Saturday, November 11, 2006

College Football Week 11 Wrap up

My ESPN-inspired nickname for this week: One-Loss Waterloo.

With all the talk about how Rutgers' win over previously undefeated Louisville Thursday night cleared the way for the 1-loss teams to climb back into the National Championship hunt, well those teams decided they didn't want the offer and bowed out of the race completely today.

Three of those title hopefuls saw their dreams come to a crashing halt: Auburn, Texas and Cal all shit the bed and can rest assured knowing that they won't have to plan for a pesky early January trip to the Arizona desert for the Fiesta Bowl. The Gators nearly joined the party, but they somehow eked out a win over the Gamecokcks despite being thoroughly outplayed by Spurrier's new crew. Let's review.

Maybe these One Loss Wonders weren't as good as Rutgers
I know that concept is hard to fathom for the "Big East teams don't belong in the BCS" guys like Cuckoo Corso, but the play on the field speaks for itself. Forget the names on the jerseys or rich traditions of winning and look at the straight facts: Rutgers gutted out a thrilling come-from-behind win over the No.3 team in the country while that trio of now 2-loss teams went down to teams with combined records of 17-12. Nice.

#5Auburn was the first OLW to bite it early this afternoon. They faced a Georgia team that had been reeling, with losses in 4 of the past 5 games and allowing half a hundred to Tennessee and got their lunches handed to them, 37-15. Ironically the Tigers (9-2, 5-2) got beat with a taste of their own medicine: it was the Georgia (7-4, 4-4) defense that outplayed the stingy Tigers unit as the Dawgs picked off Auburn QB Brandon Cox 4 times, 3 by Tra Battle including one for a score, and held the Tigers to a meager 9 first downs and 171 total yards. But it wasn't all defense for the Dawgs: Georgia hung 446 yards on a unit that had been 13th in the country in total defense. Cox was a horrendous 4-12 for 35 yards , 1TD & 4INTs and stud RB Kenny Irons was held to 49 yards on the ground on just 10 carries. It was all-out horrible performance for a team that had high expectations coming into the season and was a top 5 team early in the year. At least the still have the Iron Bowl against Alabama next week.

The next team to stumble was #8Cal. The Bears (8-2, 6-1) had been kind of flying under the radar for weeks, not playing anyone major but not having lost since the season opener at Tennessee. Since then they had ripped off 8 straight wins against weaker PAC-10 opponents, all while waiting for their title chance by defeating Southern Cal next week. But a not-so-funny thing happened on their way to The Coliseum- they got some bad breaks & boneheaded plays that helped the fortunate Arizona Wildcats (5-5, 3-4) to an improbable 24-20 victory. Although Cal outgained the Cats 356 yards to 252 and outrushed them 160-60, a slew of bad penalties, 3 picks by QB Nate Longshore (17-36, 250yds, 1TD, 3INTs) and an overturned TD conspired to do them in. It wasn't for the lack of effort from tailback Marshawn Lynch, who ran for 102 yards but also had a 79-yard TD nullified by a block-in-the-back call, or WR/KR DeSean Jackson, who returned a 1st quarter punt 95 yards for a score, hauled in 6 passes for 131 yards including a 64-yd TD, but also had a 63 yard TD called back when it was ruled he stepped out at the 41. Like Earl would say, it's was bad karma, baby. But at least they still have the grudge match with USC next week and a potential Rose Bowl berth to play for.

And the third and perhaps most surprising OLW to fall by the wayside was the suddenly-in-vogue again #4Texas Longhorns. Their game with Kansas State (7-4, 4-3) just ended with the Wildcats securing an onsides kick after Texas (9-2, 6-1) had score with just over a minute left for the final margin of 45-42. In all fairness to Matthew McConaughey's favorite team they did lose starting QB Colt McCoy to a shoulder injury on their opening scoring drive; he never returned and the Longhorns never recovered. Backup QB Jevan Sneed, a true freshman, was 13-30 for 190 yards & a TD, but 126 yards and the score came in the 4th quarter when the 'Cats were just trying to hang on to a 42-28 lead. McCoy, the redshirt freshman phenom whose 27 TDs are just two off the NCAA record for a frosh, was most definitely the leader of the potent Texas offense and with him out of the equation they were just overwhelmed by a Wildcat team that was reminiscent of the dominant Bill Snyder programs of the mid-to-late '90s. They rolled up 346 yards of offense including 323 in the air, and they also forced 4 turnovers and blocked a punt leading to a 21-point third quarter. So it's by bye to the trophy for Texas, and no shots of a shirtless McConaughey on the sidelines in Glendale with his newest Longhorn buddies howling at the moon after hoisting the crystal chalice. Aw darn.

#6Gators hold on for 17-16 nail biter against their old ballcoach
MY PICK: Gators 27-17
I don't know why I gave the Gators so much credit; they are a completely overrated and deeply flawed team that somehow just manages to find a way to win every week. Their last 3 games have been decided by just 23 points and they haven't scored over 30 since a 42-0 rout of Central Florida in September. Yet somehow they have thrown in with the "best 1-loss team in the country" talk when they're not even the best 1-loss team in their conference (that would be Arkansas.) QB Chris Leak (19-27, 254, 1TD, 1INT) continues to be a puzzle, at times looking like a stud and other times appearing clueless & indecisive. I know it must be killing Urban I'm devoid of all personality Meyer not to be able to throw wunderkind Tim Tebow out there for an entire game and see how many they score, but for some reason he feels obligated to his senior slinger. The story in this one was the return of Steve Spurrier to his old chomping ground where the former Gator coach spent 12 years patrolling the sidelines and annoying fans & coaches everywhere. The Florida alum & 1966 Heisman Trophy winner had a 68-5 record as coach of the Gators at Florida Field, which he nicknamed The Swamp, and many of those victories came at the expense of the Gamecocks. But today the Cocks were out to grab their first win there in 14 tries, and if it weren't for 3 blocked kicks by the Gators' special teams they would have done it. South Carolina started their backup QB and tailback yet still outgained the Gators 410-400 in total yards and could have won the game with a 48-yard FG on the last play. But that's when DE Jarvis Moss blocked his second kick of the game (the other was an extra point) to seal the win and keep the thoughts of a National Championship alive in Gainesville. Don't worry though, these lucky band of overblown underachievers will suffer a loss before the end of the season, possibly to their arch rival Seminoles, who have absolutely nothing left to play for after tonight.

humiliated at home in 30-0 shutout by Wake Forest
MY PICK: Wake 23-19
And to think the Noles were favored by 8 points in this game. What an embarrassing evening in Tallahassee as the Noles suffered the first home shutout under Bobby Bowden and the first at home since 1973. Othe ignominious feats include Wake's first win against FSU in 14 tries, the Noles first shutout in 232 games (1988 vs. Miami) and their worst home loss since 1981. I know that they are young, starting a ton of freshman, and forced to play numerous players out of position due to injuries, but that's no excuse for a performance like this. From a Florida State team. Coached by Bobby Bowden. At Doak Campbell Stadium. Ever. Starting QB Xavier lee lost his brief hold on the job when he threw his 2 consecutive interceptions late in the 2nd half that led to 10 Deacon points. Lee (5-13, 61 yards, 2picks) was horrible, so Bobby brought back Drew Weatherford, recovered from his injury and ready to retake the reigns of the offense. Ah, wrong: He was just as bad as Lee, tossing 2 picks of his own while completing just 4-15 passes for 52 yards. For the mathematically-challenged (like me) the two QBs combined numbers look like this:9-28, 113 yards, 4 INTs- yikes! Hide the woman & children because those numbers are downright scary. But wait, there's more: Wake (9-1, 5-1) outgained the Noles 307-139, outrushed them 169-26 and the Noles tossed in 9 penalties for 69 yards, many of them the stupid, drive-killing variety. It. was.ugly. I have watched many FSU games in my 2 decades as a Seminole fan and I have never seen them look that bad. It was truly painful to watch, and obviously many of those attending felt that way as well as the stadium looked like a sea of empty seats in the 4th quarter with their team down 30. Boy that's even hard to write. The Demon Deacons are now set up to earn a berth in the ACC title game with wins over Va Tech & Maryland, but all that's left for the nowhere-bound Noles is a chance to rain on the Gators parade; knock them off in their November 25th contest and it might ease some of the painful memories of this season & this game in particular. But it might be a long time before this season is erased from the minds of Seminole fans everywhere. Unless they fire Jeff Bowden in the offseason.

#11Arkansas jumps into the title fray with 31-14 thumping of Vols
MY PICK: Arkansas 28-23
Wooooooopigsoooooeeeeyyyyy! Get ready to hear that call for the rest of the season as the Hogs soundly threw their name into the "best 1-loss team" talk with an impressive win over #13 Tennessee. The Razorbacks (9-1, 6-0) jumped on the Vols early, scoring a TD halfway thru the 1st quarter, and often, putting up 21 in the 2nd to make the second half garbage time. The Vols(7-3, 3-3) were starting freshman QB Jonathan Crompton, and although he fared okay ( 16-34, 174, 2TDs, 1INT) he did not have enough chance to lead the team because the defense had them out of it so early. The Hogs racked up 425 yards of offense, 259 on the ground thanks to talented running back DarrenMcFadden; he had 181 yards on 30 carries with 2 scores and also threw a TD pass in that 2nd quarter outburst that seemed to take the wind out of the Vols sails. The Arkansas defense did the rest, holding the potent Tennessee offense to just 266 yards & 14 points; the Vols had been averaging over 31PPG. These Hogs are the real deal-since losing their season opener to USC 50-14 they have reeled off 9 wins in a row and are just as worthy as any of the remaining OLW's at a shot at the title. Get in line, Razorbacks, and try to keep the hog calling to a dull roar. Wooooooooooooopigggggggsoooooeeeeyyyyyyy!

Other results of notes include #7USC's 35-10 defeat of #21Oregon (MY PICK: USC 38-21), #9Notre Dame's impressive 39-17 trouncing of the Air Force Academy, and the top two teams, Ohio State & Michigan, crushing their warm-up acts Northwestern (54-10) & Indiana (34-3) respectively. Also an inspired Miami squad went down to the Terps 14-13 despite outplaying them in all facets of the game (MY PICK: Maryland 23-21.) But kudos to the 'Canes for manning up and giving their all in a game played just 5 days after the death of teammate Bryan Pata- for once I was actually rooting for the 'Canes to win.

All of this action sets up the Game of the Year, Part III or IV, next week in Columbus: #1Ohio State versus #2 Michigan. One of those teams will be heading to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl, while the other will most likely head to the Rose. But what team will face that winner in the title game? We came closer to finding that out this week, but even though we don't know who will be in the game, we know for a fact a few teams that most definitely won't be there.
Buckle up, the next couple of weeks are going to be a bumpy ride!

UP NEXT: My latest Heisman watch & newest Top 10 poll.
(By the way did you notice I was 5-0 this week?)

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