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The Fifth Quarter: Week 13 Rewind

Notre Dame v USC Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

BCS A MESS NO MORE
Thanks to some expected results, the muddled mess that had been the BcS and the chase for the crystal football the past couple of glorious weekends cleared itself up immensely in Week 13:

– No. 1 Notre Dame’s win over unranked USC
— No. 2 Alabama’s humiliation of in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl
— No. 3 Georgia’s cruise over non-conference rival Georgia Tech.

With the confluence of those three events, the following is now known: the Fighting Irish have claimed one of the two spots in the BcS championship game, maintaining their position as the only eligible unbeaten left and putting themselves in line for the football program’s first national title since 1988.

And the Golden Domers’ opponent?

That’s crystal clear as well.  Well, more than likely it is.  The Tide will square off against the Bulldogs in the SEC championship game next Saturday.  As UA and UGA are ranked 2-3, respectively, in the latest BcS ratings, and barring an unexpected development of epic proportions, the winner of the SEC title game will face Notre Dame for the right hoist the title trophy.

If the early BcS projections come to fruition, there’s a chance that Florida, not Georgia, would sit at No. 3 in the set of rankings released Sunday night, behind both Notre Dame and Alabama.  However, even if that’s actually the case, a Georgia win over Alabama would very likely erase any type of deficit the Bulldogs may have between themselves and the Gators at the moment.

In other words, we’re right back to where we started: Notre Dame vs. Alabama/Georgia for all the crystal footballs.  Probably.

WEEK 13 CLINCHINGS

Conference USA East
Thanks to East Carolina’s stunning double overtime win over Marshall Friday, UCF needed a win over three-win UAB to clinch its fourth Conference USA East title in eight years.  The Knights did just that, and a victory wasn’t even remotely in jeopardy or in doubt as UCF rolled to 49-24 win.  Next up for the Knights is the conference championship game on the road against Tulsa, which beat UCF 23-21 a week ago.  It will also mark the third time the two have faced each other in the title game, with the Golden Hurricane winning 44-27 in 2005 and the Knights exacting revenge in 2007 with a 44-25 decision.

Pac-12 North
Lather, rinse, repeat.  Stanford’s win over UCLA Saturday clinched the Pac-12 North, sending the Cardinal into the conference championship game next Friday against… you guessed it, the Bruins at Stanford Stadium.  Stanford and Oregon actually finished tied for the North lead at 8-1; the Cardinal’s 17-14 overtime win over the Ducks last weekend, however, gave the Trees the tiebreaker.  A Cardinal loss coupled with the Ducks’ win over Oregon State would’ve sent UO to the conference title game against UCLA.  Speaking of the Bruins, this will mark their second straight appearance in the championship game.

SEC West
All that was needed for Alabama to claim its third West title in five years was to handle a woeful Auburn squad in the Iron Bowl.  Suffice to say, mission accomplished.  The Tide now turns its attention to the SEC championship game against Georgia, with the winner charged with pushing the conference’s streak of BcS titles to seven in a row.

WAC
On the strength of its 48-9 drubbing of Idaho Saturday afternoon, Utah State claimed its first outright conference championship of any kind since 1936.  This season also marked the first time in school history the Aggies have won 10 games.  Following the win, USU accepted an invitation to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and yes that’s a real thing so shut-up.

STILL TO BE DETERMINED

Big East
Even with losses by both Rutgers (5-1 in conference play) and Louisville (4-2) in Week 13, the game between the Scarlet Knights and the Cardinals this coming Thursday will still (likely) decide which team will grab the Big East’s BcS berth.  The loss to Pittsburgh was a particularly damaging one to Rutgers, however, as, with UConn’s overtime win over Louisville, the Scarlet Knights could’ve clinched the conference Saturday regardless of what happened this week.  The scenarios moving forward are relatively simple, though: if Rutgers beats Louisville, they will win the Big East outright and earn the conference’s BcS bowl game slot.  If Louisville beats Rutgers and Cincinnati wins as well, it would create a four-way logjam at 5-2 atop the standings as Syracuse has already completed the season with that conference mark.  At that point, the tiebreaker would, in a roundabout way, revert to the team ranked highest in the BcS standings.  That would very likely heavily favor the Cardinals.

Big 12
As above, figuring out the Big 12 doesn’t exactly take a rocket surgeon.  If Kansas State beats Texas in Week 14, the Wildcats will claim the conference’s BcS berth.  If K-State loses and Oklahoma beats TCU, it’s the Sooners that claim the prize.  If both teams win or both teams lose?  The Wildcats will be BcS bowling based on their win over the Sooners earlier this season.  See how simple that was?

Mountain West
Wins by Fresno State (over Air Force) and San Diego State (over Wyoming) in their season finales leave the two teams at 7-1 in MWC play.  Boise State at 6-1 still has Nevada left in Week 14, meaning it’s entirely conceivable that there could be a three-way tie for the MWC lead after next week.  As the conference has no championship game and thus no tiebreakers, the title pie would be split three ways if the Broncos win their finale.  Incidentally, how even has this conference been at the top?  Boise State beat Fresno State, which beat San Diego State, which beat Boise State.  Two of those three teams (BSU, SDSU) are playing their final seasons in the MWC before moving on to the Big East.  Probably.

Sun Belt
Middle Tennessee State’s 24-21 win over Troy, which snapped a six-game losing streak against the Trojans, leaves MTSU and Arkansas State at 6-1 in the conference.  And, as the two teams play in the regular-season finale next Saturday, the winner of that game will stake its claim to the outright SBC crown.

WINNERS

HeisManziel indeed
The gambling types this past week installed Johnny Manziel as the Heisman favorite heading into Week 14.  A few days later, the Texas A&M quarterback did nothing to hurt that front-runner status.  In fact, Johnny Football may have all but locked up the 2012 version of the stiff-armed trophy.  In the Aggies’ romp over Missouri, Manziel accounted for 439 yards of total offense (372 passing, 67 rushing) and five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).  Manziel broke the SEC total offense record set during the Heisman-winning season of Cam Newton, who broke the record of Tim Tebow set during his Heisman-winning season.  While Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o certainly deserves consideration, it appears very likely that the freshman glass ceiling will be broken ahead of the solely defensive one.

Bedlam? Try BedHAM
As is ofttimes the case, the annual Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game lived up to its Bedlam nickname.  In a game that saw the Cowboys jump out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, the Sooners came back… and back… and back… and back again, tying their rivals on four separate occasions but never actually taking a lead.  Never taking a lead, that is, until it mattered most.  The fourth of those mini-comebacks came with four seconds left in the fourth quarter as a Blake Bell touchdown run knotted the game at 45-all and sent it into overtime.  Following a Quinn Sharp field goal on OSU’s first extra-session possession, Brennan Clay romped 18 yards on OU’s first overtime shot to give the Sooners a wild 51-48 win.  As noted above, the win keeps alive Oklahoma’s hopes for both a Big 12 title and the BcS bowl bid that comes with it.

Urban renewal indeed
Thanks to the combination of NCAA sanctions and a six-win 2011 season, the first year under Urban Meyer was widely viewed as a rebuilding one at Ohio State.  If that was indeed rebuilding, I’d guess the Big Ten’s going to hate what the finished product looks like.  A mere 12 games into the Meyer era, the Buckeyes are a perfect 12-0, capping off its unbeaten season with a win over hated Michigan.  There will be no bowl or even a spot in the BcS title game thanks to the sanctions wrought by a Sweatervest, but there is hope and a quiet confidence in Columbus that the best may be yet to come.

Husker do
Unbelievably, it has been 13 years since Nebraska has won a conference championship.  While that drought continues, the Cornhuskers are halfway to ending that streak of futility.  In its second season in the Big Ten, the Huskers have claimed their first-ever Legends division title, eliminating Michigan from contention on the strength of its win over Iowa Friday.  That means the Big Ten title game is officially set and will be a rematch from earlier in the year as Nebraska will take on Wisconsin next Saturday in Indianapolis.  In late September, the Cornhuskers came back from a 17-point second-half deficit to drop the Badgers 30-27.

W-V-phew
On the morning of Oct. 13, West Virginia was sitting at or near the top of the college football world, with the 5-0 Mountaineers ranked fifth in the country and possessing far and away the front-runner for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.  Five games and five straight losses later, the Mountaineers were reeling and in very real danger of failing to become bowl eligible in its first season in the Big 12.  A 31-24 win over Iowa State Friday, however, made the losing streak — the program’s longest since 1986 — a thing of the past and pushed the Mountaineers into postseason eligibility.  One win doesn’t completely heal all that ails Dana Holgorsen‘s squad, but it does take a monkey that had morphed into a gorilla off WVU’s back.  It also keeps alive the hopes of the program winning at least eight games in a season for the 11th straight year.

For all the apples… and some pride
The past three seasons, Washington had claimed the Apple Cup by beating Washington State by an average of 18 points per game.  With Wazzu staggering through a two-win season in its first year under Mike Leach, a fourth straight win seemed well within reach.  Only it wasn’t.  Thanks to a 27-yard field goal in overtime, which was preceded by an ill-advised Keith Price pass that turned into an interception and nearly a defensive touchdown on the Huskies’ first possession in the extra session, the Cougars were able to topple their hated in-state rivals by the score of 31-28.  For a team dealing with both on-field woes and off-field imbroglios, it was the perfect season-ending elixir.  Leach has promised this will be an offseason for the ages as he attempts to turn the flailing program around; the win over UW should make that rough time between now and the 2013 a little more palatable for the players.

Streakers
Thanks to the stumbles recently of some of the top teams in the country, Notre Dame and Ohio State currently own the nation’s longest winning streak at 12 games apiece.  Just two other FBS schools have double-digit streaks going, and they both come from the MAC — Northern Illinois (11) and Kent State (10).  Both of those marks are the longest in the history of the respective programs, but one will come to an end in short order; the Golden Flashes and Huskies will face each other in the conference championship game this coming Friday at Detroit’s Ford Field.  There are eight other teams currently in ownership of a winning streak stretching six games or better: Arkansas State and San Diego State (seven each); and Ball State, Georgia, Nebraska, San Jose State, Utah State and Vanderbilt (six each).

LOSERS

Big Ten title game
Outside of Georgia Tech, no team backdoored its way into a conference championship more than Wisconsin.  Thanks to NCAA sanctions levied on Ohio State and Penn State, the Leaders division of the Big Ten will send its third-best team to the title game next weekend, a team that has lost three of its last four games — the last two to the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions — in backing into a trip to Indianapolis at 7-5 overall and 4-4 in conference play.  The lone saving grace for the B1G?  The Badgers’ opponent as Nebraska comes into the game as winners of six straight, with their only loss in the last 10 coming at Ohio State.

Later Gator
Florida’s not dropped into this category because of a loss per se, but because of events that transpired that were completely out of its control.  On the strength of its come-from-behind blowout win over in-state rival Florida State, the Gators were a Notre Dame loss away from likely playing the winner of the SEC championship in the BcS title game. “Fight on. I’ve always been a real big Lane Kiffin fan,” UF head coach Will Muschamp said after the win, referring to the USC head coach still reviled in the South for his time at Tennessee.  Alas, it was all for naught as the Irish took out the Trojans and clinched its spot in the title game.  It was not all bad news on the night for the Gators as UF is all but guaranteed an at-large BcS berth, especially if they remain in the top four of the BcS standings.

Beatdown between the hedges
The annual Georgia-Georgia Tech rivalry game featured two teams that will represent their divisions in the SEC and ACC championship games, respectively, next weekend.  The game itself turned into something that didn’t even remotely resemble such lofty résumés, at least on one end.  The Bulldogs, with their sights set on much loftier goals than a “mere” conference title, jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead and didn’t look back, cruising to a 42-10 win in what amounted to a scrimmage leading into the SEC title game.  The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, are emblematic of the ACC’s 2012 football woes.  Gifted a divisional title thanks to Miami’s decision to self-impose a second consecutive bowl ban, Tech will stumble and stagger into the ACC title game with a UCLA-esque 6-6 record.  If Florida State Nation wants to understand why their Seminoles were not a part of the BcS title game discussion — well, aside from their own on-field indiscretions — all they need to do is look across the line of scrimmage next weekend to see Exhibit A for their computer woes.  Speaking of which…

The ACC
South Carolina 27, Clemson 17.  Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10.  Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21.  Florida  37, Florida State 26.  Four ACC-SEC matchups, four wins for the SEC by a combined score of 161-74.  If there was ever a microcosm for the gap between the two conferences, especially with the top two teams going down in double-digit fashion, today was it.  And, for some reason, I don’t think the additions of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and, possibly, UConn will close said gap at any point in the near future.

The Big lEast
After a few years of being the poster child for redheaded football stepchildren everywhere, the Big East has achieved a modicum of respect this season.  Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers were all unbeaten through the first seven weeks of the season, with the latter two teams still ranked and carrying just one loss apiece headed into Week 13.  And then, unfortunately, Week 13 happened.  A week ahead of what is in effect a de facto Big East championship game, both the Scarlet Knights and Cardinals  dropped contests against a pair of teams — Pittsburgh for the former, UConn for the latter — that came into the weekend a combined 4-8 in conference play.  Yes, Rutgers and Louisville will play later this week for the right to claim the Big East’s BcS bowl berth, but a significant amount of luster was lost this weekend thanks to a pair of losses that will, in all likelihood, result in both dropping out of the polls.

Oh, Buffs…
How bad has this season gone for Colorado?  In Friday’s season finale, the Buffaloes outgained Utah (419-336)… totaled more first downs (25-18)… led in time of possession (31:33-2827)… and still managed to lose.  Of course, when you commit five turnovers, and those turnovers are turned into 24 points, it’s easy to see how the Buffs could come out on the wrong end of 42-35 score.  The loss drops Colorado to 1-11 on the season, the school’s worst record winning percentage-wise since a winless 1890 season.  It’s also the first time CU has been winless at home since 1920.  Additionally, it puts the future of head coach Jon Embree in even further jeopardy, even as he publicly claims his athletic director has his back.  Embree is just 4-21 overall and 3-15 in Pac-12 play in two seasons at the school, and there have been rumblings coming out of the area that some in and close to the athletic department is ready to pull the plug on the experiment post-haste.

The 2012 Ty Willingham Excellence in Futility Award goes to…
Southern Miss!  That’s right, thanks to a 42-24 loss to Memphis Saturday afternoon, the Golden Eagles capped off their anti-perfect season at 0-12.  USM becomes the first to throw a season-long 0’fer on the board since both Eastern Michigan and Western Kentucky did the deed back in 2009.  The circumstances surrounding this particular goose egg, however, are head-scratching on at least a couple of levels.  Last year at this time, USM was sitting at 10-2 on its way to a 12-2 season and wins in the Conference USA championship game — over then-No. 19 and unbeaten Houston — and Hawaii Bowl.  Yes, Larry Fedora bolted for the North Carolina head coaching job in the offseason, but to go from 12 wins to 12 losses in the span of a single season defies all logic.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT

How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

– No. 1 Notre Dame 22, USC 13: With nothing to lose, the Trojans gave the Irish its best shot.  As they have all season long, though, Notre Dame took the punches and stepped out of the ring battered but unbeaten.  Still.

– No. 8 LSU 20, Arkansas 13: The Tigers escaped Fayetteville with the win after Tyler Wilson‘s pass with no time left on the clock fell incomplete.  While the Tigers won’t defend their SEC championship, the Bayou Bengals are once again in line for another prime bowl game.

– No. 17 Nebraska 13, Iowa 7: It may have been the kind of win that only a mother of a football program could love, but it was also a win that sent the Cornhuskers to its first Big Ten championship game appearance.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Notre Dame — The Fighting Irish have taken the field 12 times, walked off a winner all 12 times.  Are they SEC-good?  We’ll find out in a little over six weeks in Miami (Last week: No. 1)
Up next: idle

2. Alabama — The SEC championship game will serve as a de facto playoff semifinal, affording the Tide the opportunity to continue its run at a third BcS title in four years. (Last week: No. 2)
Up next: vs. Georgia

3. Oregon — Allow me to quote myself from last week: “The Ducks are still a damn good team and would still be worthy of a title-game appearance, backdoor or not.”  While that backdoor was slammed shut this weekend, the overall sentiment still applies. (Last week: No. 3)
Up next: idle

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes are one of two remaining undefeated teams, and could claim the Associated Press poll title depending on how the remainder of the season, which will be played without them, shakes out and what kind of mood the voters are in at year’s end. (Last week: No. 4)
Up next: vs. the offseason

5. Georgia — One-loss Florida boasts wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State.  The Gators’ lone loss?  To the Bulldogs.  Advantage, one-loss UGA. (Last week: unranked)
Up next: vs. Alabama

COACHING HOT SEAT
A weekly look at some of the current head coaches who could most likely be an ex-head coaches by season’s end — if not sooner.

– Auburn’s Gene Chizik: Yeah, this one is fairly self-explanatory.  The last time Auburn won three games in a season was 1998; Terry Bowden “resigned” midseason and was ultimately replaced by Tommy Tuberville.  Seemingly the only questions remaining now is when Chizik will be officially dismissed and who will replace him after the program’s most recent three-win embarrassment.

– USF’s Skip Holtz: In his three seasons with the Bulls, Holtz has seen his record get progressively worse, going from eight wins in 2010 to five wins last season to three wins this year following a 27-10 loss to Cincinnati Friday night.  If USF loses its season finale next Saturday, the 3-9 record would serve as the worst record in the Bulls’ 13-year history as an FBS program, surpassing the 4-7 mark in 2004.  If that happens?  The Son of Lou could find himself as the latest football boss to find himself on the coaching unemployment line.

–Boston College’s Frank Spaziani: After winning 15 games his first two seasons, Spaziani has won just six games the past two years, including two in 2012.  This season is the worst winning percentage for BC since a winless 1978 season, and puts the long-time Eagles coach square in the offseason crosshairs.

HE SAID IT
“I’d say at this point in time Ohio State could go play with anybody in America.” — OSU head coach Urban Meyer, when asked how good he thinks his Buckeyes are following the Michigan win.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“I’ve never had so much fun in my life.” — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, after his Sooners gave up 48 points in a three-point Bedlam win over Oklahoma State.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“You can’t block Jadeveon one-on-one. We’ve got him one more year. Then we’ll shake his hand and say ‘thank you.'” — South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, speaking of pass-rushing terror Jadeveon Clowney.

YOU DON’T SAY?
In Darrell Hazell‘s first two seasons at Kent State, the Golden Flashes have won 16 games, including a school-record 11 this season and its first-ever MAC divisional title.  In the four previous seasons, the Flashes had won a total of 17 games and hadn’t finished better than fourth in the MAC East.  In other words, expected to hear the name Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant, as the latest spinning of the coaching carousel ramps up into high gear.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

– A week after tying Miami of Ohio’s Travis Prentice‘s record of 78 career total touchdowns, Montee Ball‘s 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter of Wisconsin’s overtime loss to Penn State gave the running back the record all to himself at 79.

Kenjon Barner rushed for 198 of Oregon’s 430 yards in the Ducks’ 48-24 Civil War romp over Oregon State.

– Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones became the first player in FBS history to have 3,000-plus passing yards and 26-plus touchdown passes in each of his four seasons.

Jadeveon Clowney was credited with 4.5 sacks in South Carolina’s win over Clemson.  And I’ll just go ahead and say it now: when it comes time to do my way-too-early look at the 2013 season in early January, Clowney will be one of the way-too-early Heisman front-runners.

– In Michigan State’s 26-10 win over Minnesota that pushed the Spartans into bowl eligibility, Le’Veon Bell rushed for a career-high 266 yards.

– During the course of Utah’s season-ending win over Colorado, John White topped the 1,000-yard plateau for the second straight season.  The running back is the first player in the Utes’ history to go over that mark in back-to-back seasons; Eddie Johnson also did it twice, although in non-consecutive season (1984, 1986).

– Wide receiver Tavon Austin accounted for 261 yards in West Virginia’s win over Iowa State: 74 rushing, 99 receiving, 46 on kick returns and 42 on punt returns.  Austin also broke his own school record for receptions in a season he set last year; the senior had 101 in 2011 and now has 106 with two games left.  Additionally, fellow receiver Stedman Bailey now has 1,342 yards receiving, breaking the school record of 1,279 yards he set last year as well.

– BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman set a school record with five touchdown catches in the Cougars’ win over New Mexico State.

– The 105,899 fans in attendance for the 108th edition of The Game set an Ohio Stadium attendance record for a Michigan-Ohio State matchup.

– Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines lost four games this season.  The combined records of those four teams?  45-3: Notre Dame and Ohio State, 12-0; Alabama 11-1; and Nebraska 10-2.  Three of those games were on the road, while the other, against the Tide, was played on a neutral field.

– Miami and Duke combined for 1,229 yards of offense (646 for the former, 583 for the latter) in the Hurricanes’ 52-45 win.  Blue Devils quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, while Hurricanes running back Duke Johnson rushed for 176 yards — on just 16 carries — and three touchdowns.

– TCU’s 20-13 Thanksgiving Day win over Texas snapped a 15-game road losing streak to the Longhorns.  The Horned Frogs had not won in Austin since 1967 when both schools were members of the now-defunct Southwestern Conference.

– North Carolina’s 8-4 record gives the Tar Heels their best winning percentage (.667) in a season since 1997 (11-1, .917).

– Arkansas outgained LSU 462-306 in yards of total offense and still found a way to lose in a game that proved to be John L. Smith‘s final game as the Razorbacks’ head coach.  If that doesn’t perfectly describe the very brief John L era in Fayetteville, I don’t know what does.

– Since a one-point loss to Iowa in the season opener, Northern Illinois has won 11 straight by an average of 25.1 ppg.

– Kent State’s 11 wins not only set a school record, but it is two more than the previous mark of nine set back in 1973.  The Golden Flashes’ 10-game winning streak is also the longest in the football program’s history.

– In the double overtime game Friday evening, East Carolina and Marshall combined for 124 points and 1,188 yards of total offense in the Pirates’ wild 65-59 win that, at least temporarily, kept them in the chase for the Conference USA East title.  Quarterback Shane Carden threw for 439 yards and three touchdowns while adding three more scores on the ground, the last in the second overtime that sent the Pirates home with a win.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK
From UGA media relations: With a 42-10 victory, Georgia now has set a school record for points in a season with 456 in 12 games. The old mark was 450 by the 2002 team in 14 games.

SID NOTE OF THE WEEK, RUNNER-UP
From USC media relations: With the win over Clemson, head coach Steve Spurrier became the winningest coach in South Carolina football history.  Coach Spurrier is now 65-37 in his career at South Carolina; he surpassed Rex Enright, who had 64 career wins at South Carolina.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
Notre Dame began the season unranked.  The last team to begin a season unranked and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll was BYU in 1984.  Want more?  The last four coaches at Notre Dame who won their first national titles with the Irish did so in their third seasons at the school; Brian Kelly is in his third season at the school.

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June Jones knew Baylor’s defense was good, but didn’t expect that

June Jones

SMU was the sacrificial lamb for the opening of Baylor’s brand new football stadium Sunday night. Unfortunately for the June Jones and his Mustangs, SMU was unable to play the same kind of a spoiler role as UTSA was able to do at Houston on Saturday (Larry Coker‘s Roadrunners dominated and shutdown Houston’s potent offense in the opener for their new stadium). SMU was blown away by Baylor, 45-0. Jones knew Baylor was good on defense, but even he didn’t quite expect the Bears to handle them as well as they did.

“We knew they were a pretty good defense,” Jones said after the game, per The Dallas Morning News. “We knew they were more talented than what they’ve had been given credit for. But I didn’t expect us not be able to block them at all.”

“We scripted a lot of things to get the ball out quickly, but we did not do what we needed to do to win the football game,” Jones added. “It’s hard for the quarterback to go back and throw anything when he doesn’t have the time. We could not protect the quarterback.”

Baylor held SMU to just 67 total yards of offense. The Mustangs managed 91 passing yards, but quarterbacks were swallowed up for a loss of 58 yards, SMU’s rushing offense ended the night with a loss of 24 yards on the ground.

Maybe Jones should have chosen a different script, but the end result may not have been much different. Baylor is just playing on an entirely different field SMU is prepared for.

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With one game complete, Baylor has still yet to allow a point at McLane Stadium

Sam B. Richardson, Shawn Oakman

It didn’t come with the customary fireworks, but No. 10 Baylor still made easy work of SMU on Sunday night, shutting out their neighbors to the north, 45-0.

The game was the first in brand new McLane Stadium, you may have heard something about that, featured a pre-game statue unveiling of Robert Griffin III, and was attended by former President George W. Bush. The Bears got their points and their yards (574) but it was Phil Bennett’s defense that provided the best performance of the night.

Three SMU quarterbacks took the field, and all three failed to average three yards per attempt. Neal Burcham started the game and hit 15-of-26 passes for 159 yards. He was relieved by Texas A&M transfer Matt Davis, who hit 3-of-6 throws for 12 yards and an interception. Finally, true freshman Kolney Cassel finished the night by connecting on 3-of-8 throws for a grand total of 20 yards. Only Cassel managed to move the Mustangs into Baylor territory, and not until the 10:05 mark of the fourth quarter. And that was SMU’s most efficient mode of transportation. Led by Prescott Line’s four carries for 18 yards, SMU was credited with 25 rushes for minus-24 yards.

In all, the Mustangs’ offense took the field 15 times on Sunday night, went backwards four times, traveled less than 10 yards a dozen times, and strung together more than seven plays only once.

Baylor’s offense – though lightyears ahead of SMU – was not without its opening night struggles, either. Bryce Petty hit 13-of-23 passes for 161 yards for two touchdowns (and added another score on the ground) before sitting the second half with a back injury. Petty spent much of the first half grimacing and grabbing his left hip. Both Petty and backup Seth Russell (124 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, one touchdown) left a number of points on the field by consistently missing open receivers behind the SMU defense. Eight Baylor rushers totaled 50 carries for 261 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Antwan Goodley also played only two series after aggravating a quad injury suffered in fall camp.

Freshman kicker Chris Callahan missed three of his four field goal tries, and was replaced by Kyle Peterson for the Bears’ sixth and final extra point try.

The health of Petty and Goodley are the key story lines for Art Briles’ team moving forward, but with Northwestern State, Buffalo and Iowa State waiting in September, the Bears have time to be patient.

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For one night at least, Tennessee acts like an SEC powerhouse again

They know what’s coming. They’re well aware of those consecutive road trips to Norman and Athens in the coming weeks. And they’ve not forgotten about those three weeks requiring a road trip to Ole Miss, a home date with Alabama, and a road trip to South Carolina later this season. Your reminders are not necessary.

For one night, though, none of that mattered.

Tennessee crushed Utah State 38-7 on Sunday night and, before its first sellout in seven years, had 102,000 in orange rocking Neyland Stadium like it did so many times throughout the 1990’s. The Vols used a Pig Howard eight-yard end around, a fumbled kickoff return and a 12-yard Justin Worley touchdown toss to Brendan Downs all in the span of three plays to build a 14-0 lead six minutes into the first quarter, carried a 17-0 lead into halftime, and then dealt the Aggies a knockout blow when Worley found Von Pearson for a 27-yard scoring strike with 5:31 to go in the fourth quarter.

Worley hit 27-of-38 attempts – connecting with 10 different receivers – for 273 yards and three touchdowns. He was much better than his Heisman darkhorse counterpart, as Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton connected on 18-of-35 throws for only 144 yards with one touchdown and two picks.

The Vols’ defense dominated Utah State throughout the night, allowing only 244 yards of total offense, 11 first downs and three third-down conversions in 14 tries.

A 31-point thumping may against a physically overmatched visitor from the Mountain West may have seemed preordained after the fact, but Utah State was the hottest upset pick in college football’s opening weekend. In fact, the line sank all the way down below five points by kickoff. Tennessee covered with ease.

This is not to say Butch Jones’ Vols were perfect, however. College football’s only offensive line tasked with replacing all five of its starters failed to control the line of scrimmage. Seven Big Orange ball carriers combined to rush the ball 39 times for a mere 110 yards and two touchdowns. Jones has recruited exceptionally well, but offensive lines are not built overnight. This will be a theme throughout the 2014 season for Tennessee, and there are monsters waiting in those woods.

For one passionate night at Neyland Stadium, however, none of that mattered.

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Halftime: Baylor gets help it doesn’t need, leads SMU 31-0

Bryce Petty

Baylor makes a living of scoring through two- and three-play drives. That’s a fact of life if you’re an opponent. What you don’t need to do, however, is start those drives inside your own 10-yard line.

That’s exactly what SMU did.

With the Bears holding a 3-0 lead, SMU’s Stephen Nelson coughed the ball up at his own six-yard line. Baylor recovered, and two plays later Shock Linwood had a four-yard touchdown run. One possession later, Levi Norwood returned a punt 43 yards to the SMU 4, and three snaps later Bryce Petty hit Tre’Von Armstead for a three-yard touchdown.

Speaking of Petty, he and his left hip have been the storyline of the half.

His numbers – 13-of-23 passing for 161 yards and two touchdowns, plus two rushes and 21 yards and another score – look better than his actual play on the field. Grabbing his hip and grimacing at multiple points throughout the half, Petty has consistently overthrown receivers, thereby keeping a 31-0 halftime spread from becoming even more lopsided.

With the Bears leading by 31 and dominating the SMU offense (49 passing yards, -10 rushing), expect to see lots of heralded backup Seth Russell in the second half.

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Tennessee dominates early, but doesn’t blow out Utah State in first half

Justin Worley

The first Tennessee possession of the 2014 season was an ugly of a three-and-out as you’ll see. It got better from there, though, and quickly. After forcing their own three-and-out, the Vols marched 70 yards on six plays, capped by a Pig Howard eight-yard end around scoring dash.

One play later, Tennessee had the ball again.

Kennedy Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 12 yard line, recovered by Tennessee’s Todd Kelly, Jr. Justin Worley hit Brendan Downs on the next play for a 12-yard scoring strike to put the Vols up 14-0 six minutes into the game.

The Neyland Stadium crowd was rocking, but the Volunteers did not deliver the knockout blow the 102,000 orange faithful expected.

Chuckie Keeton amassed only 79 passing yards, but Tennessee had issues along its offensive line – shocking, for a group replacing all five starters – and only an Aaron Medley field goal dotted the scoreboard in the final 24 minutes of the first half as the Vols staked a 17-0 halftime edge.

 

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Texas C Dominic Espinosa breaks ankle, may miss rest of the season

Mississippi v Texas

In an otherwise stellar debut, just about the only thing to go wrong for Charlie Strong and Texas was losing veteran center Dominic Espinosa to an apparent ankle injury late in the Longhorns’ 38-7 defeat of North Texas on Saturday night.

One day later, the results are in and they don’t look good for the ‘Horns.

As first reported by Orangebloods.com, Espinosa suffered a broken right ankle and will likely miss the rest of his senior season. The report was later confirmed by HornsDigest.com and the Austin American-Statesman.

A fifth-year player with 40 starts under his belt, Espinosa was supposed to be the glue of a revamped offensive line under coach Joe Wickline. Espinosa was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson and the offense suffered for it. Texas suffered numerous center-quarterback exchange issues following Espinosa’s injury, including one inside its own end zone that directly led to the Mean Green’s only touchdown.

Strong did not provide any comment on Espinosa’s situation following the game, and the school has not issued any statement today. Strong is scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

Texas faces BYU on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1).

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Baylor unveils Robert Griffin III statue, is indeed RGIII

Robert Griffin III

Still six months shy of his 25th birthday, Robert Griffin III may be the youngest person in America with his own statue. Though, if you’d brought to Baylor what RGIII has – a Heisman Trophy, boatloads of wins, a brand new (and since shattered) offensive record book and, perhaps most importantly, a basis for the support needed to construct a new stadium – in your first quarter-century on Earth, perhaps you’d have your own statue, too.

The 9.5-foot statue stood under a black cloak before its ceremonial unveiling in advance of tonight’s McLane Stadium opening game versus SMU.

“It just wasn’t me,” Griffin told the San Antonio Express-News. “If you look at the guys who came in with me, the guys who were there before we got here. They are all a part of it from Grant Teaff to Coach Briles. Kendall Wright, Lanear Sampson, Terrence Williams, Phil Taylor, Danny Watkins, Jason Smith, I can go on for days.

“I know my guys and I know they know when I say this is for them, they believe me. They know we couldn’t have done it without each other. So I appreciate them. I know a couple of them will be here today and I can’t wait to see them.”

Griffin, on leave from his job as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins, wore a sport coat on top of jeans and tennis shoes because, as he told the assembled green and gold crowd, “I’m here to party.”

No. 10 Baylor and SMU kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

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South Carolina RB Mike Davis “sort of doubtful” for East Carolina

Mike Davis

Nothing went according to plan for No. 9 South Carolina in its 52-28 opening-night loss to No. 21 Texas A&M on Thursday. There were the 511 passing yards allowed to Aggies quarterback Kenny Hillthe missed opportunities to retaliate against a spacious Texas A&M secondary by Gamecocks signal caller Dylan Thompson, and then there was the impact for South Carolina running back Mike Davis.

More accurately, the lack of an impact.

Hamstrung by rib issues, Davis carried just six times for 15 yards, and caught one pass for a solitary yard on the evening. Davis did not touch the ball after the midway point of the second quarter.

Four days later, Steve Spurrier lists his star runner as “sort of doubtful” for Saturday’s East Carolina game, according to the Associated Press.

Davis was a bell cow for the Gamecocks last season, toting the rock 203 times for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns, and catching an additional 34 passes for 352 yards. A a nagging rib injury that reared its head in fall camp follows him into September, Davis faces an uphill climb to match those numbers in his junior season.

South Carolina (0-1) hosts East Carolina (1-0) at 7 p.m. ET on ESPNU on Saturday.

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Oregon opens a TD and a half favorite for Michigan State showdown

Marcus Mariota

The last time Mark Dantonio and his Michigan State Spartans went west, they came home with a 24-20 Rose Bowl title over Stanford, a team that just happened to have its way with Oregon last November.

Nine months later, No. 8 Michigan State is an 11-point underdog to those third-ranked Ducks, according to VegasInsider.com. Sure, The transitive property does not apply to football. And, yes, styles make fights. But, still, 11 is a lot of points for a team to give to a team that doesn’t often allow very many points at all.

Michigan State opened its season Friday with a 45-7 drubbing of Jacksonville State, while Oregon began its season with a 62-13 defeat of South Dakota. Just enough work for Marcus Mariota, Shilique Calhoun and their charges to rev the engines a time or two in preparation for Saturday.

A year ago, Oregon ranked third nationally in scoring offense, ninth in rushing and second in total offense, while Michigan State placed second in total defense, second in rushing and third in scoring. In other words, this is the most intriguing inter-sectional non-conference game in some time.

It should be a barn burner, unless Vegas is to be believed.

ESPN’s CollegeGameDay will be in Eugene to hype the action, which can be seen nationally on FOX at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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Forget Oregon? USC may have the new up-tempo offense

Steve Sarkisian

The start of the Steve Sarkisian era at USC had a rough introduction leading up to the game itself, but once the ball was kicked it was a completely different story. USC’s offense showed some new wrinkles as Sarkisian started to leave a new stamp on the Trojans. It was only one game, but a preview of things to come certainly seems to suggest the Trojans are going to keep the pressure on with their offense.

As noted in John’s week one round-up, USC ran 104 plays in a victory over Fresno State. The total number of plays is a new Pac-12 record, which says something given Oregon is in the conference and up-tempo coaches like Rich Rodriguez and Todd Graham are picking up the pace on offense. USC will not be running 104 plays every week, but the trend could see the Trojans running more plays than usual.  For the sake of comparison, USC ran an average of 68.4 plays per game in 2013 (67.5 plays per game in 2012, 70.6 plays per game in 2011).

It was only one game, naturally, but the Trojans were on fire on offense. USC converted 1 of 18 third-down attempts and racked up over 700 yards of offense. Cody Kessler had a great game, passing for 394 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Javorious Allen led the way running the football for 133 yards. Eight different Trojans ran the football and 10 different players caught a pass as USC spread things around.

One other point to consider is USC’s offense looked far more promising than their city rivals from UCLA did in week one. Of course, UCLA flew across the country to play on the east coast at noon eastern. That is no easy task for any team from the west coast, college or pro, but the Bruins were sloppy on offense. UCLA’s offense was probably not as weak as it looked against Virginia, and USC’s offense may not be quite as explosive as it was in this match-up. Letting the schedule play out will provide more time to evaluate it all more fairly.

Sarkisian’s debut could not have gone much better.

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Mike London has a QB question to answer

UCLA Virginia Football

College football is a sport that demands quick attention and response to various situations. If a head coach makes a change too late, it can cost his team a game or a season. As a result, it can end up costing a coach a job. Such is the case at Virginia, where head coach Mike London faces a quarterback situation that may demand a swift response.

It was only one game, but Virginia’s performance against UCLA was truly a tale of two quarterbacks. Greyson Lambert got the start for the Cavaliers against UCLA. Lambert found way to move the Virginia offense against the Bruins defense, using safe and accurate passes to move the offense. It was the costly mistakes that really took a toll on Virginia’s chances for an upset bid of one of the top programs from the Pac-12. Lambert was intercepted twice by the Bruins, and both happened to end up in the end zone for UCLA touchdowns. It was a brilliant day by the UCLA defense, which put up more points than either team’s offense in the season opener, so a bit of bad luck came into play.

Regardless, London needed to try something different. Enter Matt Johns, who took over under center after the UCLA defense had turned three turnovers into a 21-3 lead in the first half. Johns was not as accurate with his pass completions, but he threw for more yards and got the offense in the end zone twice through the air. Who knows if Johns would have avoided the trouble of the UCLA defense scoring three touchdowns, but Virginia seemed to be more assertive once Johns entered the game. The damage may have already been done by the time he came in, but now London has something to think about heading into week two against his old program, Richmond.

At the moment, London is holding off on making a decision on where the quarterback position goes from here.

“Greyson is a young man who understands that, as the game is going, there are decisions made that are in the best interest of the team,” London said, according to The Roanoke Times. “Right now, we haven’t seen film, we haven’t talked to the coaches and haven’t gotten the grades,” London said, “so, to speak on that [next week’s starter] right now… we just don’t know.”

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Report: Miami and FIU scheduling 2018-2019 series

Raymond Jackson

The last time Miami and Florida International got together for a football game, it was ugly. Really ugly. Here’s hoping tempers will be a bit cooler the next time these two schools get together. According to one Miami sportswriter, a two-game series could be announced soon.

Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald reports in his Sunday column Miami and FIU are working on details for a two-game series in 2018 and 2019. The 2018 game will reportedly be played in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. Where the 2019 game will be played is unknown at this time, although it would be unlikely Miami would agree to play a game at FIU when the game could draw more potential fans for both schools in Sun Life Stadium, or whatever the stadium will be called by that point in time. Jackson suggests playing the game in Marlins Park, home to baseball’s Miami Marlins, could be an option for the 2019 game.

The last time Miami and FIU played was in 2007, but the 2006 game was the cause for a temporary cancellation of all sporting events scheduled between the two schools. Following a Miami touchdown in the third quarter, a brawl broke out between the two teams following the extra point attempt. Punches were thrown, kicks were landed, and body slams and choke holds were executed in the madness. In all, police had to take the field to help calm things down and 13 players were ejected from the game.

Miami and FIU are separated by just nine miles, and there is very much a potential for big brother-little brother mentality here given Miami’s place in the ACC and FIU’s place in Conference USA.

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Georgia’s Gurley, UCLA’s Kendricks earn Walter Camp POTW honors

Todd Gurley

The first weekend of the college football season is not quite in the books (two games on tap today and Louisville-Miami on Monday), but Georgia running back Todd Gurley and UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks have been singled out for their individual performances by The Walter Camp Football Foundation. Each was named the foundation’s players of the week for week one.

Gurley was a monster in Georgia’s victory over Clemson in Athens. Gurley set a school record with 293 all-purpose yards with 198 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was certainly a performance worthy of early Heisman hype. The Georgia back played a key role in allowing Georgia to pull away from Clemson in a 24-0 second half of a 45-21 victory over Clemson. Gurley is the ninth Georgia football player in school history to be honored by The Walter Camp Football Foundation’s weekly award since 2004.

The defensive weekly honor went to UCLA’s Kendricks. The redshirt senior linebacker led the Bruins with 16 tackles and forced a fumble on the road against Virginia. It was a particularly strong defensive showing for UCLA with 21 points scored in the second quarter. In that mix was an interception returned 37 yards for a touchdown by Kendricks. Kendricks is the fifth UCLA player to win the defensive weekly award since 2004.

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Hospitalized Wisconsin lineman Zagzebski out of hospital

Konrad Zagzebski, Michael Caputo, Marion Grice

Wisconsin suffered a tough loss Saturday night in Houston against LSU, but the concern for injured fifth-year senior Konrad Zagzebski was far more serious than the result of the game.  Zagzebski was taken off the field on a stretcher following a collision in Saturday night’s game. He was taken to a hospital and has since been released, which is always good news.

The defensive end was taken to Methodist Hospital in Houston for medical treatment, but was able to leave the hospital and return home with his teammates.

When Zagzebski was being attended to on the field, it was one of those rough moments in football when you see concern grow on both sidelines. Even in the heat of competition, a moment like that shows the respect and compassion each team has for each other. As Wisconsin’s team took a knee on their sideline while Zagzebski was being cared to by medical staff, LSU’s team also took a knee and the stadium grew quiet. Nerves were calmed as Zagzebski gave a thumbs up on the stretcher on his way out.

The rush to the hospital was initially deemed a precaution, which is standard procedure for injuries of this nature. Whether or not he will be right back on the field for Wisconsin’s next game will be determined later.

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Chris Petersen’s Washington debut was no vacation in Hawaii

Chris Petersen

As a head coach at Boise State, Chris Petersen won four straight games against Hawaii by a combined score of 172-37. The margin of victory in his debut as head coach of the No. 25 Washington Huskies (1-0) was significantly closer. Washington won their 2014 season opener on the road in Hawaii by a final score of 17-16.

This game proved to be more of a gut check than anticipated. Hawaii jumped out to a 10-0 lead on the visiting Huskies in the first quarter. Washington got in the end zone before the quarter came to a close when John Ross dashed 20 yards on a reverse for the score. Ross struck again on the receiving end of a 91-yard pass play from Jeff Lindquist, who got the start at quarterback for Washington. Washington took a 17-10 lead to the half. Washington’s offense was unable to score in the second half against the Rainbow Warriors, allowing the home team to chip away.

Hawaii had chances to grab a win but failed to capitalize on a couple of opportunities throughout the game. A trick play inside the Washington 10-yard line resulted in a turnover on downs, when a field goal could have been the difference. One play later came the 91-yard touchdown play for Washington. Hawaii also missed a field goal at the end of the first half from 40 yards out after two incomplete passes. A fumbled punt by Washington in the third quarter was also recovered by the Huskies at the Washington 33-yard line.

Where Washington goes from here should be interesting to watch unfold. Cyler Miles was suspended from the season opener but should slide into the starting lineup soon enough. His skills at the position should help boost the offense a bit. Lindquist was mostly unreliable with 10 completions on 26 attempts, mostly capitalizing on the 91-yard play for his stats. Washington should be better than the performance against Hawaii would suggest.

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