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College Football Spotlight

Big East could end up taking a big hit

October 29, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

As the only Division I-A conference with three undefeated teams, the Big East has suddenly become the Big Beast on the college football scene.

Or, maybe it eventually will be exposed as the Big Least.

Two of those unbeaten teams, No. 4-ranked West Virginia and No. 6 Louisville, will play Thursday in a game that could figure prominently in the national championship race.

Or, it could have no impact at all.

The Big East race will attract a lot of attention in the next month, especially in places such as Austin, Texas; Auburn, Ala. and Gainesville, Fla.

That's because one-loss teams such as No. 5 Texas, No. 7 Auburn and No. 9 Florida could be right in the thick of the national championship race by the time Big East teams get finished beating up on each other.

West Virginia and Louisville each still must play No. 16 Rutgers, the conference's third unbeaten team.

They also have a game against Pittsburgh, which is no cakewalk, meaning that it's not entirely out of the question that the winner of Thursday's game could still end up with two losses.

"The Big East is going to beat each other up," West Virginia Coach Rich Rodriguez said. "The league from top to bottom is better than it's been in a long time and I think it's showing out each week."

Said Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano: "There's a ton of football to play and who knows how everything will end up."

The next three Thursdays will tell a lot.

After this week, Louisville plays Rutgers on Nov. 9 and West Virginia plays Pittsburgh on Nov. 16.

The season finale between Rutgers and West Virginia is Saturday, Dec. 2.

"The schedule looks pretty tough down the way, doesn't it?" Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said.

Scoring drought

Purdue, which was among the nation's top 10 teams in scoring and total offense most of this season, has been shut out for seven consecutive quarters.

The Boilermakers lost to Penn State, 12-0, Saturday, which followed a 24-3 loss against Wisconsin the previous week.

Purdue was averaging 33.5 points through six games but has averaged only 4.3 in its last three.

Before Saturday, Purdue hadn't been shut out since Sept. 14, 1996, against Notre Dame. The run of 127 games without being shut out was the third-longest streak in the nation.

Comeback kids

Oklahoma State had blown fourth-quarter leads twice in Big 12 games this season, so it was about time it turned the tables.

The Cowboys scored 21 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to upset No. 20 Nebraska, 41-29.

Oklahoma State rallied from a 16-0 second-quarter deficit and trailed, 23-20, at the start of the fourth quarter.

"I don't ever feel like I'm out of the ballgame until the other team's ahead and there's zeros on the clock," Oklahoma State quarterback Bobby Reid said. "Until then, we're just going to keep on playing our ball."

Big (12) meltdown

Nebraska remained tied with Missouri for first in the Big 12 North since Missouri also lost Saturday.

Those teams play next week with a trip to the Big 12 title game probably on the line, but Cornhuskers Coach Bill Callahan said it would take a much better effort than what he saw against Oklahoma State.

"I am not pleased with our efforts today," said Callahan, whose team gave up three plays of 45 yards or more and eight of 15 or more. "I was not satisfied at all with what we did in the second half. It was pretty graphic."

Heisman hopeless

Garrett Wolfe of Northern Illinois was a popular sleeper pick for the Heisman Trophy after he rushed for 1,343 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first six games.

Since then, he's been a sleeper all right.

Wolfe had only 66 yards in 22 carries in a 24-14 loss to Iowa on Saturday, bringing his total over the last three games to 136 yards. His one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was his first since Oct. 8.

Do-it-all Darren

Darren McFadden, the Southeastern Conference's leading rusher, ran for 129 yards and a touchdown -- and also threw for a score -- to lead No. 13 Arkansas over Louisiana Monroe, 44-10.

The Razorbacks actually scored twice with McFadden at quarterback -- he handed off to Felix Jones on a seven-yard scoring run.

"It was fun to throw a touchdown," said McFadden, an occasional quarterback in high school. "It brought back a lot of memories."

One-man gang

Brady Quinn passed for 295 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 28 yards and a touchdown in Notre Dame's 38-14 victory over Navy, but it really wasn't a fair fight.

Quinn, 6 feet 4 and 233 pounds, is taller than every Navy defensive starter and outweighs all but senior tackle Larry Cylc (6-2, 280), senior end John Chan (6-2, 249) and junior linebacker Irv Spencer (6-0, 241).

What a difference ...

Florida State's 27-24 loss to Maryland was the sixth in its last eight regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference games. The Seminoles, winners of 12 ACC titles in the last 14 years, are alone in last place in the league's Atlantic Division.

Coach Bobby Bowden, however, said it's no big deal.

"It's not so disappointing because we spent so many years not in this category," Bowden said. "We've been in the top five for 14 years in a row."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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