Updated 1: 54 a.m ET: Talk about your quick turnaround.
There were a handful of reasons why Cal was able to keep it close with Oregon through one half. The Ducks were wounded, so to speak, with injuries on both sides of the ball, and the Bears were playing mistake-free football. Despite being a heavily-penalized team, Oregon’s dangerous because they make opposing teams pay for their mistakes. In the second half, Cal turned the ball over three times and Oregon took advantage.
The result was a 59-17 win for the second-ranked team in the country. Looking at the box score alone, it’s hard to tell that Cal was very much in this game for a half.
Oregon’s faces the toughest remaining regular season schedule of the three undefeated teams at the top of the BCS rankings. Up next: No. 16 Stanford. The Cardinal’s run game could be problematic after watching the depleted Ducks defense get gashed on the ground at times against the Bears. The Ducks finish the season at No. 11 (for now) Oregon State.
There’s something about road games against Cal that has been a pain in the rear for Oregon the past couple of trips. The Ducks are leading the Bears 24-10 at the half, but there’s some concern for the second-ranked team in the country.
Cal’s done a decent job keeping Oregon from racking up points early and often. The Ducks are easily among the best — if not the best — first-half team in the country. Being down two scores at the half definitely isn’t all that bad for Cal.
Injuries have taken a bit of a toll on Oregon too. Running back Kenjon Barner had to leave the field briefly to deal with a hand injury and quarterback Marcus Mariota looked to have a shoulder injury after a 16-yard scramble in the red zone. The QB came up favoring his left arm and jogged off the field. It looked a little like Colt McCoy‘s injury for Texas in the 2010 BCS championship game against Alabama.
Both players have returned to the game, however. Defensive back Avery Patterson is banged up as well.
With multiple teams in the coach spill top 10 losing this week, there was bound to be some shaking up the rankings this week. The coaches poll still has Ohio State on top, followed by TCU, Michigan State and Baylor. Florida had the biggest jump in the rankings while Georgia had the biggest drop The coaches poll also welcomes some new additions this week.
The Florida Gators, fresh off a stomping of previous No. 3 Ole Miss (down to No. 13) moved up 11 spots in this week’s coaches poll. Florida is one of five SEC teams in this week’s coaches poll. The Big Ten has five as well. So does the Pac-12.
No. 23 Iowa, No. 24 Boise State and No. 25 Memphis make their debuts in the coaches poll this week, giving us our first glimpse on the national perception in the Group of Five race. I may have Boise State down a few pegs, but the coaches, or those who actually submit the votes, have the Broncos on top of the Group of Five pack. Memphis is right there as well, but not Toledo.
Here is this week’s coaches poll:
- Ohio State ( first place votes)
- Michigan State
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Ole Miss
- Notre Dame
- Oklahoma State
- Boise State
Notre Dame fell two points shy of tying a road game at Clemson Saturday night, partly because the decision to go for two-point conversion on one early fourth-quarter touchdown backfired on the Irish. Down 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly chose to go for two-points to cut the Clemson lead to 10 points, meaning Notre Dame would need a touchdown, extra point and a field goal to tie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Irish trailed by 12, 21-9.
Had the Irish gone for the easier and more likely extra point, Notre Dame would have been down 11 points. That is still a bit of an uphill battle that would require a two-point conversion later on anyway, but it also meant Notre Dame had to score two touchdowns instead of a touchdown and a field goal for a shot at tying the game. Making things worse, Notre Dame burned a timeout after the touchdown before deciding which two-point conversion play to run.
Notre Dame’s execution of a late two-point conversion with the game on the line with under 10 seconds to play also came into question as the Irish looked to give freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer the call on a run-pass option. This was stuffed by Clemson as Kizer held on to the football. Kelly, after the game, defended his quarterback’s decision to try and run for the two points.
“We had fair numbers,” Kelly said. “He’s reading it at the line of scrimmage, if the numbers were fair, they were in zone coverage. It was the right call. He made the right call.”
Sometimes a player can make the right decision and still come up short. Perhaps that is exactly what happened in the rain at Clemson Saturday night. Kizer made the best possible decision in the heat of the moment, but Clemson came out on top with solid work up front on the line of scrimmage. Of course, as it turned out late in the game, Notre Dame would have only needed an extra point to tie Clemson in the final seconds after the Tigers tacked on a field goal to set up a seven-point deficit with an Irish extra point earlier. The Irish were forced to go for two because they chased the points earlier in the quarter. Hindsight might be 20/20, but Kelly is not looking back on that decision.
Kelly is hardly the only coach to make some questionable decisions under pressure this season, or this weekend. He is, however, another example of a coach being paid millions to put his program in the best position making some questionable calls that have come back to bite him. Maybe Notre Dame would have won in overtime. The Irish certainly had the momentum in their hands. Or maybe Clemson wins anyway. Who knows?