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LSU upended Alabama, while TCU and Denny Hamlin made championship statements.
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It shouldn’t be a surprise when a one-loss team beats another one-loss team in a conference rivalry game. But Saturday afternoon's Alabama at LSU showdown was no ordinary matchup.
Perception is reality and, entering this SEC West brawl, reigning BCS champ Alabama was seen as a national title contender, while underdog host LSU was viewed by many as a fluke — thanks to “lucky” Les Miles’ good fortune in several close calls this season. So, even though there were other upsets around the country, none had the same impact as this Death Valley thriller.
As he’s done all season, the Mad Hatter rolled the dice — most notably with a fourth-and-1 reverse call that resulted in a momentum-shifting 23-yard run by DeAngelo Peterson to set up a one-yard go-ahead TD by Stevan Ridley.
In between a fiery pregame speech and a postgame romp with the fans in the stands, LSU’s emotional leader, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, recorded an INT and a fumble recovery after a strip sack by unblockable tackle Drake Nevis.
"We get great leadership from our guys," said Miles. "Kelvin Sheppard is a great leader, as well as Drake Nevis. It's just the way it's supposed to be. It's certainly a great experience, and I'm very thankful to have had it. I promise you I will cherish it for a lifetime."
The Bayou Bengals and Miles not only knocked off the Crimson Tide and former LSU coach Nick Saban, they earned some long overdue respect during their 24–21 “upset.”
"College football was celebrated today," said Miles. "That was two quality football teams slugging, start to finish, hard-nosed, clean, violent, competitive football, and how wonderful was it?
"I have to say this: Tiger Stadium was never any better than it was today, never any better."
TCU made a strong statement during a 47–7 domination at Utah. The Horned Frogs have now outscored their Mountain West Conference foes 236–23 in six league games this season, allowing just three touchdowns during that stretch.
In front of a stunned Salt Lake City crowd, TCU quarterback Andy Dalton completed 21-of-26 passes for 355 yards, three scoring strikes and zero picks in a game that "showed we can play with anybody," according to the senior. Receiver Josh Boyce was the primary benefactor, taking his three catches for 126 yards (42.0 ypc) and two trips to the end zone. Boyce scored the game's first two touchdowns, covering 26 and 93 yards, respectively. And the team from Fort Worth, Texas, never looked back.
From the start, the Utes were no match for the aggressive Horned Frogs defense, falling behind 40–0 until a fourth-quarter score put them on the board. Utah turned the ball over four times, posted just 199 yards of total offense and lost the time of possession battle 39:06-to-20:54.
"We had no answers," said Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn, following a highly-anticipated and embarrassing home loss.
Texas Two Step
And then there were two. Races, that it. Following a wild ride at the AAA Texas 500 — where Denny Hamlin took the checkers along with a 33-point lead over four-time reigning champ Jimmie Johnson — there are only two more stops in the Chase for the Cup.
Next week, NASCAR rolls into Phoenix before finishing out the season at Homestead-Miami in what could be the first Chase that goes down to the final race — and maybe even the final lap — of the season.