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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Heisman race heats up, while the hot seat takes down some coaches

It's anybody's guess who ends up with college football's top award, but it's certainty that Illinois and Kansas will be looking for new coaches. And the firings have just begun.

November 27, 2011|Chris Dufresne
  • Cropping up in the Heisman Trophy conversation (from left): Houston quarterback Case Keenum, Alabama running back Trent Richardson and USC quarterback Matt Barkley.
Cropping up in the Heisman Trophy conversation (from left): Houston quarterback… (Photos by Associated Press,…)

USC quarterback Matt Barkley turned in three of his finest passing hours Saturday night with 423 yards and six touchdowns in a 50-0 romp over UCLA.

Sunday, though, was rush hour.

There were mad dashes everywhere.

Coaches were either losing their jobs or on the verge as athletic directors raced each other to speed-dial agents for Mike Leach, Kevin Sumlin, Mike Bellotti and the ghost of Bear Bryant.

Officially out are Ron Zook (Illinois), Turner Gill (Kansas) and the coaches at Memphis and Alabama Birmingham. Arkron's Rob Ianello was fired en route to his mother's funeral (it's a cruel business).

Rumored to be goners are Rick Neuheisel (UCLA), Dennis Erickson (Arizona State) and Paul Wulff (Washington State).

Counting Mike Stoops, ousted at Arizona at midseason, the Pac-12 could lose one-third of its coaches in its inaugural season.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott was holed away Sunday trying to punch up a title-game script — South Division "champion" UCLA at North representative Oregon — that has the look of an Irwin Allen production (pick one: "The Poseidon Adventure," "Flood!" "The Swarm!" or "Cave In!")

Not even Bob Arum could dream up a credible promotion.

It's been boiled down to "Why on the Willamette?" or "Nikes vs. Yikes!"

The South, which once surrendered to the North at Appomattox, is now preparing a courthouse in Eugene.

UCLA (6-6) at Oregon is technically for a Rose bid, although UCLA's last gasp might be "Rosebud."

The Heisman Trophy race is hurtling toward a climactic conclusion, as all the contenders except Baylor's Robert Griffin III enhanced their cases. Griffin had the misfortune of being knocked out in a victory over Texas Tech in which he might have thrown for 10 touchdowns.

Houston's Case Keenum had 455 yards passing against Tulsa and Kellen Moore, for the umpteenth time, led Boise State to victory.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson rushed for 203 yards in his team's 42-14 win over Auburn.

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was his usual, efficient self in dissecting Notre Dame's defense in a 28-14 win at Palo Alto. Luck threw for only 233 yards but had four touchdowns and an interception.

USC Coach Lane Kiffin seemed eager to let Barkley pile on a helpless UCLA defense. Barkley's sixth touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter with USC already leading 43-0.

There are different rules in rivalries, though, and UCLA defenders could have at least put a hand up.

The Barkley-Luck sniping that began last week spilled into Stanford's postgame.

"There's no player in America like Andrew Luck," Stanford Coach David Shaw campaigned. "He doesn't care if you don't throw a pass … he doesn't try to get bigger stats so he can win awards."

Nick Saban, shockingly, favors his guy: "To me, Trent Richardson is the best football player in the country."

Luck might hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with Stanford's win at USC.

Barkley also has two receivers, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, who are clearly superior to anybody Stanford sends into a pass pattern.

Meanwhile, the BCS computers continued to gurgle toward a Louisiana State-Alabama rematch for the national title.

Yippee?

LSU and Alabama were No. 1 and No. 2 Sunday in the next-to-last BCS standings, with a growing sense LSU might not even have to win the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday against Georgia to advance to the title game.

Alabama is in the BCS clubhouse drinking an Arnold Palmer.

Tigers Coach Les Miles assured everyone that his team will try to win the game, which is nice to know. "There is no way this football team goes to Atlanta and doesn't play its best," he said after the win Friday against Arkansas.

But will LSU be motivated? Look at how UCLA played against USC after clinching the Pac-12 South title before taking the field.

Or is that, maybe, the worst analogy anyone has ever conjured?

Rematch despisers are holding out candlelight-vigil hope that Oklahoma State can beat Oklahoma on Saturday and jump Alabama for the No. 2 position, but don't count on it.

Never mind Alabama that has only three wins against teams with winning records compared with five for Oklahoma State.

It's probably time to prepare for LSU-Alabama and divvy up the other prizes.

Stanford (11-1) is a must-take pick with its No. 4 BCS standing and appears headed to either the Fiesta Bowl or Sugar Bowl.

Michigan (10-2) is a popular at-large possibility, but the Wolverines must finish in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. Michigan actually dropped a spot, to No. 16 on Sunday, after defeating Ohio State.

Houston (12-0), with a win over Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA title game next week, would clinch an automatic at-large BCS bid.

If Houston loses, Texas Christian (9-2) earns the bid, but only if it finishes in the BCS top 16 ahead of the eventual Big East champion.

TCU checked in at No. 18 on Sunday.

With only one week left in this scrambled-egg finish, the good news is … there's only one week left.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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