Ohio State heads to BCS title game; USC wins Pac-10

Nov 19, 2006 - 5:30 AM BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Troy Smith and Ohio State are heading to Glendale, Arizona. Who will join them there is anybody's guess.

Smith booked the Buckeyes a berth in the Bowl Championship Series national championship by leading his top-ranked squad to a 42-39 victory over No. 2 Michigan on Saturday in a game that lived up to its vast hype.

In Columbus, Smith likely secured the Heisman Trophy by completing 29-of-41 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns - each to a different receiver - with one interception for the Buckeyes (12-0), who extended their national-best winning streak to 19 games and clinched their first outright Big Ten Conference title since 1984.

"I would think he clinched the Heisman Trophy, I don't think there'd be any question about that," said Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, who improved to 5-1 against the archrival Wolverines. "I think he's the best player in college football."

Michigan (11-1) was stunned on the eve of the game by the sudden death of legendary former coach Bo Schembechler. The Wolverines fought hard Saturday but were unable to win the game in his honor.

"When I told the team on Friday, I tried to tell them that, you know, he would not have wanted to be a distraction," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "And I told our team we weren't going to use Bo and his passing away as a motivational deal. That would have been to dishonor him. And I simply told them the way we could honor him is to coach and play in a way that would have made him proud."

Michigan pulled within three points on a 16-yard pass from Chad Henne to Tyler Ecker and a two-point pass to Steve Breaston with 2:16 left, but Ted Ginn Jr. recovered the onside kick and the Buckeyes ran out the clock.

Henne went 21-of-35 for 267 yards and two touchdowns and Mike Hart had 23 carries for 142 yards and three scores for the Wolverines, who likely will play in the Rose Bowl but remain in the hunt for the other BCS title berth.

"We lost today and we put ourselves in that situation and we have to sit back and wait," defensive end LaMarr Woodley said. "You know, if we would have won, we knew right away where we were going to be playing and what day. All we can do is sit back and wait now."

Fourth-ranked Southern California took a key step toward setting up a matchup with the Buckeyes after scoring 17 unanswered second-half points in a 23-9 home victory over No. 17 California.

John David Booty threw a pair of fourth-quarter TDs for the Trojans (9-1), who won at least a share of the Pac-10 Conference crown for a record fifth straight year and extended their league-record home winning streak to 32 games.

"This is a big-time accomplishment," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

At a minimum, they will play in the Rose Bowl, but they likely will move to second in the BCS standings entering next Saturday's showdown with Notre Dame at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Fighting Irish (10-1) made it a clean sweep of service academies with a 41-9 romp over Army.

The Golden Bears (8-3), meanwhile, lost their second straight game and failed to reach the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1958 season.

One team that certainly will not join Ohio State in the title game is No. 7 Rutgers (9-1), which fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 30-11 Big East Conference loss at Cincinnati. The only other undefeated team in the nation is No. 13 Boise State (11-0), which crushed Western Athletic Conference foe Utah State, 49-10.

The other two games involving two top-25 teams took place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, with No. 19 Virginia Tech (9-2) cruising to a 27-6 road win over No. 14 Wake Forest (9-2) and No. 20 Boston College (9-2) posting an easy 38-16 home win over No. 21 Maryland (8-3).

Wake Forest still can clinch the ACC Atlantic Division crown and a berth in the conference title game against Coastal Division winner Georgia Tech with a win next week at Maryland. The Terrapins can claim the berth with a win and a loss by the Eagles at Miami, while the Eagles can secure it with a victory and a Maryland win over Wake Forest.

"We have confidence - it's not like this (loss) just shut our team down," Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner said. "We had a hard loss, and we are going to bounce back, so I don't think that it will affect our team because this season is a special season."

Third-ranked Florida (10-1) manhandled Division I-AA Western Carolina, 62-0, while No. 5 Arkansas (10-1) clinched the Southeastern Conference West Division crown and a berth in the league title game against the Gators with a 28-14 win at Mississippi State.

On Thursday, Pat White and Steve Slaton combined to rush for 435 yards and accounted for six touchdowns to lead No. 8 West Virginia (9-1) to a 45-27 road victory over Big East Conference rival Pittsburgh in their annual "Backyard Brawl" matchup.

White rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries and threw for 204 yards and two scores, both of them to Slaton, who became the first player in school history to record more than 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in a single game. He produced 215 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries and caught six passes for 130 yards.

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