by Bruce Marshall, TGS EXTRA!!! Editor

Q: How does the LSU-Alabama showdown last Saturday night rank among the all-time 1 vs. 2 regular-season matchups?

A: CBS announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson made mention that it was the lowest-scoring 1 vs. 2 game since the epic 0-0 draw between Notre Dame and Army in 1946. It was certainly a defensive battle along the lines, if not exceeding, the Notre Dame-Michigan State 10-10 draw in 1966.

To us, this looked like the football version of Game Five of last month’s National League Division Series, when St. Louis’ Chris Carpenter and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay engaged in a pitching duel for the ages, won by the Cards, 1-0.

Interesting, too, if that there been no overtime rule as was the case in 1966, last Saturday’s LSU-Bama ends in a deadlock just like ND vs. MSU forty-five years ago.

Having said that, it was not a particularly memorable game. Tense, yes, but when a team (Alabama) misses on four field-goal attempts, it is hardly an artistic masterpiece. Although the Tide seemed to move the ball a bit better for most of the night, QB A.J. McCarron’s limitations were on display. Nick Saban, perhaps justifiably, was reluctant to put the game in the hands of his QB. Hardly the sort of performance the masses will remember for years to come.

Heading into the game, however, most knew that QB play either was marginal at best, and it would be up to the special teams or defenses to make the momentum-changing plays. The game was a defensive classic, as the lateral speed for both teams blunted the wide running plays, and the strength of each team’s defensive line limited the power rushing game.

The boogie-down in Tuscaloosa, however, is not going to rate among the top 1 vs. 2 games in any all-time listing. Although it was one of the better defensive shows we recall.

Q: Should there be an LSU-Bama rematch in the BCS championship game?

A: Nothing has changed our opinion that these are the best two teams in college football. And anyone who watched the game, while tuning into Oklahoma State and Kansas State at the same time on ABC (or ESPN, depending where you live), has to laugh at the notion that the Cowboys could be ranked ahead of the Crimson Tide. Although we know the “poll drill” all too well in which sanctity of a won-loss record carries so much clout.

The idea of a rematch, however, is not nearly as easy a sell as it would have been had Alabama won the 9-6 decision instead of LSU. The Crimson Tide had the benefit of hosting the game (which admittedly in the history of this series has not been a great help, the visitor now 28-13-1 in the last 42 meetings), so giving Bama another crack at LSU after getting the Tigers at home, and losing the game, is a little bit different than had the Tide won a close decision.

There can be no complaining by Crimson Tide fans if their team doesn’t get a rematch with LSU. Bama had a crack LSU at Tuscaloosa and lost the game. Rematches are not guaranteed in college football.

Q: What about Iowa suddenly being in control of its own destiny in the Big Ten Legends race?

A: Nothing speaks to the mediocrity of this year’s Big Ten more than an Iowa team, off a loss against a wretched Minnesota side, being in control of its own destiny in any half of the conference race.

Let’s just say no potential BCS opponent will be shaking in their boots at the thought of facing the Hawkeyes. Compared to the five top 15 teams in the SEC, the Big Ten looks rather lightweight this fall.

Q: UCLA is also surprisingly in control of its own destiny in the Pac-12 South race. Is HC Rick Neuheisel moving onto safer ground in Westwood?

A: The Bruins’ rally for back-to-back home wins over Cal and Arizona State qualifies as one of the more surprising developments of the past month. Especially since Neuheisel was considered all but out of a job two weeks ago when UCLA was crushed by a then 1-5 Arizona team, 48-12.

UCLA has displayed admirable spunk the past two weeks, playing with the sort of emotion heretofore absent for much of Neuheisel’s four-year run as Bruins coach. In particular, much-maligned QB Kevin Prince, in and out of the lineup earlier this season and haunted by injuries throughout his career, has finally stepped up and delivered a pair of solid efforts to push the Bruins above .500.

Neuheisel has had one benefit all along in Westwood, and it’s that a lot of old-line Bruin backers want him to succeed, and badly so, because Rick is probably going to be the last coaching link in Westwood to a glory era of UCLA football under Terry Donahue in the ’80s. Neuheisel retains a soft spot in the hearts of all Bruins fans for, as QB, leading UCLA in his senior season to an unexpected Rose Bowl berth and resounding upset romp past Illinois, 45-9. After many outstanding Bruin teams had been denied New Year’s trips to Pasadena over the preceding 20 years, the ’83 team was always viewed by many UCLA fans as a payback from the football gods, especially since that team started 0-3-1 twenty-eight years ago.

Thus, we have assumed, and we think correctly so, that the bar has been slightly lowered in Westwood to accommodate Neuheisel because of his standing among many longtime Bruins. Many believe that Rick probably gets to return next season as long as he can steer the Bruins to a bowl, which can be accomplished with a 6-6 mark. Though it’s worth noting that the last two UCLA coaches, Bob Toledo and Karl Dorrell, have been dismissed for less.

But if the trajectory seems upward for the Bruins in the last month of the campaign, Neuheisel could survive. There are still three more games to play; with one of Neuheisel’s old teams, slumping Colorado, among the trio, UCLA should get the one more win needed for six wins needed to qualify for a bowl game. Staying ahead of Arizona State in the Pac-12 South will probably require successes this week at Utah and November 26 vs. hated Southern Cal.

Neuheisel’s track record with the Bruins, however, suggests that UCLA cannot be trusted to deliver big efforts, as its performances have swung wildly. Neuheisel already has three losses by 26 points or more this season, as well as 14 by 21 or more since taking over the job in 2008, and 19 losses by 14 points or more. If the Bruins lay an egg this week at Utah (and there is an interesting angle in Bruins-Utes, with Utah o.c. Norm Chow having worked the past three years, rather uncomfortably, with Neuheisel in Westwood), “Slick Rick” could be back in the soup.

But this year’s Bruins looks a bit more resilient than Neuheisel’s first three UCLA editions. We don’t think Neuheisel is safe quite yet, but if he gets the Bruins either to the Pac-12 title game, a 7-5 regular-season mark, or beats the Trojans in the regular-season finale, we think he probably sticks around.

Q: What are Houston Nutt’s latest prospects for survival at Ole Miss, especially after last week’s loss at Kentucky?

A: Not good. Remember, Nutt entered this season on the hot seat, after heeding “suggestions” from AD Pete Boone that staff changes might be a good idea after last year’s subpar 4-8 mark. Nutt resisted that “suggestion” at first before finally relenting and making a couple of changes, including the addition of former Vanderbilt QB and UTEP HC David Lee as the offensive coordinator.

But after that numbing 30-13 loss to the worst Kentucky team in several years, the Rebs are 2-7 and bowl-inelgible, not to mention winless in the SEC. Nutt has also lost the past two years, and three of the past four seasons, to Vanderbilt. Not to mention that numbing OT loss at the beginnign of the 2010 campaign vs. FCS Jacksonville State. Hardly the sort of track record that suggests hanging onto your job.

It would be a big surprise if there isn’t at least one head coaching opening in the SEC, this one, in December.

Q: Who might the candidates be at Ole Miss?

A: Any job opening these days in the SEC will draw the attention of two of the higher-profile assistants in the league, Auburn o.c. Gus Malzahn and Alabama d.c. Kirby Smart. Malzahn has not seen his reputation diminished in the wake of Cam Newton’s departure, and was indeed in the frame for the Vanderbilt job last December. Although some SEC observers believe super agent Jimmy Sexton simply used the Vandy opening to set a floor for what Gus would command dollar-wise as a head coach. After reportedly turning down $2.5 million per to coach the Commodores, Sexton wants Malzahn positioned to get at least that much from his next SEC suitor.

Smart’s appeal is enhanced by his association with Saban, considered the best organizer of all college head coaches. Exposure to Saban is considered highly desirable by administrators, who believe any sort of apprenticeship under the Bama coach to be invaluable.

There are some other regional candidates moving into the frame at Ole Miss, too. Keep an eye on La Tech HC Sonny Dykes, whose Bulldogs have caught an updraft and appear bound for a bowl game. Dykes, son of former Texas Tech HC Spike Dykes and a key member of Mike Leach’s Red Raider staff several years ago, imported the spread offense to Arizona in 2007 and immediately upgraded a stagnant Wildcat offense. Dykes figures to get some attention for a variety of openings, including an expected one at Arizona.

The Sun Belt has a pair of interesting candidates who have attracted attention in their respective first years on the job. UL-Lafayette HC Mark Hudspeth has done a terrific job jump-starting the Ragin’ Cajuns, who appear bowl-bound from the Belt with an exciting spread offense brought to the bayou by Hudspeth from his most-recent assignment as WR coach on Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State staff. Hudspeth was previously head coach at North Alabama, where he took the Lions to four playoff appearances and a 62-14 mark his last six seasons in charge between 2003-08.

Meanwhile, Arkansas State’s Huge Freeze is authoring another noteworthy turnaround at Jonesboro, as his Red Wolves stand 7-2 and atop the Belt standings. Ark State’s only losses thus far are to bowl-bound majors Illinois and Virginia Tech (both pointspread covers for the Red Wolves). Freeze, considered a progressive offensive mind, has been a proponent of the spread offense since the mid ‘90s and his days as HC at Memphis Briarcrest Christian, where his teams won a pair of state titles and gained Freeze notoriety as the coach of future Ole Miss OT Michael Oher, as depicted in the excellent movie, the Blind Side (featuring, among other things, a blonde Sandra Bullock).

Freeze worked on Ed Orgeron’s staffs at Ole Miss in 2006-07 before taking the head coaching position at NAIA Lambuth, where he led the Eagles to their best record in school history. Moving to Ark State as offensive coordinator last year, Freeze’s offenses posted big gains from the previous year, and he was the selection to succeed the deposed Steve Roberts as Red Wolves’ coach this season.

Both Hudspeth and Freeze could also get into the mix for other openings within the region and would also be on a short list at Mississippi State should Dan Mullen be lured elsewhere. Stay tuned.

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