And So It Is Written ...
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The ten most important things to happen in the history of our great planet – at least this weekend. How will Week 12 of your college football season be remembered in the history books? And so it is written …
1. Subtle Saturday
Of course there were some big, huge, gigantic, colossal things happening on Saturday, but the weekend was more about the subtleties. Several sleeper teams and good players looking for something special all but bowed out, ruining what might have been a fun storyline or three over the final weeks. The landscape was shaped more than it might have appeared.
- Virginia Tech 17, Duke 16. This did three key things. First, it ruined the dream of an 11-1 Duke winning the Coastal and getting its Buster Douglas-like shot at Florida State for the ACC championship for a playoff spot. The conference title is still on the table, but it won’t carry as much significance. Secondly, it was a huge win for Virginia Tech to get to 5-5 and one win away from a bowl – Ohio State’s early season clunker doesn’t look nearly as miserable now. Finally, this pushes Georgia Tech up into – most likely – the second-highest ranked ACC team behind Florida State, meaning a possible sweet bowl bid in one of the New Year’s Day games.
- Oregon State 35, Arizona State 27. America was sleeping, but the last college football game of the weekend could turn out to be among the most significant. ASU’s loss opens the door to USC and UCLA, who square off this weekend in a showdown that might determine the Pac-12 South championship. Watch out for the Bruins, who are getting hot at the right time and now control their own destiny. Win out, beat Oregon in a rematch of an earlier season loss, and a playoff spot could be coming.
- Cincinnati 54, East Carolina 46, and Boise State 38, San Diego State 29. Marshall destroyed Rice – the toughest team on the schedule – meaning 12-0 is all but locked up. East Carolina is now done with any hopes of being the Group of Five automatic team, meaning Boise State and Colorado State are the only contenders. The Broncos got by San Diego State, but the two losses are going to be a problem. Colorado State could be 11-1 by winning out and not get into the New Year’s Day big bowls because it won’t be a conference champ – the Rams lost to Boise State earlier in the year.
2. The Alabama Crimson Tide is who we thought they were
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Mississippi State lost on the road at Alabama in a game that made things more interesting in the SEC West, but was hardly a deathblow for the Bulldogs. It’s not like Alabama’s 25-20 win over Mississippi State was played at a high-level, but it was a good, tough defensive slugfest – it might be the first of two showdowns.
If MSU wins out, and Alabama loses to Auburn, MSU is going to the SEC championship. If Auburn beats Alabama and Ole Miss wins the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss goes to the SEC championship. If Mississippi State beats Ole Miss to finish 11-1, and Alabama beats Auburn and goes on to win the SEC championship to finish 12-1, then good luck Big Ten and Big 12 in terms of finding your way into the playoff.
3. Melvin Gordon runs again, and why not?
In several ways, it was the most spectacular rushing day in the history of college football. This wasn’t LaDanian Tomlinson running a bazillion times against a woeful UTEP team. Nebraska-Wisconsin was the battle for control of the Big Ten West and a likely spot in the conference championship game, and the Badgers put on a clinic rushing for 581 yards thanks to miserable tackling by the Huskers, a brilliant day from the O line, and 408 rushing yards and four touchdowns from Melvin Gordon to set the NCAA single-game rushing record. The guy averaged 16.3 yards per carry, tearing off big run after big run, and most impressively, he set the record in three quarters. His 26-yard scoring dash as time ran out in the third was his final moment – he could’ve made it 500 yards if the coaching staff kept pressing it. Now, because of this, the Heisman race is down to two – Gordon, and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. That’s it.
4. And then there was one
Florida State isn’t playing all that well. It’s sluggish out of the gate in game after game, the secondary is a bit too shaky, the inconsistencies on offense are glaring, and Jameis Winston is throwing way too many picks. But 10-0 is 10-0 is 10-0 – unless you’re Marshall – as FSU is now the only remaining undefeated team from a Power 5 conference.
Go ahead and dog the schedule, please. Yes, FSU is probably 8-2 right now if it was in the SEC West or the Pac-12 South, but it’s not, and being unbeaten in mid-November is still impressive no matter how it happened. Is this the nation’s No. 1 team? Probably not, but it’s one of the top four right now after coming back and holding on to beat Miami, and that’s all that matters.
5. The big winner by doing nothing … Baylor
Oregon and UCLA were also helped in a huge way, but Baylor benefitted the most from the bye week. It helped that America made the “but Baylor won the head-to-head vs. TCU” argument throughout the week after the Bears were ranked seventh and the Horned Frogs fourth in the latest College Football Playoff poll, but Kansas did most of the heavy lifting. Yeah, Kansas is better, and yeah, it has an offense now, but it also came into the battle with TCU just 3-6, and it took the game down to the wire in a 34-30 Horned Frog win.
While Alabama and Mississippi State were battling it out, and Florida State was fighting Miami on a national stage, and Ohio State was getting through the snow and cold in Minneapolis, TCU was struggling to hit the two-foot putt. Now it’s hard to argue TCU’s case to be ranked ahead of the Bears.
6. Will no longer from Gainesville
Even after a rough year with some epic failures and strange disasters, Florida was still deep in the hunt for the SEC East title – needing to beat South Carolina and get a few other breaks. Georgia beat Auburn, and the Gators lost to the Gamecocks in overtime, so the SEC championship wasn’t a factor anymore, but there’s still a chance to make some major noise with a date with Florida State at the end of the regular season.
Despite a brutal rash of injuries last year, and even with several positives this season to go along with the flubs, going 27-20 just doesn’t get it done at Florida, and now he’s out. From Rich Rodriguez, to Dan Mullen, to any other hot coaching name you can bring up, the pressure is on to find an A-list star who can make Florida a national title contender again. A little offensive pop would be nice, too.
7. Georgia wins, Gurley loses
Missouri still has to deal with battles against Arkansas and Tennessee, and if it blows it against either one, Georgia will be right there waiting to take the SEC east title and have a shot at a College Football Playoff spot – yes, if the Dawgs beat Charleston Southern and Georgia Tech, 11-2 with an SEC championship will mean a spot in the big four. However, it only had superstar running back Todd Gurley for one game off of his suspension, running him 29 times for 138 yards with a touchdown before he suffered a torn ACL on a meaningless carry in a blowout over Auburn. Freshman running back Nick Chubb is doing an amazing job, but it would’ve been really, really nice to have No. 3 as part of the rotation. Gurley will think it would’ve been really, really nice to get back that $7-to-10 million he probably lost by hurting his knee. The Dawgs should still win their final two games, however …
8. Mizzou isn’t going away
The Tiger offense has been non-existent at times, and Georgia walked into Columbia and left with a blowout shutout win, but all of a sudden, Missouri keeps on winning, taking four in a row since the 34-0 debacle against the Dawgs. Beating Vanderbilt and Kentucky was nice, but going to Texas A&M and beating a team that just beat Auburn was a key step forward in the hopes of repeating as SEC East champs. Going to face Joshua Dobbs and a hot Tennessee team in Knoxville won’t be easy, and Arkansas is nasty, but it’s all right there. Even with the loss to Indiana, and even with two defeats, again, 11-2 with an SEC championship probably means a spot in the playoff. One slip, though, and Georgia will be happy to make the bus trip to Atlanta.
9. Ohio State rolls through the snow
TCU beat Minnesota 30-7, so for side-by-side taste test purposes, Ohio State needed to be impressive in Minneapolis, especially coming off the big win over Michigan State. It might not have been the type of dominant, must-put-this-team-in-the-playoff 31-24 victory. Even so, TCU’s struggle against Kansas took care of the perception problem for Ohio State, and now, with the way things are playing out, and with Wisconsin looking like a potentially impressive foe in the Big Ten championship, there’s more hope than ever to get into the big four by winning out. Also, with the Heisman race fizzling, Buckeye quarterback J.T. Barrett, who threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 189 yards and a score, might be entering the runner-up category.
10. Three really cool things that you missed because you were doing something else with your life that you think were slightly more important than watching college football on a Saturday you silly, silly person
- In the battle of run first, run only offenses, Navy throttled Georgia Southern 52-19 helped by an epic day from QB Keenan Reynolds. He completed 5-of-8 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown, and he ran 30 times for 277 yards and six scores.
- Hawaii is in the midst of yet another miserable season, but it came up with a moment of job, snapping a 17-game road losing streak with the program’s first shutout since 2005 in the 13-0 win over San Jose State. The offense didn’t work, but who cares? The Rainbow Warriors got their third win of the season.
- WKU’s Leon Allen picked the wrong day to come up with the best rushing performance of the season – it lasted about two hours until Melvin Gordon took that title. Allen ripped off 345 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries in the 52-24 win over Army, highlighted by an 80-yard scoring dash to start the second half.