College Football Thoughts

It was a big weekend for Texas A&M, Michigan State and Virginia Tech, while USC, Syracuse and Rutgers were disappointments.

Teams of the Week

Texas A&M — The Aggies’ late-season surge continued, with a hard-fought 9–6 win over Nebraska in a game that featured five field goals. Texas A&M, which improved to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12, has now won five straight conference games for the first time since 1998. Cyrus Gray was the offensive star for the Aggies, running for a career-high 137 yards on 26 carries. Gray is the first Texas A&M running back since 1990 to top the 100-yard mark in five straight games.

Michigan State — It was hardly a work of art, but Michigan State did what it needed to do to remain in the hunt for its first trip to the Rose Bowl since January 1988. The Spartans rallied from a 28-13 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat undermanned Purdue, 35-31, in East Lansing. Michigan State remains in a three-way tie atop the Big Ten standings with Wisconsin and Ohio State. The Spartans will advance to the Rose Bowl, however, only with a win over Penn State and an Ohio State loss to Michigan. MSU will not win a three-team tie-breaker and will only win a two-team tie-breaker with Wisconsin.

Virginia Tech — The Hokies wrapped up the ACC Coastal Division title with a solid, 31-17, win over Miami in South Florida. The Hokies were outgained by the Hurricanes, 464 to 369, but took advantage of six Miami turnovers to post their ninth-straight win. Frank Beamer’s club, which concludes the regular season with a home game vs. rival Virginia, has not lost since its stunning defeat at home to James Madison in Week 2. Tech has only allowed more than 21 points twice during its winning streak — 27 in a Week 3 win over East Carolina and 30 in a Week 5 victory over NC State.

Disappointments

USC — Here is all you need to know about how far USC has fallen: The Trojans lost on Saturday, 36–7, to a team (Oregon State) that lost at home to Washington State two weeks ago by 17 points. This is a Washington State team that had not won a Pac-10 game on the road in almost three years. In Saturday’s loss at Oregon State, USC managed only 255 yards of offense, its fewest of the season in Pac-10 games by more than 100 yards. Sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley left the game with a sprained ankle late in the second quarter after completing 10-of-19 for 75 yards. Senior Mitch Mustain, a former prep All-American who began his career at Arkansas, went the rest of the way, completing 8-of-17 for 60 yards.

Syracuse — The Orange are on the rise under second-year coach Doug Marrone, but they continue to struggle at home in Big East play. Syracuse is 4-0 on the road in the conference but 0-3 at home after Saturday’s 23-6 setback to Connecticut. The Syracuse defense was strong once again, holding UConn to 254 total yards, but the Orange offense managed 235 yards of it own. Despite the loss, Syracuse, at 4-3, has a winning Big East record for the first time since 2004. The Orange close the regular season with a home date against Boston College next weekend.

Rutgers — The Scarlet Knights entered the weekend with a 4–5 record, but four of those five defeats had come by four points or less. Losing a close game wasn’t an issue Saturday in Cincinnati. Rutgers dropped a 69-38 decision to the Bearcats, the second straight season the Knights have lost by 30-plus-points to Cincinnati. Greg Schiano’s club has now lost four straight games and needs to beat both Louisville and West Virginia (on the road) to become bowl-eligible.

NOTES

• Texas Tech finished with a losing conference record (3–5) for only the third time in the past 25 years.

• Tom O’Brien is 4–0 against rival North Carolina in his four years at NC State. Three of the four wins have come by four points or less.

• Eastern Michigan is making strides under second-year coach Ron English. The Eagles won at Buffalo, 21–17, and have now won two road games in the same season for the first time since 2007.

• Mississippi State ran 100 offensive plays in its double-overtime loss to Arkansas.

• Boston College opened the ACC season with four straight losses then won four straight to even its mark at 4–4. The Eagles have had a .500 or better record in league play every year since joining the ACC in 2005.

• No team in the Sun Belt is bowl eligible yet. Three teams have five wins — FIU, Troy and UL-Monroe.

• One of the most surprising scores of the weekend: Wyoming 44, Colorado State 0. Wyoming entered the game with a 2-9 record and had lost to New Mexico and UNLV in the two previous weeks.

• Arkansas has scored 38 points or more in each of its last six games after scoring 31 or fewer in its first four (against FBS competition).

• Northwestern’s rush defense dropped in the national rankings from 43rd to 82nd after giving up 519 yards on the ground to Illinois.
 

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