College Football: Tide vs. Gators matchup has plus-one feel

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2008

By Ralph D. Russo
Associated Press
Remember the plus-one format Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive proposed to be used by the Bowl Championship Series? The one shot down earlier this year by most of the other conference leaders?
Well, college football could get a taste of what that mini-playoff would look like this year, thanks to the SEC.
Alabama and Florida, led by last year’s Heisman winner Tim Tebow, clinched their divisions and spots in the SEC championship game on Saturday, setting up what could turn out to be a national semifinal on Dec. 6 at the Georgia Dome.
Both the top-ranked Crimson Tide and No. 3 Gators, have plenty of heavy lifting to do before they get to Atlanta. Florida faces South Carolina in Gainesville, takes a break with the Citadel, then plays at Florida State. The Seminoles are playing as well as they have in years.
Alabama’s road looks less daunting with Mississippi State and Auburn at home. But the Bulldogs have won two straight against the Crimson Tide and the Tigers have won six straight Iron Bowls and could salvage a disappointing season by extending the streak to seven.
If the Gators and Tide survive, the SEC champ is virtually guaranteed a trip to Miami for the BCS national title game on Jan. 8.
The Big 12 championship game in Kansas City also should have a playoff feel, with the winner of the South division ó either Texas Tech, Texas or Oklahoma ó standing a good chance to be playing for a shot at the national title.
Iowa cleared up one potentially unpleasant situation by beating Penn State 24-23 on a last-second field goal. No unbeaten team from a BCS conference will be locked out of the national title game.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver released a statement congratulating the Hawkeyes on their big victory.
“I join Hawkeyes everywhere in celebrating Iowa’s upset victory over third-ranked Penn State,” he said.
The BCS might also want to send a thank you note to Kirk Ferentz’s team.
The next BCS mess comes if/when Texas Tech loses and somehow a single team must be chosen from several with one loss to play in the national championship game.
North Carolina tight end Zack Pianalto has a broken left leg and is out indefinitely.
Pianalto fractured his fibula while making a touchdown catch in Saturday’s 28-7 win against Georgia Tech. North Carolina coach Bucth Davis said on Sunday it’s unclear how long Pianalto will be out for the No. 17 Tar Heels, who play at Maryland Saturday.
The sophomore had missed two straight games with a right ankle injury before returning against the Yellow Jackets. He had seven catches for 68 yards this year.
TENNESSEEKNOXVILLE, Tenn. ó Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer says his Volunteers will use their bye week to heal emotionally and physically. The Vols had a tough week, first learning that Fulmer was being forced to resign at the end of the season and then losing 13-7 to Wyoming on Saturday.
HEISMAN-WORTHYOK, so quarterback Josh Vogelbach from Guilford College in Greensboro is not really Heisman Trophy-worthy.
But he is noteworthy.
In a loss 49-34 loss to Catholic University of America, Vogelbach set NCAA Division III career records for total offense (13,753) and passing yards (13,439). Both records were held by Westminster (Mo.) College’s Justin Peery from 1996-99.
– More gaudy passing stats from the Big 12. Saturday’s six winning quarterbacks threw for 1,897 yards and 23 touchdowns.
– Expect Buffalo coach Turner Gill to be mentioned as a candidate for several job openings, but DO NOT expect him to replace Greg Robinson at Syracuse. Gill probably won’t want to take on another program that needs an extreme makeover.
LOOKAHEADConsider this a good week to get a little Christmas shopping done. No must-see games, but more than enough to keep your attention:
– Steve Spurrier brings South Carolina to Gainesville, trying to ruin Florida’s national title hopes.
– No. 4 Texas travels to Kansas for a potentially tricky road game.
– No. 21 Pittsburgh and No. 22 Cincinnati play what passes for a showdown in the Big East these days.