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Patience pays for Clint Chelf, AJ McCarron and Ohio State
College football in 2013, at least in Week 13, is a lesson in waiting your turn.
Ohio State’s case to remain next man up in the BCS championship race after Alabama and Florida State needed little statement on the Buckeyes’ part this week. Ohio State made easy work of Indiana, but Baylor cleared up any room for debate with a loss to Oklahoma State.
No doubt, Ohio State fans are pleased with this development, but the Buckeyes’ ability to secure the No. 3 spot for good was due to another actor sitting in wait in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf was a starter, then a backup, then a starter again. Now, he’s the quarterback who changed the national championship picture and Heisman race all while putting the Cowboys’ into the frontrunner spot in the Big 12.
And in the Heisman chase, AJ McCarron did nothing out of the ordinary against Chattanooga, but he’s almost the de facto leader as those around him this week — Bryce Petty, Johnny Manziel and Marcus Mariota, namely — struggled.
In a sport where patience isn’t always a virtue, waiting for a turn was this week's greatest teammate.
Three and Out: College Football Week 13 Recap
Three Things We Learned from LSU 34, Texas A&M 10
Johnny Manziel won’t repeat as Heisman winner. Archie Griffin’s singular achievement as the only two-time Heisman winner likely remains intact. If there’s any remaining hope for Manziel, it’s because nearly every other frontrunner faltered in recent weeks. LSU remains Manziel Kryptonite. The sophomore started 2 of 11 and never found running room against the Tigers. Manziel finished 16 of 41 for 224 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. In two meetings with LSU, Manziel is 45 of 97 for 500 yards with five picks against the Tigers in easily the two worst starts of his career. Manziel has been short on big wins this season, largely due to a suspect defense, but the sophomore also has six interceptions in Texas A&M’s three losses.
LSU’s defense has grown up. Defensive coordinator John Chavis may have the only blueprint to contain Manziel, but don’t forget he was essentially starting from scratch with the 2013 defense. The Tigers returned only three starters on defense and lost six underclassmen to the NFL Draft. The replacements are as talented as any LSU defense, but experience was at a premium. The Tigers young cornerbacks did their part bottling up Manziel and preventing extended drives for most of the first half. Now, LSU’s defense needs to prove it can do the same on the road when it faces Missouri next week.
LSU’s running back depth strikes again. Three LSU tailbacks carried 13 or 14 times, plus eight carries from a fourth. None was more productive than Terrence Magee. His 149 yards on 13 carries was a career high, highlighted by a five-play, 71-yard touchdown drive all on his shoulders. Before Saturday, his two 100-yard games had come against Furman and Kent State. But this highlighted the work of the entire corps of running backs as LSU held the ball for 40:19 and limited A&M to a season-low 59 plays.
Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma State 49, Baylor 17
Clint Chelf is one of the best stories this season. In a depleted quarterback class in the Big 12, Clint Chelf was the Athlon first-team All-Big 12 quarterback in the preseason. After three quarters of teh season, Chelf finally started to look like it. Gundy named Chelf the starter and benched him after six pass attempts in the opener against Mississippi State. J.W. Walsh held the job for a few games, but was ineffective in Big 12 play. Gundy went back to Chelf, and the move paid off. The unquestioned MVP of the rout of undefeated Baylor, Chelf completed 12 of his first 13 passes and finished 19 of 25 for 370 yards.
Glenn Spencer is Oklahoma State’s superstar coordinator. The offensive coordinator position at Oklahoma State has been a stepping stone for head coaches from Larry Fedora to Dana Holgorsen to Todd Monken. Even though Chelf was the star Saturday, the Cowboys’ defense has been the most consistent unit all season. Baylor’s offense has been all but unstoppable this season, but Oklahoma State prevented the Bears from scoring a touchdown until the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State followed the blueprint for stopping Baylor by stuffing the run game for 2.6 yards per carry and forcing Baylor to force plays in the passing game. Chelf completed 12 of his 13 passes as Oklahoma State built and insurmountable lead in the first half. If Oklahoma State needs a face of its incremental improvement this season, Chelf is it.
Baylor has little reason to sulk. Baylor was embarrassed on a national stage, particularly on a 78-yard fumble recovery for at touchdown just as the Bears started to build momentum. The soft schedule and video game numbers heading into this rout will provide plenty of fodder for people who want to dismiss Baylor as a fraud. The starters missing from the lineup — running back Lache Seastrunk, wide receiver Tevin Reese, offensive tackle Spencer Drango and linebacker Bryce Hager — certainly hurt, too. Baylor is out of the national championship hunt, and Bryce Petty’s Heisman bid is probably over. Still, Baylor is in the running for the Big 12 title with an Oklahoma State loss in the Bedlam Game. And even then, a one-loss Baylor would be an attractive team for the Cotton Bowl against an SEC team or a BCS at-large bid. Legitimacy hasn’t been lost.
Three Things We Learned from Arizona State 38, UCLA 33
Arizona State is undervalued and kind of showed why. The Sun Devils entered Saturday ranked 19th in the AP poll. That was one spot behind a three-loss LSU, three spots behind a Wisconsin team Arizona State beat (albeit under dubious officiating) and five spots behind UCLA. The Sun Devils looked every bit the underrated Pac-12 favorite as they built a 35-13 halftime lead. But UCLA turned this into one-score game in the second half with a sack ending a touchdown opportunity to go with two missed field goals. Arizona State clinched the Pac-12 South and could still host the Pac-12 title game with a win over Arizona, but the Sun Devils nearly let this one slip away.
Taylor Kelly and Marion Grice is the best backfield no one talks about. Taylor Kelly rarely gets mentioned in the first breath of Pac-12 quarterbacks, but that needs to change. He’s worthy of second-team all-conference after Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Kelly completed 20 of 27 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown against UCLA, adding 99 rushing yards and a touchdown. Marion Grice had his typical two-dimensional day with 95 rushing yards and 72 receiving yards against the Bruins.
UCLA’s not there yet. UCLA made a game of it late, but two missed field goals and eight sacks held the Bruins back. Quarterback Brett Hundley picked up yards on the ground late in the game, but a slow start behind three freshman starters on the offensive line was too much to overcome. Hundley was sacked eight times as UCLA went 0 for 3 against ranked Pac-12 teams this season. Hundley went 55 of 84 for 509 yards with three touchdowns, six interceptions and 15 sacks combined against Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State this season.
Moving the Chains
Wisconsin’s defense. The run game is the established face of the Badgers' program, but take a minute to admire the defense. If Wisconsin is an at-large BCS pick this season, Gary Andersen could credit his defense. The Badgers held Minnesota to 102 rushing yards, less than half of its season average. Minnesota entered the game averaging 4.7 yards per carry and averaged 3.2 against Wisconsin. A week earlier, Wisconsin held Indiana to 224 total yards and 3.7 yards per play. The Hoosiers are among the Big Ten leaders at 496.8 yards and 6.7 yards per play.
James Franklin’s return. The Missouri quarterback returned after missing four games with a should injury to complete 12 of 19 passes for 141 yards with an interception in a 24-10 win at Ole Miss. It wasn’t an overwhelming game for the quarterback, but Missouri remained in the lead for the SEC East. Ole Miss defeated LSU in Oxford and gave Texas A&M fits here. A two-touchdown win at Ole Miss is a good sign for a team that looked like it could fumble away the SEC East race after loss to South Carolina.
Oklahoma’s new backfield. Trevor Knight’s second act as starting quarterback was much better than his first. Knight began the season as the Sooners’ starter but injury and ineffectiveness gave Blake Bell the job after two games. A concussion for Bell gave the job back to Knight, who led a 41-31 win over a hot Kansas State team on the road. Knight wasn’t asked to take many risks in the passing game. Knight still went 14 of 20 for 171 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed for 82 yards and a score. The tailback position also was undermanned with Damien Williams suspended. Brennan Clay carried the load with 200 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
Florida. Athletic director Jeremy Foley said earlier this week he’s “1,000 percent” committed to coach Will Muschamp, but that may be tested. Foley has fired only one football or men’s basketball coach as Florida athletic director and that coach, Ron Zook, never missed a bowl game nor lost to an FCS team. Muschamp accomplished both with a 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern, Florida’s first FCS loss and first nonconference home loss to a team other than Florida State or Miami since 1988. Botched clock management seemed to be a moot point, but it certainly didn’t help Muschamp’s cause. Muschamp sat on his timeouts on Florida’s final possession until the clock stopped in the final minute after an incomplete pass. Georgia Southern’s option befuddled Florida’s defense with 450 rushing yards. The Gators offense was listless as usual, allowing Georgia Southern to outgain Florida 450-271. The upset gave us this shocking quarterback comparison. Guess which quarterback won the game? Hint: It’s the one with all the zeroes.
Oregon. Two Ducks players earlier this week shrugged at the prospect of going to the Rose Bowl. Running back De’Anthony Thomas said “it’s not a big deal,” and receiver Josh Huff said he didn’t want to play in the Rose Bowl unless it’s for a national championship. Now, they’ll get a taste of the rest of the Pac-12’s bowl alignment. Oregon had its most un-Oregon-like game in years when it lost 42-16 to Arizona, the Ducks’ first loss to an unranked team since losing 51-42 to Stanford in 2009 and their most lopsided loss since losing 44-10 to USC in 2008. Marcus Mariota’s knee continues to limit the Oregon offense, but this was a team-wide effort to never really challenge Arizona.
Michigan and Northwestern. Michigan opened the season ranked 17th in the preseason polls. Northwestern was 22nd. Seems like ages ago, right? The Wolverines hit its lowest point of a disappointing season with a 24-21 loss to Iowa. The Wolverines were outscored 17-0 in the second half, amassed only 158 yards and managed to lose a game in which Iowa turned the ball over four times. Northwestern finally avoided losing in heartbreaking fashion by losing in a 30-6 blowout to Michigan State, the Wildcats’ seventh consecutive loss since what was billed as one of the biggest games in school history against Ohio State.
Andre Williams, Boston College. If a running back is going to crack the group of quarterbacks in the Heisman race, it will be Williams. The Boston College senior became the 16th player to crack 2,000 yards for a season and the first since Connecticut’s Donald Brown. Williams rushed for 263 yards in a 29-26 win over Maryland, giving him 897 in the last three games. Five of the previous 15 2,000-yard rushers won the Heisman (Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders, USC’s Marcus Allen, Nebraska’s Mike Rozier, Texas’ Ricky Williams, Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam).
AJ McCarron, Alabama. McCarron moves up by default thanks to losses by Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel and Bryce Petty. Jameis WInston has all the on-field credentials for the award, but the sexual assault investigation casts a shadow over the season. That leaves McCarron standing in the field of five contenders that separated itself.
Derek Carr, Fresno State. Carr put on a show in one of Fresno State’s few games on a Saturday afternoon. Against an overmatched New Mexico team, Carr completed 27 of 37 passes for 522 yards and seven touchdowns in a 69-28 rout. After close calls earlier this season, the Bulldogs have defeated Nevada, Wyoming and New Mexico by lopsided margins in the last three weeks. Carr has topped 70 percent passing, 360 yards and three touchdowns in each game.
353. Interception-free streak ended by Marcus Mariota.
Mariota’s ball security has been a thing of wonder as the quarterback has gone since Nov. 17, 2012 and 353 consecutive passes without an interception. That streak ended with a acrobatic, two-man interception from Arizona’s defense. Mariota added a second interception to give him a 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season, which is remains a remarkable statistic. Even in an injured state, it still takes a remarkable play to intercept Mariota:
80. Scoring total for two ACC teams. No team had scored 80 points in a game since Oklahoma State defeated Savannah State 84-0 on Sept. 1, 2012. Two ACC teams did it Saturday. Florida State defeated Idaho 80-14, but the more surprising result was North Carolina’s 80-20 win over Old Dominion. North Carolina scored all 80 before both teams agreed to play a 10-minute fourth quarter. Old Dominion is set to join Conference USA in 2015.
3-0. Vanderbilt’s record vs. Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. This isn’t Philip Fulmer’s Tennessee program, but the Commodores wrapped up the feat of going 3-0 against Florida, Georgia and Tennessee by defeating the Volunteers 14-10. Vanderbilt drove 92 yards down the field with a backup quarterback and a jump pass to seal the win.
Buried on the Depth Chart
Davante Adams, Fresno State
Ty Mongtomery, Stanford
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Clinched Championship Games
Big Ten: Michigan State vs. Ohio State
Pac-12: Arizona State vs. Stanford
Best Pre-Saturday Games Next Week
Texas Tech at Texas (Thu.)
Ole Miss at Mississippi State (Thu.)
Oregon State at Oregon (Fri.)
Best Games Next Saturday
Alabama at Auburn
Clemson at South Carolina
Texas A&M at Missouri
Aaron Donald. The Pittsburgh defensive tackle has the least notoriety of any of the finalists for the Lombardi Award and Nagurski Trophy this season. He hasn’t received the attention of UCLA’s Anthony Barr, Alabama’s C.J. Mosley, Missouri’s Michael Sam or the others, but he’s been just as dominant. Donald had nine tackles and 3.5 tackles for a loss in the 17-16 win over Syracuse to make Pittsburgh bowl eligible. Donald’s blocked extra point in the first quarter turned out to be the decisive play in the game.
Hawaii’s heartbreakers. Two weeks, two overtimes and Hawaii is still winless. The Warriors have come within minutes of picking up their first win of the season in each of the first two weeks only to see fourth quarter leads turn into overtime losses. Hawaii led Wyoming 48-42 to start the fourth quarter before losing 59-56 in overtime. Last week, Hawaii led San Diego State 21-14 in the fourth quarter before the Aztecs scored the final 14 points to win in overtime. A long season for Norm Chow keeps getting longer.
Three Signs of the Apocalypse
Duke wins nine games. Duke’s ninth win seemed inevitable, but Wake Forest at least made the Blue Devils work for it. Wake took a 14-0 lead and led by a touchdown in the third quarter as Duke coughed up a fumble for a touchdown and went 3 of 11 on third down. Duke won 28-21 for its ninth win of the season, the most in Durham since 1941. To put that in perspective: The last coach to win nine games at Duke was Wallace Wade, who left Alabama to coach the Blue Devils. Voluntarily.
Washington State in a bowl. The Cougars ended the Pac-12’s longest bowl drought by defeating Utah 49-37 for their sixth win. In less than two seasons, Mike Leach has already exceeded his predecessor’s Pac-12 win total. With a 4-4 conference record this season, Leach is 5-12 in the league overall. Paul Wulff was 4-32 in four seasons.
Illinois wins a Big Ten game. Thankfully for Illinois, Purdue is on the schedule. The Big Ten’s other awful team gave Illinois the chance to end its 20-game Big Ten losing streak. Illinois defeated Purdue 20-16 for its first conference win since Oct. 8, 2011 despite four turnovers against the Boilermakers.