The final Saturday of October gave us further examples of two truths of the soon-to-be-defunct BCS:
1. October is way too early to be frustrated about the BCS rankings.
2. October is a perfect time to be frustrated with the BCS rankings.
On the first point, Missouri and Texas Tech fans were probably too busy basking in the surprising seasons the Tigers and Red Raiders have put together to worry about the national title contention, but in any event, those hopes may be finished as both suffered their first loss of the season.
On the second, Alabama, Florida State and Oregon further proved why all three have legitimate claims to the top two spots in the BCS. Alabama and Florida State rolled over overmatched competition while Oregon won a signature game against UCLA. Ohio State, with a significantly weaker schedule than the other three, is forced to wait for one of the big three to lose to crack the top three.
All four, not to mention undefeated Baylor, have every reason to believe they’re national championship material, are stuck in a two-teams-take-all system.
Speaking of the postseason, Saturday was plenty of reason to celebrate for a handful of teams. College football powers may not get excited for any and all bowl bids, but teams like Duke, Buffalo and Tulane all became bowl eligible Saturday. UNLV is one game away.
Not every postseason is a source of frustration.
College Football Week 9 Recap: Three And Out
Three Things We Learned from Oregon 42, UCLA 14
Oregon has a defense, too. The Ducks did many of the same things Stanford did to UCLA and quarterback Brett Hundley. Like Stanford, Oregon held UCLA to four yards per play and intercepted Hundley twice. But defense is a calling card for Stanford in a way it isn’t for Oregon, despite the Ducks’ impressive numbers over the years under coordinator Nick Aliotti. Against the Ducks, UCLA got two touchdowns on drives that started inside Oregon’s 40 and little else. Hundley also was held to a mere 134 yards of total offense, a career low. Only Washington State has topped 400 yards this season against Oregon, and that was a game that was out of hand early.
No one goes from a tight game to lopsided finish like Oregon. The Ducks needed a full four quarters to get the comfortable finish they’re used to having, but it happened against UCLA. Oregon and UCLA were tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter in a game that was tight enough at one point that a 66-yard run on a fake punt was one of the few sparks for the Ducks. But Oregon, as usual, caught its stride to outscore UCLA 21-0 in 9:10 of game time. Heisman contending-quarterback Marcus Mariota continued to build his case by completing 10 of 10 passes in the second half.
It’s Oregon-Stanford in the Pac-12 again. The Pac-12 schedule did Washington and UCLA no favors with both facing Oregon and Stanford back-to-back. The two league powers in the Pac-12 North defeated Washington and UCLA by a combined score of 142-76. Throw in Stanford’s 42-28 win over Arizona State, and it’s further evidence the power in the league will reside in the Oregon-Stanford winner on Nov. 7.
Three Things We Learned from Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30
Oklahoma is still in the thick of the Big 12 ... thanks to its offense. Blake Bell won’t make Oklahoma fans forget about Sam Bradford or even Landry Jones, but the Sooners quarterback started to come into his own in the final three quarters of the biggest game of the year. Backed up on his own 3 early in the second quarter, Bell led a long touchdown drive that could be the turning point for his season. Against Texas Tech, Bell completed 14 of 22 seasons for 249 yards with two touchdowns to go with 44 rushing yards. He’s been erratic as a passer but showed perfect touch on the next possession with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Saunders. It’s been a rocky start for Bell in the Big 12 this season, but Saturday was as encouraging game as the quarterback has had this season.
Kliff Kingsbury has guts. The Texas Tech coach didn’t wilt in his first big road game against Oklahoma. After the Red Raiders kicked a field goal in the third quarter to close the margin to 21-17, Kingsbury called for an onside kick. Tech recovered and scored a go-ahead touchdown. Then, midway through the fourth quarter, Texas Tech converted a fourth and 2 from its own 45 amid another Tech scoring drive.
Oklahoma lost even when it won. The Sooners offense took a handful of strides against Texas Tech, but they’ll have to overcome a major loss through the remainder of the season. Fullback Trey Millard, a threat as a runner and a receiver in addition to being a devastating blocker, was lost for the remainder of the season to a torn ACL. This was a guy voted first-team All-Big 12 by coaches while accounting for 535 yards from scrimmage last season. He’ll be impossible to replace this season.
Moving the Chains
Ohio State’s rout. The Buckeyes needed to prove they could beat any Big Ten team by a significant margin. Ohio State followed through with a 63-14 rout of Penn State, the biggest Big Ten blowout under Urban Meyer. Still, it may be too little, too late. Without a marquee nonconference win and a weak slate against the Big Ten, Ohio State isn’t going to catch Alabama, Oregon or Florida State if any of them stay undefeated. The Buckeyes’ next three Big Ten opponents (Purdue, Illinois and Indiana) have one conference win among them.
Minnesota’s fight. The Gophers are bowl eligible before November, which is a major feat considering the adversity Minnesota has battled this season. Gophers coach Jerry Kill has been out of action for two games as he seeks to remedy the epileptic seizures that impacted two games this season. Acting coach Tracy Claeys led the Gophers to a 34-23 win over Nebraska to end a 16-game losing streak to the Cornhuskers dating back to 1960. The Gophers rushed for 271 yards and three touchdowns on 54 attempts, but also caught Nebraska off guard with tricky formations. In one drive in the third quarter, Minnesota had an offensive tackle line up as a receiver only to complete a 21-yard pass to tight end. Four plays later, Minnesota lined up in the Wildcat on the goal line only to have quarterback Philip Nelson motion from his receiver spot to take a QB sneak for a touchdown.
Michigan State. Maybe it’s time to start taking Michigan State more seriously as a Big Ten contender, and not just because Nebraska can’t play defense and Michigan is turnover-happy. A week before facing Michigan, the Spartans smashed Illinois 45-3, outgaining the Illini 477-128. Michigan State held Illinois to 1.2 yards per carry while rushing for 4.9 yards per carry itself. In addition, the efficiency numbers for Michigan State were through the roof as quarterback Connor Cook completed 15 of 16 passes for 208 yards with three touchdowns and the Spartans went 14 of 16 on third down.
Missouri. This has been a magical season for Missouri that may end up in the SEC Championship Game, but Tigers fans can’t get out of a season without a dose of misery. Missouri gave up a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 27-24 in double overtime in a game joining Colorado's Fifth Down and Nebraska's Flea Kicker in Missouri misery lore. Kicker Andrew Baggett was the goat of the moment when a 24-yard field goal from the left hashmark (and with a questionable hold with the laces out) bounced off the goal post in the second overtime. But the Missouri defense also gave up a 15-yard touchdown pass on fourth down in the first overtime. The Tigers were also on the wrong end of a gutty effort by Connor Shaw. The South Carolina quarterback wasn’t even supposed to play after sustaining a knee injury last week against Tennessee. Shaw entered the game to complete 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns.
Northwestern’s collapse. Northwestern is falling apart in a way that would make Ron Zook’s final team at Illinois blush. The Wildcats lost 17-10 in overtime to Iowa (an overtime game completed in two hours, 50 minutes, no less) for their fourth loss in a row. Northwestern started 4-0 and was ranked as high as No. 16 in the AP poll, but now the Wildcats are in danger of missing a bowl game with Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State and Illinois rounding out the Big Ten schedule. Most perplexing Saturday was Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald forgoing a timeout on Iowa’s final possession. The Hawkeyes ran the ball twice in side the Northwestern 40, but Fitzgerald didn’t call a timeout until fourth down. The Wildcats got the ball back win only seven seconds in regulation.
Oregon State’s pass protection. Sean Mannion was sacked eight times in the 20-12 loss to Stanford, nearly doubling how often he’d been sacked all season. The pressure contributed to Mannion’s 4.7 yards per attempt, a season-low by two yards, and only one touchdown. Mannion completed 42 of 58 passes for a mere 274 yards in the loss.
Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. The Huskies quarterback accounted for four passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown and a touchdown catch in a 59-20 win over Eastern Michigan. It’s going to be tough for him to crack the hold Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel have on the top three, but efforts like that might put him in the top five. Lynch was seventh in the voting last season.
Jameis Winston, Florida State. Winston completed 16 of 26 passes for 292 yards with three touchdowns and an interception and was lifted after the first possession in the third quarter. Probably not the last time that happens for the Seminoles' freshman.
Derek Carr, Fresno State. His team was not impressive in a 35-28 win in overtime against San Diego State. Even the key pass in overtime wasn’t anything special — it was an 11-yard shovel pass on third and 8. But it all happened after 2:30 a.m. Eastern, so some voters may just see an undefeated quarterback with a famous name who went 35 of 58 for 298 yards with two touchdowns.
104. Alabama’s unanswered points streak when it ended. Alabama had outscored SEC opponents 104-0 going back to the second half against Kentucky before the unanswered scoring streak was broken in the most unlikely way. With Justin Worley injured, Tennessee burned the redshirt of freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs. Dobbs led the first scoring drive against Alabama in seven quarters and the first touchdown drive against the Crimson Tide in eight quarters. Alabama is still outscoring SEC opponents 170-17 since the Texas A&M game on Sept. 14.
3,172. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews set the SEC’s career receiving record at 3,172 yards with at least four games to go in his senior season. Matthews passed Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards’ 3,093 career yards from 1999-2002. Matthews is the second Vanderbilt receiver to hold the SEC’s receiving record. The Commodores’ Boo Mitchell held the record from 1988 until he was passed by LSU’s Josh Reed in 2001.
40. Points allowed in three consecutive games by Penn State. That’s the first time that’s happened to Penn State since 1899, according to the Big Ten Network’s Dave Revsine. The teams that did that back in 1899: Yale, Penn and the Duquesne Athletic Club. Penn State’s 63 points allowed against Ohio State was the most since a 106-0 loss to Lehigh in 1889.
Buried on the Depth Chart
No Let Downs After Big Wins
Landon Collins, Alabama
Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Three Lonely Kickers
Andrew Baggett, Missouri
Cody Journell, VIrginia Tech
Seamus McMorrow, San Diego State
Outta Nowhere Heroes
Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
Connor Shaw, South Carolina
Nick Sloan, Navy
Dang, They’re Good
Dang, They’re Bad
Best Games Next Week
Michigan at Michigan State
Oklahoma State at Texas Tech
Miami at Florida State
Houston’s 6-1 start.
Has anyone been paying attention to Houston’s wild start? The Cougars demolished a turnover-prone Rutgers team 49-14 to continue a 3-0 start in the American Athletic Conference to eclipse last season’s win total. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for second-year coach Tony Levine, who lost starting quarterback David Piland earlier this season. Piland, whose career ended due to multiple concussions, has been replaced admirably by freshman John O’Korn. Of course, it helps O’Korn to have star wide receiver Deontay Greenberry. Greenberry, who backed out of a commitment to Notre Dame on signing day in 2012, caught eight passes for 168 yards with three touchdowns against Rutgers. Houston’s only loss this season is by one point in a wild game against BYU last week, but the Cougars' real test will be Nov. 9 (at UCF) and Nov. 16 (at Louisville.)
Receivers return for Kansas State.
The Wildcats gave Baylor its toughest test of the season and came close to upsetting Oklahoma State, but they’ve been short on wins. Kansas State finally got a Big 12 victory thanks in part to the return of injured receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. The tandem combined for 11 catches for 164 yards and four touchdowns in a 35-12 win over West Virginia. Lockett alone had three touchdown catches.
Garrett Gilbert saved SMU from embarrassment and kept the Mustangs in bowl contention with a furious comeback to beat Temple 59-49. Gilbert passed for a school record 538 yards and rushed for 97 yards as SMU needed 45 points in the second half to put away a 1-7 Temple team.
Three Telling Numbers from the ACC
35-0. Florida State’s first-quarter lead against NC State.
The Seminoles continue to be head and shoulders above the ACC competition, jumping to a 35-0 lead against NC State. Jameis Winston was brilliant again, completing 11 of 14 passes for 228 yards with three touchdowns in the first quarter alone. Florida State has outscored its last three ACC opponents 163-31.
8. Combined interceptions in Duke-Virginia Tech.
The Virginia Tech offense regressed to its early season form as tailbacks accounted for only 72 rushing yards and Logan Thomas threw four interceptions. Duke’s Anthony Boone threw four picks of his own, but Virginia Tech’s performance isn’t going to help the perception of whoever emerges from the Coastal Division.
2. Miami comebacks against lesser teams.
Next week will feature a matchup between undefeated top-10 teams, but Florida State will obliterate Miami if the Hurricanes play like they did the last two weeks. Miami needed a touchdown in the final minute to beat Wake Forest 24-21 at home Saturday just nine days after scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to put away North Carolina 27-23.
Hot Seat Watch
Bo Pelini, Nebraska.
The heat on the Cornhuskers coach began anew Saturday after a 34-23 loss to Minnesota. The lackluster Nebraska defense made its return by allowing 430 yards and 6.1 yards per play to the Gophers. Nebraska legend Tommie Frazier
, possibly because this kind of loss is becoming routine. A ranked Nebraska team has lost to an unranked foe in each of the last five seasons under Pelini. That said, Nebraska barely cracked the top 25 this week, and one of the losses to an unranked team last season was in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Ranked Nebraska losses to unranked teams
Oct. 26, 2013
Minnesota def. No. 25 Nebraska 34-23
Dec. 1, 2012
Wisconsin def. No. 14 Nebraska 70-31 (Big Ten Championship Game)
Sept. 8, 2012
UCLA def. No. 16 Nebraska 35-30
Nov. 5, 2011
Northwestern def. No. 9 Nebraska 28-25
Dec. 30, 2010
Washington def. No. 17 Nebraska 19-7 (Holiday Bowl)
Oct. 7, 2010
Texas def. No. 5 Nebraska 20-13
Oct. 17, 2009
Texas Tech def. No. 15 Nebraska 31-10
Mike London, Virginia. Georgia Tech did everything it could to keep Virginia competitive, but the Cavaliers still found a way to lose 35-25. Virginia was plus-four in turnover margin, getting the ball on five Georgia Tech takeaways, yet the Cavs never led. The most egregious mistake came at the end of the first half when Virginia, without a timeout, ran the ball on second down at the Georgia Tech 1 in the final seconds to come up short in a critical scoring opportunity. Virginia is 2-10 in the ACC in the last two seasons under London.
Tim Beckman, Illinois. Turns out Illinois’ 3-1 start season was a product of the competition. Illinois lost to Michigan State 42-3, erasing any optimism about an offensive turnaround in Champaign. Illinois is 0-11 in the Big Ten under Beckman and has been outscored by an average of 25 points.
Three Unlikely Bowl-Bound Teams
Duke. The Blue Devils will go to a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history after defeating Virginia Tech 13-10. The Blue Devils also defeated a ranked opponent for the first time since 1994 and beat a ranked opponent on the road for the first time since defeating a Rose Bowl-bound Stanford team in 1971.
Tulane. Bigger surprise? Tulane getting to 6-2 or defeating a 2-5 Tulsa team to do it? The Golden Hurricane reached bowl eligibility for the first time since 2002 by defeating Tulsa 14-7. Tulane and Rice are both 4-0 in Conference USA and have favorable schedules before a meeting on Nov. 30 that may decide a trip to the league title game.
Buffalo. The Bulls opened the season against two teams that remain undefeated (Ohio State and Baylor), but they earned bowl eligibility with one of the easiest six-game stretches in the country. Buffalo defeated Stony Brook in five overtimes and the defeated UConn (0-7), Eastern Michigan (1-7), Western Michigan (1-8), UMass (1-8) and Kent State (2-7) to get to six wins. Buffalo is bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 when the Bulls won the MAC under Turner Gill.