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A freakish Friday lifts UCLA into Pac-12 title game

CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Bruins, despite three conference losses and a 6-5 overall record, clinch South division title and a berth in Pac-12 title game thanks to Colorado's upset of Utah. As for BCS race … oh, don't even ask.

November 25, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Colorado running back Tony Jonesdives for a touchdown past Utah defensive back Conroy Black in the second half Friday. The play was called back for an offensive holding penalty.
Colorado running back Tony Jonesdives for a touchdown past Utah defensive… (Jim Urquhart / Associated…)

Alabama can't win the SEC West but can win the national title, while UCLA clinched the Pac-12 South bid but may not be bowl-eligible.

All things being equal, well, they aren't.

This Friday after Thanksgiving wasn't as exciting as 27 years ago, when Boston College beat Miami on Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan as Hurricane Nation looked on in horror.

Boston College celebrated the anniversary Friday by beating Miami again, 24-17.

This Friday after Thanksgiving wasn't as exciting as last year, when Auburn rallied from a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl on the same day Boise State lost a bid to the Rose Bowl on a missed field goal at Reno.

But wow, was this Friday wacky.

UCLA clinched a berth in the first Pac-12 championship game because Colorado upset Utah, 17-14, in Salt Lake City. Colorado had lost 23 consecutive road games dating to 2007.

"Four years of not winning on the road has come to an end," Colorado Coach Jon Embree said. "I told the kids thank you for taking the big stain off our program that has accomplished so much in the past."

Norm Chow, as Utah's offensive coordinator, finally helped deliver a title to Westwood.

He had to leave UCLA to do it, but let's not nitpick.

Chow's Utes managed only two touchdowns at home against a Colorado team that finishes the season at 3-10.

"Colorado didn't do anything different than we expected," Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said.

Yes they did, Coach — the Buffaloes won.

There were many common denominators and family ties.

Last week, UCLA receiver Taylor Embree put one over on his dad when the Bruins popped his pop's Colorado team at the Rose Bowl, 45-6.

Six days later, Jon Embree came through for his son, Taylor.

Hey, what are dads for?

With Colorado's season over, father can watch his son play in the first Pac-12 championship game.

UCLA (6-5, 5-3) doesn't have to beat USC on Saturday to qualify for the title game, which will be next Friday at Oregon, provided the Ducks beat Oregon State on Saturday. If Oregon loses, the title game moves to Stanford.

Will Bruins Coach Rick Neuheisel rest his starters for next week's much more important bid for the Rose Bowl?

(That's a joke.)

According to the Pac-12 office, USC cannot say it is champion of the South even if it beats UCLA to win the division by two games.

The Trojans, who are on NCAA probation, can say they finished first.

UCLA can call itself South champion, win or lose against USC.

You got that?

Playing for the Pac-12 title, any way you look at it, is no comfortable way for UCLA to conduct a coaching search.

This is truly bizarre-o world. UCLA, if it loses to USC and in the Pac-12 title game and finishes 6-7, would have to petition the NCAA for a bowl waiver.

The national title picture also looked as if it might come unhinged after Arkansas jumped to 14-0 lead at Louisiana State.

LSU then woke up and won, 41-17.

"This football team, down 14 points, did not flinch," LSU Coach Les Miles said.

No argument. LSU finished its first undefeated regular season since 1958 and probably will clinch a BCS title bid even if it loses next week to Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

"I think we played a lot of good teams in this season," Miles said. "We took on all comers."

An Arkansas win coupled with an Alabama victory at Auburn on Saturday would have created a three-way tie for first place in the SEC West.

There were scenarios in which Arkansas could have advanced based on the tiebreakers and left LSU and Alabama playing for the national title without having won their division.

Thankfully, LSU reversed course on Arkansas and took the tiebreak out of the equation.

All BCS eyes now turn to the Iron Bowl, where those who loathe the idea of an LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS title game are rooting for Auburn to put a second loss on the Crimson Tide.

That would open up a second title-game spot to a team outside the SEC. Oklahoma State, which was shocked last week at Iowa State, could get a second chance if the Cowboys defeat Oklahoma next Saturday in Stillwater, Okla.

If Auburn wins and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Stanford are back in the mix.

Virginia Tech has at least one game left: Saturday at Virginia and, if it wins, next week's Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

Stanford closes its regular season Saturday at home against Notre Dame.

If Oregon defeats Oregon State to clinch the Pac-12 North, Stanford could still get to the BCS title game without winning its division.

And what if Alabama, Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Stanford lose?

Does that put Boise State back in the race?

Or, is it more likely two-loss Oklahoma would steal the second spot?

In 2007, remember, two-loss LSU jumped from No. 7 to No. 2 in the final BCS standings to earn a title-game bid in New Orleans.

LSU defeated Ohio State to win the BCS title.

This year's title game is in New Orleans.

Will LSU play Alabama again?

Answer: to be determined.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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