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Time to Take a Look at Halftime Statistics

We’ve reached the halfway point of a half-decent season, so maybe it’s time to take half a second and assess the situation.

Halfway there: Oklahoma. The Sooners lead the nation in swagger. Last week’s boot-kicking of Texas proved why Bob Stoops is college football’s best coach. He has grade-A players and nerves of steel, witness his fake-punt call against Alabama in September.

In its last three games, Oklahoma has outscored UCLA, Iowa State and Texas by 177-44.

Why I still have Miami ranked No. 1 is a private matter between me and my therapist, but it has something to do with stubbornness and refusing to drop my preseason No. 1 until it loses a game.

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Half a Heisman: Oklahoma quarterback Jason White wins it in my mind over Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones and Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons.

While Symons has made headlines with his extraordinary passing numbers, White has guided Oklahoma to a 6-0 record and led the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense (47.6 points a game to Texas Tech’s 46.8).

White, not Symons, leads the nation in passing efficiency with a 180.2 rating.

Biggest upset: Candidates include Baylor over Colorado, Marshall over Kansas State, Nevada over Washington, Bowling Green over Purdue, Northern Illinois over Maryland, Toledo over Pittsburgh and Nevada Las Vegas over Wisconsin.

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Winner: UNLV 23, Wisconsin 5. This victory at Madison ranks up there with John Robinson’s more stunning achievements, more so given that Wisconsin just defeated Ohio State, the defending national champions.

Best first-half performance: Candidates: Oklahoma State receiver Rashaun Woods catches seven touchdown passes against Southern Methodist; Symons passes for 661 yards and six touchdowns against Mississippi; Notre Dame tailback Julius Jones rushes for a school-record 262 yards against Pittsburgh; UNLV safety Jamaal Brimmer has two sacks, two interceptions, 11 tackles and a fumble return for a touchdown against Wisconsin; Oklahoma specialist Antonio Perkins scores three touchdowns on punt returns and amasses 277 total yards, both NCAA records, against UCLA.

Winner: Perkins. UCLA won’t see a scarier Perkins unless it’s in Hitchcock’s “Psycho.”

Coach of the half-year: Candidates include California’s Jeff Tedford, Utah’s Urban Meyer, Washington State’s Bill Doba, Northern Illinois’ Joe Novak, Texas Christian’s Gary Patterson, Michigan State’s John L. Smith.

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Winner: Novak. You want to talk about making slow, steady progress. Check out Novak’s seasonal coaching records at NIU since taking over in 1996: 1-10, 0-11, 2-9, 5-6, 6-5, 6-5, 8-4 and 6-0 this year. Most guys at big-time programs would have been fired after year three. Northern Illinois has defeated three bowl championship series schools this year: Maryland, Alabama and Iowa State.

Halfway to getting fired: Jackie Sherrill, Mississippi State.

Play of the half-season: Brock Berlin’s pass to Kellen Winslow. Miami trailed West Virginia, 20-19, had no timeouts and faced fourth and 13 at its 25 when Winslow made a leaping, twisting catch of a Berlin pass for a first down. It led to Jon Peattie’s game-winning field goal.

Best game: Candidates: Cal defeats USC, 34-31, in triple overtime; Ohio State defeats North Carolina State, 44-38, in triple overtime; Michigan rallies to defeat Minnesota, 38-35; Louisiana State defeats Georgia, 17-10, on a 34-yard scoring pass from Matt Mauck to Sky- ler Green; Miami rallies from a 33-10 deficit to defeat Florida, 38-33.

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Winner: Cal over USC. Decision-making principle applied: West Coast bias.

Half-a-clue award: Ohio State linebacker Robert Reynolds knocks Wisconsin quarterback Jim Sorgi out of the game by choking him underneath a player pile. Reynolds received a one-game suspension, but in keeping with this week’s theme, we would have recommended half a season.

Halfhearted effort: Texas’ 65-13 loss to Oklahoma. Texas Coach Mack Brown put it best when he said, “We were inept and did not make the plays we had to make to make it a game.”

Most overrated teams ranked in preseason Associated Press poll: Michigan (4), Auburn (6), Kansas State (7), Maryland (15), North Carolina State (16), Washington (17), Notre Dame (20), Arizona State (22) and Colorado State (23).

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Most underrated teams not ranked in preseason AP poll: Arkansas, Washington State, Oregon State, Minnesota, Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri.

Most annoying first-half story: Maurice Clarett.

Most overblown story: BCS presidents meet in Chicago with non-BCS presidents (Zzzzzzzzz).

Second-half team to watch: Purdue.

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Second-half game to watch: Miami at Virginia Tech, Nov. 1.

Word War III

Venom is spewing in Big East corridors after Boston College’s decision this week to become the 12th member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Boston College’s decision was not a surprise, given the school was set to follow Miami to the ACC last spring until it was jilted in a last-minute political maneuver. Miami and Virginia Tech received invitations instead.

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Last summer, a Big East official said he expected Boston College would leave “in a heartbeat” if the ACC came calling again.

What angers many in the Big East is Boston College’s transparent and disingenuous participation in the Big East’s reconstruction.

In November, the Big East plans to announce a restructured conference that will include invitations to four Conference USA schools: Louisville, Cincinnati, DePaul and Marquette.

“We’ve spent the better part of three months planning a new configuration for the Big East,” Syracuse Chancellor Kenneth Shaw said. “Boston College has been involved in that planning process. We are terribly disappointed that BC would leave at this time.”

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Syracuse Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel had a more blunt assessment of Boston College’s departure.

“The six remaining Big East football schools sat face to face and pledged their loyalty to one another and to the Big East,” Crouthamel said. “I guess handshakes don’t mean much anymore.”

Postscript: Don’t expect any handshakes this weekend when Boston College plays ... at Syracuse.

Meanwhile, the Big East might pluck another Conference USA team, South Florida, to replace Boston College. In response, the Tampa Tribune reported this week, Conference USA has been authorized to go after Central Florida (in all sports), Southern Methodist, Tulsa, Rice and Marshall.

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“No member has formally withdrawn, and no new members have been added,” Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a statement.

Reaction: He says that now, but just wait ...

Hurry-Up Offense

* Do non-BCS schools really have fair access in the system? We’ll know more Monday when the first BCS rankings are released. The big question is where Northern Illinois and Texas Christian will fall into place. The non-BCS schools are two of the five remaining Division I-A schools without a loss. The schools would need to finish in the top 12 of the final standings to be considered for a major bowl and sixth or better to get a guaranteed berth.

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The guess is that Northern Illinois, which has defeated three BCS schools, will make its debut fairly high in the first BCS rankings. The Huskies are ranked fourth or better in three computers this week, although they check in at No. 19 and No. 22 in two others. The problem for Northern Illinois and TCU is their respective power ratings will continue to decrease because of the relative weaknesses of their conferences.

* With Ohio State’s loss last week, TCU’s 10-game winning streak is the nation’s longest. At No. 16 in this week’s AP poll, the Horned Frogs are also the highest-ranked team in Texas. “You take it when you can get it,” TCU Coach Gary Patterson said. “It doesn’t happen very often that TCU is ranked higher than Texas and Texas A&M.;”

* Reynolds’ one-game suspension for choking Sorgi raised the larger question of what really happens underneath those football dog piles.

Remarked Symons: “I’ve had legs twisted, had my genitals grabbed and squeezed, stuff like that, and basically you’re in a position where you can’t protect yourself.”

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Sorry we asked.

* Mississippi, led by senior quarterback Eli Manning, is looking for its first 3-0 start in the Southeastern Conference since 1970, when Eli’s father, Archie, was the Ole Miss quarterback.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

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THE TIMES’ RANKINGS

CHRIS DUFRESNE’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL

RANKINGS, COMMENTS:

*--* No. School (Rec) Comment 1 MIAMI (6-0) Rankman about to drop “Dear John” letter to end Miami love affair. 2 OKLAHOMA (6-0) Players feast on turkey legs and Bevo burgers at Texas State Fair. 3 VIRGINIA TECH (6-0) ACC jumps gun and lists Hokies first in this week’s conference standings. 4 USC (5-1) Leinart’s goal is to keep John David’s Booty on the bench. 5 WASHINGTON STATE (5-1) Cougars treated for the bends after shocking bye-week rise in poll. 6 LOUISIANA STATE (5-1) Coach blames loss to Florida on lack of discipline and Gatorade. 7 ARKANSAS (4-1) Auburn loss must be considered a major Razorback setback. 8 OHIO STATE (5-1) Player just trying to continue team’s “choke hold” on college football. 9 GEORGIA (5-1) Bulldogs’ defense is top-dog in the NCAA rankings. 10 FLORIDA STATE (5-1) Coach drops Weather Channel from cable package after Miami loss. 11 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (6-0) School doesn’t have to worry any more about Cub fans at home games. 12 TEXAS CHRISTIAN (6-0) BCS tells school its schedule contains too much fabric softener. 13 PURDUE (5-1) Could have gone in the tank after opening loss to Bowling Green. 14 WISCONSIN (6-1) Evans’ out-and-up move on Chris Gamble was above and beyond. 15 MICHIGAN STATE (6-1) Spartans must have been in “La La Land” to lose to La. Tech. 16 IOWA (5-1) Coach screens “The Boston Strangler” to prepare for Ohio State. 17 TENNESSEE (4-2) Postseason banquet circuit may not include many Tennessee Tuxedos. 18 TEXAS (4-2) School files application papers for transfer to Sun Belt Conference. 19 MINNESOTA (6-1) Expedition team sent out to search for lost lead against Michigan. 20 UTAH (5-1) Urban Meyer in Salt Lake basin considered by some an oxy-Mormon. 21 OREGON STATE (5-1) Cloud-of-dust Pac-10 produces nation’s No. 2 rusher in Jackson. 22 AUBURN (4-2) Coach Tuberville excited to finally get the regular season started. 23 MISSOURI (5-1) Rankman asked players to “Show me” against Nebraska and they did. 24 NEBRASKA (5-1) NCAA will not credit Cornhusker player for tackle on Missouri fan. 25 MICHIGAN (5-2) Carr’s kids played Friday Night Lights-Out to rally against Minnesota.

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