BY MICHAEL LEESE
What a weekend it was in the college football world. If you’re a fan, you had to take a deep exhale after watching all the good football over the weekend. Drama, fantastic finishes, coaching blunders, and phenomenal plays were all on display! The following is a recap of what I saw take place and what I see could happen this week as I look into my crystal football. Remember, on Sunday night bowl game selections will be announced.
BLAKE BORTLES RALLIES CENTRAL FLORIDA……….With 4:20 left in the game, Bortles hit Breshard Perriman with a 52-yard strike to lift Central Florida over South Florida and clinch at least a share of the AAC Title. The Knights won, despite turning the ball over five times, forcing them to rely on their defense to hold off the Bulls. The win moved the Knights to 10-1, and in position to win the conference title outright with a victory at SMU this Saturday. The Mustangs will be motivated, as they are 5-6 needing a win in this game to get bowl eligible. The Scarlet Knights fell again this past weekend, this time to UCONN 28-17. Rutgers had started the season 4-1, but has lost five out of the last six! They will need a win Saturday over South Florida to get bowl eligible.
DUKE ROLLS INTO ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME……Ross Martin kicked a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left for a 27-25 win at North Carolina, clinching the Coastal Division championship with the Blue Devils’ eighth straight victory. Next weekend, Duke faces No. 1 Florida State in the ACC title game in Charlotte. The Blue Devils will be a heavy underdog as they go for their first league crown since 1989. In other ACC action, Florida State continued to stay focused on the field as they pounded Florida 37-7 and took over the top spot in the BCS standings! Syracuse extended its season by the slimmest of margins, as Terrel Hunt hit Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to deliver a 34-31 win over Boston College for win number six. Hunt completed 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and ran for 90 yards and another score. Tajh Boyd finished his career at 0-4 versus rival South Carolina as the Gamecocks tamed the Tigers 31-17.
BAYLOR “D” COMES UP BIG……….The Baylor Bears turned to their defense to pull out a sloppy 41-38 win over TCU. The Bears forced four turnovers, including an interception on the last Horned Frog drive of the game to seal the win. The Bear offense struggled for the second consecutive week amassing only 370 total yards of offense. The Bears host Texas Saturday, and need a win to keep their BCS hopes alive. They can also win the Big 12 if they win and Oklahoma State falls to Oklahoma. I believe both teams will be victorious and that both could find their way into the BCS. SUNFLOWER BATTLE GOES TO WILDCATS. John Hubert rushed for 220 yards, leading Kansas State to a fifth straight win over Kansas. The loss dropped the Jayhawks to 3-9 this season, and just 4-20 in the Charlie Weiss era! One has to wonder just how long he might have left to turn things around as Turner Gill was fired after going 5-19 in his first two seasons.
IT’S ALL GOOD IF YOUR A BUCKEYE FAN…….The dramatic 42-41 Ohio State victory over Michigan, coupled with the Alabama loss moved the Buckeyes to No.2 in the BCS standings! The game featured several long scoring plays, a fight that saw three players ejected and a decision by a coach to go for a win at the end that many thought was the wrong call. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess to make it 42-41, but instead of kicking for the tie and possibly pushing the game to overtime, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke asked his players if they wanted to go for it and got a unanimous response, “We play the game to win.” Even though it didn’t work out, I applaud Hoke for his decision to go for the victory. PENN STATE WINS THEIR BOWL GAME. Head coach Bill O’Brien had his troops fired up to play Wisconsin. Christian Hackenberg threw for 339 yards and four touchdowns in leading the Lions over the Badgers. The loss by the Badgers ended any hopes they might have had for receiving a BCS bid! IOWA STUNS THE HUSKERS ON THE ROAD. It’s been an amazing year for the Hawkeyes as they finished the season at 8-4 with a 38-17 win in Lincoln. The win should guarantee a New Year’s Day bowl game in Florida for the post-season. SPARTY STAYS ON COURSE WITH WIN. Michigan State used a 14-3 win over Minnesota as a tune-up for their big game saturday against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game. Will the Spartans defense slow down the Buckeye offense?
CUSA CHAMPIONSHIP COMES DOWN TO MARSHALL AND RICE……To my surprise Marshall pounded and plundered East Carolina 59-28 to win the Eastern Division. The Thundering Herd racked up 539 yards of total offense and picked off three Shane Carden passes en route to victory! The Rice Owls jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead and then hung on to beat Tulane. The Owls defense allowed the Green Wave only 123 yards of total offense. Rice and Marshall will now meet in the CUSA Championship game, with the winner receiving a Liberty Bowl invitation.
CIVIL WAR GOES TO THE DUCKS……This was a classic battle Friday night as Marcus Mariota hit Jared Huff with a 12-yard scoring pass, with 29 seconds left to lift the Ducks over the Beavers 36-35. The game featured seven lead changes and saw each team turn the ball over three times. The win by the Ducks keeps their faint BCS hopes alive, despite the fact they won’t play in the Pac 12 Championship game. STANFORD MOVES TO 10-2. The Cardinal won a tough, hard-fought battle over Notre Dame 27-20. Tyler Gaffney was the difference, rushing for 189 yards on 33 carries to lead the Cardinal attack. ARIZONA STATE CRUSHES WILDCATS. The Sun Devils jumped out to a 27-0 second-quarter lead, and then coasted for the Territorial Cup. The Sun Devils host the Stanford Cardinal in the PAC-12 Championship Game. The Devils lost an early season game in Palo Alto 42-28.
AND FINALLY THE IRON BOWL!……I am still in shock over how this game ended, making it two weeks in a row that a higher power has directly led to a Tiger victory! The “immaculate deflection” against Georgia and now the most amazing end to a game I have ever seen! I am still perplexed as to why Alabama elected to kick a 57-yard field goal with a freshman kicker that had just two attempts all year. What makes this even more interesting is the fact Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn had called for a return of the kick should it fall short. This was a signature moment for Auburn and Malzahn. The loss derails Alabama’s quest for a third consecutive BCS title, but they will surely play in a BCS bowl game, and if this was 2014, they would play Florida State in the first round of the playoffs. MIZZOU DUMPS TEXAS A&M. A sloppy first half had Tiger fans shaking their heads as the Aggies held a 14-7 halftime advantage. In the second half, the Tigers roared out of the gate, and took control in the fourth quarter when tailback Henry Josie scored on a 57-yard run. The win moved the Tigers to 11-1 and set up a showdown in Atlanta for the SEC Title! Congratulations to the Tigers!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK……. “Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. If he’s got a problem with me, that’s where I live.”
— TCU coach Gary Patterson, after a pair of heated exchanges with Baylor coach Art Briles