It’s crunch time for many college and NFL teams
If you look at the results of a cross-section of last weekend’s college and National Football League games you will see some very close final scores. That’s because it is essential teams must post victories at this time of the season if they want to continue playing into the post-season.
Conference championships, final BCS standings and bowl bids will be determined in college football after this Thanksgiving weekend, which generally marks the end of the regular 11 or 12-game seasons for most teams.
Some of the larger college football conferences that have two divisions will crown these division champions and set up the big money (for television networks) championship games that will take place the following weekend.
Even the smaller Football Championship Subdivision teams with credible records will be involved in its big tournament after the FCS selection committee determines the nation’s best 24 teams consisting of conference champions and those with great records that barely fell short of the league title.
There still is ample time for many of the NFL teams who have been playing at a .500 clip during the first 11 games of the season to have a chance to play better in the final five weeks and nab a berth in the prestigious playoffs that begin in January.
And even those NFL teams that have played well the first three months of the season and are sitting atop of their division standings-except for the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks—can see a team or two nipping at their heels, hoping they suffer a little backslide in their success, like the Kansas City Chiefs have done the past two weeks.
The New England Patriots, who are sitting comfortably in first place in the AFC East Division by three games, knew the nationally-televised game against the Denver Broncos would probably determine the best team in that conference and found themselves trailing Peyton Manning’s crew by a 24-0 margin at halftime after fumbling on their first three possessions.
Whatever Head Coach Bill Belichick did or said during the intermission must have hit home as the Pats looked like a different team the second half and got back into the football game. In fact, with just a few minutes left, New England led the visiting Broncos 31-28.
Manning led one of his patented, last-possession rallies and settled for a field goal that tied the score at 31-31 and sent the game to overtime.
The crafty Belichick won the coin toss but chose to defend the goal that would give Denver the football first, but make Manning throw into the 20-25 mph north wind. If the Broncos scored a touchdown on that initial drive the Pats would not even have touched the football on offense.
But it didn’t happen that way as both teams reached back and played excellent defense, forcing each other to punt twice. But as fate had it, New England’s punt took a squirrelly bounce, touched a Bronco’s player and was recovered by the Pats in the Red Zone.
A 31-yard Stephen Gostowski field goal with the wind to his back gave New England the three-point victory.
The Dallas Cowboys did the same thing on their final possession as quarterback Tony Romo drove the Pokes into position and Dan Bailey connected on a 35-yard field goal to beat the New York Giants 24-21 in Rutherford, N.J. to keep Dallas tied for first place with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East Division.
Kansas City gave up a touchdown pass with 24 seconds left which turned a 38-34 lead into a disappointing 41-38 loss to the visiting San Diego Chargers Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers, who are trying to stay afloat while quarterback Aaron Rodgers recovers from his shoulder injury, came back from a 16-point deficit and then played the Minnesota Vikings on even terms during the overtime period as the game ended in a 26-26 tie.
The Packers, 5-5-1, still have a chance to win the NFC North Division whose lead is shared by Detroit and Chicago, both with 6-5 records.
On the big college scene, it looks like Ohio State and Michigan State will duke it out for the Big Ten championship. And speaking of Duke, the Blue Devils have a great football team for the first time in quite a while and are the front runners in the Coastal Division of the ACC.
Bowling Green and Buffalo play this weekend to decide the East Division of the Mid-American Conference and who will play undefeated and No. 18-ranked Northern Illinois.
And as far as the FCS is concerned, a touchdown in the final minute against Lamar gave my alma mater McNeese State a hard-fought 42-38 Southland Conference victory and sole possession of second place. It gave the Cowboys the No. 6-seed in the tournament and a bye in this weekend’s first round.
McNeese State will host the winner between Saturday’s first-round match-up between Samford and Jacksonville State at 6 p.m. in Cowboy Stadium on Nov. 7. No. 5 seed Southeastern Louisiana also has a first-round bye and will host the winner between Sam Houston State and Southern Utah in Hammond also on Nov. 7.
KWICKIES…It looks like the Houston Texans are trying to lock up the No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft for the third time in franchise history. It’s hard to believe a 10-point favorite like the Texans were against lowly Jacksonville could find themselves 10 points behind before the fans at Reliant Stadium were comfortably in their seats. Houston had a chance to tie the game on the final drive but just couldn’t get it done. They play offense like they’re immune to the end zone. And the answer to a situation like the Texans always is to can the coach. What a bummer!!!
The Vinton Lions (10-2) are going great guns in the Louisiana high school state playoffs after ripping a favored Rosepine team 41-14 at Lions Stadium Friday night. But they must hit the road for Winfield to play a team that is the No. 2 seed and also has a 10-2 record. The game is set to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday.
A trio of local distance runners won their respective age groups in Sunday’s Houston Masters 25 Kilometer Run held on a cold and very windy course in Houston. Orange’s Kenny Ruane won his age division (70-and-older) for the 15½-mile event in two hours, six minutes and 47 seconds. He said he fell while battling the wind at the 10 mile marker and made what he called a “five-point landing”, scraping up his knees and his hands. He finished the race and then received medical attention. Also winning their age divisions were Joe Melanson and his wife Billie Kay.
Former West Orange-Stark standout receiver Mark Roberts hauled in three touchdown passes for the Lamar Cardinals Saturday in their nail-biting 42-38 loss to McNeese State. He ended the game with five receptions for 123 yards.
The one-yard touchdown run by Minnesota Vikings’ star running back Adrian Peterson Sunday against the Green Bay Packers was his 10th this season and gives the Palestine, TX. native 10 touchdowns in each of his first seven NFL seasons.
San Diego Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers threw the game-winning touchdown with 24 seconds left to upset the Kansas City Chiefs 41-38 at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday. Rivers reached the 3,000-yard mark in passing yards for the eighth-straight season.
JUST BETWEEN US…The way neutral sites for these high school playoff games are chosen remains a big mystery to me. In this week’s Class 3A Regional semifinal round we have the West Orange-Stark Mustangs playing Jasper, a city an hour’s drive north of Orange. But both teams and their loyal fans must travel two hours or more to Humble where it will take another hour to fight that Black Friday traffic to reach Turner Stadium with its only-way-in, two-lane road. I just hope Gary Stelly and his KOGT radio crew get there early enough to let me enjoy listening to the game in front of my toasty fireplace Friday night at 7:30 p.m. I would have traveled to The Butch or Lamar in Beaumont or even Barbers Hill, but not Humble on Black Friday!!!