Ten Things - Week 14
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Rivalry weekend did not disappoint! As the 2013 season winds down, there seems like a ton of football left to play. The number of legitimate undefeated teams dwindled down to a very BCS-friendly two teams (sorry NIU), but the controversy has only increased. The easiest ending for all parties would be for the favorites to all win their respective conference championship games….or would it? Here’s a look back at the week that was with this week’s guest written Ten Things.
1. Goliath Falls – Saban seemingly built an unstoppable juggernaut that would close the BCS era with an unprecedented three straight titles. That possibility now seems between slim and none after rival Auburn showed itself to be the most improved team in the country. Make no mistake, this was no fluke and Auburn is no David. Tide fans can look at many missed tackles, dropped passes, and blown blocks, but let’s not forget that Auburn had their share of near misses, too. Alabama ran up against an opponent that spread the field like no other team can. Auburn ran for almost 300 yards. Their defensive line gave Bama’s offense (and backup center) fits all game. And when it came down to it, Auburn took advantage of opportunities and Bama just didn’t.
2. Who’s Number 2? – The idea of an undefeated team from a power conference getting jumped by a one loss team (ANY one loss team) seems preposterous. Even now. But Auburn is making a case that voters simply cannot overlook. Ohio State, currently second in the BCS standings, holds a .03 lead over Auburn – a lead that may vanish with a strong showing by the Tigers in the SEC championship game this week. Auburn goes up against #5 Missouri, while the Buckeyes face off against #10 Michigan State. Assuming both teams win, Auburn would boast wins over two top ten teams and four ranked teams overall, while Ohio State would have two wins over two top fifteen teams. Stay tuned, kids. This one is going to be very interesting.
3. Seminoles Back On Top – Odd that Florida State’s return to the top of the polls for the first time since 2000 is third on this list, but it’s been just that kind of year. With a freshman quarterback and Heisman favorite, Jameis Winston, the Noles are looking at a return to prominence that fans have been yearning for since the waning years of Bobby Bowden. A win in the ACC Championship Game against Duke (more on the Blue Devils below) will likely guarantee a spot in Pasadena. Florida State is one of those teams that make college football better by winning. It’s been more than a decade since their streak of top five finishes came to an end, so it’s good to see them back in the mix.
4. From must See To Afterthought – The PAC-12 had a strong case as the toughest conference in the country just a few short weeks ago. Up North, Oregon and Stanford were preparing for their annual slugfest, Oregon State was on an incredible run, and even the Washington teams were making some noise. In the South, UCLA unleashed two-way star Myles Jack, USC was en route to an outstanding 9-win season under an interim coach, and the Arizonas were in the thick of the division title hunt. After Oregon fell to Stanford, both teams then lost another, virtually eliminating any chance of two teams making the BCS. Arizona State finished 10-2 and won the South, making sure that the Rose Bowl representative will have no more than two losses. But after a preseason of hype and half a season of Duck dominance, the PAC-12 Championship has become another solid game to round out Championship Saturday – and nothing more.
5. The Big Twelve’s Big Weekend – While the rest of the power conferences are staging a single game to determine the conference champion, the Big Twelve hit a home run in scheduling, as three teams enter two games with a chance at the Fiesta Bowl bid – and an outside shot at the title game. Oklahoma State, fresh off the bye week following an utter dismantling of Baylor, hosts Oklahoma for Bedlam. Win, and the Cowboys do no worse than the Fiesta. Lose, and Baylor-Texas winner takes the conference. Did anyone see Mack Brown’s team in this position last month, or even late September? Me neither. The Longhorns won’t be a favorite by any means, but Baylor just got pushed to the brink by a 4-8 TCU team. An upset is not out of the question. And if Baylor or Oklahoma State take the conference, a collapse at the top of the polls could bring one of them up far enough. Don’t count on it though. This weekend is as good as it will get in the Big Twelve.
6. Ten Win Duke – There’s three words I never thought would go in the same headline with the Blue Devils. Win over Tobacco Road rival North Carolina secures Duke’s first 10-win season in school history and a chance to win the ACC for the first time since Spurrier was the coach. Yeah, it’s been awhile. What’s even more surprising is that they are undefeated on the road this season – including wins at Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Of course, to beat Florida State on a neutral field to punch a ticket to the Orange Bowl would trump everything they’ve done thus far.
7. BCS Buster Club Down To One – Fresno State had a chance, but lost a basketball-on-grass matchup with San Jose State 62-52. Special shout out to Spartans QB David Fales, who at one point in the first half was 31 of 34 with 6 touchdowns. Yes, he had twice as many touchdowns as incompletions. With that loss, Northern Illinois is a MAC Championship game win away from their second straight BCS busting season – something only previously accomplished by TCU in 2009 and ’10. Pretty strong if the Huskies can do something that not even Utah or Boise State could do.
8. Who Wants the Heisman? – In a season where voters seem to be looking for reasons to give Manziel a second trophy, he seems to keep dropping the ball. Or rather, throwing it away (he is 0-2 and thrown the same number of touchdowns as interceptions, 2, in the last two games). Jameis Winston continues to shine on the field but potential off-field issues could hurt him in voting, especially with an organization looking for a winner that doesn’t have character that questionable. Though, to be fair, he has not been charged and Cam Newton won with a cloud over the whole season. McCarron looked like a trendy alternative, and even with the loss performed admirably in his last game of the season – but a career achievement Heisman wasn’t given to Andrew Luck, either. No other player really stands out. UCLA’s Myles Jack didn’t start playing offense until the second half of the season, BC’s Andre Williams likely hasn’t been on the radar long enough, and Bryce Petty and Marcus Mariota have excused themselves from the conversation (though a dominant showing this week by Petty could help voters forget his egg against OSU). It really is up for grabs.
9. SEC Corner – When a down year means the three conference teams in the top 5 simply don’t include any in the top 2, not all hope is lost. Certainly the streak of national titles is in jeopardy, but how many opposing fans would prefer to see it end with an SEC team losing, rather than a championship game without an SEC team at all? Florida has had enough, booting OC Brent Peace (and Muschamp is surely sweating bullets). Tennessee will join the Gators, as well as Kentucky and Arkansas in starting the offseason early. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has a chance to win 9 games in back to back seasons for the first time ever. Texas A&M will likely limp to their bowl game after losing their fourth game this season. Georgia finishes 8-4 as well, but after a snake-bitten season it may be all they can do to not lose anyone else to injury between now and their bowl game. Alabama abdicated its throne, and a 12-1 Tigers team (Auburn or Missouri) is guaranteed to win the SEC. South Carolina provides the only other top 10 team, and the fourth with at least ten wins. It certainly could be better in SEC country, but it’s not as bad as it may seem.
10. Three To See:
a. Missouri vs Auburn (4:00 ET) – Be honest. If preseason, someone told you the SEC Championship would have this matchup, would you have laughed? No stranger to great games and top 5 teams, this game will help decide the extent of the potential outrage the BCS goes out with. An Auburn win may slide them to #2 regardless of what happens to Ohio State.
b. Duke vs Florida State (8:00 ET) – I almost went with Stanford-ASU here, but really when else will you be able to say you saw Duke play for the conference title? And if the Blue Devils pull the upset of upsets, you’ll want to see it brewing.
c. Ohio State vs Michigan State (8:17 ET) – The best chance for a BCS-shattering upset is here. The Buckeyes were a two point conversion away from playing for a mere Rose Bowl birth. While Michigan State’s offense is not as prolific as the Wolverines, their defense may well hand Meyer his first loss as the Buckeyes coach.
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