Once again, a little MACtion kicks things off, as Northern Illinois trounced Toledo 35-17 behind Jordan Lynch’s 363 total yards and 3 touchdowns. The victory clinches the West Division for the Huskies and keeps them in the running for another BCS appearance.
Week 12 gave us a lot to enjoy. There were surprising upsets along with miracle finishes–including one that will be remembered for ages.
Welcome Back, USC
Well hello there, Trojans. Nice to see you again.
Left for dead after getting pummeled by Arizona State and firing coach Lane Kiffin, USC proved that it’s still a force to be reckoned with and did so in resounding fashion. The Trojans stymied powerful Stanford and upset the #4 team in the nation 20-17 to improve to 5-1 under interim head coach Ed Orgeron. USC’s defense recorded two fourth-quarter interceptions and held Stanford to a season-low 17 points. The Cardinal trailed much of the game and managed to finally tie it at 17, but the Trojan defense clamped down in the second half. The loss is a costly one for the Cardinal: Stanford is out of the national title picture, likely the Rose Bowl, and perhaps a BCS bowl as well.
As shocking as that upset was, it paled in comparison to what went down in the ACC. Not only did Duke beat Miami, they did it handily. The Blue Devils won 48-30 and ran all over the Hurricanes en route to their sixth-straight victory. Duke tallied 358 yards on the ground, and backup quarterback Brandon Connette had four rushing touchdowns. At 8-2, Duke now leads the Coastal Division and is in the driver’s seat for a berth opposite Florida State in the ACC championship game.
Central Florida had to work to keep its BCS hopes alive. The AAC frontrunners trailed 1-8 Temple until a diving, one-handed grab by J.J. Worton tied the game at 36 with just over a minute to go. The game appeared destined for overtime, but Blake Bortles found Rannell Hall for a 64-yard gain down to the Temple 6-yard line and was able to spike the ball with two seconds left. A 23-yard field goal gave UCF the improbable victory.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t the most miraculous finish of the day.
In you somehow missed it, Georgia and Auburn went down-to-the-wire in an instant classic. Auburn was up 27-7 but couldn’t hold the lead against Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs. Georgia’s senior quarterback engineered three fourth quarter touchdown drives, including a controversial fourth down touchdown scamper with 1:49 to go that put the Bulldogs up 38-37.
Facing 4th-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall stepped up to avoid the rush and heaved the ball downfield. Two Georgia defenders had a bead on it, but the pass bounced off safety Josh Harvey-Clemons’ hand and right in front of Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis. Louis bobbled the ball a little bit before securing it and raced into the end zone to give the Tigers an improbable 43-38 lead.
As if that wasn’t enough, Murray drove Georgia down to the Auburn 20-yard line. His last-ditch pass fell incomplete as he threw, and the game ended in yet another last-second heartbreak for the Bulldogs.
Looking Ahead to Week 13
There’s not a whole lot on the docket this week, unfortunately, at least in terms of the national championship picture. However, one contender has a tough test this week; more on that later.
The SEC heavyweights are taking a breather: Auburn has a bye while Alabama and South Carolina are playing Chattanooga and Coastal Carolina respectively. Florida State is at least playing a school in the FBS, although Idaho could probably lose to either of those FCS schools. Ohio State gets Indiana, and while the Hoosiers can put up points, their defense gives sieves a bad name.
There are games with conference title game implications, however.
In the SEC, #8 Missouri holds a slim lead in the East Division and needs to win at #24 Ole Miss to keep South Carolina at bay. The Rebels are on a roll, winning their past four games and averaging over 40 points a game during that stretch. Mizzou will get a boost with the return of senior quarterback James Franklin, who missed the past four games with a shoulder injury.
In other SEC action, Texas A&M and LSU square off in a game that doesn’t have title consequences but does feature two top quarterbacks in Johnny Manziel and Zach Mettenberger. Manziel, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, is playing at an even better clip than he did last year while Mettenberger has transformed himself into an NFL prospect. Both teams have defenses that have struggled this year, so count on plenty of offensive fireworks.
In the Big 10, surging Wisconsin takes on a surprising Minnesota team that has an outside shot at the Big 10 title game. Minnesota is 8-2 and ranked for the first time in eons. What’s even more remarkable is that they are doing it with an interim coach while head coach Jerry Kill recuperates from seizures. The Gophers will face a tall task against a powerful Badger squad that has steamrolled the opposition of late. Wisconsin’s trademark running game has been as strong as ever, but the Badger defense has really stepped up of late and limited potent Indiana to just three points last week. Both teams need a victory if they want to keep their slim championship hopes alive.
The Pac-12’s elite are out of the spotlight this week, which should be welcome news as both Oregon and Stanford have suffered crippling losses in the past two weeks. Stanford’s victory over Oregon two weeks ago pretty much eliminated the Ducks from national title contention, but the Cardinal’s stunning upset at the hands of USC knocked Stanford out of the title picture and gives Oregon the inside track to the Rose Bowl.
Who the Ducks will play in the Pac-12 championship game could become a little clearer after this weekend. Arizona State currently leads the Pac-12 South by a game over UCLA and the resurgent Trojans. If the Sun Devils win, they clinch a spot in the title game (ASU already has defeated USC, the game that resulted in Lane Kiffin being fired). If UCLA wins, then the picture gets a little muddled.
Each team comes in on a roll. The Bruins have won three-straight and received a considerable boost from Myles Jack, the dynamic two-way player who starts at linebacker but has ignited the offense the past two weeks. Jack followed up his scintillating debut with a four-touchdown performance last week against Washington. He’ll face a tough task against an ASU defense that has been hot. During the Devil’s current five-game win streak, ASU has averaged 18.8 points against. The Devils also have their own backfield threat in senior Marion Grice, who ranks second in the nation with 20 touchdowns.
The big game of the week occurs in the southwest, as Big 12 foes Baylor and Oklahoma State square off. Baylor is enjoying a season for the ages, as the Bears are currently undefeated and sitting at #4 in the BCS. If either Florida State or Alabama slips up, the Bears are in prime position to play for a national title.
To do so, however, Baylor must first get past 9-1 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. The Cowboys are fresh off a 38-13 thrashing of Texas and have won six-in-a-row. Baylor hasn’t won in Stillwater since 1939, but these aren’t the same Baylor Bears. Baylor is averaging a mind-boggling 61 points and 685 yards a game on offense, and the Baylor defense is fast and aggressive.