Missed opportunities haunt Oregon State
Head coach Mike Riley said something to the effect that you can't win games when you lose the turnover battle 4-1. Well, Saturday afternoon at Stanford Stadium, he learned that you can also lose games that way. The Beavers won the turnover battle against the Cardinal 4-1, but failed to capitalize on the Cardinal errors, producing only three points off of turnovers.
Stanford, however, got one big touchdown off of one big turnover. OSU quarterback Cody Vaz scrambled with 9:21 left in the game and the Beavers holding a 23-21 advantage.
He ducked a tackle while stepping up in the pocket, tried to fake out a player, but simply dropped the ball while bringing it down and trying to switch hands.
Josh Mauro smothered the ball and the Cardinal were in business on the Oregon State 29. Six plays later, first-time Stanford starter Kevin Hogan fired a 13-yard bullet to tight end Zach Ertz for the go-ahead score.
The missed opportunities for the OSU offense spell one big missed opportunity for the Beavers, who entered the week ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings. Had Oregon State won -- and won next week at home against Cal -- its chances of going to the Rose Bowl would have been extremely favorable. Even if they lost to Oregon in the season-finale's Civil War, most think an undefeated Ducks team will go to the BCS Championship Game, leaving the two-loss Oregon State team as the likely squad to be the replacement.
If Oregon finishes No. 1 in the BCS standings, the Rose Bowl will have the first shot at a replacement team. Oregon State probably won't be on that short list. What if it's Stanford? What if it's UCLA? What if it's Notre Dame? For the Beavers, however, the what-ifs are likely to haunt them.
Can Orange keep momentum going?
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Well, if there is one thing Syracuse knows how to do, it is devising a game plan to take down the Big East giant.
For the second straight season, Syracuse upset the best team in the Big East. The Orange dashed any hopes No. 9 Louisville had of running the table, handing the final unbeaten Big East team a 45-26 loss Saturday afternoon.
The same scene played out a little more than a year ago, when Syracuse took down then-No. 15 West Virginia. In both games, the Orange played with more heart, more energy, more intensity -- and completely flustered the superstar quarterbacks behind center.
So the question must be asked -- is there some voodoo the Orange likes to use when a highly ranked team steps onto the Carrier Dome field?
"Anybody is going to have motivation going against the No. 9 team in the country but also through all the struggles and fights we've been through, these ups and downs, knowing we've beat ourselves, it came all together with the emotion and passion, all the fight we've been going through -- it came out today," Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas said.
Indeed, the frustration had been piling up all season for Syracuse, a mercurial team that seemingly tripped over itself with huge games on the line. Opportunities were there to take down then-No. 2 USC in Week 2. To take down then-unbeaten Rutgers a few weeks ago. To take down Cincinnati, one of the defending league champs, last week. In each game, Syracuse came undone thanks to a litany of turnovers and penalties.
When Syracuse is on, it is as good as anybody in the Big East. When it plays without discipline, well, you get a .500 team that ranks among the worst in the nation in turnovers and penalties. We have seen glimpses of the Syracuse we saw Saturday, but never enough to last them longer than a stretch of a couple of games.
"I don't want to beat a dead horse. It just shows that when we have the capability of executing this way, we are a very good football team," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "That's what we have to keep working on."
Especially with bowl eligibility on the line. Nobody needs to remind Marrone what happened after Syracuse pulled its upset of West Virginia in 2011. The Orange did not win a game the rest of the season.
Texas A&M joins elite SEC club
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Toward the end of an informal Friday evening chat with Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, a couple of reporters reminded him of Nick Saban's October complaints about up-tempo offenses and whether they somehow poison the game.
A writer wryly suggested that Sumlin, new to A&M and to the SEC, should put together a roster to really frustrate Saban and the status quo of the proud and plodding league.
"We're trying," he said as he exited the room, turning to me and smiling.
Turns out the Aggies are already there, as evidenced Saturday by a 29-24 upset of the previously No. 1 and BCS favorite Alabama Crimson Tide.
This wasn't a Tide hangover from "The Drive" (now meaningless, really) and LSU. This was Texas A&M playing better throughout the course of four quarters.
"I told them we didn't need to play a perfect game," Sumlin said afterward. "We needed a complete game. We hadn't played one of those yet."
It's kind of funny that he would say that, considering all the embarrassing failures the program suffered in 2011 -- when A&M lost four of its six games despite holding double-digit halftime leads.
This very different version of the Aggies came to Tuscaloosa and, with a freshman quarterback, outplayed the defending national champs and the team we all presumed was the best in the country.
Forget A&M holding onto a halftime lead; Alabama never led at any point. The Tide threatened, sure, but the Aggies had answers each time on both sides of the ball.
And when the punt team needed to contribute, it got the most disciplined players in America to jump offside to seal the game. That had Ags special teams coach Brian Polian beaming. He called it "once in a million" that Bama would jump in that situation -- and the one just happened to hit.
What we're learning is there is in fact room for a third elite program in the SEC West. And, no, it isn't Arkansas, as we thought back in March. The Aggies already were riding a recruiting wave -- because of their location, their fast-paced offense and their new league -- but Saturday should create a real spike in interest.
Make room in the SEC for another elite program. Texas A&M is here, and its first-year boss -- now a Missouri win from possibly being the cutthroat conference's coach of the year -- is the catalyst.
To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here .
Wildcats clear path to Miami
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Whether it was true or not, you've got to applaud the effort. Kansas State kept a straight face when it was over.
A few guys eyed the scores in pregame, they admitted, but nobody knew that a win at Amon G. Carter Stadium for Kansas State held an extra special significance only moments after the game began. Alabama's home loss to Texas A&M more than 600 miles away went final just after kickoff, and a win would likely land Kansas State the school's first No. 1 ranking in the BCS.
On the field, Kansas State looked like a team doing what it had done most every week this season: It played sound defense, grabbed a double-digit lead and coasted to a casual win. This one was a 23-10 yawner against a young, scrappy but ultimately overmatched TCU team that clawed its way to bowl eligibility with a double-overtime thriller a week ago.
Still, Bill Snyder said he didn't find out about the result that might have changed Kansas State's season until he was safely in the locker room. His reaction? Little more than a shrug.
It's a great irony, this willful ignorance of the Snyder CopyCats. Without Alabama's loss, Snyder could have pieced together a perfect 12-0 season and still been shutout of the BCS National Championship Game. Instead, the odds are high that the Wildcats would meet Oregon in the game's season finale, boxing out an undefeated Notre Dame team. (Imagine the laughter that sentence would have produced hardly more than a decade ago.)
To read the rest of David Ubben's story, click here .
Badgers look like Wisconsin of old
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- When Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema addressed his team Friday night, he read a list of approximately 20 teams that recently had been among the nation's elite but had fallen on hard times.
Teams like Wisconsin. Teams with worse records than the Badgers.
"The one thing I've constantly got to be aware of as a head coach is the temperature of my team, what are they feeling," Bielema said. "They were unranked and lost a heartbreaker to Michigan State. But what I was trying to stress was the character of this room would show [Saturday]. I rattled off a bunch of BCS teams that are in the thick of it but are 6-3 or [worse]. I wanted to remind them that teams either quit, or they battle forward.
"Obviously, they answered the bell today."
Wisconsin's road back to Indianapolis has been filled with obstacles this season, but the final leg proved to be surprisingly easy as the Badgers ensured they'll be back at Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 1.
To read the rest of Adam Rittenberg's story, click here .
Three weekend observations
1. As the light has gone on for Syracuse junior Jerome Smith, the Orange has climbed into the top half of the Big East. Smith extended his streak of consecutive 100-yard games to four by rushing for 144 yards in a 45-26 upset of previously unbeaten Louisville. In their first six games (2-4 record), the Orange averaged a run/pass ratio of 35.5/38.3. In the past four games (3-1), that ratio has risen to 48/32.5. With a quarterback as talented as senior Ryan Nassib, a productive ground game makes an even bigger difference.
2. A statistical measure of Alabama's dominance prior to Texas A&M's 20-point first quarter Saturday: The Tide hadn't trailed by more than six points since the 2010 LSU game (26 games) and hadn't allowed 20 in one quarter since the Sugar Bowl loss to Utah four seasons ago (49 games). In the past five quarters, Alabama has trailed for 67:33 out of 75 minutes. Prior to that this season, the Tide had trailed for 15 seconds.
3. It doesn't matter whether a team is No. 1 or No. 2 because both get a ticket to the BCS Championship. Unless, that is, you're in the bowl business. With an undefeated Notre Dame at No. 3, it can matter a lot. The bowls that lose automatic qualifiers to the championship game replace them in order of ranking. If Kansas State is No. 1, the Fiesta would take the Irish over Big-12 runner-up Oklahoma (three Fiesta Bowls in the past five years). If Oregon is No. 1, the Rose would decide between an Irish team that hasn't played in its game since 1925 and a 9-3 Pac-12 runner-up. Goodbye, league loyalty?
GameDay crew final thoughts
I think Saturday just underscored the difficulty of going undefeated.
The Crimson Tide faced a difficult test because of Texas A&M's offense. Look, tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews on the offensive line for Texas A&M are phenomenal. They're terrific players. But QB Johnny Manziel is unique and special, and he makes the Aggies' offense go.
Same with Marcus Mariota at Oregon. The Ducks have weapons all over the place, a veteran and a tough offensive line, but he makes it go.
I like Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville. I respect him. I think he's a good man and a good coach, but he made a terrible error. It wasn't the worst thing to ever happen on a sideline, but the leader has to keep his composure at all times. You can't have any physical confrontation with one of your assistants. That's what happened on Saturday against Kansas. I'm sure Tommy is sorry it happened, but there's really no excuse for it. We hold our coaches to a very high standard and give them a lot of attention and most of the time, they deliver. This is just one instance where he didn't live up to the standard that he sets for himself because he has a long record of behaving well.
Alabama's loss really opens things up in national championship race. The longer a team stays undefeated, the pressure really mounts on it to stay undefeated, and you don't play as well.
Looks like we could have two redshirt freshmen quarterbacks at the Heisman dinner.
The conference championships are getting set to be determined. I think Rece had the best idea about the ACC championship when he said Clemson should play Florida State (again).
The Big Ten is just crazy right now. Could you imagine if Ohio State was eligible?
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt
267 passing yards, two TDs in win at Ole Miss
• QB Devin Gardner, Michigan
286 passing yards, two passing TDs, 47 rushing yards, two rushing TDs in win versus Northwestern
I was impressed with Johnny Manziel, as we all have been the entire season.
He went to Alabama, the defending national champions' house and beat them. He played like a fifth-year senior instead of a redshirt freshman first-year starter. I was more impressed with his passing skills, his patience and his ability not to turn the ball over or make mistakes.
Notre Dame was unimpressive Saturday. It shouldn't have been a close game.
Collin Klein, who was questionable all week, didn't have one of his huge games but executed the offense enough for the Wildcats to win.
And you have to give a lot of credit to Taylor Martinez for bringing Nebraska back for the second straight week. T-Magic is definitely working some magic late in games.
Helmet stickers go to:
• QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
253 passing yards, two passing TDs, 92 rushing yards in win at Alabama
• RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
366 rushing yards (Pac-12 record), five TDs in win versus Colorado
Highlights: Washington State-UCLA
Blog Network: What we learned
The Coastal Division continues to be confusing: Duke is the only team in the division that controls its destiny.
Other than K-State, Texas is the Big 12's hottest team. Don't look now, but the Longhorns are racking up some decent wins.
If you are an Orange fan, it is hard not to go over all the coulda, woulda, shoulda moments of the season.
Northwestern still calls itself the "Cardiac Cats," but blown leads have been a problem throughout Pat Fitzgerald's tenure.
Ducks are banged up with Stanford coming to town, but will that matter? Oregon doesn't talk about injuries, but injuries will be discussed this week.
Everybody wondered how Texas A&M would hold up in the SEC. It's safe to say that the Aggies are going to hold up just fine.
The door to the BCS title game is slightly ajar. With Alabama's loss, the road to Miami just got a lot more clear for the Irish.
Weekly Leaders: Week 11
Blog Network: Helmet stickers
Every week our bloggers will hand out helmet stickers to the week's top players, coaches, teams or anything else worth this honor.
• ACC: Rashad Greene; Michael Rocco; Duke Johnson
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• Big 12: David Ash; Seth Doege; Clint Chelf
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• Big East: Sio Moore; Khaseem Greene; Alec Lemon
More Big East stickers
• Big Ten: Montee Ball; Robert Marve; Roy Roundtree
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• Pac-12: Ka'Deem Carey; Curtis McNeal; Lamar Dawson
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• SEC: James Franklin; Jordan Matthews; Zach Mettenberger
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• Notre Dame: Everett Golson; Theo Riddick; Prince Shembo
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