Look who's back in the BCS championship race
There's just something about these last few weeks of the college football season.
Maybe it's the pressure of being in one of those top two spots in the BCS standings. Maybe it's the reality that there are no sure things in college football, and maybe there's a little voodoo at work in some of the other locales around the country.
Whatever the case, we've come to expect the unexpected when we get to this time of year.
But utter chaos?
That's what we got Saturday night in college football, and they couldn't be more ecstatic about it in South Bend, Ind., and a couple of different spots in SEC country.
In about 30 fascinating minutes, No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both went down. Unranked Baylor shredded Kansas State 52-24, and No. 13 Stanford stunned Oregon 17-14 in overtime.
So scratch out (in pencil, anyway) that Kansas State-Oregon matchup in the Discover BCS National Championship Game and replace it with Notre Dame against the SEC championship game winner.
Again, with the way this season has gone, make sure you have an eraser handy.
But Notre Dame will be the new No. 1 when the BCS standings are unveiled Sunday night, and Alabama likely will be No. 2.
That's right, all those last rites everybody was reading for the SEC last week after Alabama's loss to Texas A&M were premature.
The door is still wide open for the SEC to extend its national championship streak to seven in a row. Alabama has to beat Auburn on Saturday to secure a spot in the SEC championship game, but the Tigers are suffering through their worst season in 60 years and are winless in the league.
Chaos on Saturday
Georgia, which is expected to be No. 3 in the newest BCS standings, already has locked up its berth in the Dec. 1 SEC championship game.
Think tickets to that contest just got a lot pricier?
Assuming Alabama doesn't stumble against Auburn and Georgia handles its business against Georgia Tech, the SEC championship game becomes a play-in game for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
And for all those people still fuming about the all-SEC pairing in last season's BCS National Championship Game, brace yourselves. It could happen again if Notre Dame falters this weekend at USC.
Florida likely will be No. 4 in the newest BCS standings. The Gators haven't played well the past few weeks, particularly on offense. But if they can win at Florida State this weekend, that would give them four wins over top-10 opponents, which could very easily push them into one of those top two spots in the final BCS standings should Notre Dame lose at USC.
It will be interesting to see how far Oregon and Kansas State fall.
At this point, Oregon needs help to even make the Pac-12 championship game. The Ducks will be pulling for UCLA to beat Stanford this weekend.
There's also a decent chance that five of the top seven teams in the newest BCS standings will hail from the SEC.
The league that everybody (outside the South) loves to hate is poised to occupy center stage again come January.
So hold on with both hands, because something says we've not seen the last of the chaos.
Golson, Irish offense are on the rise
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's quarterback is getting hot at the best possible time for the Fighting Irish.
Sophomore Everett Golson, a first-year starter from Myrtle Beach, S.C., is coming off the two best games of his college career as the Fighting Irish head into next week's regular-season finale at USC.
After No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both lost this past weekend, the No. 3 Fighting Irish only have to beat the Trojans to finish No. 1 and play in the Jan. 7 Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami.
And fortunately for Notre Dame, Golson is playing his best football as it heads into its biggest game in more than a decade.
"Obviously, he's a guy that makes explosive plays," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "He's got the ability to throw it. He can run the football. He's elusive. I think we're seeing a guy that's growing each and every week. Now, he made some mistakes that a young quarterback has a tendency to make. We've got to kind of slow him down a little bit. But he's definitely on the right path to providing us the offense that we need."
As Golson has grown, so has Notre Dame's offense, which struggled early in the season.
In Saturday's 38-0 win over Wake Forest at Notre Dame Stadium, Golson completed 20 of 30 passes for 346 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Irish had 584 yards of offense and scored three touchdowns of 30 yards or longer. They were 7-for-13 on third down and 3-for-3 in the red zone.
"He's certainly seeing the field better," Kelly said. "He's getting the ball out on time, and he's an elusive player. He can make plays out on the perimeter. He's a very dangerous player if you're trying to defend him. We showed some option, and you saw the way he connected in the option game. He will now be so much more difficult to defend, and we will as an offense be much more difficult to defend when you have those elements of play making outside the realm of your offense."
With so much on the line at Southern Cal, Golson said he isn't going to look back now.
"As far as I'm concerned, my head is down," Golson said. "My foot's on the gas. I'm never going to look up and lose focus. My thing is just keep your head down and keep pushing it."
Seminoles stay focused, eye Gators next
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- No. 10 Florida State was just minutes removed from clinching a share of the Atlantic Division title with a 41-14 win over Maryland on Saturday when the Seminoles immediately turned their attention to rival Florida.
Florida State (10-1, 7-1 ACC) guaranteed itself a spot in the Dec. 1 Dr Pepper ACC Championship Game, but the Noles aren't done yet. "It's a great accomplishment, but I think right now we're still focused knowing that we have more games to win," said Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. "I think we'll be able to celebrate everything at the end of the year. It's a great accomplishment, but we're looking to next week."
FSU enters its final regular-season game having won five straight since its stunning Oct. 6 loss at NC State. That loss knocked the Noles down but not out. Saturday's relatively easy win over the Terps assured FSU its second Atlantic Division title in three seasons under coach Jimbo Fisher and gave the program its first 10-win regular season since 2003.
Florida State's defense dominated an injury-laden Maryland offense, holding the Terps to just 170 total yards. The Seminoles also got their ground game going again. After being held to minus-15 yards rushing at Virginia Tech, the Noles racked up 237 yards against the Terps. "We're 10-1, and I'm very proud of our kids," Fisher said. "First goal was to win the division, now we have to play the Florida game, and then we'll get in the ACC championship game and see where that goes. Still got a lot of work to do."
Florida State will face Miami or Georgia Tech in the ACC title game. Receiver Kenny Shaw said his teammates aren't even thinking about the championship game right now. "We're very excited," he said of winning the division. "That's one of our goals, but then again, we've got this game coming up [next week] against our rival, Florida. We're going to focus on that first, and then we can go up to Charlotte. This has been one of our goals since camp time."
What happens if Trojans beat Irish?
Thanks to another shake-up Saturday, the first time the BCS Nos. 1 and 2 lost on the same day since 2007, we don't have to wait until January 2015 to experience a college football playoff.
Some facsimile of it is here. Now.
Semifinal 2: The winner of the Dec. 1 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta will occupy the second spot. That's easy, too.
Granted, USC doesn't have a place in this semifinal round -- although it was expected to, originally -- but you can see why it would be considered some version of a playoff for three of the four teams. If that terminology bugs you, there are direct play-in implications for the season's final couple of weeks.
I knew the shake-up was coming. I threw it out on TV during the week that it would be Nov. 24, with Oregon State and USC creating the chaos, but it turned out to be sooner.
Still, another quake could be on the way.
Where the whole picture goes to static -- where everything then escapes the pseudo four-team playoff -- is if USC does upset Notre Dame. Our BCS wizard Brad Edwards might currently be locked in a closet somewhere in Bristol trying to figure out who would go to Miami in that event.
The amazing thing is that, a week after being counted out by the general public (I even had to talk a Bama gal into believing her team wasn't toast), another all-SEC final went from far-flung to somewhat possible.
It would be a distinct possibility if not for USC quarterback Matt Barkley's injured shoulder casting doubt as to whether he'll play against the Irish. Without Barkley, that chore for USC seems a lot more taxing.
Let's just say, though, that Lane Kiffin rallies his team for a victory. If Tino Sunseri kept Pitt in the game against the Irish, perhaps the torch will be passed this week from Barkley to Max Wittek.
Let's begin the Takeaways there
To read the rest of Travis Haney's story, click here .
Three weekend observations
1. There's no team in recent memory that has taken more body shots than Penn State and stayed on its feet. Sure, Penn State should have beaten Indiana and did, 45-22. But the loss came at a high price. Senior middle linebacker Mike Mauti, the team's emotional leader, suffered a knee injury in the first half and didn't return. But like everything else drastic that has happened this season, from the new staff to the bowl ban to the players leaving to the 0-2 start, the Nittany Lions absorbed the blow and kept competing.
2. No. 18 USC fell to 7-4, 5-4 in the Pac-12 by losing to No. 17 UCLA, 38-28. That's disappointing. The Trojans have gone 1-4 against teams with seven or more victories this season, an indication that their record is an accurate reflection of the team's ability. That's surprising. And the Trojans came out flat against their crosstown rival with an 8-2 record, spotting the Bruins a 24-0 lead. That's stunning. The USC that played at the Rose Bowl on Saturday could learn from Penn State.
3. As Louisiana Tech anchored itself in the BCS standings, with only a wild 59-57 loss to Texas A&M keeping the Bulldogs from talk of a BCS berth, Utah State quietly built a stronger résumé. The Aggies beat Utah in overtime, lost at Wisconsin by two points and lost at BYU by three. Yet Utah State got little national recognition. That will change after a 48-41 overtime win at Louisiana Tech, and deservedly so. Only Idaho (1-10) stands between Utah State (9-2) and its first WAC championship.
Highlights: Baylor-Kansas State
GameDay crew final thoughts
We got another example of how difficult it is to deal with the pressure (of going undefeated).
When Kansas State, which ranked in the top 10 (in the FBS) in rushing defense, gives up 342 yards rushing to Baylor and when Oregon's prolific offense, albeit against a good defense but one that's not necessarily that fast, gets bottled up, limited to no explosion plays and starts to press, you see tangible evidence of just how hard it is to deal with the pressure.
A couple Kansas State kids said this week that these games keep getting harder and harder and harder.
And they do, because there's a lot of attention and expectations on them. Opponents are playing with an emotional fervor, and sometimes you can't just match that; you have to try to exceed it and be the aggressor. It's a hard thing to do when the team trying to pull the upset is playing with a completely free mind and the highly ranked team isn't.
The other oddity is the possibility Stanford and UCLA will play each other two weeks in a row, which is highly amusing.
We could once again, depending on some other upsets, have a team (Oregon) that was not a division champion be a worthy contender for the national championship game.
The Ducks are in the mix with one-loss teams, and they ought to be evaluated as an independent. Who's the best team? And if you think Oregon is the best team under that scenario, voters should vote for them.
There's still two weeks remaining, and with the number of double-digit underdogs who pulled upsets, it's safe to say that we're not done with the surprises just yet. It'll be fun to watch.
Notre Dame is going to be No. 1 and should remain No. 1 with a win over USC. We'll see what happens with Georgia-Georgia Tech. Alabama should beat Auburn, and the winner of the SEC championship game between Georgia and Alabama next week should play Notre Dame for the national championship. I believe Notre Dame is just too good for Southern Cal and Southern Cal is beat up right now.
It's not over until it's over. Everybody thought the SEC was out of it last week, but I thought it still had a chance. I didn't expect it to happen this way, but it proves that all you have to do is hang in there and keep fighting every week.
Stanford was a surprise in its win over Oregon. We knew how good the Cardinal's defense was, and that's what would give them a chance. But the biggest surprise of the day by far, by far, that no one really saw coming was Baylor over Kansas State. It wasn't just the fact that the Bears beat Kansas State; it was the way they beat Kansas State. They hammered the Wildcats. They shut down their offense, they poured on the points on their defense and they dominated at the point of attack. It was a victory that made their season.
Right now, Alabama and the SEC are licking their chops because they're back in it.
Blog Network: What we learned
Florida State and Clemson clinched a share of the Atlantic Division: With their win over Maryland, the Noles guaranteed themselves a spot in the ACC title game.
Kansas State is not a team of robots and will not win the national title. Or the Heisman.
Stability? What? Just when you thought it was safe to dream (and/or incorrectly speculate) about stability in college football
Ohio State is doing something special: The Buckeyes might not have played the strongest schedule, but they still deserve praise for winning every week.
Barring a miracle, Oregon won't play for the national title, and even its Pac-12 supremacy is threatened.
The SEC is back in the BCS chase. If Alabama and Georgia win next weekend, the SEC title game turns into a semifinal for the national championship.
Everett Golson continues to grow. He has seemingly gotten better each week since the Oklahoma game.
Weekly Leaders: Week 12
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: Devonta Freeman; Tajh Boyd; Stephen Morris
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• Big 12: Landry Jones; Sam Richardson; Zack Craig
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• Big East: Montel Harris; Savon Huggins; Alec Lemon
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• Big Ten: Devin Gardner; Matt McGloin; Allen Robinson
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• Pac-12: Kevin Hogan; Eric Kendricks; Keith Price
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• SEC: Andre Hal; Johnny Manziel; Aaron Murray
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• Notre Dame: Everett Golson; Cierre Wood; T.J. Jones
More ND stickers