By Jim Weber
Saturday night was one of those times that reminded us all why, despite all its flaws, we love college football so much.
Just when everyone thought they had the BCS title game match-up figured out, Oregon and Kansas State were both stunned in wildly dramatic fashion that had the entire country in shock.
Let’s start with the Ducks. Pundits said no one could stop the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation, which hadn’t been held under 42 points in a game all season. And yet, Stanford’s front seven on defense dominated Oregon in the trenches in a 17-14 overtime win. Aside from one 77-yard run by quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks averaged a paltry 3.1 yards per carry against Stanford’s attacking front.
We all knew Stanford had a great defense, but the D’s performance was even more shocking considering how slow the unit had looked against Oregon’s speed the past couple years.
As for K-State, this just didn’t look like the same team we had seen all year. The defense that completely shut down West Virginia’s “Air Raid” attack a month ago was shredded all day by Baylor’s own version of the offense. Meanwhile, Kansas State QB Collin Klein lost the Heisman Trophy with an erratic performance that included three interceptions after he had thrown only three previous picks all season.
Like in 2008, when West Virginia and Missouri choked away chances to play for the national title on the same day, this weekend will go down as one of the most exciting – and heartbreaking – in college football history.
BACK IN IT: One week after seemingly watching its season go up in smoke, Alabama is back in the driver’s seat for its third national title in four seasons. Don’t count on the Crimson Tide squandering their second opportunity, even with Georgia looming in the SEC Championship Game.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame is No. 1 for the first time since 1993 and looks like it will be facing a USC team on Saturday led by freshman QB Max Wittek instead of the injured Matt Barkley under center. Winning at USC still won’t be easy, but the road from Los Angeles to Miami appears paved in gold for the Irish.
MEYERBALL: Urban Meyer’s first season in Columbus is shaping up a lot like Jim Tressel’s second year with Ohio State a decade ago in which the Buckeyes won the national title. Granted, Ohio State has a much better offense than the 2002 team. But like the ’02 team, Ohio State needed a miraculous finish to beat Purdue and just keeps finding ways to win by coming up huge late in close games.
If Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith had self-imposed a bowl ban last season, the Buckeyes likely would have been spared this season’s NCAA postseason ban and been only four quarters away from punching a ticket to Miami instead of spending the holidays at home. For that, plenty of OSU fans are hoping Smith gets coal in his stocking.
WHINE ON: Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher went on a whining rant last week about the BCS and the future four-team college football playoff with the 10-1 Seminoles likely to get left out of the national title game. My advice: Don’t schedule FCS Murray State and Savannah State and lose to a 6-5 North Carolina State team next time. Yes, Savannah State was scheduled after West Virginia bailed on the ‘Noles but while the BCS has unfairly snubbed several great teams from playing for a national title, Florida State isn’t one of them.
BOY BLUNDER: Remember last August, when USC was supposed to win the national title and Matt Barkley was a shoe-in to win the Heisman Trophy? The Trojans’ season has been a nightmare full of bad defense, turnovers and penalties. Saturday was no different, as USC looked in disarray in all three phases of the game despite a roster full of NFL talent. There’s absolutely no excuse for the Trojans to finish the regular season with five losses, which they look headed to do as Notre Dame heads to town for Saturday’s season finale. Head coach Lane Kiffin won’t be fired in the offseason, but the 37-year old will be on a scorching hot seat next fall.
NEEDING A VOLUNTEER: With Derek Dooley officially fired at Tennessee, it will be interesting to see who the Volunteers hire to revive a program that’s in a downward spiral. Tennessee fans are praying for Jon Gruden, who coached in Knoxville as a graduate assistant in the 1980s and whose wife, Cindy (right), was a UT cheerleader. The desperation from Vols fans is warranted because after Gruden, names like Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes are a lot less attractive. But with so many NFL jobs about to open as well and Gruden in a great gig already on “Monday Night Football,” landing him sounds like a real long shot.
BIG MONEY GRAB: The reports that Maryland and Rutgers could be joining the Big Ten can be summed up in three words: “Straight cash, homey.” The athletic departments at both schools are in financial crisis and the Big Ten wants to add the New York and Washington, D.C. television markets and imprint to a conference that would stretch over 1,300 miles with their additions. While Nebraska to the Big Ten made sense back in 2010 for the Huskers’ football excellence and tradition, adding mediocre programs like Maryland and Rutgers is a real shameless move by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
Week 13: Top games
5. No. 9 South Carolina vs. No. 11 Clemson: Steve Spurrier and Dabo Swinney have been talking trash for a year. After losing three straight, is this the year Swinney sticks it to The Old Ball Coach on the field?
4. No. 6 Florida vs. No. 10 Florida State: Jimbo Fisher thinks the Seminoles deserve a shot at the national title. Here’s their chance to prove it.
3. No. 2 Oregon vs. No. 16 Oregon State: Oregon State hasn’t beaten the Ducks in the “Civil War” since 2007, and there’s no better time for an upset than the week after Oregon’s national title hopes were dashed.
2. No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 18 USC: With Barkley likely out, this might not be a great game. But a ticket to Miami is still on the line.
1. Michigan vs. Ohio State: It won’t affect the national title picture but the best rivalry in sports will be electric in “Meyer vs. Hoke I” with an undefeated Ohio State season on the line.
Photos: Tim Heitman, Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire