Originally Published: November 11, 2012

Missed opportunities haunt Oregon State

By Kevin Gemmell
ESPN.com

STANFORD, Calif. -- Two weeks ago, the Oregon State Beavers fell to the Washington Huskies in Seattle after losing the turnover battle 4-1.

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Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesCody Vaz's fourth-quarter fumble proved to be costly for 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?

By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com

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.

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Cal Sport MediaSyracuse had one of the nation's worst major-college football programs before Doug Marrone took over four seasons ago.

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

By Travis Haney
ESPN Insider

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.

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John David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel's heroics helped the Aggies upset top-ranked Alabama on the road.

"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 Insider.

Wildcats clear path to Miami

By David Ubben
ESPN.com

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

By Adam Rittenberg
ESPN.com

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 .

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