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November 29, 2010

Monday with Mike: Broncos banished

Boise State's loss to Nevada not only dropped the Broncos out of the hunt for the national title, it almost certainly means there will be no BCS bowl at all and, instead, an appearance in a bowl that no one really cares about.

Fans have argued that the BCS games have rendered the other bowls meaningless, but there is meaningless and then there are the Humanitarian, the New Mexico and the Kraft Fight Hunger bowls -- and the Broncos seem likely to end up in one of those games.

From a possible spot in the national championship game to an appearance in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl? Whatever you think of Boise's program, that's unfair. It also points out a big problem with the bowls: Not only are there too many, the ones that exist are so tightly bound with tie-ins that it's ridiculous.

Even with the BCS out of the equation, there still potentially are numerous intriguing matchups that could exist but, alas, have no chance of being played. Boise State vs. LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Alabama or Texas A&M would make for good theater. Instead, we're likely to get Boise vs. ACC also-ran Boston College in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (it's in San Francisco, in case you're wondering).

Not all tie-ins create bad matchups. The Capital One Bowl seems likely to have Alabama-Michigan State this season. The Chick-fil-A (ACC vs. SEC), Cotton (Big 12 vs. SEC) and Alamo (Big 12 vs. Pac-10) also should have entertaining matchups.

But too many of the 35 bowl matchups are unpalatable. It's not only Boise State that should be disappointed. Utah, UCF and Northern Illinois could go into the postseason with at least 10 wins each but end up facing teams that are 6-6 or 7-5. And does anyone really care if 7-5 or 6-6 major-conference also-rans play each other? You'd better, as the potential exists for six or seven of those.

The bowl system is under enough fire that it doesn't need to be self-inflicting even more wounds, but that's the case. And it's hard to win any kind of PR campaign if you're trying to sell the likes of Nevada-Toledo, Northern Illinois-Louisville, Missouri-Washington, Miami-Ohio U., Northwestern-Texas Tech, Pittsburgh-Kentucky and Boise State-Boston College.

Speaking of bowls ...
There are 70 bowl spots available, including 10 in the BCS, and -- what do you know? -- there currently are 70 bowl-eligible teams. Four more teams can become bowl-eligible in their final regular-season games this week.

Here's a league-by-league look.

ACC: There are nine bowl-eligible teams and eight tie-ins.

Big East: There are six bowl-eligible teams and six tie-ins.

Big Ten: There are eight bowl-eligible teams and eight tie-ins. If the league gets two teams in the BCS, as expected, it will not fill its slot in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Big 12: There are eight bowl-eligible teams and eight tie-ins. If the league gets two BCS bids, which is not considered likely, it will not fill its slot in the TicketCity Bowl.

Conference USA: There are six bowl-eligible teams and six tie-ins.

Mid-American: There are six bowl-eligible teams and three tie-ins.

Mountain West: There are five bowl-eligible teams and five tie-ins. But TCU is bound for the BCS, which means the league won't fill one of its slots.

Pacific-10: There are three bowl-eligible teams, and two others -- Oregon State (5-6) and Washington (5-6) -- with a chance to gain eligibility. Washington must beat Washington State (2-9) in the Apple Cup, while Oregon State must beat Oregon (11-0) in the "Civil War" to gain eligibility. The league has six tie-ins. There is a possibility that the league gets two BCS bids, which means -- potentially -- the league will have four bowl slots unfilled. It seems likely that three will be vacant.

SEC: There are 10 bowl-eligible teams and nine tie-ins.

Sun Belt: There are two bowl-eligible teams, with Middle Tennessee (5-6) gaining eligibility if its wins at league champ Florida International this week. The league has two tie-ins.

WAC: There are four bowl-eligible teams, with Louisiana Tech (5-6) still alive; it must win at home against Nevada to gain eligibility. There are four tie-ins.

Independents: All three are bowl eligible, and Navy already has accepted a bid to play in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Grid bits
The key play in Arkansas' 31-23 victory over LSU was an 80-yard pass from Hogs QB Ryan Mallett to WR Cobi Hamilton on the last play of the first half. The score gave Arkansas a 21-14 lead, and if coaches nationally are smart, they'll cue it up and show it to their defenders. LSU CB Morris Claiborne was in coverage and in position to make the tackle, but FS Karnell Hatcher -- going for the big hit and disdaining a simple wrap-up of Hamilton -- instead crashed into Claiborne, and Hamilton was off to the races.

North Texas RB Lance Dunbar and Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas combined for 539 yards and five TDs in K-State's wild 49-41 win. Dunbar rushed for 161 yards and two TDs in the first quarter alone, and finished with 270 yards and three TDs. Thomas rushed for 269 yards and two scores. Their total fell just short of the NCAA record for most yards gained by opposing running backs in a game. The record is 553, set by San Diego State's Marshall Faulk (386 yards) and Pacific's Ryan Benjamin (167) on Sept. 14, 1991.

Oklahoma has been the place to be for big passing numbers this season. Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden threw for 257 yards -- his second-lowest total of the season -- in a loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night, but still went over the 4,000-yard mark for the season. He has thrown for 4,037 yards and 32 TDs. OU's Landry Jones threw for a season-high 468 yards in the win, giving him 3,947 yards and 34 touchdowns on the season. And Tulsa's G.J. Kinne, who began his career at Texas before transferring, threw for a season-high 406 yards in Friday's 56-50 win over Southern Miss. He has thrown for 3,307 yards and 28 TDs. That's 11,291 yards and 94 touchdowns from the state of Oklahoma's three FBS quarterbacks.

Louisiana Tech WR Phillip Livas tied an NCAA record for most career returns for a touchdown when he took a punt back 88 yards for a TD in the Bulldogs' 45-38 victory over San Jose State. Livas has a combined eight punt and kickoff return TDs in his career, tying him with five others: Colorado's Cliff Branch (1970-71), Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers (1970-72), Kentucky's Derek Abney (2000-03), Hawaii's Chad Owens (2001-04) and Clemson's C.J. Spiller (2006-09).

Florida's six-game winning streak over Florida State ended with a thud, as the Seminoles dominated the Gators 31-7. It was the third time this season Florida was held under 10 points; the Gators had been held under 10 six times total from 1990-2009. It's the first time Florida has been held under 10 three times in a season since 1988, when the Gators' offense consisted of three plays -- Emmitt Smith left, Emmitt Smith right, Emmitt Smith up the middle. Smith was injured and missed all or parts of four games in '88.

You want to know why Randy Shannon was fired at Miami? The 28-22 career record was damning, but here is an even more damning number: 26,369. That was the attendance at Saturday's home game against USF. That is pitiful. Miami is a recruiting dream for the new coach, but the fan base is lacking. That fan base is a mile wide but an inch deep, and when Miami isn't winning 10 and 11 games per season, those fans stay away in droves.

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.

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