by Robert Weintraub
You know those "It Was Over When ..." portions of football coverage on various websites? "It was over when John Q. Letterman intercepted a pass in the end zone with no time left" -- like that? That's about how I felt when TCU and Utah took the field.
This supposedly epic showdown of BCS Top 5 non-Automatic Qualifiers was finished as soon as the equipment flunkies laid out the respective uniforms. The Frogs were dressed in classic all white, with a delightful hint of purple. The Utes took the field in specially designed garb courtesy of Under Armour, the apparel company that makes Nike execs wake up in a cold sweat at night. Now, the Swoosh has dressed schools like Oregon in some hideous unis through the years, but these Under Armour babies made them look like haute couture: horrific ultra-sheen black with a silver star pastiche on the shoulders and running down the side. Oof.
Under Armour is auctioning off the game-worn jerseys to benefit the Wounded Warrior program, a good cause. Each jersey had words like "Service," "Honor," and "Commitment" on the back. But with apologies to our brave fighting boys, these should be buried in a pit and never shown the light of day again. (In fairness, Texas Tech did knock off Mizzou in the same horrid uniforms.)
Also buried were Utah's hopes for a dark-horse BCS bid. TCU outclassed the Utes sartorially and in all manners pigskin, winning 47-7. Andy Dalton, TCU's underrated quarterback, made all manner of NFL-quality throws as the Frogs raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. The onslaught silenced the Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd, who chose a poor time to go with the "Blackout" (and really -- a blackout in Utah?). Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley threw a touchdown pass from the WildFrog set -- he is now 5-of-7 for 132 yards and two touchdowns as a passer. Not a bad alternative to Dalton.
It was TCU's first win at Utah ever, and the Utes' first home loss since September 2007. Call it the GameDay jinx. As Brian Fremeau put it, the 2012 Big East champ whaled on the 2011 Pac-12 South champ. In so doing, TCU staked a claim to a spot in the BCS Championship Game, at least in my poll (see below).
Out of the title game is Alabama, which will not repeat as champs. In September, most pundits had the Tide competing for the SEC title, but I felt all along that their defense was depleted, especially in the secondary. When Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee combine to go 14-of-20 for 208 yards, a touchdown, and no picks, something is rotten in the state of Alabama -- at least in the defensive backfield.
Reuben Randle caught the two biggest passes of the game. The first was a 75-yard touchdown from Jefferson when it seemed that LSU might not score more than three in the game, and the second was a 41-yarder from Lee on third-and-13 that salted it away for the Bayou Bengals. But the defining moment of the game wasn't either pass, nor was it the fourth-down reverse that set up the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter. It was when much-maligned LSU coach Les Miles picked a piece of grass off his shoe and put it in his mouth, a grotesque moment captured nicely by a CBS cameraman. Miles wants to feel part of the field, apparently.
Some talisman was sure working in voodoo country. The Lester put the bye week to good use, outcoaching the man who he is inevitably compared to, Nick Saban. He also brought in Louisiana natives Peyton and Eli Manning to work with his quarterbacks -- something got into Jefferson and Lee.
It also helped considerably that the Tigers sported their classic purple and gold uniforms.
- The Force was back with Michigan Saturday. Tate Forcier, who pulled out some magic wins a year ago but was dropped to third string earlier this year, came in against Illinois when Denard Robinson was nicked for the fourth time this season (the downside of the spread attack). In a nod to Rex Grossman, Forcier fumbled on his first play, but recovered with some vintage Tate-ness, eluding the rush and zipping a late touchdown pass to force overtime. Eventually, Michigan won a wild 67-65 triple-overtime affair (Robinson looked OK in the post-game celeberation, just in case anyone starts calling for Forcier).
- No thanks to Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, however. The Illini scored a touchdown in the second overtime on a nicely designed play. Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase lined up in shotgun with a back to either side and two receivers left. Both wideouts ran a post, and Scheelhaase faked to the back on his right before sprinting right himself. Meanwhile, the back on his left, Mikel Leshoure, ran a wheel route and was alone for the score. That wouldn't be so bad if Illinois hadn't run the exact same play for a touchdown in the fourth quarter!
- Daniel Kuehl gets the Lil' Wayne Lollipop Award for the week. The punter is the holder on the kicking team, and when Iowa State faked the extra point to go for the win in overtime against Nebraska, it worked to a T. Kuehl had his receiver open in the end zone for the win. But he lollipopped the throw, and it was intercepted, sealing a 31-30 Huskers win.
- It was a wacky day all around in the Big 12. Mizzou went down, Baylor fell back to earth with a thud at the hands of Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma was upset in College Station. The Sooners were down early, then scored 17 points in 18 plays to get back into the game in Zenyatta-like fashion. But like the great filly, they fell short. A screwed-up fake kick ruined their night too, as tight end James Hanna dropped an easy touchdown with the score at 19-17 Aggies. Momentum was lost, and the home team won.
- All those paled in contrast to Kansas' epic comeback. Colorado scored on the first play of the fourth quarter to go up 45-17. Game over, right? Not so fast, my bison friend! Jacob Sims ran for a score. Kansas recovered an onside kick and scored again. 45-31. Kansas then ran in a fumble for a score and were down just seven with half the quarter left, but there was plenty more Buff Meltdown left. An interception set up another Sims touchdown run to tie the game. Colorado then went three-and-out, and KU got yet another Sims touchdown run, his third of the quarter, and the Jawhawks fifth of the period. Just to further utz the Buffs, they drove to the Kansas 7-yard line in the waning seconds, but were re-Buffed. A nice going away present for soon-to-be-unemployed Colorado coach Dan Hawkins.
- It was Keno Saturday around the nation, with teams posting cray numbers. For perspective, Colorado and Kansas combined for 97 points, which made it only the fifth-highest scoring game of the day. Four others crossed the 100-point mark. Nevada rolled up an incredible 844 yards of offense in a 63-17 whipping of Idaho. Navy ran the ball 62 times for 521 yards (8.4 yards per carry) and scored on 12 of 13 possessions in a 76-35 humbling of East Carolina. That's not only the most points given up by the Pirates since 1932, it's the average number of ribs coach Ruffin McNeill puts away at a BBQ joint near campus (bang! Cheap fat joke). Navy is off to the Poinsettia Bowl.
- Alabama-LSU was great, but the rest of the SEC took the weekend off. Here are some of the opponents the SEC powers scheduled for the first Saturday in November: Idaho State, Charleston Southern, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, and Vanderbilt.
- As for the allegations surrounding Cam Newton -- he's a bargain at any price.
- Congrats to New Mexico, which beat Wyoming for its first win of the season. And to JoePa for his 400th win, with Penn State erasing a 21-0 deficit against Northwestern to do so.
- And a massive plotz turned in by my Syracuse Orange. A little success went right to the heads of l'orange, who fell at home to Louisville 28-20. That would be a Cardinals team playing without its starting quarterback and leading rusher. The letters that spring to mind are P and U.
The OFI Top 25
4. Boise State
6. Ohio State
11. Michigan State
14. Virginia Tech
16. Oklahoma State
17. Mississippi State
19. Central Florida
25. Penn State
Why drop Boise now, when all they do is pummel the poor saps put in front of them? Because the only thing separating the four unbeatens is the fact that Oregon and TCU have signal road victories (over USC and Utah, respectively), while Boise has just the neutral field win over Virginia Tech (granted, attendance was 70-30 Hokie fans). Auburn has only played three road games (Ole Miss, Miss State, and Kentucky), but the win on a Thursday night in Starkville looks better and better as the season progresses.
1. Drake Nevis, defensive tackle, LSU. Seven tackles and a huge sack-and-strip that provided the winning points in the Tigers upset win. Nevis collapsed the interior of Alabama's line all afternoon.
2. Michael Hodges, linebacker, Texas A&M. Hodges had 19 tackles, a pair of sacks, and was in on several goal-line stops as the Aggies stuffed Oklahoma on three different occasions.
3. Damaris Johnson, kick returner, Tulsa. Johnson had a huge all-around game (322 yards, three scores), but his 94-yard kickoff return score matters most here. Johnson broke the Conference USA record with the return and needs 64 more to take the NCAA all-time lead in kick return yards.
4. Alex Wujciak, linebacker, Maryland. Wujciak had two picks and a touchdown, in the Terps' near upset of Miami. The blocking on the pick-6 was insanely good -- not only did it create a convoy for Wujciak, it knocked a couple of Hurricanes out of the game.
5. Torin Harris, cornerback, USC. The redshirt freshman picked up a blocked extra point midway through the fourth quarter and took it the other way for the rare defensive two-point conversion. The play set up USC's late win over Arizona State.