Originally Published: October 14, 2012

Defenses are key, but teams need offenses, too

By Ted Miller
ESPN.com

It had to be kryptonite or something supernatural, right?

No way a team could contain Heisman certainty Geno Smith and high-flying, fifth-ranked West Virginia, as Texas Tech did on Saturday in a 49-14 bludgeoning.

But it did. Yes, it was shocking to see if you'd watched Smith carve apart all comers previous to his Lubbock Waterloo. But if we've learned anything about college football, it is to expect the unexpected. And once again, you can hear that annoying, but frustratingly true college football truism being squawked at you: Defense wins championships.

(Imagine a parrot saying it to you. Over and over. And he's wearing an SEC sweatshirt. That makes it even more fun.)

ESPN.com's Brad Edwards projects the BCS standings, which will be released tonight, to go like this: 1. Alabama; 2. Oregon; 3. Florida; 4. Notre Dame; 5. Kansas State; 6. LSU.

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Michael Wade/Icon SMIFlorida's defense has helped turn the Gators into a title contender.

Those teams rank Nos. 1, 31, 6, 2, 19 and 8, respectively, in scoring defense. And West Virginia ranks 109th.

Squawk … defense wins championships … sqawk.

Yet, humor us for a moment in the belief that being good wins championships. Yes, that includes being competent on offense, which some of Edwards' top six don't appear to be, most notably Notre Dame and LSU.

Further, Florida ranks 114th in the nation in passing. The Gators impressively won a battle of attrition with LSU, but can they win their way into the national title game passing for 145 yards per game? Or 61, as they did versus the Tigers? That said, none of Edward's top six is a passing juggernaut. Oregon is 56th in the nation in passing with 239.3 yards per game, but the Ducks are a run-first operation. Alabama is No. 87. Kansas State is 108th.

Part of that is not needing to throw the ball. Alabama and Oregon have been so dominant over the first half of the schedule that there's been no reason to pass much after the half.

There seems little doubt that if Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron needed to throw, he certainly could. We've seen him do it before, and he's fifth in the nation in passing efficiency. Same could be said of Kansas State's Collin Klein, who is 17th in the nation in passing efficiency, and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, who is 21st.

There is a wrinkle here that we've held back, though there was some concern your eyes might glaze over with a recitation of statistics. Apologies for that.

No doubt defense wins championships. But you've got to score to win a BCS national title game.

Average points for the winning team in a BCS title game? 32.1. Just once has the winning team scored fewer than 21 points, and that was a Big 12 team, if you can believe it: Oklahoma in a 13-2 win over Florida State in 2000. Eight times the winning team scored more than 30.

You've got to score to win. Probably at least three or four touchdowns, too.

Of course, a team's profile can change over the season. Florida, Notre Dame or LSU could get much better on offense as the season goes on.

But as the screws tighten while the weather chills, it's likely that the most complete teams will be standing at the end.

Defense, yes, wins championships. But offense needs to win Best Supporting Actor.

Irish defense answers call again

By Matt Fortuna
ESPN.com

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The gap between Notre Dame and the BCS regulars was closed with a defiant stand for all to see, Stepfan Taylor being denied entry to the end zone four straight times from inside the 5-yard line, two of his runs coming from the 1.

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Matt Cashore/US PresswireAs it has all season, Notre Dame's defense stepped up when it needed to against Stanford.

Irish players rushed the field not once but twice, as a tension-filled replay review lasting a few minutes determined that, yes, Notre Dame had stopped Taylor, had beaten the Cardinal for the first time in four years, 20-13, and had reached the halfway point of this campaign unscathed, at 6-0.

This was three seasons' worth of work coming together, as Brian Kelly and his staff pieced together the Irish's defense one by one, bridging the gap with a win over a team that out-physicaled Notre Dame to the tune of 642 rushing yards to 208 in their previous three meetings.

On Saturday, the Irish won that battle, albeit narrowly, 150-147. They beat the Cardinal at the Cardinal's game, and they answered yet another question after a sixth straight win.

Could Notre Dame finally stop Denard Robinson after three straight losses to Michigan? Forcing six turnovers -- and five from Shoelace himself on his 22nd birthday -- put to rest that question.

What would the Irish do against a Miami offense coming off more than 1,200 total yards in its two previous games? They survived a pair of early dropped touchdown passes and held the Hurricanes to three points the rest of the way.

So the Irish entered Saturday allowing just 7.8 points per game, second in the country. The defense had not given up a touchdown since Week 2 against Purdue, and it had not allowed a rushing touchdown all year.

Status quo against the Cardinal, whose only trip to the end zone came on a defensive score of their own.

The Irish trailed for the first time all season Saturday, and the offense came through when it was needed. Then, like every other time this season, the defense closed the door, almost ensuring the program of a top-5 BCS ranking when they are first unveiled Sunday night.

"When you're talking to your team all week about a heavyweight match, and you can't keep taking body blows, you have to stand in there, and sooner or later, you've got to be the one that delivers," Kelly said after Saturday's win. "It comes to fruition in the way the game ended and our team coming up with a great goal-line stand. Classic."

Tuberville pulls off another top-five shocker

By David Ubben
ESPN.com

LUBBOCK, Texas -- We ought to be used to this by now.

Top-five teams, beware of Tommy Tuberville. Be very, very ware.

Last season, the Texas Tech Riverboat Gambler blitzed undefeated Oklahoma, breaking the Sooners' 39-game winning streak at Owen Field.

Saturday, No. 5 West Virginia finally cracked for the first time this season.

Texas Tech cut the Mountaineers' legs right out from under them with a dominant 49-14 win to move to 6-2 all time against top-five teams. Where did it rank among Tuberville's all-time wins?

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Michael C. Johnson/US PresswireWith a win over West Virginia, Tommy Tuberville continued his success against top-five teams.

"No. 1, No. 1," Tuberville said, before going back on his statement seconds later.

A 24-13 win over Iowa State two weeks ago didn't have the style points of Saturday's shellacking, but Tuberville said it ranked right up there, too.

"We've been struggling for an identity," he said. "This is good for the morale of the players and also the fans to kind of say, 'Hey, this group's pretty good. We've got to get behind them.' This truly is a team, a city, a university win today because not a lot of people gave us a chance."

The same was true last year against Oklahoma, but after that win, Tuberville's Red Raiders lost the final five games of the season, falling to 5-7 and finishing below .500 for the first time since 1993. Tech has six games left on its schedule this time around, and it's moving on from another big win under Tuberville.

The task ahead of the Red Raiders (5-1) is clear, and the memory of last week's 41-20 loss to Oklahoma seems pretty fuzzy.

"I can't be any prouder for all of them. Last week was very disappointing. We knew it was a great football team we were playing," Tuberville said. "We've got a good team. We knew that going into the season. We're halfway through. We've had one blip on the screen. We're not going to celebrate this one past tomorrow. We're going to go back to work and make sure to understand that if you win, you come back and work hard."

Tech learned that the hard way a year ago, but the future looks bright for the Red Raiders.

Happy returns: LSU back in BCS race

By Travis Haney
ESPN Insider

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Late Saturday night, LSU coach Les Miles was virtually inaudible when meeting with the assembled media. The Man under The Hat was gassed in the wake of a 23-21 victory against third-ranked South Carolina. He was exhausted, but relieved.

It had been a long week here, answering questions about a beleaguered offensive line and how the Tigers were going to move the ball. And now? Nov. 3, when Alabama comes here, remains a relevant date on the national level, and LSU remains in the BCS discussion.

In fact, the list of viable one-loss teams is growing. In addition to the two here Saturday, Oklahoma and USC belong in that conversation (maybe West Virginia, too, although that's debatable after the nature of its loss Saturday). And another thought: Where does Notre Dame fit in if it should lose at OU or USC and win out otherwise?

If there's another shakeup similar to the Oct. 6 quake, those teams will again ascend. It's still early enough. Remember that it was a team that lost in early November that wound up winning the crystal football last season.

LSU's hopes of hanging around in the title discussion were flickering after a miserable day at Florida, but the patchwork offensive line destroyed a talented South Carolina front to restore hope for those on the bayou.

"We're not used to losing around here," linebacker Lamin Barrow said. "This game wouldn't have broken our season, but we couldn't take another loss. It was beautiful to see us come together as a team."

To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here Insider.

Sooners show what they're made of

By Jake Trotter
SoonerNation

DALLAS -- Senior defensive lineman Jamarkus McFarland took a victory lap around the Sooners' side of the Cotton Bowl, waving an oversized Oklahoma flag. Kenny Stills put the Golden Hat Trophy on his head and galloped in circles in the end zone.

The celebrating, however, started long before that.

OU put the Longhorns away in the first half, then bloodied them in the second on the way to a dominating 63-21 victory.

"We're capable of doing a lot," said Landry Jones, who became the winningest quarterback in OU history with Saturday's victory. "We're capable of doing this all the time."

This is how dominant the Sooners were: Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said the OU receivers began telling him what plays were coming.

To read the rest of Jake Trotter's story, click here.

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