Saturday, January 12, 2008

Top 10 College Football Moments Of 2007

By Chris Dufresne
Los Angeles Times

From A (Appalachian State) to Z (Zook, Ron), the 2007 college football season will be remembered as the year everything happened. So many things,in fact, that when Times reporter Chris Dufresne compiled his top 10moments, some great ones didn't make the final cut, including Kansas' rise from a hayseed program to Orange Bowl glory and Trinity University's 15-lateral, miracle win over Millsaps College.

Dufresne's list:

1. The Appalachian upset: The boys from Boone, N.C., kicked off the season Sept. 1 with an almost inexplicable, 34-32 victory over No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor. The stunner was sealed when Corey Lynch blocked a 37-yard field-goal attempt on the final play. Appalachian State became the first lower division team to beat atop 10 team and the shock waves set the tone for a season of unexpected twists and turns. The win prompted the Associated Press to change its rules and allow pollsters to cast votes for lower-division schools.

2. Stanford 24, USC 23: Date: Oct. 6. Backup quarterback Tavita Pritchard's 10-yard scoring pass to Mark Bradford with 49 seconds left at the Coliseum lifted Stanford to a win that matched Appalachian State's on the improbability meter. News of the upset nearly stopped play miles away at the Rose Bowl, where USC rivals UCLA and Notre Dame were playing. For the second straight year, a loss to an inferior team kept USC from playing for the national championship. In 2006, UCLA shocked USC, 13-9, at the Rose Bowl, which denied USC a title-game match up against Ohio State.

3. Louisiana State wins: LSU spotted Ohio State an early 10-0 lead and then scored the next 31 points on its way to a 38-24 win in the Bowl Championship Series title game. LSU became the first school to win two BCS national titles and the first two-loss team to do it. LSU and Ohio State were the last teams standing Dec. 2 after a wild weekend that saw No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia lose. Ohio State moved from No. 3 to No. 1 and LSU jumped from No. 7 to No. 2.

4. Hell meets almost Heaven: Almost as shocking as Appalachian State over Michigan and Stanford over USC:West Virginia, a 28-point favorite, needed only to beat lowly Pittsburgh at home Dec. 1 to earn a trip to the national title game. But the Panthers prevailed, 13-9 (what is it about shocking upsets, USC, and that score?).That started a chain reaction that led to Coach Rich Rodriguez leaving Morgantown for Michigan. Bill Stewart was named West Virginia's interim coach and led the Mountaineers to a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, after which Stewart was named head coach.

5. Dennis Dixon's injury: One-loss Oregon's very real chances of winning the national title and crowning its first Heisman Trophy winner were crushed Nov. 15 in Tucson when superstar quarterback Dennis Dixon was lost to a season-ending knee injury against Arizona. Dixon, a senior, had injured his knee in Oregon's previous game against Arizona State, but he asked the school to keep the news secret in an effort to continue playing. Despite wearing a knee brace, Dixon's left knee buckled when he made a cut with 6:01 left in the first quarter. Oregon finished 9-4.

6. Flynn to Byrd: It may have been the play that best defined the tenuous nature of this year's race to the national title. Louisiana State needed only a field goal to beat Auburn on Oct. 20 in Baton Rouge but tempted fate (and the clock)with a bold, if not insane, call in which Matt Flynn hit receiver Demetrius Byrd for the game-winning touchdown pass with one second left. Had Flynn not been able to get off the pass in time, or taken a sack, LSU would have lost and never played in the national title game.

7. Navy beats Notre Dame: Well, it couldn't last forever. Notre Dame had defeated Navy an NCAA-record43 straight times before the Midshipmen righted the ship with a triple-overtime win over the Irish in South Bend on Nov. 3. How long had it been? Roger Staubach, in 1963, was the Navy quarterback the last time Navy had prevailed. The loss dropped Notre Dame to 1-8. Navy had a winning season again under Paul Johnson, who was hired to succeed Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech.

8. Hawai'i arrives; Jones leaves: Hawai'i spent the whole season trying to prove it was worthy of a BCS bidand earned it by finishing the regular season as the nation's only unbeaten team. The Warriors finished 12-0 and No. 10 in the final BCS standings toearn a Sugar Bowl bid, but the fun ended there. Georgia crushed Hawai'i, 41-10, in New Orleans and then Coach June Jones crushed Hawai'i fans by taking the job at Southern Methodist.

9. UCLA fires and hires: This was supposed to be Karl Dorrell's statement year, as the Bruins returned 20 starters on a squad that was ranked No. 14 in the AP preseason poll. But ugly losses to Utah and Notre Dame, plus a rash of injuries, ledto a 6-6 finish and Dorrell's firing Dec. 3. After an extended search, UCLA hired Rick Neuheisel, who once threw passes to Dorrell when they were Bruins teammates in Westwood.

10. Sophomore wins the Heisman: Florida quarterback Tim Tebow became the first sophomore to win college football's most coveted award after a season in which he became the first major college player to rush and pass for at least 20 touchdowns. Tebow then became the third straight Heisman winner to lose his bowl game, following Reggie Bush in 2005 and Troy Smith in 2006.

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