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December 12, 2007

Strange days: A look back at the 2007 season

Most surprising team | Most disappointing team | Biggest upset | Biggest collapse | Most memorable play
Best individual performance | Costliest injury | Most surprising player | Most disappointing player
Most confounding result | Most impressive non-conference resume | Least impressive non-conference resume
Most bizarre moment | Non-circular logic

The 2007 season will be remembered for a long time for a lot of reasons. After all, it's not every day that two teams that lost home games in November end up playing for the national title. Here's a refresher course on the season that was.

MOST SURPRISING TEAM
Kansas. The former Big 12 doormat is 11-1, with the only loss to Missouri. Along the way, the Jayhawks set a school record for wins and reached their first major bowl since the 1968 season. The watershed moment for this year's Jayhawks may have been the 76-39 pounding of Nebraska, a team that had beaten Kansas in 38 of the past 39 meetings. In the win, Todd Reesing threw a school-record six touchdown passes, and Kansas scored more points on Nebraska than anyone ever.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Illinois. Ron Zook was 4-19 in his first two years at Illinois before leading the Illini to an upset of No. 1 Ohio State, a 9-3 record and a Rose Bowl berth.

2. Connecticut. The Huskies went from 4-8 to 9-3 while winning a share of the Big East title.

3. Arizona State. Under new coach Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils started 8-0 and finished 10-2.

4. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 7-5, including wins over Auburn, Kentucky and Alabama, and in a bowl for the first time since the 2000 season.

5. Virginia. After a loss to Wyoming in Week One, Virginia was in the ACC race until the final week of the season.
MOST DISAPPOINTING TEAM
Louisville. The first season without Bobby Petrino was a disaster. The Cardinals were a preseason top-10 pick but didn't even get a bowl bid. The Cardinals' nine-season bowl streak came to an end, as did their four-game winning streak over rival Kentucky. The defense was a disappointment all season, especially when 36.5-point underdog Syracuse stunned the Cardinals 38-35 at Papa John's Stadium.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Michigan: Even without a loss to Appalachian State, losses to Oregon, Wisconsin and Ohio State would have derailed national-title hopes.

2. Miami: The Hurricanes were expected to contend for the ACC title. Instead, they lost their last four games and missed a bowl for the first time since 1997.

3. Nebraska: The rest of the Big 12 got revenge on the Huskers, who were picked by some to win the Big 12 North but instead finished 5-7 and allowed at least 40 points in six games.

4. UCLA: Loads of returning starters couldn't save Karl Dorrell's job or stop the Bruins from losing to Notre Dame and Utah.

5. California: The Bears beat Oregon and reached No. 2 in the country before becoming unraveled for a 1-5 finish.
BIGGEST UPSET
Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32, Sept. 1. It happened on the first weekend of the season, but fans will remember this one for a long time. Not to take anything away from Appalachian State one of the best programs in Division I-AA but Michigan shouldn't ever lose at home to a I-AA team. The most embarrassing thing? Appalachian State rolled up 387 yards of offense and looked faster than the Wolverines.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Stanford 24, USC 23, Oct. 6. The Trojans were at home and favored by upward of 40 points against a Cardinal team that had lost its first three Pac-10 games by a total of 90 points.

2. Pitt 13, West Virginia 9, Dec. 1. The Mountaineers were playing at home, with a berth in the national-title game on the line.

3. Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3OTs), Nov. 23. At the time, it appeared the top-ranked Tigers' loss at home to unranked Arkansas was going to cost them a shot at the national title.

4. Colorado 27, Oklahoma 24, Sept. 29. The Sooners were shut out in the second half, and a last-play field goal won it for the Buffs.

5. Louisiana-Monroe 21, Alabama 14, Nov. 17. Trust us: Nick Saban ain't getting all that dough to lose at home to Louisiana-Monroe.
BIGGEST COLLAPSE
West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh, Dec. 1: All West Virginia had to do was beat Pitt that's 28-point underdog Pitt at home to earn a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. That's a Pitt team, by the way, that has one player on offense (TB LeSean McCoy) that opposing teams have to worry about. Uh oh McCoy ran for 148 yards and Pitt held WVU to 104 rushing yards and forced three fumbles in a 13-9 shocker. WVU coach Rich Rodriguez called it a "flat-out nightmare."

HONORABLE MENTION
1. California started 5-0 and was a play away from being ranked No. 1. The Golden Bears finished 6-6.

2. South Carolina started 6-1 and was ranked as high as sixth in the nation. The Gamecocks finished 6-6 and unranked.

3. Iowa started 3-5, then won three in a row, and all the Hawkeyes had to do to clinch a bowl bid was beat a 3-7 Western Michigan team in Iowa City. Final: Western Michigan 28-19. No bowl for the Hawkeyes.

4. Kansas State beat Texas to move to 3-1. Alas, the Wildcats won just twice the rest of the way to finish 5-7. Included was a 73-31 shellacking at the hands of Nebraska a week after the Huskers had given up 76 points in a loss to Kansas.

5. Alabama started 3-0 and 6-2. But the Tide lost their final four regular-season games including a home loss to Louisiana-Monroe to finish 6-6 for the second season in a row.
MOST MEMORABLE PLAY
Mark Bradford's catch topples USC, Oct. 6. USC had won 35 consecutive home games, Cardinal QB Tavita Pritchard was making his first start and the Trojans were 40-point favorites. But Pritchard lofted a 10-yard fourth-and-goal pass with 49 seconds remaining to WR Mark Bradford, who leaped over CB Mozique McCurtis to make the game-winning catch at the edge of the end zone. If not for this loss, USC almost certainly would be playing for the national title.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Appalachian State blocks Michigan rally, Sept. 1. Corey Lynch broke through in the final seconds to block a 37-yard field goal attempt by Michigan's Jason Gingell to preserve a stunning 34-32 upset.

2. Matt Ryan in the clutch, Oct. 25. Ryan rallied Boston College to a 14-10 regular-season victory at Virginia Tech. Ryan gave BC the victory when he rolled left to avoid the rush, threw back across the field and hit TB Andre Callender with a 24-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining.

3. LSU's late TD pass beats Auburn, Oct. 20. Matt Flynn tossed a 22-yard TD pass to Demetrius Byrd with a second left as LSU edged Auburn 30-24. The score capped a nine-play, 58-yard drive that began after Auburn had taken a 24-23 lead with 3:21 left.

4. Dixon liberates Oregon, Sept. 8. Oregon defeated Michigan 39-7, and Ducks QB Dennis Dixon's touchdown run off a fake Statue of Liberty that completely confused the Wolverines was a thing of beauty.

5. Starr shines, Nov. 17. Indiana K Austin Starr hit a 49-yard field goal with 30 seconds left to lift Indiana to a 27-24 victory over Purdue. That enabled the Hoosiers to clinch a bowl bid and touched off an emotional on-field celebration in which Jane Hoeppner, wife of late Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner, celebrated with IU coaches, players and fans on the field.
BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Arkansas TB Darren McFadden vs. LSU, Nov. 23. McFadden ran for 206 yards and three TDs and also threw a touchdown pass as the Hogs stunned the host Tigers 50-48 in three overtimes. McFadden ran for scores in the second and third quarters and in the second overtime, and his TD pass came in the fourth quarter.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Arizona CB Antoine Cason vs. Oregon, Nov. 15. Cason scored twice and had an interception, seven tackles and five pass breakups as the host Wildcats upset the Ducks 34-24. Cason returned an interception 42 yards for a TD early in the second quarter to give Arizona the lead for good at 17-11. He added a 56-yard punt return with 5:30 left in the period for a 31-11 advantage.

2. Florida QB Tim Tebow vs. South Carolina, Nov. 10. Tebow accounted for seven TDs (five rushing, two passing) and 424 yards of offense to lead the visiting Gators to a 51-31 victory. Tebow threw for 304 yards and rushed for 120.

3. Missouri SS Cornelius Brown vs. Texas Tech, Oct. 20. Brown starred as the host Tigers rolled 41-10, holding the Red Raiders 40 points below their season average at the time. Brown had 14 tackles, an interception, 4.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

4. Rice QB Chase Clement vs. UTEP, Nov. 3. Clement threw for 395 yards and six TDs and also ran for 103 yards and two scores as the host Owls won 56-48. Clement set a Conference USA record by accounting for eight touchdowns. The six passing touchdowns set a Rice record and tied the conference mark, and his 498 total yards were a school record.

5. Texas TB Jamaal Charles vs. Nebraska, Oct. 27. Charles ran for 290 yards and three TDs as the host Longhorns rallied to win 28-25. Charles ran for 216 yards and all three scores in the fourth quarter alone; his scoring runs covered 25, 86 and 40 yards as Texas rallied from a 17-9 deficit entering the final period.
COSTLIEST INJURY
Oregon QB Dennis Dixon's torn left ACL. Dixon was perhaps the leading Heisman contender, and Oregon was 8-1, ranked No. 2 in the nation and closing in on a Pac-10 championship and a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. But Dixon, who already had a 39-yard touchdown run, reaggravated his torn ACL in the first quarter against Arizona, and his season was over. Without Dixon, the Ducks lost that game and the next two to finish 8-4 and tied for fourth in the Pac-10.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. USC QB John David Booty's broken finger. A cracked bone in the middle finger of Booty's throwing hand had an effect in an upset loss to Stanford and forced him out of out of three other games, including a loss to Oregon.

2. South Carolina LB Jasper Brinkley's knee. The Gamecocks lost their best defensive player to a sprained knee in the fourth game against LSU. They missed his presence and production in a five-game losing streak to close the season.

3. Arkansas WR Marcus Monk's knee. Monk was one of the SEC's best receivers in 2006, with 50 catches for 11 TDs. This season, though, he played in just six games and finished with 12 catches (though three went for TDs). His absence meant a Arkansas offense that already was heavily run-oriented became even more so.

4. San Jose State TB Yonus Davis' ankle. Davis rushed for 1,007 yards in helping the Spartans to a 9-4 showing in 2006. But he sprained his left ankle early in the first game and gained just 1 yard on three carries this season as the Spartans ranked 113th nationally in rushing offense.

5. Pittsburgh WR Derek Kinder's knee injury. A returning All-Big East receiver, Kinder tore his right ACL in August. Without him, the Panthers ranked 104th nationally in pass offense, and too much of the offense was put on TB LeSean McCoy.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER
QB Dennis Dixon, Oregon. Dixon was solid but largely unspectacular in his first three seasons, and it appeared he might have a better future in baseball after playing in the Atlanta Braves' organization in the summer. But he got off to a great start this season, and had 2,136 passing yards, 583 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns until he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game 10. He was a Heisman front-runner and had the Ducks in the thick of the national-championship race until his injury.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. TB Kevin Smith, UCF. A safety as a high school senior, Smith was solid in his first two seasons with the Knights. But he became a star this season; he set a Division I-A record for carries (415) and leads the nation in rushing with 2,448 yards. And he still has the bowl game.

2. QB Sam Bradford, Oklahoma. The redshirt freshman was in a battle for the starting job in August, but once the job was his, he had a sensational debut season. He passed for 2,879 yards, set a national freshman record with 34 touchdown passes and led the Sooners to another Big 12 championship.

3. WR Jordy Nelson, Kansas State. A former walk-on, Nelson broke out in a big way with 122 catches for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns.

4. LB Robert James, Arizona State. James managed 68 tackles in his first three seasons combined. This season, he emerged as a senior to lead the Sun Devils with 99 tackles and rank second on the team with four interceptions.

5. WR Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech. Throughout the spring, there were reports that the redshirt freshman was something special. Those reports were proved accurate as Crabtree set NCAA freshman records with 125 catches for 1,861 yards and 21 touchdowns.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
WR DeSean Jackson, California. He entered the season as a top Heisman contender and appeared on his way to a big year with a scintillating 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in a season-opening victory over Tennessee. He also had an 11-catch, two-touchdown performance against Oregon. Overall, though, he was average. He averaged 10.8 yards on 12 punt returns, has 60 receptions, just five touchdown catches and largely was ineffective as the Bears lost six of their past seven games.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. TB Steve Slaton, West Virginia. Picked as the Heisman Trophy favorite by some, Slaton had an off-year by his standards with 1,053 yards. That's 691 yards fewer than he gained in 2006.

2. WR Mario Urrutia, Louisville. His receiving totals dripped substantially from 2006; he caught just 35 passes for 501 yards and managed just three touchdowns. He missed four games and was in coach Steve Kragthorpe's doghouse.

3. TB Antone Smith, Florida State. There was hope in Tallahassee that a new offensive coordinator and new line coach would help Smith have a breakout season. Instead, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and rushed for only 663 yards and a mere three touchdowns. He rushed for fewer than 70 yards in eight games.

4. QB Chris Nickson, Vanderbilt. His solid 2006 campaign raised expectations that were woefully unmet. A combination of injuries and ineffective play resulted in just 763 passing yards, six touchdowns and five picks.

5. QB John Parker Wilson, Alabama. He also raised expectations with a solid showing in his first year as a starting quarterback, but took a step back with 11 interceptions and 15 touchdowns. In the last month of the season, he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in three of four games and threw six interceptions and four touchdowns.
MOST CONFOUNDING RESULT
UNLV 27, Utah 0, Sept. 22. Utah is 8-4 and in a bowl. UNLV finished 2-10 and didn't win another game after this one. The Utes were coming in off a 38-point demolition of UCLA and won seven in a row after they inexplicably lost this. Utah was doomed by four turnovers, including three fumbles.

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Iowa 10, Illinois 6, Oct. 13. The Illini who would've won the Big Ten via tiebreaker had they won this were coming in off back-to-back victories over Penn State and Wisconsin, but they couldn't handle success. Not in mid-October, anyway.

2. Notre Dame 20, UCLA 6, Oct. 6. Not that UCLA is that good or anything, but there's no way the Bruins should've lost this. The Irish managed just 140 yards of offense, but the Bruins turned it over seven times.

3. Duke 20, Northwestern 14, Sept. 15. If not for this result, Northwestern almost certainly would be in a bowl. It was Duke's lone win of the season.

4. Rice 31, Southern Miss 29, Oct. 3. This Wednesday night loss is one reason Jeff Bower no longer is Southern Miss' coach. The Golden Eagles still finished 7-5, but this loss came to a Rice team that finished 3-9 and gave up less than 34 points just twice.

5. Tulsa 55, BYU 47, Sept. 15. A loss to Tulsa is nothing to be ashamed of, but BYU's defense didn't come close to playing this poorly again. Had BYU won this, it would've finished 11-1 and been in the BCS at-large mix.
MOST IMPRESSIVE NON-CONFERENCE RESUME
Pacific-10.
Since Pac-10 teams play nine conference games, the league has to make the most of limited non-conference opportunities. Before conference play took its toll on the Pac-10, the league entered the debate as the nation's toughest conference. Oregon defeated Michigan 39-7 in Ann Arbor and two other bowl teams, Houston and Fresno State. Cal defeated SEC East champion Tennessee 45-31. And Washington ended Boise State's 14-game winning streak with a 24-10 win. The league went 7-7 against bowl teams, but UCLA and Stanford lost to Notre Dame.
LEAST IMPRESSIVE NON-CONFERENCE RESUME
Big Ten.
The Big Ten won only five games against teams from other BCS conferences. Making that stat worse is that Ohio State's win at 4-9 Washington is the Big Ten's best non-conference win. League teams beat Syracuse (twice), Pittsburgh and Washington State. And Michigan's loss to Appalachian State was one of two losses to I-AA schools (Minnesota lost to North Dakota State). Among other embarrassments: Northwestern ended Duke's 22-game losing streak, and Iowa lost to Iowa State and Western Michigan. At least the Big Ten went 16-3 against the MAC and 4-0 against Notre Dame.
MOST BIZARRE MOMENT
Mike Gundy's rant. The Oklahoma State coach reached Bob Knight levels of bullying and posturing when he defended former starting quarterback Bobby Reid following a critical newspaper column. And the rant came after a big win, over Texas Tech. Reid will go down as a footnote after throwing only 49 passes this year, but Gundy's sound bites will be replayed for years to come, most notably the assertion: "Come after me! I'm a man! I'm 40." Or maybe the coda: "Makes me wanna puke."

HONORABLE MENTION
1. Oregon's mascot was suspended for one game after beating up the Houston mascot when the teams met in September.

2. A police dog bites Auburn CB Jerraud Powers on the hand near the end of the Alabama game.

3. Georgia's entire bench storms the field after the Bulldogs score their first TD in a victory over Florida.

4. Connecticut punt returner Larry Taylor returns a punt for a TD against Louisville despite a fair-catch signal.

5. Wyoming coach Joe Glenn gives Utah coach Kyle Whittingham the finger after an onside kick late in the Utes' 50-0 victory.
NON-CIRCULAR LOGIC
Everyone remembers those 7th-grade math problems: If "X" is greater than "Y" and "Y" is greater than "Z," then "X" is greater than "Z." Well, not necessarily. Take a look at these results.


Florida 59, Tennessee 20 on Sept. 15; Tennessee 35, Georgia 14 on Oct. 6; Georgia 42, Florida 30 on Oct. 27.

California 31, Oregon 24 on Sept. 29; Oregon 55, Washington 34 on Oct. 20; Washington 37, California 23 on Nov. 17.

Clemson 24, Florida State 18 on Sept. 3; Florida State 27, Boston College 17 on Nov. 3; Boston College 20, Clemson 17 on Nov. 17.

West Virginia 31, Rutgers 3 on Oct. 27; Rutgers 20, Pitt 16 on Nov. 17; Pitt 13, West Virginia 9 on Dec. 1.

Texas Tech 35, Texas A&M 7 on Oct. 13; Texas 59, Texas Tech 43 on Nov. 10; Texas A&M 38, Texas 30 on Nov. 23.

Illinois 27, Penn State 20 on Sept. 29; Penn State 27, Iowa 7 on Oct. 6; Iowa 10, Illinois 6 on Oct. 13.

East Carolina 52, UCF 38 on Oct. 6; UCF 47, Marshall 13 on Nov. 3; Marshall 26, East Carolina 7 on Nov. 10.

Missouri 36, Kansas 28 on Nov. 24; Missouri finishes ahead of Kansas in the Big 12 North; Missouri finishes ahead of Kansas in the final BCS standings; Kansas gets an Orange Bowl invitation and Missouri goes to the Cotton Bowl.

What will you remember most about the 2007 season? Visit the Rivals.com College Football Message Board and tell us.



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