris Crane is prone to mistakes and interceptions, so look for the opportunistic Virginia Tech defense to grab a couple key turnovers. Virginia Tech may have less talent, but they are better in special teams and have a better field general at quarterback. Hokies repeat with a 10 point win.

The second game of the week is the Big XII Championship, another rematch from last year as Oklahoma plays Missouri. Unlike last season, both teams needed tiebreakers to be here this season. While Missouri QB Chase Daniel has faded from Heisman contention this season after being a finalist last year, he is just as impressive athletically as the Heisman frontrunner he'll be facing, Sam Bradford. Missouri could stay close if their defense gets 3-4 stops on Oklahoma, as the Sooner defense is nothing to shout about. Unfortunately, the Tigers are a little dinged up at this point in the season and it showed in last week's loss to Kansas. Missouri will likely welcome a peaceful trip to San Antonio after this one, OU by 27.

The top game of the week is the play-in game or semifinal BCS game, the SEC Championship between Florida and Alabama. The key factor to this game may be Florida wideout Percy Harvin's ankle sprain, as losing the number one receiver against the strong Tide defense is a recipe for disaster. Don't believe me, look at the 2006 BCS Championship which Florida won handily when top OSU receiver Ted Ginn Jr. left the game in the first quarter. Florida has a lot of veterans who have been ther and done that, and it has been impressive the run of 7 wins they put together post-Mississippi shocker. Still, Alabama just seems to find a way to win games and may have that magic that propelled other unlikely teams to national titles. While I think Alabama should shut down the high-octane Gators, there will be a trick play that decides the game. Urban Meyer is better than Nick Saban at those, so Florida wins by 1.

2008 GOTW Record: 22-20
Last Week: 2-1

Fitz Top 10 - Week 14
1. Alabama (12-0)
2. Florida (11-1)
3. Texas (11-1)
4. Oklahoma (11-1)
5. Utah (12-0)
6. Boise State (12-0)
7. USC (10-1)
8. Penn State (11-1)
9. Texas Tech (11-1)
10. Ohio State (10-2)

Just Missed: Ball State, Cincinnati, TCU, Michigan State, Oregon

And with that, I bid adieu to my regular readers this season. Thanks for reading every week or occassionally, and don't forget to drop by and check out our SCS Bowl previews throughout bowl season. As always, please send email feedback to the email linked above, as I love hearing from you. Have a great holiday season and we'll see you back when this column returns in August 2009.

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