The 24 hours before the first BCS standings of 2012 gave voters -- and computers -- plenty to consider.
Teams like Alabama and Oregon may be secure at the top of the polls, but other spots may be a mystery. LSU upended South Carolina’s dominance in another night game win in Baton Rouge. Against Texas, Oklahoma looked like a title contender, despite a loss to Kansas State on its resume. And Notre Dame, despite its juggling act at quarterback, may have the best defense North of Tuscaloosa, perhaps with the help of some beneficial officiating.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEK 7 RECAP: THREE AND OUT
MOVING THE CHAINS
Texas A&M 59, Louisiana Tech 57. Good things come to those who stay up until 1 a.m. Eastern to watch college football. The late-night college football crowd watched one of the games of the year so far when Louisiana Tech overcame a 27-0 deficit to come within a fade pass into the end zone to force overtime against Texas A&M. The wild game included a 23-point second half comeback, 40-point fourth quarter, record-breaking heroics by Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and 21-catch performance from Louisiana Tech receiver Quinton Patton. Louisiana Tech never led but scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes to keep the pressure on Texas A&M. And even in shootout, the little things matter -- Louisiana Tech had an extra point blocked in the second quarter, returned for two points for the Aggies.
Texas Tech’s pass defense. The aura of invincibility around the West Virginia came to a convincing end in Lubbock. After a setback against Oklahoma, the Texas Tech defense kept the pressure on Geno Smith like no defense has so far this season. The West Virginia quarterback was 29 of 55 for a season-low 275 yards with a touchdown. One of the worst pass defenses a year ago, Texas Tech held West Virginia to 5 yards per pass attempt, compared to the Mountaineers’ 9.4 yards per attempt entering the game. New defensive coordinator Art Kaufman, a former North Carolina assistant, has been the best assistant coach hire of the offseason.
Notre Dame in the clutch. A disputed call may have been the difference in the win over Stanford, but the Notre Dame defense again stifled a quality opponent in crunch time in the 20-13 win over Stanford. The Cardinal advanced to first and goal from the four, but Notre Dame held Stepfan Taylor to 3 yards on four consecutive carries, the last of which was ruled a stop before the end zone. Almost as important, Notre Dame clamped down on a Stanford drive to the 5 to force a field goal. On the disputed play, Fox Sports’ officiating guru Mike Pereira Tweeted the following:
Texas’ last two years against Oklahoma Early in the first quarter, Texas defensive back Quandre Diggs returned Oklahoma’s blocked extra point for two. For most of the Red River Rivalry, that was pretty much all that went right for Texas. In the final minute of the first half, Oklahoma had run more plays (52) as Texas had gained yards (48) in the eventual 63-21 rout. The loss was embarrassing enough for Texas, but the trends may be even worse. Oklahoma has outscored the Longhorns 118-38 the last two seasons. The Sooners’ 118 points against Texas since 2011 is the most against the Longhorns in a two-year span in the series. By allowing 677 yards, Texas has allowed 450 yards in three consecutive games. The pressure is on defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and coach Mack Brown, who is now 5-9 against Bob Stoops.
South Carolina Just a week ago, South Carolina looked like a dominant title contender, and LSU looked like it was stumbling through the SEC season. Both were on hold in Baton Rouge. LSU’s defense held serve until the offense could catch up as South Carolina amassed only 211 yards. Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore, who was automatic for about 100 yards and a touchdown in every game this season, rushed for only 34 yards and a touchdown against LSU. The Gamecocks were a paltry 3 of 13 on third down (compared to 11 of 19 for LSU), leaving South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier as exasperated as he’s been all season. The loss may not necessarily knock South Carolina out of the BCS title race, but puts more pressure on the Gamecocks against Florida next week.
Louisiana Tech’s BCS hopes. The thrilling finish for Louisiana Tech against Texas A&M was probably a good thing in exposing Sonny Dykes’ program to the masses, but the loss likely costs Louisiana Tech a trip to the BCS. The Bulldogs already defeated Illinois and Virginia on the road, but needed the win against Texas A&M to secure a spot for BCS inclusion. Despite the bowl picture, going toe to toe with Texas A&M in front of a late-night national crowd gave the program the most exposure it has seen in years. In related news, Ohio remains the only undefeated team in the BCS non-automatic qualifying leagues.
Collin Klein, Kansas State. In typical fashion, Klein didn’t have the Heisman-capturing deep pass play or long run, but he did what he always does, grinding out yards and picking up third downs. Klein was 16 of 24 for 187 yards and rushed for 105 yards with three touchdowns to set up a key game against West Virginia and Geno Smith next week.
Geno Smith, West Virginia. Whether the windy conditions in Lubbock affected him (as coach Dana Holgorsen said) or not (as Smith contended), the Mountaineers quarterback had his worst game of the season. Smith still finished with a stat line most quarterbacks would love -- 29 of 55 for 275 yards with a touchdown. Smith remained an overwhelming favorite for player of the year entering the week, one bad performance may not derail his ability to win the Heisman. But it cracked open the door for others.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M. A freshman on a freshman team in the SEC has the top two single-game totals for total offense with 576 yards against Louisiana Tech and 557 yards against Arkansas, beating out records from Ole Miss’ Archie Manning and LSU’s Rohan Davey. No freshman has ever won the Heisman, but Manziel could make a case for votes -- prolific numbers for a winning team and making key plays (a 72-yard run in the fourth quarter that turned out to be the winning score.). He’s a Heisman moment waiting to happen on every play.
72. With three touchdowns agains Purdue this week and 72 in his career, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball broke Ron Dayne’s Big Ten record of 71 career touchdowns. Ball isn’t going to be a Heisman finalist again, but he has returned to his 2011 form. Ball rushed for a career-high 247 yards in the 38-14 win over the Boilermakers, giving him seven touchdowns in three Big Ten games.
20. With four touchdowns on 11 carries against Texas, Oklahoma backup quarterback Blake Bell has 20 rushing touchdowns on 72 career carries. That gives “The Belldozer” a touchdown every 3.6 plays. By comparison, Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas averages a touchdown every eight plays. Granted, Thomas’s touches aren’t confined to goal line.
2.Through the midway point of the season, only two teams have not allowed an opponent to rush for 100 yards in a game. One is Alabama, which held Missouri to three rushing yards in a 42-10 win Saturday. The other is Rutgers, which limited Syracuse to 62 yards in a 23-15 win. Not surprisingly, both are 6-0.
SCORES THAT MAKE YOU GO ‘HUH?’
THREE SURPRISING 5-1 TEAMS
THREE SURPRISING TEAMS UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE
BURIED ON THE DEPTH CHART
Giovani Bernard’s hot streak. North Carolina can’t play in a bowl, but running back Giovani Bernard is a worthy candidate for postseason awards. Bernard rushed for 177 yards in an 18-14 win over Miami to give him 439 rushing yards the last two weeks against Virginia Tech and the Hurricanes. North Carolina is 5-0 when he plays and 0-2 when he doesn’t.
No panic at TCU. A week after TCU lost 37-23 to Iowa State days after quarterback Casey Pachall left the team, the Horned Frogs regrouped against Baylor. Redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin was stellar in his second start, finishing 22 of 30 for 261 yards with four touchdowns to go with 56 rushing yards and a score against a struggling Baylor defense. More impressive was an offense that forced six turnovers (four interceptions from four players and two recovered fumbles).
Tulane ends losing streak. The Green Wave ended the nation’s longest losing streak with a 27-26 win over SMU, snapping a 15-loss skid. With Army, Idaho and Memphis all ending eight-game losing streaks last week, the nation’s longest winless streak now belongs to Eastern Michigan. The Eagles put up a fight Saturday, but lost 52-47 to Toledo to extend their losing streak to eight games.
THREE KEY WEST COAST DEVELOPMENTS
USC’s pass game falls flat.Matt Barkley and his receivers may still be the strength for the Trojans, but they haven’t been overwhelming since this first two weeks of the season. Against Washington, Barkley was 10 of 20 for 167 yards, the third time USC has passed for fewer than 200 yards this year. Silas Redd, who wasn’t even a part of the team until weeks before the season, carried the offense with 155 yards and a touchdown. Not to be ignored: The USC defense recovered four turnovers and the special teams blocked a punt in a 24-14 win over the Huskies.
Oregon State survives without Sean Mannion. Oregon State scored more touchdowns against BYU (five) than the Cougars had allowed all season (four). And the Beavers did it with a backup quarterback making his first start. Cody Vaz was 20 of 32 for 332 yards with three touchdowns in a 42-24 win over BYU, proving he can win on the road just as well as injured starter Sean Mannion.
Boise State gets stronger each week.The Broncos are out of the spotlight thanks to a rebuilding season, but they still manage to impress. Boise State dominated both sides of the run game against a solid Fresno State team. Boise State’s D.J. Harper and and Jay Ajayi combined for 213 rushing yards while the defense held the Bulldogs to 56 yards. Meanwhile, Boise State shut out its opponent in the first half for the fourth consecutive game.
THREE BREAKOUT PERFORMANCES
Jeremy Hill, LSU. Just what LSU was lacking: Another quality running back. That’s sarcasm, but where had Hill been this season? The freshman had three carries in the last three games, but emerged for 124 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries against South Carolina.
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss. Four touchdowns in an SEC game have been tough to find for the Rebels over their 16-game conference losing skid. Wallace delivered one in style. The Ole Miss quarterback accounted for two touchdown runs, a touchdown pass and a touchdown catch in a 41-20 win over Auburn. It was Ole Miss’ first win over an SEC opponent since Sept. 25, 2010 against Kentucky.
J.C. Coleman, Virginia Tech. Have the Hokies finally found the answer to their stagnant run game? Coleman entered the game against Duke with 136 yards this season but responded with 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Duke. Virginia Tech had rushed for 136 yards a touchdown as a team in its two ACC games this season before Coleman’s breakout. The rookie from Chesapeake, Va., had touchdown runs of 45 and 86 yards against Duke.
DANG, THEY’RE GOOD
DANG THEY’RE BAD
BEST GAMES NEXT WEEK
Virginia Tech 41, Duke 20. For nearly a quarter, Duke looked prepared to make December plans not involving Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils jumped to a 20-0 lead on Virginia Tech in a dominating effort on both sides of the ball, including a interception returned for a touchdown off Logan Thomas. Duke’s long wait for a bowl eligibility will have to wait another week as the Hokies scored 41 unanswered points.
Temple 17, Connecticut 14 (OT). With its limitations in the passing game and an injured Matt Brown, Temple isn’t really built to stage a major comeback -- unless it has help. Connecticut obliged. The Huskies jumped to a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but an inept offense and four missed field goals allowed Temple to crawl back -- and crawl the Owls did. Temple didn’t tie the game until the final 19 seconds and then clinched the 17-14 win with a field goal in overtime.
Nevada 42, UNLV 37. Without starting quarterback Cody Fajardo, Mountain West contender Nevada fell behind 31-14 at halftime to lowly UNLV. Nevada regrouped in the second half with both Stefphon Jefferson and backup quarterback Devin Combs topping 100 rushing yards.
By David Fox