Nick Marshall’s deflected touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis to beat Georgia stood as perhaps the best play in Auburn history. One of the biggest plays in SEC lore.
When fans tell the story of the 2013 Auburn season, Marshall to Louis (via the hands of a Georgia player) will be No. 2.
Chris Davis set off mayhem at Jordan-Hare Stadium by returning Alabama’s failed last-second 57-yard field goal attempt from the back of Auburn end zone to Alabama’s end zone for a 34-28 win to topple the No. 1 Crimson Tide.
Auburn clinches a spot in the SEC Championship Game, but that’s secondary. Auburn has clinched a spot among one of the most miraculous teams in college football history.
Between Marshall’s miracle pass to beat Georgia and Davis’ runback to beat Alabama, Auburn has produced the equivalent of Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary and the Bluegrass Miracle in a span of three weeks.
The win likely costs Alabama a bid at a third consecutive national championship while giving Auburn an outside shot at claiming its own bid to extend the SEC title streak to eight.
But all of that is conjecture at this point. Auburn’s 2013 season place as the most charmed years in college football history isn’t in doubt.
Three and Out: College Football Week 14 Recap
Three Things We Learned From Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Auburn will make a compelling case for the BCS Championship Game. Ohio State and Florida State remain undefeated, but look for the conversation to begin about Auburn leap-frogging one of them in the event of an SEC championship (Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is already lobbying). Precedent says that talk is hokum. No one-loss team has ever jumped an undefeated major conference team for a title spot in BCS history. Then again, two teams from the same conference facing each other in a rematch for the title would have been ludicrious before 2011. Auburn has the lone loss of the three teams (35-21 at LSU). But Auburn also entered the week with the toughest schedule of any of those three. After defeating Alabama, the Tigers have the 26th-ranked schedule and a 3-1 record against the top 30, according to the Sagarin ratings. Ohio State’s schedule is ranked 61st; Florida State’s is 66th. But Auburn entered the week trailing the top three in the BCS by nearly a tenth of a point, a significant amount with two weeks left in the season.
Wins over teams with winning records
Alabama, Arkansas State, Georgia, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Boston College, Clemson, Maryland, Miami
Buffalo, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State, San Diego State, Wisconsin
Wins over current BCS top 25
Alabama, Texas A&M
Alabama, for the first time in a long time, was mistake-prone. From beginning to end, special teams were an issue for the Crimson Tide, down to the game-winning runback. Alabama punter Cody Mandell dropped a punt in the first quarter, and Cade Foster stutter-stepped on his first of three missed field goals. Nick Saban’s lack of confidence in special teams spilled into the fourth quarter when he elected to run his offense on fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 13 (T.J. Yeldon was stuffed for no gain). Alabama forced a three and out and got the ball at the Auburn 27 but again came up short when Foster’s field goal was blocked. On the final play of the game, rather than taking a knee for overtime, Alabama sent out a freshman kicker with one career kick for a 57-yard attempt.
Auburn is a miracle team. Auburn isn’t in the SEC Championship Game simply because it’s lucky. Auburn proved to be Alabama's equal Saturday. Though the Crimson Tide outgained Auburn by 102 yards and more than two yards per play, Auburn held Alabama to 4 of 13 on third down and had the special teams edge long before the final touchdown. The Tigers are a definite top five or better team, but they’ve had their good fortune beyond the miracle plays to beat Georgia and Alabama. Auburn has taken advantage of just about every play on the razor’s edge in the final month of the season. Against Alabama, Nick Marshall completed his final touchdown pass just a toe short of the line of scrimmage. Marshall ran to his left on an option play, switched the football from one hand to the other and was just short of the line when he found Sammy Coates open for the game-tying 39-yard touchdown. And on the final drive, officials put one second back on the clock when T.J. Yeldon ran out of bounds. Of course, Auburn fans would be cursing officials if Adam Griffith converts the 57-yard field goal, but the endgame was Davis’ miracle touchdown.
Three Things We Learned From Ohio State 42, Michigan 41
Ohio State’s backfield is something special. This isn’t a new revelation, but it took nearly the entire season for a high-profile performance like this out of Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde as a tandem. Blame the Big Ten schedule. Blame the early season injury (Miller) and suspension (Hyde). The duo gashed Michigan’s defense up the middle all day with Hyde rushing for 226 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries and Miller rushing for 153 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. Michigan kept coming back against the Ohio State defense, but anytime the Buckeyes needed to move the ball, Hyde and Miller delivered. After a slow start, Miller still finished 6 of 15 passing for 133 yards with two touchdowns and interceptions. Given the way the Heisman race has self-destructed in recent weeks, one has to wonder how Miller or Hyde would have fared if both played all season. The duo that averaged 379 rushing yards and 8.8 yards per carry against Michigan will face a Michigan State defense that’s allowed 100 rushing yards in a game only twice this season.
Ohio State’s defense came up when it mattered ... and that’s about it. When the Buckeyes make a case for the BCS Championship Game, they won’t point to Saturday’s defense. Ohio State entered the game ranked fourth in a lackluster Big Ten in total defense before allowing 603 yards to Michigan. Devin Gardner and his supporting cast have shown this potential, but what makes for exciting rivalry week football didn’t make for a resounding statement for the Buckeyes. Ohio State opened a 35-21 lead entering the fourth quarter before three Michigan scoring drives in the fourth quarter set up the potential go-ahead two-point attempt. Stops where hard to find as Ohio State allowed Michigan to score on touchdown drives of 99, 83 and 84 yards.
Michigan finally took some chances ... and failed. The Wolverines have not been the most risky team in the Big Ten this season, but that changed against Ohio State. The most prominent example was the decision to go for a two-point conversion to take a lead in the final 32 seconds rather than going for a game-tying extra point. Brady Hoke and Al Borges called for a pass play to Devin Gardner’s right with three receivers stacked in the formation. Top receivers Devin Funchess and Jeremy Gallon were covered when Gardner went for Drew Dileo. The window was tight, and freshman Tyvis Powell jumped in front of Dileo for the interception. Earlier in the game, Hoke also elected to go with his offense on a fourth-and-2 from the Ohio State 14. The conversion failed, and Ohio State scored on the ensuing drive. Michigan is only two weeks removed from kicking two sub-30-yard field goals in regulation against Northwestern, so it will be interesting to see what happens next time Hoke is in risky or conservative play call situation.
Moving the Chains
Missouri’s defense. The Tigers continued to erase any doubt about being one of the SEC’s best defenses, clinching a bid to face Auburn’s dominant run game in the SEC title game. Missouri defeated Texas A&M 28-21 to clinch the East, largely because the Tigers flummoxed Johnny Manziel for his second consecutive week. In some ways, Missouri topped even what LSU did last week against the reigning Heisman winner. Manziel was 24 of 35 for 195 yards with a touchdown and rushed for only 21 yards on 11 carries. His 216 yards of total offense was his fewest since 113 against Rice in a suspension-shortened game and a career-low in a game in which he was eligible for all four quarters.
Pac-12 run games. To start the weekend, all that really appeared to be in question in the Pac-12 this week was the site of the Pac-12 title game — Arizona State ended up clinching it. The teams that won this week, not shockingly, put up impressive numbers in the run game, in some cases from unsuspected sources. Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney (season-high 189 yards against Notre Dame) and Washington’s Bishop Sankey (200 yards against Washington State) grinded their way to wins. Oregon’s Thomas Tyner broke out for 140 yards against Oregon State. UCLA cobbled together 188 yards led by Brett Hundley and two touchdowns from defensive players. And Arizona State’s D.J. Foster filled in for an injured Marion Grice to rush for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 58-21 win over Arizona to clinch home field advantage in the Pac-12 title game against Stanford.
Duke’s close game prowess. Duke basketball is the villain, but Duke football is the lovable underdog after sealing a 10-win season and a spot in the ACC Championship Game with a 27-25 win over North Carolina. The Blue Devils kicked a 27-yard field goal in the final 3:05 to pick up yet another close win this season. Duke is 4-1 in games decided by less than a touchdown this year, including three close wins on the road (Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and North Carolina).
Clemson. The Tigers’ season started with such promise with a win over a healthy Georgia team in the first week of the season, but Clemson’s 10-2 season came up short in a number of departments: An uncompetitive loss at home to Florida State, no ACC title and now a fifth consecutive loss to South Carolina that ended any hope of a BCS game. Tajh Boyd threw two interceptions, the first into the end zone on Clemson’s first possession (converted for a long South Carolina TD drive) and then fumbled at the South Carolina 33 in the fourth quarter (setting up the Gamecocks’ drive that sealed the game). Clemson has a bowl game to avoid a Pyrrhic victory of a season.
Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers had allowed more than nine points in a Big Ten game only once since the loss to Ohio State on Sept. 28. Penn State topped that in the first half of a 31-24 win. Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg further solidified his spot as a rising star by completing 21 of 30 passes with 339 yards and four touchdowns to knock the Badgers out of the BCS at-large mix. Wisconsin had a chance to win in the final possession of the game before Joel Stave threw his third interception of the game.
Baylor’s offense. Hangover from the Oklahoma State loss or not, Baylor looked nothing like a team looking to preserve its hopes of a Big 12 title, BCS game and top 10 finish in a 41-38 win over TCU. Despite the return of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, Baylor amassed a season-low 370 yards and allowed TCU to stay in the game thanks to 15 penalties for 140 yards. Bryce Petty had one of his worst games of the season with a season-low 5.4 yards per attempt and only his second pick of the season. Baylor’s defense helped bail out the Bears with four interceptions. In addition, TCU coach Gary Patterson was irked with Baylor after safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for a targeting penalty against quarterback Trevone Boykin. Patterson said his assistants saw Dixon laughing on the sideline, and a Baylor assistant yelled at the TCU sideline after the hit.
AJ McCarron, Alabama. What will voters make of McCarron in Alabama’s loss? Clearly, his performance is the second storyline at best. But McCarron still delivered two memorable moments by leading two scoring drives starting with deep pass plays out of his own end zone, the final one a 99-yard pass to Amari Cooper to take a lead in the fourth quarter. McCarron finished 17 of 29 for 277 yards with three touchdowns, often fielding low snaps from a new center. A win may have been the only thing to allow McCarron to gain ground on Jameis Winston.
Andre Williams, Boston College. Last week’s Heisman darling won’t be in much of the conversation this week. The nation’s top rusher left the game with an injury in the third quarter of a 34-31 loss to Syracuse. Even before he left the game, Williams wasn’t much of a factor with 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. Thanks to Fresno State’s wild loss to San Jose State, Northern Illinois is only non-automatic qualifying team in the mix for a BCS bid. Lynch will get consideration after rushing for 321 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Western Michigan, never mind that he went 5 of 17 for 39 yards passing against a 1-11 team.
5-3. The SEC’s record against the ACC. The ACC split its first four games against the SEC this season, and the final week of the regular season appeared to give the ACC its best chance for a winning record against its rival league in more than a decade with a top 10 Clemson team facing South Carolina, Florida State against the worst Florida team since 1979 and Georgia Tech facing Georgia without Aaron Murray. The SEC, though, went 3-1 on the last day of the season, giving it a chance for its its sixth consecutive winning season and 11th consecutive non-losing season against the ACC, depending on the bowl games.
South Carolina 27, North Carolina 10
Clemson 38, Georgia 25
31.3. Florida State’s average margin of victory vs. Florida, Miami and Clemson. Florida State defeated Florida 37-7 in a result that wasn’t unexpected against the overmatched Gators. Still, this wraps up a banner season for the Seminoles against their top rivals. All three wins, all decided by at least 27 points, were among the top four most lopsided Florida State wins in each series.
3-0. South Carolina’s record against the last three SEC East champions. That’s not a number that will infuriate South Carolina fans, right? South Carolina defeated Georgia in back-to-back seasons in 2011-12 even though the Bulldogs won the SEC East. South Carolina followed that by defeating Missouri 27-24 in overtime as the Tigers won the East. The Gamecocks’ loss to 5-7 Tennessee this season, though, may be the most embarrassing of the defeats that knocked Carolina out of SEC contention.
Buried on the Depth Chart
2014 Heisman Watch
Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Nick Marshall, Auburn
Thomas Tyner, Oregon
San Jose State
BCS Stock Up
BCS Stock Down
Could Use a Few Bowl Practices
Conference Championship Games
ACC: Duke vs. Florida State
Big Ten: Michigan St. vs. Ohio St.
C-USA: Marshall vs. Rice
MAC: Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois
MW: Fresno State vs. Utah State
Pac-12: Stanford at Arizona State
SEC: Auburn vs. Missouri
Best of the Rest Next Week
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Texas at Baylor
Louisville at Cincinnati
Southern Miss avoids history.
As Duke won 10 games this season, a dubious Duke record remains unbroken. Southern Miss defeated UAB 62-27 to end its 23-game losing streak. The win ensures 2000-01 Duke remains the only team to go winless in back-to-back seasons in the last 30 years.
FAU under Brian Wright.
FAU had one of the more embarrassing storylines this season when coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis resigned due to use of illegal drugs (or failure to report drug use). The Owls, though, rebounded under interim coach Brian Wright to win the final four games of the season, capped with a 21-6 victory over FIU. FAU is bowl eligible at 6-6.
Hawaii dodges winless season.
Long after most viewers went to bed, Hawaii found an opponent it could beat after a pair of close calls in the last two weeks. The Warriors defeated Army 49-42, leaving Miami (Ohio) and Georgia State as the only winless teams for 2013.
Good Signs for 2014
Anthony Jennings, LSU.
The Tigers have had to wait a few years for above average quarterback play before Zach Mettenberger became one of the most improved passers this season. The Tigers may not need to wait that long if Friday was any indication for freshman Anthony Jennings. The rookie replaced an injured Mettenberger to lead an improbable 99-yard drive to beat Arkansas 31-27. Jennings completed 4 of 6 passes for 76 yards, including 49-yard game winning score, on the final drive.
Thomas Tyner, Oregon.
The Ducks' heralded freshman had been a key cog in Oregon’s backfield all season, but he flashed what he could do as a primary back against Oregon State. Tyner rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries in the 36-35 win over Oregon State on Friday. Quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas draft eligible.
Huston Mason, Georgia.
Watching someone play quarterback for Georgia other than Murray was a strange sight. Once Mason presided over a second-half comeback, all seemed to be normal. Having Todd Gurley, of course, helped. Mason, though, completed 22 of 36 passes for 299 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as Georgia erased a 20-point deficit for a 41-34 win in double overtime. Mason, a junior, may be a one-year starting quarterback, but at least Georgia fans know what they’ve got.
Key Hot Seat Numbers
Nebraska began Saturday with its athletic director offering support for Bo Pelini after a Friday that left Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel writing the coach “
” with his conduct during and after the game. The column was scathing, but Pelini didn’t help his case by saying “if they want to fire me, go ahead.” While athletic director Shawn Eichorst again backed Pelini, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman offered
to the Lincoln (Neb.) Star-Journal. At play may be a $7.5 million buyout for the embattled coach.
Consecutive games since Florida put up 400 yards of offense. Florida put up 193 yards of offense and seven points against Florida State as the Gators’ offense continued to show little life, especially after running/receiving threat Trey Burton was lost for the remainder of the game with an injury. Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley again endorsed coach Will Muschamp for 2014, but changes on the offensive staff are a foregone conclusion. Like Pelini, Muschamp also has a significant buyout at $2 million each season through 2017, according to The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The key for Muschamp will be finding an offensive coordinator willing to take a job under a head coach who will be under intense scrutiny.
Rutgers’ record since Oct. 10. Two seasons under Kyle Flood and two midseason collapses for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights lost 28-17 to Connecticut, a team that entered the game with one win this season. UConn further took advantage of a bad Rutgers pass defense by completing 25 of 33 passes for 312 yards with three touchdowns. Rutgers has gone 1-5 in its last six games, meaning the Knights need a win over USF to be bowl eligible. In Flood’s first season, Rutgers limped to a 2-4 finish after a 7-0 start.