A wild Saturday may make no difference in the national championship race, but the week ended with plenty of questions for title contenders.
The BCS top four of Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon remained undefeated, but three of them will spend Sunday mulling Saturday’s outcomes. Alabama needed a miracle drive in the final minutes to defeat LSU. Notre Dame needed three overtimes to defeat a 4-4 Pittsburgh team. And Kansas State finished the game with someone other than Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein at quarterback.
Of the BCS top four, only Oregon could emerge from Saturday with a healthy dose of optimism -- and the Ducks gave up 51 points.
Even if Saturday's unexpected outcomes didn't reshape the BCS standings for this week, they may reverberate through the final month of the season.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 10 RECAP: THREE AND OUT
THREE TAKEAWAYS FROM ALABAMA 21, LSU 17
T.J. Yeldon is Alabama’s biggest star. Quarterback A.J. McCarron struggled through most of the second half as four Alabama possessions ended in a three and out and a fifth ended in a fumble. Instead, freshman T.J. Yeldon turned out to be the game’s MVP with 11 carries for 76 yards and then the 28-yard game-winning touchdown on a screen pass. He’ll be in Mark Ingram/Trent Richardson territory soon enough.
Zach Mettenberger is no pushover. This was the Zach Mettenberger LSU thought it had when he arrived last season. Before Saturday, Mettenberger was one of the worst quarterbacks in the SEC. Against Alabama, he looked all-conference worthy. Mettenberger was 24 of 35 for 298 yards and threaded the go-ahead touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry early in the fourth quarter. Now, the trick is for Mettenberger to perform like this against opponents other than Alabama.
Alabama is on upset alert next week. McCarron ended the game in tears, and a handful of Crimson Tide players likely finished the game bruised and beat up against a physical opponent. Alabama returns to Tuscaloosa next week, but Texas A&M presents a different challenge with its spread offense and athletic quarterback. Not to mention a defense that can cause headaches for quarterbacks.
THREE TAKEAWAYS FROM OREGON 62, USC 51
Kenjon Barner is making Heisman case. Late-night starts, lopsided wins against overmatched opponents and the emergence of redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has cut into chatter about Oregon running back Kenjon Barner for postseason awards. That changes with a record effort against USC. Barner rushed for 321 yards against the Trojans, a school record for Oregon and a record for a USC opponent. The running back from nearby Riverside, Calif., also ran for five touchdowns.
Marqise Lee should take home postseason awards, too. Matt Barkley started the season as the player of the year forerunner, but Lee is USC’s most valuable player. Against USC, he caught 12 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 31.4 yards on kickoff returns. Lee's 469 all-purpose yards last week against Arizona and 408 against Oregon are the two highest totals nationally this season.
USC can’t stop the no-huddle spread, and that’s going to be a problem. Not many teams can stop Oregon, but the Ducks don’t put up 730 yards of offense every week, either. This is a trend going in the wrong direction for the USC defense: The Trojans also gave up 588 yards to Arizona a week ago and 474 yards to Oregon a year ago. With Chip Kelly’s system producing no matter the personnel, and Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach and Todd Graham running the no-huddle spread in the Pac-12, USC and Monte Kiffin need to find answers soon.
MOVING THE CHAINS
Kansas State's supporting cast. Collin Klein may be the Heisman frontrunner, but the Wildcats didn’t need him to find the end zone in a 44-30 win over Oklahoma State. Kansas State scored 31 points in the first half against the Cowboys, none from Klein. They came on two John Hubert touchdowns, a kickoff return from Tyler Lockett, an interception return from Allen Chapman and two field goals. Klein didn’t account for a touchdown until the third quarter with a rushing score. Klein wasn’t a non-factor, though, as he passed for 245 yards and ran for 64 before leaving in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury.
Texas still has some life to it. The Longhorns were a mess through October. That didn’t carry over into November with a 31-22 win over Texas Tech on the road. Against the Red Raiders, the Longhorns’ maligned defense allowed only two touchdowns and no plays longer than 25 yards. Texas Tech’s 112 rushing yards were the least against the Texas defense since the opener against Wyoming. And quarterback David Ash, benched last week against Kansas, came back to complete 11 of 19 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns. At 7-2, Texas faces Iowa State and TCU in the next two games before the finale against Kansas State.
Kevin Hogan in relief. The redshirt freshman didn’t start, but he might finish the season as Stanford’s quarterback. Josh Nunes’ struggles from the last three games spilled into the first quarter against hapless Colorado. Hogan then entered the game in late in the first quarter and immediately looked like Matt Barkley and Marcus Mariota did against the Buffaloes’ defense. Hogan was 18 of 23 for 184 yards with two touchdowns, adding 48 rushing yards in the 48-0 win over Colorado.
Notre Dame. Where Notre Dame lands in the polls may be the least of the troubles for the Fighting Irish. The Irish already rank fourth in both the coaches’ poll and Harris polls and didn’t pass the eye test despite a 29-26 win over Pittsburgh in triple overtime. The Irish trailed by two touchdowns going into the fourth quarter and needed a number of lucky breaks, including a would-be game-winning field goal by Pitt sailing wide right in the second overtime. Notre Dame threw two interceptions, including one in the red zone, and Everett Golson fumbled on the goal line in the second OT. The Irish were lucky to escape with a win, but the team that faced Pitt is going to have trouble defeating USC on Nov. 24.
Arizona. Not many teams can say they’ve been blown out by coaches in warpaint, but Arizona can. The Wildcats upset USC 39-36 a week ago, but the Wildcats wouldn’t have the same luck against the other Los Angeles team in a 66-10 loss to UCLA. The Wildcats had a chance to reach the Pac-12 title game, but they didn’t look they part when the let UCLA build up a 42-3 halftime lead. The Bruins topped 300 yards passing and 300 yards rushing to ensure a balanced rout at the Rose Bowl.
Boise State. The Broncos were essentially the only hope for a team from a non-Big Six conference as long as they were ranked in the top 16 and ahead of a champion of a Big Six conference. That’s not going to happen now as Boise State lost 21-19 to San Diego State. Now, the Broncos will have to fight for a Mountain West title in their rebuilding year. Boise State lost only its fourth home game since 1998 (including the MPC Computers Bowl loss to Boston College in 2005).
Kenjon Barner, Oregon. Barner averaged 8.4 yards per carry on 38 carries. His 321 yards and five touchdowns in the Ducks’ biggest game of the season is going to be tough for voters to ignore.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame. The Irish linebacker had seven tackles, but Pittsburgh was able to get the ball into the hands of running back Ray Graham in space. Graham rushed for 172 yards against Notre Dame, more than any opponent as a team against the Irish this season
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. The Aggies freshman is a more realistic candidate for 2013 and beyond, but he continued to make SEC defenses look pedestrian with 311 passing yards and 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State. His 83.3 percent completion rate (30 of 36) was his best of the season.
THREE FINALS FROM EARLIER THIS SEASON THAT SEEM WEIRD NOW
ARBITRARY 2013 HEISMAN RANKINGS
SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO, “HUH?”
693. Texas A&M put up 693 yards of offense in a 38-13 win over Mississippi State, giving A&M an average of 550.8 yards per game in SEC contests. The Aggies’ 559.6 yards per game this season would be an SEC record, but a matchup with the Alabama defense looms Saturday.
76. Yes, Colorado football can hit a new low of futility. The Buffaloes’ 76 total yards in the 48-0 loss to Stanford was the fewest for the program since gaining only 46 yards against Oklahoma in the 2004 Big 12 Championship Game. Colorado had only 20 total yards at halftime and finished with minus-21 yards rushing.
2. USF’s interception drought ended with two picks against Connecticut, starting with with a Jon Lejiste pick in the fourth quarter. The Bulls were one of only two teams in NCAA football -- Division I, II and III -- that did not have an interception this season. USF’s second interception of the season, this one from linebacker Elkino Watson, ended a UConn scoring chance on its final possession in a 13-6 USF win. But it’s been this kind of season for USF: Quarterback B.J. Daniels suffered a broken ankle and will be out for the remainder of the season.
BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Vanderbilt 40, Kentucky 0. Lost in the early chaos in SEC games was the rare Vanderbilt shutout in SEC play, the Commodores’ first since defeating Kentucky 6-0 in 1968. It was the Commodores’ first shutout of an FBS team since defeating Virginia Tech 45-0 in 1982.
Army upsets Air Force. The Black Knights defeated Air Force 41-21 to knock the Falcons out of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy race. By holding Air Force to 103 rushing yards and intercepting three passes, Army (2-7) ended a six-game losing streak to Air Force and defeated the Falcons for just the second time since 1996. This sets up a winner-take-all game for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy when Army faces Navy on Dec. 8.
ULM’s Sun Belt hopes in trouble. September’s darling underdog is in a three-way race for the Sun Belt title, but the Warhawks may have to do it without Kolton Browning. ULM’s dual-threat quarterback left the 40-24 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette with a foot injury, returned on crutches and left the sideline shortly thereafter. The initial reports weren’t optimistic for his return. The loss sets up a three-way tie atop the Sun Belt with ULM, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee State at 4-1 in conference play.
THREE TEAMS WITH GUTS
Nebraska. The comeback Cornhuskers overcame a double-digit deficit to win a Big Ten game for the third time this season. Nebraska trailed Michigan State by 10 points in the fourth quarter but scored two touchdowns in the final 7:02 to win 28-24. The game wasn’t without controversy, though, as a disputed pass interference call on third and 10 from the 20 set the Huskers up with first down at the Michigan State 5. The Spartans were flagged nine times for 100 yards. Huskers QB Taylor Martinez had a rocky game, going 16 of 36 passing with three interceptions and two touchdowns, but he also rushed for 205 yards and two TDs.
TCU. Between the two Big 12 newcomers, TCU has the advantage over West Virginia thanks to Gary Patterson’s risky calls calls in overtime. Capitalizing on the momentum of a second-half comeback and a blocked field goal in the first overtime, Patterson called for a trick play in the second overtime that resulted in a touchdown pass from receiver Brandon Carter off a reverse. TCU wasn’t done as it went for a two-point conversion earlier than necessary to win 39-38. TCU is 3-3 in its first season in the Big 12 as West Virginia drops to 2-3.
San Diego State. If the Aztecs are going to win the Mountain West, they’re not going to do it because coach Rocky Long is playing it safe. Two weeks ago against Nevada, San Diego State went for a two-point conversion in overtime on the road with a backup quarterback to beat the Wolf Pack 39-38. Long rolled the dice again on the road against Boise State by going for it on fourth and 2 on the Broncos’ 35 yard-line in the final two minutes. Adam Muema converted with a 13-yard run to seal the 21-19 win. San Diego State (5-1) is one of four teams with one loss at the top of the Mountain West along with Fresno State (5-1), Boise State and Air Force (4-1 each).
THREE SEC ESCAPE ACTS
Florida 14, Missouri 7. The Gators had some help -- OK, a ton of help -- from Missouri quarterback James Franklin. With a listless offense and special teams mishaps (a blocked field goal and two shanked punts from potential All-American Kyle Christy), Florida was begging to be upset. Mizzou couldn’t deliver as Franklin threw four interceptions and missed a handful of receivers in a 24-of-51 performance.
Tennessee 55, Troy 48. The Volunteers trailed by a touchdown with 3:15 to go, but that was plenty of time for Tennessee to tack on the final two touchdowns in this defense-optional game. The Volunteers set school records for most yards gained (718) and most yards allowed (721), and quarterback Tyler Bray passed for the second-most yards in SEC history with 530. One of the most remarkable stats was Tennessee’s defensive futility on third down: Troy converted 10 of 19.
Arkansas 19, Tulsa 15. That crooked final score was the product of missed kicks. Tulsa had two extra points blocked and missed a field goal. Arkansas missed a field goal of its own. Tulsa led entering the fourth quarter until Dennis Johnson rushed for his second score of the game and seventh TD in the last four games.
DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
DANG THEY’RE BAD
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
THREE REPLACEMENT QUARTERBACKS, THREE DIFFERENT RESULTS
Devin Gardner, Michigan. Gardner started slow after a surprise announcement that Denard Robinson would miss the game with nerve damage in his throwing elbow, but Gardner eventually broke the Wolverines out of their slump. Michigan hadn’t scored an offensive touchdown in its last two games against Michigan State and Nebraska, but Gardner accounted for three total touchdowns and 242 yards of total offense in the 35-13 win over Minnesota.
Shawn Petty, Maryland. The freshman linebacker-turned-quarterback, well, looked like a freshman who had been playing linebacker. Thrust into duty after the Terrapins lost four quarterbacks to injury this season, Petty was 9 of 18 for 115 yards with two lost fumbles and an interception in the 33-13 loss to Georgia Tech. Petty played quarterback at Greenbelt (Md.) Eleanor Roosevelt but signed with the Terps as a linebacker.
Brendon Kay, Cincinnati. Only days after Butch Jones said he would stick with starter Munchie Legaux, the Bearcats coach yanked his mistake-prone quarterback in the third quarter against Syracuse. Kay entered the game in the third quarter to throw the go-ahead touchdown pass in the 35-24 win over Syracuse.
By David Fox