Originally Published: September 30, 2013

The week of the backup win

By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

>This was the week of The Replacements.

South Carolina's Connor Shaw went down, and Dylan Thompson stepped up in a narrow 28-25 win over UCF.

The third time was the charm for West Virginia, which turned to third-string quarterback Clint Trickett in the Mountaineers' 30-21 upset of Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma's offense seemed to find its identity in Saturday's 35-21 win at Notre Dame under the direction of backup quarterback Blake Bell, who was making his second career start in place of Trevor Knight.

And Florida backup quarterback Tyler Murphy threw for a touchdown and ran for another in a 24-7 win over Kentucky.

Connor Shaw
AP Photo/John RaouxQuarterback Connor Shaw left South Carolina's win over UCF early with a shoulder sprain.

All found a way to deliver the Week 5 win, and at least one of them further built his case for taking over the offense on a permanent basis. Bell threw for 232 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as the Sooners ended a seven-game losing streak to the Irish. A knee injury to Knight, coupled with his poor performance, opened the door for Bell, and he has taken advantage of it the past two games. The top of the depth chart is now where many had expected it to be this preseason, but Bob Stoops originally chose Knight, a redshirt freshman, over Bell's 13 games of experience last year.

Stoops isn't the only one who's had a change of heart at quarterback.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen had to go three deep to find his winner. Under Trickett the Mountaineers looked much more respectable on offense than they did a week ago in an embarrassing 37-0 loss to Maryland.

Trickett transferred from Florida State and was third on the depth chart behind Ford Childress, who was injured last week, and Paul Millard, who started the first two games but was benched after a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma.

Trickett was at least an upgrade from last week, as he finished 24-of-50 for 309 yards and a touchdown. He managed the game well and made some key throws under pressure in the fourth quarter. It wasn't flawless, though, as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw two picks.

Most importantly, though, he won.

It didn't come easy for South Carolina, which trailed UCF 10-0 in the first half. Shaw was sidelined for the final three quarters, leaving the game in the hands of Thompson. With standout running back Mike Davis taking the offense on his shoulders, Thompson merely had to manage it. He threw an interception, but once they settled down and began to rely on their running game, the Gamecocks were able to finally pull away from the pesky Knights.

Much like South Carolina had Davis to rely on, Florida had its defense to fall back on as the Gators got used to life without injured quarterback Jeff Driskel. Last week was rough for Florida, which lost both Driskel and top defender Dominique Easley to season-ending injuries, but Murphy threw for 156 yards and a touchdown, and the defense was still smothering.

None of the quarterbacks was perfect, but each was good enough to win, and that was the trend on Saturday.

It was exactly what we wanted, and more

By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Earlier in the week, Urban Meyer called Wisconsin the "king of the Big Ten." After yet another Ohio State victory on Saturday night, no questions remained about the real league royalty: the team with King James on its sideline.

Yet this was hardly a coronation. The No. 4 Buckeyes had to fight until the final minute to hold off the No. 23 Badgers 31-24 in front the third-largest crowd in the history of the Horseshoe. Plenty of people probably checked in on this prime-time game to find out just how good Ohio State truly was after it had cruised against soft competition for the first four weeks.

They might have come away still unsure.

"I don't know if we made a statement," safety C.J. Barnett said. "We know we had our doubters. Hopefully, we proved them wrong. But if not, it doesn't matter. We're just going to keep working."

Meyer's team looked ready to provide a resounding impression at various points in the game. Quarterback Braxton Miller returned from his 11-quarter injury absence and immediately led the offense on a touchdown drive in just four plays. The Buckeyes went end to end as fast as LeBron James, who cheered on his home state school from the 20-yard line during the first half.

Miller, reunited with running back Carlos Hyde for the first time this season, threw four touchdown passes and put his team up 31-14 with his final one late in the third quarter. Take that, Oregon and Clemson and other teams jockeying for BCS title game position.

But Wisconsin, which hasn't lost a game by more than seven points since 2010, refused to buckle. The hard-luck Badgers outgained the Buckeyes (399-390) and cost themselves a better chance at the upset because of a missed field goal, several costly penalties and a defensive breakdown at the end of the first half. Saturday's game was billed as the de facto Leaders Division title game. It might well have just pitted the two best teams in the entire Big Ten.

"They did exactly what we thought they were going to do," Ohio State receiver Philly Brown said. "We knew it going into this game that it was going to be a brawl."

To read Brian Bennett's full story, Click here.

Brian Bennett | email

ESPN Staff Writer

Newer isn't always better

By Chris Low | ESPN.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Compared to the wildly entertaining Georgia-LSU shootout earlier in the day, Alabama's grind-it-out 25-0 win over Ole Miss on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium was a bit of a dud.

One game was new-school SEC. The other old-school SEC.

The old-school approach has worked just fine for the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide, who've won three of the last four national championships.

Yeldon
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAlabama stuck to its grind-it-out style, giving T.J. Yeldon and the gang plenty of chances to break big plays.
But as we prepare to flip the calendar to October this season, the SEC championship race appears to be as wide open as ever and could take on a much different look than we're used to seeing in this league.

Suddenly, everybody's scoring points at a dizzying pace. Texas A&M has scored more than 40 in all five of its games. Georgia and LSU have scored 35 or more in all of their games.

The No. 21 Rebels also had scored more than 30 in all three of their games heading into Saturday night's contest but ran face-first into a crimson wall.

"At the end of the day, when you're playing fast-paced teams, all you have to do is get lined up and make plays," said Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, who outscored Ole Miss himself when he tackled quarterback Bo Wallace in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety.

It was a reminder that somebody in the SEC still plays a little defense. It was also a reminder that Alabama has made a few strides on "D" after giving up a school-record 628 yards of total offense to Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the 49-42 win over the Aggies.

"Everything's a stepping stone," Alabama cornerback Deion Belue said. "When you're the No. 1 team, everybody's always trying to find what's bad about you. But we're just going to keep getting better."

Let's face it. There are a lot of teams around the country who would love to have Alabama's so-called problems.

To read Chris Low's full story, click here.

Chris Low | email

ESPN Senior Staff Writer

Unpredictability still surrounds the ACC

By David M. Hale | ESPN.com

In the days leading up to Virginia Tech's Thursday night showdown with Georgia Tech, Logan Thomas could hardly throw. An abdominal injury limited him in practice, which figured to be bad news for the Hokies, given how poorly Thomas and the offense had played when healthy.

So, of course, the senior quarterback went to Atlanta, played his best game of the season, and the much-maligned Virginia Tech offense helped lead an upset over the Yellow Jackets.

It was a harbinger for the weekend to come in the ACC. Just when it seemed we had things pegged, the expectations got turned upside down again.

How else to explain what happened in Pittsburgh, where the Panthers' defense completely shut down Virginia just seven days after coughing up 532 yards and 55 points to Duke? Certainly Virginia's offense didn't present the same test, but the Cavaliers mustered just 188 yards of offense in the game. Of course, the most surprising thing might have been that high-flying Pitt managed only 11 more.

Who could have possibly predicted Boston College's near upset of Florida State? It wasn't so much that the Eagles came out quickly against an unprepared Seminoles team. They did, of course, jumping out to a 17-3 lead. What was perhaps more surprising, however, was that BC kept coming back even after Jameis Winston and Florida State delivered what seemed like one final dagger after another. BC fought to the end, riding a power running game to 34 points against the bigger, faster Seminoles. Florida State knew BC's game plan was to run the ball, and yet Andre Williams still racked up 149 yards on the ground -- the most by a runner against FSU since 2010.

And what happened to North Carolina? Sure, the Tar Heels hadn't opened the season with many fireworks, but this was a team that tied for the Atlantic Division title a year ago, looked at least reasonably capable against South Carolina in its opener and was up early on Georgia Tech a week ago before faltering late. So did the Heels take out their frustrations against East Carolina? Not even close. UNC allowed 603 yards and 55 points, of course.

Or how about NC State's Pete Thomas? The backup QB forced into the starting role in Week 1 had looked dreadful during his first three games, tossing four interceptions without a TD. He looked much improved against Central Michigan on Saturday, including an 80-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood, helping NC State to nearly 500 yards of total offense.

To read David Hale's full story, click here.

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