Updated: November 26, 2006 5:49:12 PM PST

USC's Carroll deserves respect for his run


TROJAN RESPECT

Pete Carroll is on the verge of achieving something that has not been done in many years, if ever. USC is one game away from playing for a national championship for the fourth consecutive season.

Florida State played in the first three BCS Championship Games, winning the middle one (the 1999 season). A victory at UCLA on Saturday would send the Trojans to their third, not fourth, consecutive BCS Championship Game. But don't forget that USC won a share of the 2003 title.

Pete Carroll
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Pete Carroll's run at USC ranks as one of the best of all-time.

Carroll gets plenty of praise. He also has a legion of skeptics, if not outright cynics. They cite the controversy over the living accommodations of Reggie Bush's parents, several mini-scandals and arrests, and wish to administer a death penalty by paper cuts, preferably with the pages of the NCAA Manual.

But take a step back and look at what Carroll has accomplished. USC is 47-3 over these four seasons. The three losses have been by a total of eight points. One went to overtime. The other two, by three and two points respectively, came down to the final seconds.

USC has replaced two Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and a Heisman-winning tailback. USC has replaced seven first-round draft choices. And still the Trojans win.

They have won five consecutive Pacific-10 Conference championships and 33 consecutive home games. Carroll has won with every type of team. He has built a winner. He has won with veterans. And this season, he has taken a team that most experts considered too young and beat-up to win and driven it to the brink of another national championship.

Granted, we don't know how indelible the stain, if any, there will be on the USC record. But the sheer bulk of what Carroll has built will remain impressive long after any NCAA violation is detected. If you don't believe me, take a look at the roster of coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame. A number of coaches are there in spite of running afoul of the NCAA.

Carroll's four consecutive seasons are every bit as convincing as the best winning periods of coaches such as Bear Bryant of Alabama, Darrell Royal of Texas or Bobby Bowden of Florida State. USC, dormant for nearly two decades when Carroll arrived in December 2000, has re-established itself, and Southern California region with it, as a hotbed of college football.

It wasn't that long ago that the power in college football seemed to have permanently shifted to the portion of the Sun Belt that stretches from Miami in the southeast to College Station in the southwest. Carroll has redrawn that map. He has made USC fashionable again.

VICTORY LIKE NONE OTHER

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione wore the smile of a relieved man after finally getting a giant monkey off his back after beating Texas.

The Aggies' 12-7 victory was more than merely their first triumph over their bitterest rival since 1999 and their first in Austin since 1994.

It also represented the biggest victory to date in Franchione's four-plus season tenure with the Aggies. Before Friday, Franchione was 0-9 against Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma -- the teams he needed to beat to capture the support of his alumni and rebuild his program.

Dennis Franchione
AP Photo/Eric Gay
Dennis Franchione's win over rival Texas should ease the heat on him.

Franchione chuckled when asked if he thought the victory would silence his critics.

"Do I have any?" he said with a grin.

"But I can't worry about that. I do the best I can for the players and try to put them in position to win. Hopefully, this makes a statement as to where we have finally gotten to in four years. You all decide those things and write about them for me. I know where this team has come from, and I know where they are. And I know how hard they fought to get here."

And while Franchione was too magnanimous after the victory to claim any "I told you sos," some of his players were more than willing.

"We're 9-3 today because of Coach Fran, and it's good to get everyone to shut up about him and start realizing he's doing a good job around here," quarterback Stephen McGee said.

The Aggies won because they were tougher in the trenches. A&M limited Texas to 70 yards rushing -- fewest for the Longhorns since a 2003 loss against Arkansas. The Aggies gashed the Longhorns, who came into the game as the nation's No. 1-ranked rush defensive team, for a season-worst 244 yards on the ground.

McGee was the ringleader of that rushing attack, personally accounting for 95 tough yards in the victory. Even though he was vomiting in the huddle during the Aggies' final scoring drive, he persevered to personally score the game-winning eight-yard run with 2:32 left.

So it was a little understandable when McGee and Franchione both had tears in their eyes during a warm postgame embrace shortly after the game concluded.

The victory apparently has cemented the Aggies for a trip to the Holiday Bowl. And the Longhorns could go to the Cotton, Gator or even the Alamo bowl depending on how the Big 12 title game plays out.

The A&M triumph could also level the recruiting battles that have been dominated by Texas coach Mack Brown in recent years. When Franchione arrived after the 2002 season, the Aggies had only two players who were offered scholarships by Texas or Oklahoma. This year's team featured 24 -- most notably McGee.

"The implications in this one were big for both teams," A&M defensive coordinator Gary Darnell said. "This levels the playing field, and it didn't take four or five years to do it. They've had a little bit of a recruiting edge, but we're going to try to change that, too."

GREAT START FROM SCRATCH

With all the attention being placed on Boise State's run to qualify for a BCS game, the flawless start to Chris Petersen's head-coaching career has been back-page news. But now that the Broncos have achieved their No. 1 goal, Petersen's immediate success should be recognized for its place within the history of college football.

Most Consecutive Wins to Start Coaching Career
Seasons Coach Wins
1888-89 Walter Camp, Yale 28
2001-02 Larry Coker, Miami 24
1892 George Woodruff, Penn 13
2006 Chris Petersen, Boise State 12
1944-45 Carroll Widdoes, Ohio State 12

Petersen replaced Dan Hawkins as Boise State's coach on Jan. 1, and with BSU finishing the regular season at 12-0, he is just the fifth person to win that many games to begin a head-coaching career. We're not talking first 12 games at one particular school, but rather first 12 games as a college head coach -- and this stat dates back into the 19th century!

The last coach to do it before Petersen? That would be Larry Coker, who was just relieved of his duties at Miami, not quite four years removed from having won the 24th straight game to begin his coaching career. Enjoy it while you can, Chris!

Petersen also will be the fourth rookie head coach to lead a team to the BCS. In addition to Coker, who won the national title in his first season, Ralph Friedgen led his 2001 Maryland team to the Orange Bowl, and Charlie Weis took Notre Dame to the Fiesta last season.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Most were ready to give up on Oklahoma shortly after Adrian Peterson's broken collarbone appeared to have placed their season in jeopardy.

But a funny thing happened over the last six games. The 10-2 Sooners have claimed another Big 12 South Division title.

"Everybody wrote off the season when Adrian got hurt," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "You remember that talk and that sarcasm. But that hasn't been the case."

Allen Patrick
Laizure Photo/WireImage.com
Allen Patrick has helped fill the void left by Adrian Peterson.

The Sooners wrapped up a share of their fifth Big 12 South title in the last seven years with a wild 27-21 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday.

The Sooners' seventh straight victory wasn't settled until cornerback Lendy Holmes tipped an overthrown pass for Oklahoma State wide receiver D'Juan Woods at the back of the Oklahoma end zone as time expired.

"My heart was pounding," Oklahoma defensive end Larry Birdine said. "That was the longest five seconds in my life when that ball was in the air," Birdine said. "And as soon as I saw that was incomplete. I ran off the field.

"If they want to say we escaped today, they can say that. But we're getting out of Stillwater with a win -- and the division title."

After a 3-2 start and a conference-opening loss to Texas, few would have imagined the Sooners would be in position to claim the Big 12's title by beating Nebraska. But they've done with a combination of grittiness and perseverance in one of Stoops' most rewarding coaching performances.

The Sooners rolled up a season-best 238 yards rushing as their ground game has actually improved without Peterson in the lineup.

In four of the six games without Peterson in the lineup, OU has produced at least 224 rushing yards. The Sooners didn't rush for more than 207 yards in any game when he was playing.

"That's happened because of the quality of our backs and the quality of our blocking," Stoops said. "The seams have been awesome and the backs' ability to see those seams has been there."

Running back Allen Patrick returned to the lineup against Oklahoma State after missing two games with a sprained ankle and erupted for 163 yards, including a 65-yard TD run.

"I think they've proven to be a good team together. It isn't any one individual," Stoops said. "Adrian was a special player, but it's about more than just him. This team is strong in a lot of ways. And it's how we won today -- by being a solid team together."

And after depending on other teams all season long as they attempted to climb back into the South Division title, the Sooners now have their BCS bowl hopes riding on their own performances.

"I love finally having it on our own shoulders," Oklahoma tight end Joe Jon Finley said. "All season long, we've had to have people lose for us to move up. Now, we kind of control our own destiny as far as going to a big bowl. We just got one more to go."

GATOR HATE

Urban Meyer
Meyer

In his two seasons in Gainesville, Urban Meyer is now 6-0 against Florida's chief rivals -- Tennessee (2-0), Georgia (2-0) and Florida State (2-0). Although the Tennessee rivalry only developed recently because of Steve Spurrier and the formation of the SEC East, no Florida coach had ever swept those three teams in consecutive seasons before Meyer. To emphasize the FSU rivalry, Meyer doesn't even call Florida State by name. He simply refers to the Seminoles as "the school out west."

But Meyer's obsession with rivalry and his dominance over rival schools didn't begin at Florida. While at Utah, he was not merely 2-0 in his games against BYU: His 2003 team beat the Cougars 3-0 to snap the longest scoring streak in NCAA history, shutting out BYU for the first time in 362 games. Now, that's sticking it to your rival.

If Meyer could just stick it to the BCS in the same way, he'd be a much happier man.

FIVE SATURDAY OBSERVATIONS
IVAN MAISEL
Notre Dame 1. Notre Dame is an inkblot and project on it what you will. The Irish finished 10-2, which is great. They played an easy schedule, which means they're phonies. They appear headed for a BCS bowl for the second consecutive year, which is great. They haven't beaten anyone they shouldn't have beaten in Charlie Weis' two seasons, which is not good. Two years in, Weis has turned around a program that appeared mired in mediocrity. Two years in, an athletic gap between the Notre Dames and the USC/Michigans of the world remains wide. We could go on like this all day.

Florida State 2. Not until you witness it in person do you realize the sheer futility of the Florida State offense. The Seminoles made three first downs in the first half of the 21-14 loss to Florida on Saturday, and one of the first downs came on a Gator personal foul. The line can't block. Quarterback Drew Weatherford has regressed over the course of his sophomore season. Xavier Lee replaced him for three possessions in the second quarter and generated a total of eight yards. Talent comes into Tallahassee and does not improve. Jeff Bowden took a check and resigned as offensive coordinator. His dad needs to replace line coach Mark McHale and quarterback coach Daryl Dickey, too.

Oregon State 3. The Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State proved again why it's the best rivalry that the rest of the country doesn't know about: a driving rainstorm, two lead changes (and almost a third) in the final 3:07 before the Beavers blocked a field goal to win 30-28. Oregon State finished 8-4 and heads to the Sun Bowl. Mike Riley, subject of fan grumbling early in the season, should be a shoo-in for Pac-10 coach of the year.

Troy 4. Troy's upset of Middle Tennessee on Saturday is bad news for the 6-6 teams that need to go out of conference in order to play in a bowl game. In the 12-game era, all I-A teams that are 7-5 must be selected before any six-win teams may play in a bowl outside of their conference's deals. There are two bowls that have open slots: the Poinsettia and the Motor City. The MAC has four seven-win teams and three bowls, so a MAC team looks headed for the Poinsettia (the Motor City won't want two MAC teams). If Troy (6-5) beats winless FIU next week, then Middle Tennessee (7-5) apparently would go to the Motor City. Who stays home? The Pac-10 has one berth for perhaps three six-win teams (Arizona, Washington State, maybe UCLA). The Big 12 has one berth for Kansas and Oklahoma State.

Florida 5. Chris Hetland missed two field goals in the first half Saturday, making the Florida senior 3-for-12 this season, with none successful outside of 29 yards. It is stunning that Florida has made it to No. 4 in the country and the SEC Championship Game without a field goal threat. You have to think this will cost the Gators in a close game before the season is out. And from here on in, the games are pretty important.

COLLEGE GAMEDAY RECAP
Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit break down rivalry week.
FINAL THOUGHTS FROM THE FINAL CREW
RECE DAVIS
Colt Brennan
Brennan
While sleep deprivation is generally a bad thing, it might be worth your while to stay up past midnight next Saturday if you've never seen Hawaii QB Colt Brennan. Don't write him off as being a product of June Jones' system, because he can make all the throws and then some. He needs four more TD passes for the all-time single-season record, and he'll try to do it against the only team that's beaten USC this year.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Matt Grothe, South Florida
326 total yards, 2 TDs vs. West Virginia

• Andrew Browning, Boise State
3 sacks, forced fumble vs. Nevada

LOU HOLTZ
USC Southern Cal was just a better football team than Notre Dame. The USC receivers were awesome, and Pete Carroll and his staff did a tremendous job getting the team ready to play. There's still one game left for them to win, but I never thought USC would be in this position after losing so many key players from last year. They've had success against overwhelming odds, and what they've done so far is very special.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Jarett Dillard, Rice
145 rec. yards, 3 TDs vs. SMU

Chase Daniel, Missouri
356 pass yards, 4 TDs vs. Kansas

MARK MAY
The difference was USC's speed on defense. They broke on balls in the air, they made tackles in the open field, and they came up with big stops on fourth down. They held the Notre Dame offense in check until the game was out of reach. USC was just too fast for Notre Dame to ever get anything going.

Helmet Stickers Go To:
Dwayne Jarrett, USC
7 rec., 132 yards, 3 TDs vs. Notre Dame

Jonny Harline, BYU -- 7 rec., 118 yards, 3 TDs vs. Utah

LOOKING BACK: NOTRE DAME-USC
BCS NEEDS MAKEOVER
How screwed up is the BCS? Style points will determine if USC or Michigan will play for the national title, writes Gene Wojciechowski. Story
HIGHLIGHTS: IRISH-TROJANS
USC had little trouble with Notre Dame on Saturday night.
LOOKING BACK: FLORIDA-FLORIDA STATE
SO MUCH FOR STYLE
Florida's position on the outside of the BCS chase had Urban Meyer considering tacking on style points against FSU. That very dilema also has Meyer thinking about a playoff system, writes Ivan Maisel. Story
HIGHLIGHTS: GATORS-NOLES
Florida was able to hold Florida State.
WAKE UP
BRAD EDWARDS, ESPN Research
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons (10-2) are just one win away from their first ACC title since 1970, but they've already etched their name into the record book in a few other places. Saturday's win at Maryland made Wake Forest the first team in ACC history -- out of 114 that had tried -- to go 6-0 on the road in a season. Wake also has the best record among the five major programs in North Carolina for the first time since 1987. In fact, the 10 wins by the Deacs this year are four more than UNC, NC State and Duke combined.

They are the first team in school history to win 10 games, and also the first to win six ACC games. That's 23 wins in four years for Wake's senior class, which might not be a big deal at many schools. But at Wake Forest, it hadn't been done since Douglas "Peahead" Walker was head coach in the 1945-48 seasons. Win or lose in the ACC Championship Game, it's been a season to remember for the Demon Deacons.



 

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