The Sweep

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Sweep
Joe McKnight and USC will likely take on 11-1 Penn State in the Rose Bowl thanks to Oregon State's loss.
Jordan Murph/SI

1. That the Rose Bowl will not be a rematch. First, it looked like it would be Ohio State-USC (original score: USC, 35-3.) Then, Penn State-Oregon State (original score: Penn State, 45-14.) Most fans of the Granddaddy were not exactly thrilled with these possibilities. But with Oregon's 65-38 Civil War beatdown Saturday night, all but eliminating Oregon State from Pac-10 title contention (this is assuming the Trojans beat 4-7 UCLA next week), the stage is set for an intriguing Jan. 1 showdown between 11-1 Penn State and (most likely) 11-1 USC.

The game that made this possible did not exactly go to script. With the Beavers playing at home for their first Rose Bowl berth since 1965, the Ducks unleashed an offensive blitzkrieg unlike any in the rivalry's 112-year history. RB Jeremiah Johnson had 202 yards by halftime, QB Jeremiah Masoli was 11-of-17 for 274 yards and three TDs and the Ducks finished with 694 total yards. In one of the biggest games in school history, Oregon State gave up the most points in school history. Now, the 9-3 Ducks will likely go to a better bowl (Holiday) than the 8-4 Beavers (Sun).

2. That the ACC is closing the gap on the SEC. Did you notice that an unofficial ACC-SEC Challenge took place Saturday? The conferences played four games against one another - and the ACC took three of them (Georgia Tech over Georgia, Clemson over South Carolina and Wake Forest over Vanderbilt). When the ACC expanded in 2004, there was much speculation as to whether Tobacco Road would eventually eclipse Dixie Delight as the South's premier conference. The notion seemed ludicrous at the timem but guess what? It could be a year away.

This year's ACC is a deeper league than the SEC, as evidenced by its 10 bowl-eligible teams. However, next week's SEC title game will pit the AP's top two teams, Alabama and Florida, while the ACC's combatants, Boston College and Virginia Tech, are 18th and unranked. The ACC has no Florida or Alabama, as evidenced by the other SEC-ACC score Saturday: Florida's 45-14 rout of Florida State. But did you watch Georgia Tech's performance against Georgia? Those running backs were freshmen and sophomores. There's your elite team in '09.

3. That LSU's defense ... stinks. As the Tigers plummeted out of the rankings over these past few weeks, it was fashionable to pin most of the blame on interception-machine Jarrett Lee, the redshirt freshman quarterback who was thrown into the fire due to Ryan Perrilloux's dismissal. But quarterback play was not the Tigers' undoing Friday against Arkansas. True freshman Jordan Jefferson avoided mistakes, made plays with his feet and threw two nice touchdowns. The problem: LSU simply could not stop 4-7 Arkansas' offense. And that's mystifying.

Razorback QBs Casey and Nathan Dick combined to go 25-of-40 for 280 yards and three TDs, including Casey's 24-yard game-winner to London Crawford with 21 seconds left. With the loss, LSU fell to 7-5, the worst record by a defending national champ since Georgia Tech went 8-5 (with a bowl win) in 1991. Miles better hope both his QB and his defense grow up in a hurry next year.

4. That Kerry Meier is the nation's most valuable backup QB. All season long, Kansas' Meier has spent his practice weeks taking reps as the Jayhawks' No. 2 QB -- then gone out on Saturdays and been Kansas' second-leading receiver. Early last week, it looked like Meier might have to go back under shotgun full-time for the first time since 2006 what with starter Todd Reesing unable to practice due to a shoulder injury. Instead, a battered Reesing teamed with the ever-versatile Meier to produce a dramatic and historic victory over arch-rival Missouri.

Despite suffering more injuries during the course of the game, Reesing outdueled Tigers counterpart Chase Daniel in the 40-37 win, going 37-of-51 for 375 yards, four TDs and two INTs. Reesing's favorite target: Meier, who caught a school-record 14 passes for 106 yards and two TDs. In a fitting and breathtaking finish, Reesing -- whose team had fallen behind 37-33 with just 1:50 remaining -- escaped pressure and lofted a 26-tard touchdown over the top to Meier with just 27 seconds remaining. The backup QB now has 87 catches for 932 yards on the season. 

5. That the mid-majors are getting greedy. The media crusade has begun to get one of the BCS bowls to invite 12-0 Boise State (in addition to 12-0 Utah). Give me a break. While it's nice that Utah, Boise State and Hawaii have gotten to play on the big stage in recent years, the reality is, their inclusion is not in the bowls' best business interests. Those teams' games have drawn three of the six lowest TV ratings in BCS history. And even if Boise took every one of its season-ticket holders to, say, the Fiesta Bowl, they still wouldn't broach Ohio State's traveling horde.

You might argue that Boise deserves the automatic bid over Utah, but the notion that the bowls should <i>voluntarily</i> take two such teams just because they're undefeated is absurd. There's no evidence that the public wants to watch these teams. In the meantime, it's clear that the pressure to attain one of those coveted bids has trickled down the ranks. On Saturday, Bowling Green fired coach Gregg Brandon. All he's done in six years is go 31-17 in conference play and reach three bowl games. Apparently, that's no longer enough for schools like Bowling Green.

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