Dustin Hopkins just experienced a week he won’t soon forget. Seven days after the sophomore kicker came up short — or more accurately, wide right — in Florida State’s 37–35 loss to North Carolina, he redeemed himself in a big way.
Hopkins made a career-long 55-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Seminoles past Clemson 16–13 and keep his team’s Atlantic Division title hopes alive.
Hopkins had a similar opportunity the previous week against the Tar Heels, but he missed from 40 yards with two seconds remaining. He also had missed from 42 yards earlier in the fourth quarter of that game.
Coaches and teammates rallied around Hopkins in the aftermath of his disappointing performance against North Carolina, and he responded. Hopkins also connected on field-goal tries of 28 and 39 yards against the Tigers, providing a big boost to a Florida State offense that was operating without starting quarterback Christian Ponder.
Backup quarterback E.J. Manuel was solid in place of Ponder, who sat out after missing practice all week because of an injured right elbow, but Florida State’s advantage in the kicking game was the biggest factor in its victory. While Hopkins shined, Clemson’s Chandler Catanzaro was just 2-for-4 on field goals as the Tigers’ season-long kicking struggles continued.
Boston College 21, Duke 16
Miami 35, Georgia Tech 10
NC State 38, Wake Forest 3
Maryland 42, Virginia 23
Virginia Tech 26, North Carolina 10
Florida State 16, Clemson 13
Atlantic Division race update
Florida State’s win means the Tigers won’t repeat as Atlantic Division champions, narrowing the race for first place to three teams. The Seminoles (7–3, 5–2), who sit a half-game game ahead of NC State (7–3, 4–2) and Maryland (7–3, 4–2) in the standings, still need the Wolfpack and Terrapins each to lose in order to earn a spot in the ACC championship game.
That said, the Seminoles could clinch the division this week, when they travel to Maryland and NC State plays at North Carolina. Wins by Florida State and North Carolina would clinch the division title for the Seminoles before the final week, when NC State will play at Maryland.
The good news for the Terrapins is that they will win the division with victories in their final two games, both at home, but the bad news for them is that they have no margin for error. If they lose to either Florida State or NC State, they won’t play in the ACC championship game.
“Here we are with two games to go in the season, and we have a shot to win our division,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “We were picked to finish last by all of the experts, and that itself is an accomplishment. We’re not looking to stop there, though.”
NC State also will win the division with victories in its final two games, but that’s not the only scenario that would send the team to its first ACC title game. The Wolfpack also could win the division even if it loses this week at North Carolina — as long as Maryland beats Florida State and then NC State beats Maryland in the regular-season finale. That scenario would put all three teams at 5–3 in the conference, but the Wolfpack would own the tiebreaker because of head-to-head victories over the Seminoles and Terrapins.
Coastal Division race update
The situation is much clearer in the Coastal Division, where Virginia Tech (8–2, 6–0) has a firm grip on first place thanks to its eight-game winning streak. The Hokies forced six turnovers and put together a dominant third quarter that included two touchdown catches by Marcus Davis in their victory over North Carolina. They need to win just one of their two remaining games — at Miami and home against Virginia — to earn a spot in the ACC championship game for the fourth time in six seasons.
Miami (7–3, 5–2) is the only pursuer with a mathematical chance of catching the Hokies. The Hurricanes will win the division if they beat Virginia Tech this week and Virginia Tech loses to Virginia the following week.
Bowl eligibility update
Boston College continued its push for the postseason, defeating Duke for its third consecutive victory. The Eagles survived some rare mistakes by tailback Montel Harris, who rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown but also lost two fumbles in the red zone. Duke’s August Campbell returned the second fumble 95 yards for a touchdown — the longest fumble return in school history — to make the game close in the fourth quarter.
“Montel has certainly carried us for a lot of instances, and we dodged a bullet for him today,” Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’ll be fine.”
So might the Eagles (5–5, 3–4). They have bounced back from a five-game losing streak that put their chances of playing in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive season in serious jeopardy.
“It’s big,” said defensive end Max Holloway, who secured the victory by batting down Sean Renfree’s pass on fourth down from the BC 4-yard line with 46 seconds remaining. “Before, we were trying not to lose. Now we’re focused on winning. Our whole mindset is different.”
Boston College needs to win one of its final two games — home against Virginia and at Syracuse — to become bowl-eligible.
Clemson and Georgia Tech, which squared off against each other in the ACC championship game last year, face the same situation. The Tigers (5–5, 3–4) play at Wake Forest and home against South Carolina, and the Yellow Jackets (5–5, 3–4) host Duke before traveling to Georgia to wrap up the regular season.
Georgia Tech, which has suffered three consecutive losses for the first time since its final three games of the 2006 season, must end the skid before it can play in a bowl game for the 14th consecutive season.
“You keep playing. You don’t quit,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said after watching his team surrender four touchdown drives of at least 79 yards against Miami. “What are you going to do? You don’t have any other alternatives. You either keep playing or you quit.
“We aren’t going to quit. I can promise you that I’m not going to quit. We still have the chance to salvage and have a winning season.”
The same can’t be said for Duke (3–7, 1–5) and Virginia (4–6, 1–5), each of which were eliminated from bowl contention on Saturday. The Cavaliers still have a chance to get six wins and finish at .500, but they won’t be eligible for the postseason because two of their victories came against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
Can you top this?
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers continue to dominate opposing offenses. Unfortunately, only one of them can be the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Bowers made his latest case for the award against Florida State, registering a team-high nine tackles (including 2.0 tackles for loss). He also had an interception and a sack, tying the school record with at least one sack in eight consecutive games. Bowers leads the nation in sacks (1.35 per game) and tackles for loss (2.20 per game).
Kuechly was just as dominant against Duke, wreaking havoc all over the field. He helped the Eagles hold the Blue Devils to 4 rushing yards on 24 attempts, tallying 21 tackles, two pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Kuechly continues to lead the nation in tackles (14.6 per game) after making at least 10 stops for the 19th consecutive game.
Count Duke coach David Cutcliffe among those who was impressed. He called Kuechly “the best defensive college football player in the land.”
Like Mike: Miami’s Hankerson
It’s looking like Leonard Hankerson made a great decision when he chose to return to Miami for his senior year rather than declaring for the NFL draft. Hankerson had three catches for 132 yards and a touchdown against Georgia Tech, becoming the third player in school history to post back-to-back 800-yard receiving seasons.
The other two? Pro football Hall of Fame member Michael Irvin (1985-86) and Andre Johnson (2001-02), one of the top wide receivers in the NFL today.
Hankerson, who leads the ACC in receiving this season (87.9 yards per game), has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games. He tied Irvin’s school record with his 11th touchdown grab of the year, a career-long 79-yarder against the Yellow Jackets.
Hankerson went to Irvin’s high school, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the similarities between the two don’t end there. Like Irvin, Hankerson has good size at 6-3, 205 pounds. Like Irvin, Hankerson lacks blazing speed. But like Irvin, Hankerson is fast enough to be extremely productive.
“They said Mike Irvin was a 4.65 runner (in the 40-yard dash), but when he got the football in his hands, nobody could catch him,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “Same with Hankerson. People say he doesn’t have speed, but when he has the ball in his hands, he can get past people. Hankerson has enough speed to make some special things for him.”
• Clemson’s defeat at Florida State was rare, considering the circumstances. The Tigers, who got 143 rushing yards from Jamie Harper and 106 receiving yards from DeAndre Hopkins, saw their streak of 20 consecutive wins end in games in which they had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. Clemson had not lost such a game since falling 21–20 against North Carolina on Nov. 9, 1985.
• Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon came back strong against Boston College after leaving the previous week’s game against Virginia with a head injury. Vernon had a career-high 12 catches for 134 yards in his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season.
• Critics of Jacory Harris will emphasize that true freshman Stephen Morris led Miami to a season-high yardage total for the second week in a row, but much of the credit should go to the Hurricanes’ running game. Miami ran for 277 yards against Georgia Tech, getting one touchdown run each from tailbacks Damien Berry, Lamar Miller, Mike James and Graig Cooper.
• North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates broke Darian Durant’s school record for career completions against Virginia Tech, but Yates also tied a career high with four interceptions in the game. Before Saturday, Yates had thrown just four interceptions all season.
• NC State reached seven wins in the regular season for the first time since 2003, benefiting from a dominant performance by linebacker Nate Irving against Wake Forest. Irving made 13 tackles, including a school-record 8.0 tackles for loss, and the Wolfpack closed the game with 35 unanswered points.
• Kris Burd and Dontrelle Inman became the first Virginia duo with at least 600 receiving yards in the same season since 1989, when Herman Moore (848 yards) and Bruce McGonnigal (634 yards) accomplished the feat. Burd (47 catches for 686 yards) and Inman (41 catches for 654 yards) also became the first set of Virginia wide receivers to post at least 40 receptions apiece in the same season.
• Wake Forest suffered its eighth consecutive loss, its longest losing streak since 1978, after another poor performance on the road. The Demon Deacons (2–8, 1–6) dropped to 0–5 away from home, having allowed an average of 50.2 points in those games while getting outscored by an average margin of 37.8 points per game. With two games left to play, Wake Forest already has allowed school-record totals of 387 points and 51 touchdowns this season.
Well, look who’s joined the Big 12 South race. Oklahoma State? Nope, the Cowboys have been there all along. Texas A&M.
That’s right, the left-for-dead Aggies, 0–2 in conference play a month ago now find themselves in the thick of things, with Saturday’s 42–30 win at Baylor their fourth straight.
It wasn’t always easy in Waco — A&M trailed 30–14 late in the second quarter — but Cyrus Gray’s running and a defense that pitched a second-half shutout against the explosive Bears sparked a turnaround that led to the first four-game winning streak of the Mike Sherman era.
“We have fighters on this team,” said Aggies quarterback Ryan Tannehill, “who will do anything to win.”
Suddenly, A&M is doing it. Gray ran for a career-high 137 yards and four touchdowns, including two as the Aggies were swinging momentum in the third quarter. Tannehill remained unbeaten since taking over the starting quarterback duties from Jerrod Johnson. And the defense is showing teeth, although they were late developing against the Bears. Still, they came up with plays when needed, including a key fourth-down stop in the fourth quarter.
Now the Aggies are 4–2 in the conference, trailing Oklahoma State by one game in the South with two games to play.
A&M will need some help to carry out its Big 12 title plans. The closing schedule is rugged, with Nebraska visiting College Station before the Aggies make a trip to archrival Texas after that.
Then there’s Oklahoma State, which has the one-game lead and a tiebreaking win over the Aggies, not to mention Oklahoma, which is tied with A&M.
Still, there’s hope. And that’s something that seemed to be vanishing but a few weeks ago.
Texas A&M 42, Baylor 30
Nebraska 20, Kansas 3
Missouri 38, Kansas State 28
Colorado 34, Iowa State 14
Oklahoma 45, Texas Tech 7
Oklahoma State 33, Texas 16
Oklahoma State’s surprising season continues along an historical path, as the Cowboys keep clearing markers from their past. OSU maintained frontrunner status in the Big 12 South with its rout of Texas — the program’s first win in Austin since 1944.
“We were due,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “Oklahoma State was due for this win. There was a lot of talk about now winning here … and they’ve had our number for a while.”
Now the Cowboys are applying expiration dates to irritating series trends. Before marking off the road win at Texas from their checklist, OSU had already won at Texas Tech for the first time since 1944 and at Kansas State for the first time since 1988.
A week of turmoil, complete with the canning of coach Dan Hawkins, followed Colorado’s collapse at Kansas. So the Buffaloes’ convincing 34–14 beating of Iowa State was nothing short of stunning.
Hawkins watched from a stadium balcony, while his son Cody Hawkins passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns to direct the win and longtime CU assistant Brian Cabral won in his debut as a head coach.
“I cannot be more proud of our players,” said an emotional Cabral. “I cannot be more proud of our coaches. They had it in them. They have a heart of gold. They never looked back.
“And they’re looking forward.”
The Cyclones, 5–6, arrived with plenty to play for, needing one win to become bowl-eligible. They left still needing one and facing a season finale at home against Missouri without senior quarterback Austen Arnaud, who suffered what was likely a season-ending knee injury in the loss to the Buffs.
For once, the news was better on the sideline of Colorado, which won its first Big 12 game of the season.
“We had all this frustration and stress and took it out today,” linebacker B.J. Beatty told reporters after the game. “I love Coach Hawk, and I always will. He gave me every opportunity I’ve had up here, but we were definitely trying to make a statement of what he’s done for us.”
Loud and clear.
Buffs running back Rodney Stewart ran a career-high 35 times for 123 yards, cracking the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The defense piled up eight sacks and two turnovers, one a fumble returned for a touchdown.
Player of the Week: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma. Spurring OU’s rout of Texas Tech, Broyles produced eight receptions for 119 yards and three touchdowns, breaking or tying five school records in the process: career receptions (229), single season receptions (94), career TD receptions (32), 100-yard games in a season (8) and 100-yard games in a career (15). Broyles is the seventh receiver in Big 12 history to record over 3,000 yards receiving.
Game of the Week: Nebraska at Texas A&M. The resurgent Aggies need a win to stay in the South race, while the Huskers take to the road with an opportunity to clinch the North. Nebraska’s Blackshirts aren’t up to the standard of the school’s great defensive units and will be tested significantly at Kyle Field.
On the Spot: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor. Griffin is a fabulous player and Exhibit A for why Baylor is in the midst of a program turnaround. But it’s time for the Bears quarterback to put together a complete game against a quality opponent, this time Oklahoma.
In the Spotlight: Jerome Tiller, QB, Iowa State. The classy Arnaud’s regular season is done, so the Cyclones now turn to Tiller to help steer them to bowl eligibility. Tiller has played in significant moments and is 1–1 as a starter, with last year’s impressive win at Nebraska on his resumé.
Mike Sherman, coach, Texas A&M. Sherman’s line graph showed a steep decline a month ago, but now features an abrupt and serious upswing. He’s got the fan base energized with a four-game winning streak that has the Aggies in the thick of the South Division race. And he did it boldly, benching the school’s all-time total offense leader (Jerrod Johnson) for a part-time wide receiver/quarterback in Ryan Tannehill.
Baylor boasting. Griffin talked about the Bears being the team to beat in the South just a few weeks ago. Since then, they’ve been just that: a beaten team. Back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have removed some of the shine from the Bears’ breakout season. Now they get Oklahoma, which has struggled on the road, yet could light up Baylor’s shaky defense.
By the Numbers
30 Consecutive games with a reception by A&M’s Jeff Fuller, a school record.
45 Seasons Nebraska has won at least nine games (including this one); 39 have come since 1970.
3,391 Passing yards by OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden, a school record.
The Wildcats will have to play without Persa from here on out.
Back where football belongs
It’s the perfect home for a baseball afternoon, but Wrigley Field’s football history is also rich with gridiron stories from a forgotten era.
For half a century, the Chicago Bears called Wrigley home, when from 1921 to 1970 the franchise was one of the NFL’s most dominant. In December of 1963, coach George Halas claimed his last NFL title against the New York Giants at Wrigley on a bitterly cold day.
When Northwestern and Illinois meet up there this Saturday it will mark the first college game played inside the ivy-laced walls since 1938.
The game itself is deserving of a little national attention, and certainly of the ESPN GameDay crew. Illinois has been one of the Big Ten’s most unpredictable teams, and at the moment is still pressing for win number six; Northwestern, on the other hand, is still jockeying for a better bowl destination.
But this game won’t be about the bowl season. Instead, the emphasis will be to bring a little spark back to the Big Ten’s dullest in-state rivalry. And what better way to do that than to hold the game in the state’s proudest landmark and have Erin Andrews there to walk the sidelines?
This weekend, fans of all Big Ten colors have reason to watch two mid-level clubs duke it out. If the football fails to hit the mark, chances are the backdrop of historic Wrigley Field will make the moment enjoyable and everlasting.
Northwestern 21, Iowa 17
Wisconsin 83, Indiana 20
Minnesota 38, Illinois 34
Michigan 27, Purdue 16
Ohio State 38, Penn State 14
A tale of two halves
At the end of the first half, Penn State held a 14–3 lead and had dominated Ohio State. Matt McGloin played an inspired second quarter, and it appeared an upset was brewing. But the Buckeyes scored on a pair of interception returns in the second half and didn’t let Penn State gain much ground in the 38–14 victory.
A perfect dozen
Wisconsin scored on all 12 of its offensive possessions in an 83–20 win over Indiana. It was the most points scored by the program since 1915, and Wisconsin’s 11 touchdowns were the most by a conference team in the past half-century. The Hoosiers had no answer for the Badger running game, evident on one two-play second quarter drive that consisted of a 36-yard carry by Montee Ball and a 30-yard scoring run by James White.
Michigan pushes past Purdue
Thanks to kicker Carson Wiggs, Purdue kept pace with Michigan for three quarters on Saturday and limited Denard Robinson to just 3.1 yards per carry. But the Wolverines’ nine-play scoring drive in the fourth quarter gave them just enough cushion to beat the Boilermakers.
Team of the Week: Northwestern
Quarterback Dan Persa guided the Wildcats on two fourth quarter touchdown drives to help his team defeat Iowa for a third straight season. It was part of a 318-yard day for the junior quarterback — a career best. Northwestern converted more than half of its third-down opportunities on Saturday, as compared to just two of 14 for Iowa. Unfortunately, Persa ruptured his Achilles on the last drive and was lost for the season.
Disappointment of the Week: Illinois
There is absolutely no good excuse for Illinois’ loss to Minnesota in Champaign on Saturday; the game was even in total yards, time of possession and turnovers. In the end, Minnesota simply made plays and Illinois could not. With a 10-point lead, the Illini allowed Troy Stoudermire to return a kick 90 yards. Two drives later, the Illini defense could not hold Minnesota during an 80-yard go-ahead drive.
Offensive Player of the Week: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
Herron is not supposed to be a 20-carry back, but on Saturday the coaching staff kept feeding him the ball and Herron kept delivering. He averaged just better than nine yards per carry on his 21 attempts. Late in the contest, Herron crushed what remaining hope the Nittany Lions had by gaining 70 yards in five carries in the Buckeyes’ final scoring drive.
Defensive Player of the Week: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue
Hmmm, let’s see: four sacks, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles. Forget this week, it might be the performance of the season.
Freshman of the Week: James White, RB, Wisconsin
Fellow Badger freshman Jared Abbrederis also deserves consideration, but White had the better day: 144 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. It was White’s third 100-yard contest of the year, and with two games remaining he still has a shot at reaching the 1,000-yard mark.
The Week Ahead
Upset Alert: Wisconsin
Bret Bielema is 0–2 in trips to Ann Arbor, including a 27–25 meltdown two seasons ago. Wisconsin is in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl, but this game is no picnic and if the Badgers are unable to contain Denard Robinson things could get very interesting.
Player to Watch: Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
On Saturday the senior must tame an Ohio State pass defense ranked sixth in the country. No Big Ten team has passed for more than 170 yards on the Buckeyes yet, and the secondary leads all conference schools with 17 interceptions. Sounds like the perfect test for the conference’s most efficient passer. Last year, Stanzi was on the sideline with an injury when the Hawkeyes lost a heartbreaker in overtime.
• No one can mistake the Big Ten for being a passing league. Not a single receiver ranks among the top 20 in the country in yards per game (Northwestern’s Jeremy Ebert leads all Big Ten players with 84.9 yards per game) and only two schools (Indiana and Northwestern) rank among the top 30 in team passing.
• Two Big Ten punters are among the 10 finalists for the Ray Guy Award: Illinois’ Anthony Santella and Iowa’s Ryan Donahue. Santella has maintained the conference’s best average (45.4 yards) despite also having the most attempts (52).
• This week’s Michigan-Wisconsin game pits the conference’s top two teams in first downs gained. The Wolverines and Badgers each have 124 first downs on the ground (Ohio State is the only other Big Ten team with more than 100).
Penn State 34, Indiana 13
Michigan State 28, Purdue 20
Wisconsin 24, Michigan 23
Illinois 28, Northwestern 24
Ohio State 20, Iowa 17
The people associated with the Washington State football program will tell you that they saw this coming — that the Cougars had become increasingly competitive and were bound to break through for a Pac-10 victory.
And while it was true that Washington State had become slightly more competent this season, it was hard to realistically pencil in a win for any game on its schedule. Yes, the Cougars played Cal tight in a 20–13 loss last week, but the Bears were playing their first game without injured starting quarterback Kevin Riley.
That’s what makes Washington State’s 31–14 win at Oregon State all the more stunning. The Cougars, losers of 16 Pac-10 games in a row and the victim of many blowouts over the past three seasons, dominated the Beavers on the road. Washington State ran roughshod against Oregon State’s defense, rushing for 221 yards. They came in averaging just 76.1 rushing yards per game, last in the Pac-10. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ defense that entered the game ranked last nationally in total yards allowed held Oregon State star running back Jacquizz Rodgers to just 93 yards rushing. The Beavers only amassed 261 yards of offense and trailed 21–0 in the third quarter.
“It just feels excellent,” Washington State linebacker C.J. Mizell told the Seattle Times. “It’s awesome. It’s like you’re on top of the world.”
The Cougars’ last Pac-10 win came at the end of the 2008 season, when they beat rival Washington in overtime. They had no wins over BCS conference opponents during that span, and their only previous victory this season was by one point over Montana State, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
But Washington State did indeed start making strides this season. The Cougars led at UCLA in the third quarter and had it tied in the fourth quarter before ultimately losing by a couple of touchdowns. Washington State was competitive with Arizona, one of the top teams in the conference. The Cougars lost that game, 24–7. And Washington State had a flurry of late scoring to make its game with Stanford respectable, losing 38–28.
Then came last week, when Washington State was in it the whole time but couldn’t come up with a late scoring drive and fell to the Bears.
There was never any doubt Saturday. The Cougars dominated the Beavers from start to finish. “It’s so nice to finally be successful, with your family and your teammates,” Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter told the Times. “It’s just a real emotional win for us.”
Meanwhile, the Beavers are reeling. It looks as though the season-ending knee injury to wide receiver James Rodgers is affecting them even more than they anticipated. Oregon State has lost three of four since then, and not to particularly good teams. This was supposed to be the soft part of the Beavers’ schedule, but they now have losses to Washington, UCLA and Washington State
It’s rare to see Oregon St. so uncompetitive. The Beavers have been a model of consistency in recent years, consistently exceeding outsiders’ expectations and contending in the Pac-10. Oregon State has been in the Rose Bowl race up until the very end in each of the past two seasons. Now, the Beavers are going to be hard-pressed to qualify for a bowl game.
Simply put, the Washington State game was one Oregon State needed badly. That’s because the Beavers have to win two more games to become bowl-eligible and their final three contests are against No. 20 USC, at No. 7 Stanford and against No. 1 Oregon in the Civil War.
“Man, I can’t remember the last time I wanted to cry after a football game,” Jacquizz Rodgers told the Oregonian. “It’s been since high school, man. … I love to win. I wish everybody felt that way at times. You’ve got to put your heart into this. If you sign up for this, you’ve got to give it your all every time you step out there.”
Washington State 31, Oregon State 14
Stanford 17, Arizona State 13
Oregon 15, California 13
USC 24, Arizona 21
FINDING A WAY
Championship football teams usually win a game or two that doesn’t follow the blueprint. That’s what happened to Oregon in its 15–13 win over Cal.
The Ducks were held 40 points under their scoring average and 250 yards under their average for total offense, yet still left Berkeley undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings.
The performance put the spotlight on Oregon’s underrated defense, which had to come through on a night when the offense was stymied by the Bears. The Ducks’ defense held Cal to 193 yards of offense, a season-low for the Bears.
Oregon, Stanford and Arizona are the only Pac-10 teams that have become bowl-eligible, and it’s possible that as few as those three will make the postseason from the conference.
Cal needs one more win to get there, but hosts Stanford this weekend. But the Bears should be favored in their finale against Washington.
After that, it gets pretty dicey. Oregon State needs two more wins against a brutal schedule. Arizona State probably has the best chance — it needs to win its final two games against UCLA and at Arizona. The Bruins need their final two wins as well, at the Sun Devils and against USC. And Washington would have to win all three of its remaining games — against UCLA, at Cal and at Washington State.
Pitt's loss opens the door for the Big East title.
Pittsburgh appeared to be kicked back in a comfy recliner heading into last week. The Panthers had a two-game lead in the loss column in the race for the Big East’s BCS bowl berth.
After losing to Connecticut, however, it’s like they’ve moved to an old couch. The cushion is gone.
“It’s disappointing,” said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt after the 30–28 Thursday loss. “Not the effort, but that we didn’t take a step forward. After everything we went through in Utah and Notre Dame, I thought we would handle it better and we didn’t.”
Now, every member of the conference still has title hopes. The good news for Wannstedt and the Panthers is if they win their last three games, they still take the Big East championship and would advance to the BCS bowl.
Now, though, South Florida and West Virginia are also in control. Both can clinch at least a share of the league title by winning out. The other five conference teams would need help, but remain alive.
Connecticut contributed to the cause by receiving a career day from tailback Jordan Todman, who went for a career-high 222 yards on 37 carries, and some gutsy calls by coach Randy Edsall. The Huskies ran out the final 4:29 in part because of a pair of fourth-down conversions. Pitt, 5–4 overall, had three turnovers.
While the Panthers failed to become bowl-eligible, three Big East teams hit the mark. USF nudged past Louisville by 24–21 in overtime; West Virginia was a 37–10 winner over Cincinnati; and Syracuse slipped past Rutgers 13–10.
South Florida, which has now won three straight games, trailed the U of L 14–3 late in the second quarter, but received a 100-yard kickoff return from Lindsey Lamar to begin a rally. Bulls’ linebacker Mike Lanaris came up with a key stop on fourth-and-1 in overtime, allowing kicker Maikon Bonani to win the game.
West Virginia coach Bill Stewart’s seat cooled a bit after his team won after back-to-back losses to move to 6–3. “We just finally went out there and played like we could’ve played all year,” said Mountaineer cornerback Keith Tandy, who had a tackle for a loss, an interception and four pass breakups. WVU quarterback Geno Smith threw four first-half touchdown passes — two each to Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin. WVU’s defense, now ranked fourth nationally in total defense, shut out Cincy on 12 third-down situations.
Syracuse, meanwhile, became bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004 and clinched a winning season for the first time since 2001. Two late Ross Krautman field goals were key.
Rutgers, which has lost three straight, was led by a surprising performance from true freshman wideout Jeremy Deering, who rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries from the Wildcat formation.
Connecticut 30, Pittsburgh 28
West Virginia 37, Cincinnati 10
South Florida 24, Louisville 21 OT
Syracuse 13, Rutgers 10
With Syracuse’s second-leading receiver Alec Lemon on the sideline, Marcus Sales rose to the occasion Saturday against Rutgers. After catching just five passes for 39 yards through the first nine games, Sales, a junior, led the Orange with five catches for 73 yards.
Connecticut’s Jordan Todman is playing for a team with a 5–4 record, but his track record on the season is stellar. Todman, averaging 147 yards, is currently the nation’s second-leading rusher behind Oregon’s LaMichael James, who is averaging 158. In the last two games, Todman has rushed for 113 yards against West Virginia’s stingy defense and the career-high 222 against Pittsburgh. The Panthers hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher this season.
With 2:50 remaining in Connecticut’s victory over Pitt, Huskies coach Randy Edsall made a risky call that paid off. On fourth-and-1, with the ball on the UConn 19-yard line, Edsall went for it. Jordan Todman made four yards. The Huskies then ran out the clock. “I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I said I’m going to punt the ball,” Edsall said.
Where to now?
The Rutgers quarterback position has been muddied all year. And it’s not any clearer after Saturday’s RU loss to Syracuse. Chas Dodd started, but was benched at the start of the second half after going 3-of-11 passing for 30 yards with two sacks. Previous starter Tom Savage came in to hit six-of-12 passes for 76 yards. RU coach Greg Schiano didn’t name a starter for next week’s game at Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh defensive end Greg Romeus, previously one of the highest-rated NFL prospects at his position, made his first start since back surgery earlier this year. After starting the game against Connecticut, though, Romeus twisted his knee and didn’t finish the game.
A third chance
South Florida kicker Maikon Bonani received a rare third opportunity to lift his team in a game. At the end of regulation, he drilled a field goal attempt from 52 yards, but Louisville was credited with a timeout before the snap. He missed the ensuing try wide left. In overtime, however, Bonani connected on a 37-yard attempt that proved the difference. “I was really nervous,” Bonani said of the game-winner.
A little running relief
With West Virginia back Noel Devine struggling this season with injuries, Mountaineer coach Bill Stewart has been seeking help at the position. He finally received some Saturday against Cincinnati when Shawn Alston gained 75 yards on 17 carries — 60 on 13 in the second half of the 37–10 Mountaineer victory. “I’ve been waiting for my opportunity and I had to make the most of it,” Alston said.
Cincinnati certainly didn’t help itself in its loss to West Virginia. The Bearcats were penalized 10 times for 96 yards and didn’t convert one third down in 12 attempts. “We will win when we deserve to win,” said UC coach Butch Jones.
Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.
1. Auburn punches ticket to Atlanta – A week of off-the-field distractions didn’t slow quarterback Cam Newton, and Auburn is headed back to the SEC Championship for the first time since 2004. Despite facing allegations about his eligibility, Newton turned in another terrific performance. The junior completed 12 of 15 passes for 148 yards and two scores, while adding 151 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Despite falling behind 21-7, there was little panic on the Auburn sideline. Newton once again took the offense on his back, firing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen to tie the game at 21 going into halftime. Georgia managed to tie the game at 28 midway through the third quarter, but it was all Auburn the rest of the way. The Tigers leaky pass defense showed up once again, allowing Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray to throw for 273 yards and three scores. However, the Bulldogs didn’t get much going on the ground, managing 81 yards on 24 attempts.
Although the SEC West title was clinched with this victory, Auburn still has one game remaining against Alabama on November 26. If the Tigers lose to their rival in the Iron Bowl, their national championship hopes could be gone. Winning the SEC West is certainly a big deal for Auburn, but plenty of work remains for the Tigers and likely more talk about Newton’s status.
2. South Carolina wins SEC East – For the first time in conference history, someone other than Florida, Georgia or Tennessee will represent the East in the SEC title game. Freshman running back Marcus Lattimore carried South Carolina to Atlanta, posting 40 carries for 212 yards and three touchdowns. While Lattimore was gashing the Florida defense, the Gators had no answers on offense. The three quarterback rotation of John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton managed only 191 yards of offense. Outside of Andre Debose’s kickoff return for a score to open the game, the Gators were silent. The win in Gainesville was the first for South Carolina and only the second win in 19 games against the Gators. Perhaps the happiest man in the building was South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, winning at his alma mater and lifting the Gamecocks to their first SEC East title.
The 36-14 defeat to South Carolina was Florida’s third at home this season. Although the offense showed signs of life against Georgia and Vanderbilt, it was stuck in neutral Saturday night. The Gators take on Appalachian State next week, followed by rival Florida State in the season finale. A 7-5 record and a middle of the pack bowl will no doubt prompt changes from head coach Urban Meyer. Offensive coordinator Steve Addazio is on the hot seat, and the Gators need to decide which direction they are going to go on offense. Will they become more of a traditional offense to fit Brantley’s skills or is it time to let Burton/Reed take control of the spread?
3. Oregon survives in Berkeley – Even though California was a different team at home than on the road and the Golden Bears had won three out of the last four in this series, not many expected this matchup to be close. After all, the Golden Bears had a quarterback making his second start and although the defense had played well this year, slowing down Oregon’s offense was thought to be too much. However, California managed to slow Oregon’s high-powered attack, holding it 15 points – easily the lowest output from 2010. Despite turning in the best defensive effort of the year against the Ducks, the Golden Bears couldn’t generate enough offense and fell short in their upset bid. Oregon running back LaMichael James mustered only 91 yards, while battling an ankle injury and was held without a score for the first time this year. Although the Ducks possess arguably the nation’s best offense, the defense and special teams shouldn’t be overlooked. California managed only 193 yards of total offense, while Cliff Harris returned a punt 64 yards for a score, giving Oregon an 8-7 lead in the first half.
Although this wasn’t a flashy performance, the Ducks remain in good shape to play for the national title. The bye this week will help to get James healthy and give the Ducks two weeks to prepare for Arizona. If the Ducks knock off Arizona, only rival Oregon State will remain for an undefeated season and a trip to the national championship. Every national title contender has to survive a close call or defeat – Alabama last year against Tennessee and LSU and Florida losing to Ole Miss in 2008 immediately come to mind. Whether it’s scoring 50 points or winning a 15-13 slugfest, Oregon just needs to win.
4. TCU dodges upset bid – Combine a much-improved San Diego State team, with a letdown after a big win at Utah and the Horned Frogs nearly watched their season fall apart. The Horned Frogs quickly fell behind 14-0, but scored 34 unanswered points to take a 34-14 lead into halftime. With a big lead and one of the nation’s best defenses, this one looked to be over. However, with under five minutes to go, the Aztecs scored on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Lindley to Vincent Brown, which cut TCU’s lead to 40-35. The Aztecs were unable to stop TCU on the next series, which allowed the Horned Frogs to run out the clock and finish with a 40-35 victory. The Aztecs posted 300 total yards of offense, the second-most on TCU this season. SMU totaled 361 in a 41-24 loss earlier this year. Although TCU found a way to win, the close call prompted voters in both polls (Associated Press and USA Today) to move Boise State ahead of the Horned Frogs. Even more damaging for TCU was Utah’s loss at Notre Dame, which no doubt hurts the perception of last week’s win in Salt Lake City. Boise State has three remaining games – Fresno State, Nevada and Utah State – while TCU has a bye before facing New Mexico. Considering Auburn still has to play Alabama and South Carolina, the battle between TCU and Boise State is key, especially with a potential spot in the national championship on the line.
5. Big Ten race shaping up – Going into Week 11, four teams were tied atop the Big Ten with one conference loss. Thanks to a Northwestern upset over Iowa, the race to win the conference crown has been trimmed by a team. Wisconsin moved to 9-1 with a dominating 83-20 win over Indiana, while Ohio State used a second-half rally to knock off Penn State 38-14. Michigan State had the week off and potentially has the easiest road to an 11-1 record from the trio tied atop the standings, with games against Purdue and Penn State remaining. Ohio State’s biggest hurdle is this Saturday at Iowa. The Hawkeyes nearly upset the Buckeyes last year in Columbus, but since beating Michigan State 37-6, struggled to beat Indiana and lost to Northwestern 21-17. The Badgers have a tricky road game against Michigan this Saturday. Wisconsin’s last win in Ann Arbor came in 1994 and even though the Wolverines are struggling on defense, this won’t be an easy out for the Badgers. The BCS standings will be used as a tiebreaker if all three teams finished tied atop the Big Ten, and Wisconsin currently holds the edge over Ohio State and Michigan State.
Other thoughts from Week 11
No one was really surprised when Oregon State began the year 1-2. The Beavers are traditionally slow starters under coach Mike Riley, but this team is in serious jeopardy of missing a bowl game. Oregon State was upset 31-14 by Washington State, giving the Cougars their first Pac-10 win since November 22, 2008. Although the Cougars may finish the year with two wins, head coach Paul Wulff has shown enough progress to earn another year in Pullman.
One week after a historic collapse against Kansas, Colorado defeated Iowa State 34-14 under interim coach Brian Cabral. The Buffaloes still have a shot at bowl eligibility and Cabral could make his case for the fulltime job if he can get Colorado to six wins.
Texas A&M is 3-0 since making the switch to Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback. The Aggies have solid wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Baylor, but close the year with Nebraska and Texas. The Aggies still have a shot at the Big 12 South title and the last three games should be enough to cool the seat under coach Mike Sherman.
The mess that is known as the Big East got even worse this week. Pittsburgh suffered its first conference loss of the year on Thursday against Connecticut, but remained in first place. South Florida, Syracuse and West Virginia earned bowl eligibility with its wins on Saturday, while Cincinnati and Rutgers look like longshots to make an appearance in the postseason. The Panthers are still the favorites, but close the year with games at South Florida and Cincinnati, along with a home date against rival West Virginia. With the way this season has gone in the Big East, it would be a major shock if the Panthers went 3-0 in their remaining games.
Army’s 45-28 victory over Kent State gives the Black Knights six wins and likely clinched a bowl appearance. The last bowl game for Army was in 1996, losing 32-29 to Auburn in the Independence Bowl. Head coach Rich Ellerson was a terrific hire for this school and should have the Black Knights a consistent contender for a bowl game during his tenure at West Point.
How about giving some credit to USC coach Lane Kiffin? The Trojans are 7-3, with two of the losses coming in the final minute and a defeat to No. 1 Oregon. USC’s depth has been tested and according to Kiffin, the Trojans used only 41 scholarship players against Oregon. The sanctions will be tough to navigate in the future, but the Trojans should finish this year 9-3.
After Indiana’s dismal performance on Saturday, the seat under coach Bill Lynch got a little warmer. Losing is one thing, but giving up 83 points is an embarrassment to the program. The Hoosiers will have several key losses on offense next year, which means 2011 is a rebuilding year no matter who the head coach.
Brian Kelly has been facing a lot of heat in his first year at Notre Dame, but the Fighting Irish pulled off a 28-3 upset over Utah on Saturday and are back in position to get to a bowl. Kelly didn’t ask much of freshman quarterback Tommy Rees, instead leaning on the rushing attack and defense to win this game. Notre Dame made the right hire with Kelly and although it may take a year to put his stamp on the program, the Irish will be back in the BCS.
Both ACC divisions remain unsettled, but the picture is starting to clear. Virginia Tech controls its destiny in the Coastal. With a win over Miami or Virginia, the Hokies will win the Coastal for the fourth time in six seasons. Florida State’s win over Clemson kept a three-way tie atop the Atlantic. This Saturday should provide some clarity for the Atlantic, with Florida State taking on Maryland.
Since firing head coach Todd Dodge, North Texas has a 2-1 record with a close 41-35 loss to Troy. Interim coach Mike Canales is certainly earning himself a look as the fulltime coach if the Mean Green perform well over the final two weeks.
How about an under-the-radar performer? Fresno State running back Robbie Rouse has posted back-to-back 200-yard games. Rouse rushed for 286 yards and one score against Louisiana Tech and added 217 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada.
There are two interesting matchups on the schedule for Week 12 and it’s not due to the actual teams on the field. Although Northwestern-Illinois and Notre Dame-Army should be close games, these two matchups are interesting because of where they are played – in Major League Baseball stadiums. Northwestern-Illinois will meet in Wrigley Field in Chicago, while Notre Dame-Army tangles in New Yankee Stadium in New York.
After beginning the season 2-5, BYU has quietly reeled off three wins in a row to move to 5-5. Although the wins were nothing impressive – UNLV, Wyoming and Colorado State – the Cougars should beat New Mexico to earn victory No. 6 this weekend. Freshman quarterback Jake Heaps is getting better every week, which should give BYU something to build on going into next season.
Looking ahead to Week 12
A small sample of what’s ahead
UCLA vs. Washington (Thursday)
Not a marquee Thursday night game, but winner takes a step to bowl eligibility.
Fresno State vs. Boise State (Friday)
Broncos need to be impressive in Friday showcase to jump TCU in BCS standings.
NC State vs. North Carolina
Wolfpack looking for its fourth win in a row over Tar Heels.
Connecticut vs. Syracuse
Huskies have momentum and Orange have lost last two games at home.
Florida State vs. Maryland
Big game in battle for ACC Atlantic title, and Terrapins have won two out of last three meetings in College Park.
Virginia Tech vs. Miami, Fla.
Hokies can clinch a spot in ACC title game with a win at Miami.
West Virginia vs. Louisville
Much-improved Cardinals will be a tough out for Mountaineers.
Pittsburgh vs. South Florida
Panthers still the favorites in the Big East, but can’t afford another loss.
Wisconsin vs. Michigan
Can the Michigan defense find a way to slow down Wisconsin’s rushing attack?
Arkansas vs. Mississippi State
Razorbacks have dominated this series, winning nine out of the last ten meetings.
Ohio State vs. Iowa
Buckeyes need win to keep BCS bowl and Big Ten title hopes alive.
Oklahoma vs. Baylor
Will Oklahoma’s struggles on the road continue?
Nebraska vs. Texas A&M
Cornhuskers can clinch Big 12 North with victory and they’ve won their last two games in College Station.
Stanford vs. California
Cardinal need a win to keep BCS bowl hopes alive, but have lost last four trips to Berkeley.
USC vs. Oregon State
The state of Oregon has been a difficult place for USC, but Beavers coming off awful loss to Washington State.
Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.
Alabama OG Barrett Jones (sprained ankle) – doubtful to play in Week 12
Arkansas TE D.J. Williams (shoulder) – probable to play in Week 12
East Carolina QB Dominique Davis (shoulder) – probable to play in Week 12
Florida State RB Jermaine Thomas (knee) – questionable to play in Week 12
Georgia QB Aaron Murray (knee) – probable to play in Week 13
Indiana QB Ben Chappell (hip) – questionable to play in Week 12
Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud (knee) – out for remainder of season
Northwestern QB Dan Persa (ruptured Achilles) – out for remainder of season
Oklahoma DT Adrian Taylor (ruptured Achilles) – out for remainder of season
Ole Miss DT Lawon Scott (broken ankle) – out for remainder of season
Oregon RB LaMichael James (leg) – probable to play in Week 13
Penn State RB Evan Royster (leg) – probable for Week 12
Penn State LB Michael Mauti (shoulder) – questionable to play in Week 12
TCU RB Ed Wesley (foot) – probable to play in Week 13
Tennessee S Janzen Jackson (ankle) – probable to play in Week 12
UTEP QB Trevor Vittatoe (ankle) – questionable to play in Week 12
Virginia RB Keith Payne (leg) – questionable to play in Week 12