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Originally published November 11, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 11, 2005 at 6:21 PM

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Bud Withers

College football notebook: Teams gone from destiny to disarray in 2006

Enough of this BCS hand-wringing about who's in, who's getting the shaft and why we need a playoff. It's time to raise a toast — say...

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Enough of this BCS hand-wringing about who's in, who's getting the shaft and why we need a playoff. It's time to raise a toast — say, a tall Maalox — to the other BCS. We salute those who have had the most 'Bominable, Crummy Seasons, the teams that came in with expectations and are instead trying to find the nearest exit:

1. Tennessee (3-5)

The Vols have three cushy opponents left (although they might want to take Vanderbilt seriously) and may yet get to a bowl game. With another loss, however, they would suffer their first losing season since 1988, after getting serious mention as a national-title contender.

Tennessee had quarterback problems from the start and is 98th in the NCAA on offense. David Cutcliffe, the ex-Mississippi coach and former Vols assistant, may succeed resigned coordinator Randy Sanders.

2. Purdue (3-6)

Maybe the Boilermakers looked better simply because they weren't going to play Ohio State or Michigan. Problem is, they haven't beaten the likes of Minnesota, Iowa or Northwestern.

"Our secondary has been in disarray," coach Joe Tiller said this week. "And quite frankly, I think people were way ahead of themselves in giving us way too much credit offensively. We lost two premier players a year ago, one a four-year starter at quarterback [Kyle Orton], the other a four-year starter at receiver [Taylor Stubblefield]."

3. Texas A&M (5-4)

With senior quarterback Reggie McNeal, the Aggies looked capable of big things. Turns out they were. They've given up 98 points the past two weeks to Iowa State and Texas Tech, and third-year coach Dennis Franchione (16-17 in three seasons) is feeling the heat.

4. Pittsburgh (4-5)

The Panthers were something of a mirage last year, going to the Fiesta Bowl with an 8-3 record. But they returned much of that team for Dave Wannstedt's first season, including quarterback Tyler Palko.

5. Iowa (5-4)

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Despite Drew Tate at quarterback, the Hawkeyes have had a bizarre year — blowouts by Iowa State and Ohio State, and cliffhanger heartbreakers against Michigan and Northwestern.

6. Michigan (6-3)

Hardly a collapse, but not what most expected with Chad Henne at quarterback and Michael Hart at running back after a close loss to Texas in the Rose Bowl.

7. Washington State (3-6)

This is called imbalance — ninth in the nation in total offense, 109th in total defense. The Cougars got off the track in the second half at Oregon State on Oct. 1 and have never gotten back on. The loss of linebacker Will Derting has probably cost them two wins.

8. Nebraska (5-4)

Bill Callahan's offense is 108th nationally. Did Tom Osborne (or Frank Solich) ever lose to Kansas, 40-15?

9. Michigan State (5-4)

At one point, the Spartans were 4-0, 11th-ranked and hosting Michigan. Since then, they've gone 1-4, beating only Indiana.

10. Wyoming (4-5)

A cover of The Sporting News last summer touted Cowboys coach Joe Glenn with the teaser: "The Coach Who Could Fix: Alabama, UCLA, Colorado." Wonder who could fix Wyoming?

The SEC's sexy Saturday

The Southeastern Conference this year is the diametric opposite of the Pac-10, where nobody can stop anybody. While the Pac-10 has six of the top 20 in scoring offense, the SEC has six of the top 17 in total defense.

Saturday is bloated with implications in the SEC. Fourth-ranked Alabama (9-0), which has allowed 19 points in its last four games, hosts 7-1 Louisiana State. Auburn (7-2) visits Georgia (7-1), which is expected to have back D.J. Shockley, its starting quarterback.

It would take a real character to steal the spotlight from those two games. Did somebody say "Steve Spurrier"?

"Actually," he said, parsing history, "South Carolina did beat Florida back in 1939. We all know that."

We do now. Amazing as it sounds, the Gators haven't lost to the Gamecocks in 66 years. Of course, South Carolina, which trails in the series 19-3-3, didn't join the SEC until 1992.

Spurrier left the Gators after the 2001 season for a failed fling with the Washington Redskins, followed by a year out of football. He was thought to be a serious player for the Florida job last winter when they fired Ron Zook, but the Gators turned to Urban Meyer.

"I'd already done my thing there and left, and to try to do it again would not have made sense for me or for Florida," Spurrier said Wednesday. "This is really best for all concerned.

"I'm a guy that likes to do something for the first time ever, than win five or six or seven conference championships. They said it couldn't be done here, win a championship. We're going to try to do it."

South Carolina (6-3) has won four straight SEC games for only the second time in 13 years. Meanwhile, Spurrier sounds happy to have left behind the human grinder that is the NFL. Referring to the college game, he said, "You don't have to have your heart valves and your stints. I had two years of it, and certainly that was enough for me."

Come on down

Iowa State's administration is going against all marketing wisdom for Saturday's final home game against Colorado (7-2), with the Cyclones (6-3) still hoping to win the Big 12 North title. It has discounted reserved-seat tickets from $40 to $10, a 75 percent savings.

Only 28,000 seats had been sold before the reduction, with 3,700 coming after the announcement.

X'ed out

Oregon's lavish 2003 locker-room renovation, complete with Internet hookups in cubicles and locker-stall ventilation, is still causing fallout. The Ducks have been told by the Pac-10 they must remove the Xbox gaming system, saying it goes beyond the NCAA guideline of too "extravagant."

Noting that the NCAA earlier ruled against things like private-jet travel for recruits, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti told the Eugene Register-Guard: "About half the legislation over the last three years has been aimed at things we've done."

Done with donors

North Texas has played in four straight bowl games — true, it was the New Orleans Bowl each time — so with a 2-6 record, offensive coordinator Ramon Flanigan didn't take kindly to a verbal salvo from booster Bill Covert on his way out of the press box to the field at halftime of a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette

Flanigan confronted Covert, who had shouted that the North Texas staff was being outcoached. Monday, Flanigan apologized through school publicists.

And what's more ...

• Penn State QBs coach Jay Paterno, on his 78-year-old dad Joe, the head coach: "He can coach 20 more years. I'm not exaggerating. The sucker's going to be around in 20 more years, believe me."

• Syracuse will retire its fabled No. 44 — worn by Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little — Saturday.

• Northwestern QB Brett Basanez ripped Iowa defensive tactics after a 28-27 Wildcats win, telling the Chicago Sun-Times the Hawkeyes "were grabbing facemasks, hitting guys late, getting you in the head. I guess that's how they teach football down there."

• Texas QB Vince Young says he plans to stoke his teammates for Kansas after coaches Sunday passed around year-old newspaper clippings of Jayhawks coach Mark Mangino questioning whether Texas deserved to win a controversial game last year.

• WSU's Jerome Harrison is within hailing distance of the best seasons rushing by Steven Jackson, Corey Dillon, Charles White and O.J. Simpson. We realize it's all about winning, but maybe the Pac-10 should think about throwing an Offensive Player of the Week honor his way for the first time in '05.

• Vanderbilt (4-5) may have had a bowl bid stolen in a bizarre OT loss to Florida. After Earl Bennett caught a touchdown pass with 54 seconds left to pull Vandy to 35-34, coach Bobby Johnson had decided to go for a two-point play. Bennett appeared to begin a brief dance step in the end zone but was interrupted by a bear hug from a teammate. No matter. He was flagged for excessive celebration and Vandy prudently kicked a 35-yard conversion, then lost. How about some judgment, zebras?

• Then there's Oswald, a Rottweiler who has fit right in with four recently sidelined Arizona State offensive linemen who room together. Owned by guard Steven Berg, Oswald has a leg in a cast, the result of a summer mishap on the rails of a boat.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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