- Jerry Sandusky passed on the Temple coaching job? The Owls dodged one there.
- The halo over Joe Paterno‘s head on a mural has been removed. Here’s a picture.
- Obviously, the Freeh report has dominated Penn State headlines, but the annual Lift For Life did raise over $100,000 for the Kidney Cancer Association.
- Spencer Hall and SB Nation take on the Big 12. If you need to laugh — and judging by many of the comments over the past 48 hours, I would say that’s an affirmative — I would recommend clicking the link.
- Frank Beamer lost 32 pounds? Good for him.
Saturday offseason one-liners
It took 15 weeks worth of games and 16 polls, but there’s finally some unanimity among coaches as to who is the best team in the country in 2013.
In the penultimate USA Today coaches’ poll released Sunday afternoon, Florida State, the only remaining undefeated team at the FBS level, was ranked No. 1 on all 62 of the ballots cast by the coaches involved in this year’s poll. The Seminoles claimed 58 first-place votes last week, Ohio State four.
With a loss that snapped its winning streak at 24 straight, the Buckeyes dropped four to No. 6. That’s OSU’s lowest showing of the 2013 season, which began with the Buckeyes ranked No. 2 in both the coaches’ and Associated Press‘ polls behind No. 1 Alabama. The Tide moved up to No. 3 from No. 4 thanks to the Buckeyes’ loss.
As expected, one-loss Auburn, which claimed its first SEC title since 2010 Saturday a week after its stunning last-second win over season-long No. 1 ‘Bama, slid into both the No. 2 slot and an unofficial spot in the BCS championship game. Missouri, which came into the SEC title game No. 5, exited at No. 9.
After handing the Buckeyes its first loss since the 2011 postseason, Michigan State jumped four spots to No. 4. That tied for the second-biggest upward climb of the week along with Texas A&M (No. 25 to No. 21). Oklahoma, coming off a road win over Oklahoma State that could very well put it in a BCS bowl, jumped from No. 15 to No. 10. The Cowboys fell seven to No. 13 after the loss, the biggest tumble of the weekend.
The rest of the Top Ten consists of Baylor (No. 5, from No. 7), Stanford (No. 7, from No. 10) and South Carolina (No. 8, from No. 7).
Since an Oct. 18 win over then-unbeaten Louisville, UCF — whose only loss this season was to the Gamecocks — has been consistently ranked behind the Cardinals in the coaches’ Top 25 despite the head-to-head win and both carrying just a single loss. Magically, the Knights leapfrogged the Cardinals in the final poll of the regular season. Better late than never on the accountability front, I guess.
Georgia (No. 24) and Miami (No. 25) are the only new entrants after Week 15, replacing No. 23 Cincinnati and No. 24 Texas.
Of course, the SEC led all conferences with seven teams in the Top 25, with the ACC and Pac-12 next with four apiece. The Big Ten and Big 12 each had three teams represented.
Shortly after Rice’s win over Marshall in the Conference USA championship game, David Bailiff officially suffered a rather important loss to his Owls’ coaching staff.
As had been rumored for the better part of a week, Kansas announced that Owls offensive coordinator John Reagan has accepted the same position with the Jayhawks. Reagan will also serve as KU’s offensive line coach.
Reagan will replace former OL coach Tim Grunhard, who the school announced in late November would be leaving Charlie Weis’ KU staff to spend more time with his family.
Weis had served as his own coordinator his first two seasons in Lawrence. In 2011 and 2012, the Jayhawks finished 115th and 118th in scoring offense, 93rd and 117th in total offense.
“When Tim told me his thoughts, I started searching for a replacement with the hopes of finding someone with Kansas ties capable of coordinating an offense,” said Weis in a statement. “My search brought me to John Reagan. John not only coached at KU, but his kids still reside in Lawrence. He has a great reputation as an offensive line coach, but also has received accolades for coordinating the offense at Rice.
“John immediately takes over for Tim and will hit the recruiting trail for offensive linemen. He will serve as both the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach. I would like to welcome John Reagan back to the Jayhawk family.”
Reagan served as KU’s offensive line coach and run-game coordinator under Mark Mangino before moving on to the Owls in 2010. Under Reagan this season, the Owls are currently 16th in rushing with 240.2 yards per game.
UConn’s win in its regular-season finale not so unexpectedly turned out to be the final collegiate game for one of its top performers on the defensive side of the ball.
Immediately following the Huskies’ 45-10 win over Memphis, linebacker Yawin Smallwood announced that he is foregoing his final season of eligibility and will make himself available for the April draft. Smallwood said he will begin a search for an agent; once that happens, there will be opportunity for the player to change his mind prior to the mid-January deadline.
“I will go ahead and enter the NFL Draft,” Smallwood said. “It’s for real. I am happy and a dream come true. This is when the work starts. It’s a job now and I have to become the best football player I can be.“
Smallwood finished 2013 leading the Huskies in tackles (118) and sacks (four). He was second on the team in tackles for loss with 9.5.
With all the games now played before the Heisman vote is due on Monday, here are the final statistics of the leading contenders:
(in alphabetical order)
Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: 3,473 passing yards, 29 TDs, 9 INTs, 67.6%, 166.60 passer rating, 284 rush yards, 9 TDs
3,757 total yards, 38 touchdowns, 7.4 yards per play, team record: 10-2
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: 3,523 passing yards, 28 TDs, 4 INTs, 70.2%, 169.73 passer rating, 54 rush yards
3,577 total yards, 28 touchdowns, 8.2 yards per play, team record: 11-1
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona: 1,716 rushing yards, 5.33 yards per carry, 17 touchdowns, 156 ypg, 26 catches, 173 yards, 1 TD
1,889 all-purpose yards, 18 touchdowns, 5.4 yards per play, team record: 7-5
Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: 4,866 yards, 48 TDs, 7 INTs, 70.1%, 161.51 passer rating, 117 rush yards, 2 TDs
4,983 total yards, 50 touchdowns, 7.8 yards per play, team record: 11-1
Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: 54 tackles (41 solo), 26.5 tackles for loss for 130 yards, 10 sacks for 73 yards, 2 DFL, 4 FF
1 kick block, 16 quarterback hurries, team record: 6-6
Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois: 2,676 passing yards, 23 TDs, 7 INTs, 63.1%, 140.84 rating, 1,881 rush yards, 22 TDs
4,557 total yards, 45 touchdowns, 7.1 yards per play, team record: 12-1
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: 2,676 passing yards, 26 TDs, 5 INTs, 67.6%, 165.88 passer rating, 21 rush yards.
2,687 total yards, 26 touchdowns, 8.2 yards per play, team record: 11-1
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: 3,732 passing yards, 33 TDs, 13 INTs, 69.1%, 170.43 passer rating, 686 rush yards, 8 TDs
4,418 total yards, 41 touchdowns, 8.4 yards per play, team record: 8-4
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: 3,412 passing yards, 30 TDs,4 INTs, 63.1%, 167.96 passer rating, 582 rush yards, 9 TDs
3,994 total yards, 39 touchdowns, 9.1 yards per play, team record: 10-2
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: 1,860 passing yards, 22 TDs, 5 INTs, 63.2%, 159.3 passer rating, 1,033 rush yards, 10 TDs
2,893 total yards, 32 touchdowns, 7.6 yards per play, team record: 12-1
Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor: 3,844 passing yards, 30 TDs, 2 INTs, 61.8%, 179.18 passer rating, 192 rush yards, 11 TDs
4,036 total yards, 41 touchdowns, 9.2 yards per play, team record: 11-1
Andrew Williams, RB, Boston College: 2,102 rushing yards, 6.4 yards per carry, 17 touchdowns, 175.2 rushing yards per game
2,102 all-purpose yards, 6.4 yards per play, team record: 7-5
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State: 3,820 passing yards, 38 TDs, 10 INTs., 67.9%, 190.05 passer rating, 190 rush yards, 4 TDs
4,010 total yards, 42 touchdowns, 9.4 yards per play, team record: 13-0
Derek Carr threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns and the Fresno State defense stepped up to the plate with nine sacks to lead the No. 23 Bulldogs to a 24-17 victory over Utah State in the first-ever Mountain West Conference title game on Saturday night.
FSU finishes 11-1, while Utah State falls to 8-5.
Carr’s first two touchdowns sparked FSU to a 17-0 lead, but Jake Doughty’s 86-yard return of a Josh Quezada fumble with seconds to play in the first half made the score 17-7 in favor of the Bulldogs. Carr’s third touchdown extended FSU’s lead to 24-7 in the third quarter and it looked like the Bulldogs would cruise to the win.
Things looked even more bleak for the Aggies when starting quarterback Darell Garretson was knocked out of the game on a sack with USU trying to finish off a drive deep in FSU territory early in the fourth quarter. Garretson — himself filling in for the injured Chuckie Keeton — was replaced by junior Craig Harrison. But the Aggies soon scored on Bruce Natson’s 10-yard touchdown run and the lead was 24-14 with 12 minutes to play.
Then the Aggies recovered the onside kick and things really started to get interesting.
Harrison drove the Aggies 35 yards in seven plays, leading to Nick Diaz’ 20-yard field goal. Suddenly, the score was 24-17 with plenty of time left. That was as close as it got, but the Bulldogs had some nervous moments before time expired.
Namely, USU stopped FSU on fourth down inside Aggie territory on its final two drives of the game (barring the one by the Bulldogs to drain the last few seconds off the clock). The last time came on a questionable decision by FSU coach Tim DeRuyter to pass up a makeable field goal to go for the first down at the USU 29 yard line. Quezada was stopped cold and USU took over with a chance to send the game to overtime.
The Aggies drove to the Bulldog 39, but Harrison’s final pass was intercepted by Dalen Jones on the FSU 17 yard line with 44 seconds to play.
Despite the loss, USU shouldn’t hang its heads. After all, the Aggies weren’t supposed to get this far after losing their star, Keeton. But they persevered and showed they weren’t just a one-man team.
Kudos to the Bulldogs defense, too, which gave up 304 total yards to the Aggies just one week after allowing 736 to San Jose State. While the loss to the Spartans will sting for a while, FSU finished with its best record since also going 11-1 in 1989. DeRuyter is 20-5 in his two seasons in Fresno and, if the school can keep him around, this should remain a program on the rise.
The final BCS rankings and matchups for the BCS games won’t be officially announced until Sunday night.
Thanks to Ohio State’s loss and barring some successful, last-minute backroom politicking, however, the marquee postseason games are all but set in stone.
First and foremost, top-ranked Florida State and third-ranked (for now) Auburn will square off in the BCS title game, scheduled for Jan. 6 in Pasadena’s iconic Rose Bowl. The Seminoles are the lone remaining undefeated team in the country, having bulldozed its way through its 2013 schedule to the combined tune of 689-139. The SEC champion Tigers are just one year removed from a winless season in conference play that ended with Gene Chizik getting booted into the unemployment coaching line just two years removed from AU’s last BCS title.
The Rose Bowl, armed with agreements with the Big Ten and Pac-12, is set as well, with 12-1 Michigan State and 11-2 Stanford, each winners of their respective league’s championship games Saturday, set for the New Year’s Day game.
That leaves the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls with spots up for grabs, although those are all but officially filled as well.
For the final year of the BCS, the picking pecking order will go Orange, Sugar and Fiesta. The first two will lose their conference champ tie-ins to the BCS title game, with the Orange getting the first pick of a replacement ahead of the Sugar in addition to the first at-large selection.
The Orange Bowl, according to various bowl officials and media outlets, appear poised to select 12-1 Ohio State and 10-2 Clemson for the Jan. 3 game. The Buckeyes, despite the loss in the Big Ten title game, are still an attractive selection given their national brand and how their fans travel, while the Tigers will benefit from the ACC/Orange Bowl relationship cultivated over many years.
Alabama, by virtue of a top-4 finish in the final BCS rankings — the 11-1 Tide was No. 4 entering Week 15 — is guaranteed a spot in a BCS bowl, which by most every projection will be the Sugar Bowl. The opponent, though, is the biggest BCS uncertainty remaining. 10-2 Oklahoma is the name most mentioned, thanks in large part to the Big 12/SEC/Sugar/Champions Bowl agreement moving forward in the new College Football Playoff. The Sooners also must finish inside the top-14 in the final BCS rankings, though. Another possibility? 10-2 Oregon, although there is concern as to how the Ducks’ fan base would travel to New Orleans.
The Fiesta Bowl is contractually obligated to take the Big 12 champion, meaning 11-1 Baylor is guaranteed to fill one of that postseason game’s spots. Because the AAC is guaranteed a BCS berth, and because the Fiesta Bowl gets the last selection behind the Orange and Sugar, the American champion UCF (11-1) will head to the desert for a date with the Bears.
(Writer’s note: under BCS guidelines, no conference can have more than two of its teams play in a BCS bowl in any one year.)
Below are CFT’s projections for the five BCS games, although the Sugar Bowl is most decidedly to be determined:
VIZIO BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 3 Auburn
ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO
Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET
Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan State
TOSTITOS FIESTA BOWL
Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 16 UCF
ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL
Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET
Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, LA
No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 18 Oklahoma
DISCOVER ORANGE BOWL
Jan. 3, TBD
Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Clemson
All the campaigning, all the stumping can cease. And Auburn, direct your thanks and/or alcoholic beverages to the general direction of East Lansing.
Ohio State’s 24-game winning streak? Laying in tatters on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. Ohio State’s spot in the BCS title game? Gone, thanks to a Michigan State team that simply refused to cower in the face of the mighty Buckeyes, with the Spartans pulling away late for a 34-24 win and the Big Ten title.
Both Ohio State finish the 2013 season at 12-1, but are headed in much different directions.
Next up for Sparty is a New Year’s Day date in Pasadena against Pac-12 champion Stanford in the 100th edition of the Rose Bowl. For the Buckeyes? A tentative date in the Orange Bowl, likely against Clemson.
Sending the Spartans to their first Rose Bowl in 26 years was a game that featured three very distinct runs. MSU jumped out to a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter, only to see the Buckeyes roar back with 24 straight over the next 20 minutes or so to take both the lead and momentum. MSU, however, ripped off the final 17 points to send OSU to its first loss of the Urban Meyer era.
Ohio State had a chance late when, trailing by three with just under six minutes remaining, a blocked punt gave them possession in MSU territory. A fourth-down stop by the stingy Spartan defense handed the ball back to the MSU offense, which put the final dagger in OSU’s season with a 61-yard drive that was capped by Jeremy Langford‘s 26-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes remaining.
Connor Cook, who went 24-40 for 304 yards and three touchdowns, was named the Championship Game MVP.
While not yet officially official, the OSU loss means that Auburn, coming off a three-win season that saw it lose every SEC game it played, will play Florida State for the BCS title in, oddly enough, Pasadena. The Seminoles, currently installed as a 10-point title-game favorite, was ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press preseason poll; not only were the Tigers unranked, they didn’t receive a single vote.
Amazing how quickly a game can turn.
Fresno State looked completely in charge against Utah State, up 17-0 with seconds to play in the first half of the Mountain West Conference title game on Saturday night. The Bulldogs had just driven 57 yards to the Aggies’ 11-yard line with 22 seconds to play in the half and looked to go up 24-0 heading into the locker room. Two plays later, FSU running back Josh Quezada fumbled the ball and Utah State’s Jake Doughty returned it 86 yards for a touchdown.
Suddenly, Fresno State’s lead was 17-7 and the Aggies gained some momentum heading into the third quarter.
Before that fortuitous play, this game was all Bulldogs. Quarterback Derek Carr threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns as FSU put up 341 yards of total offense. The Aggies were held to 152 total yards.
But there is hope. If Utah State quarterback Darrell Garretson can get hot and the Aggies defense can slow down the Bulldogs, USU might have a shot.
Stranger things have happened in conference title games before, right?
No. 1 Florida State (13-0, 9-0 ACC) may have gotten off to a slow start, but the Seminoles had few problems putting away No. 20 Duke (10-3, 6-3) in the ACC Championship Game Saturday in Charlotte. After winning their second straight ACC championship with a 45-7 victory over the Blue Devils, the Seminoles are now set to travel to Pasadena to play in the final BCS Championship Game.
Jameis Winston, the Heisman favorite showed a number of freshman moments that had been missing for much of the season. Credit some of that to Duke, but there were moments when Winston may have been trying to force some plays to happen that just were not there. A couple of overthrown passes were picked off by Duke’s secondary, but Winston still had a good night with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns. Winston is the only lock to receive a trip to New York for next weekend’s Heisman Trophy presentation, and it he is the clear favorite. His top target in this championship game was Kelvin Benjamin, who hauled in two touchdown passes from the redshirt freshman quarterback.
Up 38-0 in the fourth quarter, Jimbo Fisher kept his starters in with nothing to prove. The decision may have led to one of the uglier moments of the game, when Duke safety Dwayne Norman led with the crown of his helmet in to the chest of Florida State’s Nick O’Leary on a pass over the middle to the end zone. After Winston had already completed one long pass to move the Seminoles down field, he went right back to the air for O’Leary but threw a bit high. That left O’Leary wide open for a hit to the chest, but Norman was ejected after being called for targeting. Norman will have to sit out the first half of Duke’s bowl game, but why Fisher had his starters in there at that point in the game and why they were throwing deep to pile on is certainly worth some criticism and questioning. Florida State was not in a position to need any style points and Winston is already the runaway favorite for the Heisman Trophy. This was a poor decision by Fisher. Florida State picked up the touchdown shortly after with Devonta Freeman scoring from seven-yards out to go up 45-0.
With Ohio State losing in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State, it looks certain to be Florida State and Auburn for the BCS Championship this season. We will find out for sure Sunday night when the bowl pairings become official with the final BCS standings of the season.
Some teams just have other teams’ numbers.
You could certainly say that about Stanford and Arizona State. For whatever reason, the Cardinal know how to discombobulate the Sun Devils…and that’s what they did on Saturday night in the Pac-12 title game.
Stanford improves to 11-2 and becomes the fifth team to go to four-straight BCS games. Arizona State fell to 10-3 and saw its seven-game win streak snapped.
As with the earlier game this season between the two teams, this one was all Stanford from the start. The Cardinal jumped out to a 28-14 halftime lead and then cruised from there.
ASU had its chances. It took the opening possession of the third quarter and drove it 61 yards to the Stanford 13 yard line. But Zane Gonzalez missed a 31-yard field goal and the Sun Devils blew that chance to chip away at Stanford’s lead. The Cardinal promptly drove 67 yards in 11 plays and got a 30-yard field goal from Jordan Williamson to make the score 31-14.
ASU came back again. This time the Sun Devils drove 66 yards to the Cardinal nine-yard line, where it was set up with a first-and-goal. Punch it in and it may have become a game. ASU made it to the one, but couldn’t score on two consecutive plays and Stanford took over (credit Cardinal linebacker Shayne Skov for making a Levar Arrington-style leap to stop the QB sneak on third down).
To make matters worse, the Cardinal then went on a 99-yard drive to put the final nail in the coffin.
Stanford saved one of its best overall efforts of the season for its most important game. The Cardinal out-gained ASU, 517 to 311, and averaged a season-best 9.1 yards per play. The Sun Devils clearly missed its best offensive weapon, Marion Grice, who sat out the game with an injury, but nothing really seemed to go right for ASU when it mattered anyway.
Still, the future is bright for the Sun Devils. Quarterback Tyler Kelly is back next year as is explosive tailback D.J. Foster (142 combined rushing and receiving yards, 2 TDs vs. Stanford) and all-star wide out Jaelen Strong. If ASU can fill some holes on defense, it could be a regular in this title game.
As for Stanford, it’s the final hurrah for a large group of seniors who will have to be replaced, especially on defense. They’ve been the most successful senior class in school history (46-7) and are the core of the first Stanford team to repeat as conference champs since 1970-71.
With close losses to Utah and USC, though, the Cardinal will no doubt be asking “What if?” going forward.
After watching his football team pull away from Missouri to claim an SEC crown, Gus Malzahn wasted no time stumping for Auburn to earn a spot in the BCS title game. The way the Big Ten championship game began, it seemed as if the Tigers head coach could’ve saved his breath.
The way the first half ended, though, indicates the great SEC-Big Ten debate has the potential to burn well into the next couple of nights.
After falling behind 17-0 through a quarter and a half of play, and looking tentative, uneasy and undisciplined in doing so, Ohio State regrouped to score the final 10 points of the half and entered the locker room trailing Michigan State 17-10. Another positive for OSU? They get the opening kick of the second half as well.
Connor Cook led the way for MSU as the Ohio high school product passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns as a suspect Buckeyes pass defense was once again exposed. Interference calls (two pass, one punt) on the Buckeyes aided the Spartans’ cause greatly as they ran out to that 17-0 lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Bottled up for most of the first 21 minutes, Braxton Miller‘s legs awoke as he finished the half with 74 yards rushing against the top-ranked run defense in the country. The surging Heisman candidate also accounted for OSU’s only touchdown of the half, a 20-yarder to Philly Brown that cut the lead to 17-7. Carlos Hyde, who has rushed for 100-plus yards in seven straight games, has been held to 37 yards on eight carries.
An Ohio State win that sees the Buckeyes not only overcoming the deficit but easily pulling away from the Spartans could put the second-ranked and unbeaten Buckeyes in the BCS title game against Florida State. An OSU second half that mirrors the first half could, win or lose, put Auburn into the BCS title game.
Let the conference debate rage for at least another 30 minutes of playing time…
The Palm Beach Post is reporting on Saturday night that Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher has agreed to a contract extension that will pay him $4.1 million per year over the next five-to-seven years.
The deal would make him one of the 10 highest-paid coaches in college football. His current salary is $2.75 million per year.
Fisher has gone 43-10 in four seasons with the Seminoles since taking over for Bobby Bowden in 2010. His team is 12-0 so far this year and a win over Duke in the ACC Championship on Saturday night will send FSU to Pasadena for the BCS Championship Game.
With this extension, it makes it very unlikely that Texas will be able to swipe Fisher out of Tallahassee if it decides to fire Mack Brown.
Duke is certainly not playing as if they do not belong on the same field with the number one team in the country, but Florida State is leading the upset-minded Blue Devils 17-0 at the half of the ACC Championship Game.
Jameis Winston tied the ACC single season record for passing touchdowns in a season with his perfectly placed pass to Kelvin Benjamin early in the second quarter, his 36th touchdown pass of the season. The touchdown also saw Winston tie former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford’s freshman record for passing touchdowns in a season. Running back Karlos Wiliams later rushed for a 12-yard touchdown to finish off a 73-yard drive for the 14-0 lead.
Duke has had some opportunities in this one, but the Blue Devils were unable to take advantage with some dropped passes. Duke recovered a Devonta Freeman fumble inside the Duke 10-yard line, pouncing on the turnover on their own three-yard line. Duke moved down field but missed on a wide open pass down the left sideline to keep the drive going and missed a long field goal attempt. Duke’s defense has done a decent job in bringing pressure on Winston, but how long can they continue to hang around? Duke’s offense has been pretty stale after a solid start to the game, and enters halftime with just 90 yards of offense on 35 plays. Florida State has racked up 268 yards on 42 plays.
More importantly, is Duke going to be able to score on Florida State?
The first half of Saturday’s Pac-12 title game between No. 7 Stanford and No. 11 Arizona State looked at lot like the last time these two teams played.
Way back on Sept. 27, the Cardinal jumped out to a 29-0 first-half lead on their way to a 42-28 victory over the Sun Devils.
This time around, Stanford took a 28-7 lead but couldn’t quite deliver the knockout blow, as ASU kept close and went into the break down, 28-14.
The often-sputtering Cardinal offense looked sharp, totaling 301 yards and 13 touchdowns. Tyler Gaffney already has his ninth 100-yard game of the year with 107 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. His 69-yard touchdown run on the game’s second play opened the scoring. Kevin Hogan was 7 of 12 for 106 yards and also added 33 yards on seven carries.
Outside of a couple big plays by D.J. Foster, ASU’s offense looked like it was not ready for prime time. Foster’s 51-yard touchdown run evened the score early in the first quarter and his 65-yard catch and run of a Taylor Kelly pass gave the Sun Devils hope (those were the two longest plays against Stanford this year, by the way), but ASU will need to step it up a notch in the second half. The last time the two teams played, the Sun Devils scored 28 second-half points, so there’s a chance they could make a game of it yet.
But if ASU can’t stop Gaffney, it’s in for a long night. If nothing changes, Stanford will be heading to its second-straight Rose Bowl.
No. 3 Auburn (12-1, 8-1 SEC) running back Tre Mason was unstoppable. You know the expression “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him?” That wasn’t even the case for No. 5 Missouri (11-2, 7-2 SEC) Saturday night in Atlanta. Mason earned game MVP honors in leading Auburn to a 59-42 victory by rushing for 303 yards and four touchdowns to lead Auburn to the SEC Championship.
In the most offensive SEC Championship Game in the history of the game, Auburn and Missouri traded scores for most fo the night but Auburn put the clamps down in the fourth quarter, outscoring the sEC East champs 14-0 to pull away for the conference title. Mason accounted for both touchdowns. Not to be forgotten, but Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall also rushed for 100 yards in the game, going for 101 yards and a touchdown while also completing nine of his 11 pass attempts for 132 yards and another touchdown. Missouri quarterback James Franklin ended with a 303 passing yards and three touchdowns and Dorial Green-Beckham led the receivers with 144 yards and a pair of touchdown catches.
Missouri simply could not stop Mason and the Auburn running game, which has been the clear strength of Auburn this season. Why bother throwing when you can pound it out on the ground with ease?
It’s not as if Auburn has done this against teams incapable of stopping the run. The last two weeks Auburn has thrived on the ground in a big way against the top two rushing defenses in the SEC, against Alabama last week and against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game. Missouri did plenty on offense as well, but was unable to come up with some plays in the fourth quarter to keep pace with Auburn. This is just the way Auburn likes it. Auburn went up-tempo as often as possible and it gassed Missouri over time. Not many teams in the country are able to slow this offense down, but now we wait to see who will have the unenviable task of attempting to try.
Auburn will also wait to see what happens in the ACC and Big Ten championship games this evening. If Florida State or Ohio State are upset in their respective conference championship games, a spot in the BCS Championship Game will be opened up for the SEC’s champion. It is not likely Auburn will be able to pass an undefeated Florida State or Ohio State in the final BCS standings if the Seminoles and Buckeyes each win tonight.
Missouri will still be eligible for a BCS at-large spot, although it is more likely they will be playing in the Capital One Bowl against a Big Ten opponent (Nebraska?) Bowl at this point. Alabama is also eligible for an at-large bid, and the Crimson Tide could likely be the first at-large team selected by a bowl game, perhaps the Orange Bowl. If Auburn does advance to the BCS Championship Game, it is still probable Alabama would be selected by the Sugar Bowl to maintain the SEC tie-in.