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Plenty of highs and lows this season

| Friday, Nov. 21, 2008

This season has been historic for many programs, in ways positive and negative.

It's all been good so far for No. 2 Texas Tech, which is enjoying the highest ranking in school history. The Red Raiders' 12-game winning streak is the longest active stretch among bowl subdivision schools. Their 10-0 start is just the second (1938 was the first) in school's history.

If Tech can win at Oklahoma on Saturday night, it would be just the third 11-win season in school history, with 1953 and 1973 being the others. Those years ended with Gator Bowl wins.

"We don't think about 'We've never done this, we've never done that in the same season,' " said Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, a contender for the Heisman Trophy. "Since any of us (players) has been alive, we've never been 10-0, but we've done that."

History is somewhat against Tech on Saturday in facing the 9-1 Sooners, who are No. 5 in the Bowl Championship Series standings. When the Red Raiders went to Norman in 2002 with a shot at the Big 12 South title, they exited on the wrong end of a 60-15 score.

Elsewhere, college football's 800 Club, which began the season with four programs above 800 wins, already has added Ohio State (807) during 2008, and Penn State (799) and Alabama (798) are poised to join the Buckeyes.

If the Nittany Lions get win No. 800 on Saturday against Michigan State, it also will lock up the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth.

At the Rose, the Lions could end up in a rematch with Oregon State, which has rebounded from an early one-sided loss at University Park to share the Pac-10 lead with Southern Cal. The Beavers handed the Trojans their only loss earlier this season, and victories at Arizona and state-rival Oregon would result in a trip to Pasadena for the first time since 1965.

"We are definitely going to remember these last two games of the season for the rest of our lives," Oregon State quarterback Lyle Moevao said.

It's been an, ahem, memorable season at Michigan for first-year coach Rich Rodriguez.

This is the first team in the 129-year history of Michigan football to lose eight games, five of them at home. The losing record is the first for the Wolverines since 1967 and has ended a run of 33 consecutive bowl appearances.

It's been bitter for a Michigan program that is college football's all-time wins leader at 872. It probably won't get any better Saturday, when Michigan plays at Ohio State and Rodriguez gets to go against Terrelle Pryor, the freshman quarterback he so coveted to run his spread offense when he was at West Virginia and when he made the switch to Michigan.

"It's been a longer, tougher process. . . than I think we anticipated," Rodriguez said of this season.

If Michigan could pull off the upset, Rodriguez said, "It's not going to obviously salvage the season, but it at least will make you feel good for a few days, anyway, and give you some confidence."

Rodriguez does have history on his side. First-year Michigan coaches are 10-1 in their initial meeting with Ohio State, the lone loss coming in 1929.

BEST BETS

Huge. Again

Texas Tech at Oklahoma (8 p.m., Saturday, WTAE-4/ABC): In what has become a series of games of the year/decade/century in the Big 12 South, unbeaten Texas Tech, No. 2 in the BCS, plays at once-beaten Oklahoma, No. 5 in the BCS, in a game of great import both in the conference, and nationally.

Oklahoma leads the nation in scoring, averaging 51.4 points a game. Texas Tech is third, at 47.9 points a contest.

Both teams are led by Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterbacks: Sam Bradford at Oklahoma and Graham Harrell at Tech.

So, when Tech coach Mike Leach ponders what will make the difference when his unbeaten team plays at Oklahoma, his thoughts turn immediately to defense.

"I think the key is more good, solid, overall defense," he said. "Just to not have flaws in your defense. Understand that the other guy is going to get some yards, and then just outlast them and keep making plays."

Tech has an edge in the national rankings for scoring defense, coming in at No. 46, giving up 22.2 points a game. Oklahoma is No. 57, yielding 23.6 points a game.

Farewell

Indiana at Purdue (Noon, Saturday, ESPN2): The winner of this in-state rivalry claims The Old Oaken Bucket. There is added significance because it's the final game for retiring Purdue coach Joe Tiller, one of college football's great gentlemen.

Mountain high

BYU at Utah (6 p.m., Saturday): The expectation earlier in the season had been this would be a Mountain West showdown between unbeatens with the winner a potential BCS buster. Utah made it to 11-0 and is No. 7 in the BCS standings. BYU, 10-1, slipped up against Texas Christian.

Red, red rose

Oregon State at Arizona (7 p.m., Saturday, Versus): Not that they'd admit it, but the Rose Bowl folks likely are rooting hard for an Oregon State loss here, or next week against Oregon, to spare the bowl a potential rematch of Oregon State-Penn State.

BCS WATCH

President-elect Barack Obama twice has made references on national broadcasts in favor of a college football playoff, most recently on "60 Minutes," when he pitched an eight-team format.

This is winning him favor among coaches like Mack Brown at Texas, whose once-beaten Longhorns, the No. 1 team earlier this season are watching, waiting and hoping for outside help if they are to play for a national title. The Longhorns are ranked third in this week's Bowl Championship Series standings, behind unbeatens Alabama and Texas Tech.

"I think every year, in most cases, and I think we'll see in the future, that there is going to be six or eight or 10 teams that are better than the others," Brown said. "And they're going to be right down to the wire, and it's going to be very, very difficult to say which is the one that should be playing in the end."

IT'S NEVER OVER UNTIL ...

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh didn't earn a spot on the best-buddies list of Southern Cal's Pete Carroll when his Cardinal upset the Trojans in 2007.

Since then, Harbaugh has often made reference to the USC program. He angered Carroll this spring when he said USC staffers had told him the Trojans coach had plans to leave after the season. He later put the target on USC by declaring it the best college team ever.

Then, in a loss to the Trojans last weekend, Harbaugh called timeout with 8 seconds remaining on the wrong side of a 45-17 score. After another pass completion, Harbaugh sent out the field goal unit, prompting a timeout from Carroll.

Harbaugh responded by sending his offense back on the field, connecting on an 18-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

"He can do what he wants," Carroll said of Harbaugh, before adding, "Did they score it?"

Bettors, who thought USC had covered the spread as a 24-point favorite, could attest that they did.

BIGGER IS BETTER

Times are tough economically across the nation, but that hasn't impacted the demand for Alabama tickets, or hopes to enlarge Bryant-Denny Stadium, at a cost of $80.6 million.

Improvements, such as adding an 8,500-seat upper deck, 34 sky boxes, two expanded sky boxes, a 1,700-seat South Zone Club and 1,500-seat Stadium Club, would bring stadium capacity to more than 101,000. The current season-ticket waiting list is more than 10,000.

"If the demand for the seats, for student tickets and for the sky boxes is consistent from the first time it was mentioned, this is something that will easily pay for itself," trustee board president pro-tem Finis St. John told The Birmingham News.

The plan would be totally funded by athletic department revenue.

Additional Information:

Talking stats

College football's Top 8 all-time winningest programs:

Team, wins

1. Michigan, 872

t2. Notre Dame, 830

t2. Texas, 830

4. Nebraska, 815

5. Ohio State, 807

6. Penn State, 799

7. Alabama, 798

8. Oklahoma, 785

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