The Top Ten Notes and Nuggets from a Jaw-Dropping Saturday
1. We will never see THAT again - No matter if college football continues as is for the next 10,000 years until the sun burns this planet to a crisp, there will never be a game exactly like what we saw at the Iron Bowl. No. 4 Auburn beating No. 1 Alabama on a 109-yard missed field goal return as time expires is a combination of factors that an entire room of supercomputers would need at least a year to duplicate. Seriously, when was the last time you saw a team go on the road, win the turnover battle, hit on a 99-yard touchdown pass and lose the game?
2. Kick, Bama, Kick - In Iron Bowl lore, "Punt Bama Punt" is shorthand for the 1972 game in which Auburn upset No. 2 Alabama after blocking two consecutive fourth quarter punts to turn a 16-3 deficit into a 17-16 win. After the Tide missed all four field goal tries, the last one in most devastating fashion, you can bet there are "Kick, Bama, Kick" bumper stickers in production as you read this. Special teams always matter.
3. An absolute classic at the Big House - Here is why rivalry games are the ultimate crapshoot in sports: a Michigan offense that would've struggled to move the ball against some junior high teams played its best game of the season against Ohio State. Michigan hit the Buckeyes for 603 total yards and 31 first downs, but it wasn't enough and Ohio State stayed perfect after denying a Wolverines' two-point try inside the game's final minute, hanging on for a 42-41 win. Brady Hoke made the right call going for two, but Ohio State cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs guessed the exact play Michigan would dial up.
4. Southern Miss won a game! Decisively! - The nation's longest losing streak came to a long-awaited end Saturday, as Southern Miss laid the wood to UAB, 62-27. The Golden Eagles' previous high for the season was 23 points; they scored 28 in the third quarter. We know what this means for Southern Miss, but what about UAB? The Blazers went 2-10, with wins over FCS Northwestern State and 1-11 Florida International.
5. The only thing standing between Florida State and a perfect season? Duke - More impressive than the wins themselves is how Duke is winning these games. The Blue Devils are a tough football team. They jumped on top of the ACC's Coastal Division by rushing for 358 yards in the win over Miami, and stayed there Saturday by coming up with an interception on the game's final drive to close out a 27-25 win over North Carolina. This is a complete football team.
6. BearDown Beat Down - Earlier this week we pondered whether Arizona's win over Oregon would be remembered as a fluke or a turning point. Early polling is in, and it appears to be a fluke. The Wildcats fell behind Arizona State 27-0 on Saturday night en route to a 58-21 loss. With the win, Arizona State finishes with the best conference record in the Pac-12 and has earned the right to host Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship on Saturday.
7. Fireworks Fly in Fort Worth - The post-game confrontation between Art Briles and Gary Patterson will grab headlines, but the game itself is worthy of note as well. Baylor looked mortal for the third time this season - all three away from Waco - in nearly blowing a 34-17 third quarter lead before intercepting TCU's Casey Pachall inside its own end zone with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Bryce Petty completed just 19-of-38 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, and the Baylor running attack (with all three running backs healthy) was held to 164 yards on 3.2 yards per carry. The 41-38 win means Baylor can win its first Big 12 title next week with a win over Texas and an Oklahoma win over Oklahoma State.
8. If not now, when? - Georgia Tech doesn't get many opportunities to beat Georgia, but Saturday was one of them. A banged up Georgia team playing its first game without Aaron Murray trailed the Yellow Jackets 20-0 deep into the first half. But it still wasn't enough for Georgia Tech. Despite leading by 20 points in the first half and by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech fell to Georgia 41-34 in overtime. Paul Johnson's program has now lost five straight to the team from Athens.
9. "They just don't seem to play well against us." - That's the quote Steve Spurrier offered South Carolina's 31-17 win over Clemson, the Gamecocks' fifth straight in the series. Every one of the Gamecocks' five wins have been by double digits. The Ultimate Troll Master in College Football is now 6-3 in nine seasons against Clemson. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney's program is 0-4 over the past two seasons against Florida State and South Carolina, and 21-0 against everyone else.
10. Year of the Tiger - There aren't many guarantees in life, but here's one of them: the Tigers will win the 2013 SEC championship. To much less fanfare, Missouri clinched a spot opposite Auburn in the SEC title game by defeating Texas A&M 28-21 in Columbia. Gary Pinkel's team rushed for 225 yards on 5.1 yards per carry while holding Johnny Manziel to 24-of-35 passing for 195 yards and one touchdown.
Who's your National Coach of the Year: Gus or Cut?
With all due respect for everyone else, there are two viable candidates for the National Coach of the Year - Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Duke's David Cutcliffe. Here's how we the case for (and against) each coach.
First, their respective schedules:
vs. Washington State - Win, 31-24
vs. Arkansas State - Win, 38-9
vs. Mississippi State - Win, 24-20
at LSU - Loss, 35-21
vs. Ole Miss - Win, 30-22
vs. Western Carolina, Win, 62-3
at Texas A&M - Win, 45-41
vs. Florida Atlantic - Win, 45-10
at Arkansas - Win, 35-17
at Tennessee - Win, 55-23
vs. Georgia - Win, 43-38
vs. Alabama - Win, 34-28
vs. North Carolina Central - Win, 45-0
at Memphis - Win, 28-14
vs. Georgia Tech - Loss, 38-14
vs. Pittsburgh - Loss, 58-55
vs. Troy - Win, 38-31
vs. Navy - Win, 35-7
at Virginia - Win, 35-22
at Virginia Tech - Win, 13-10
vs. N.C. State - Win, 38-20
vs. Miami - Win, 48-30
at Wake Forest - Win, 28-21
at North Carolina - Win, 27-25
The Case For: Malzahn
Turning 3-9 to 11-1 just isn't supposed to happen. The same team that lost to Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama to close their SEC slate by a combined 150-21 just beat all three of those teams and will now head to the SEC title game. Again, a team that went 3-9 a year ago has a chance to win the national championship this season. This turnaround job is completely unprecedented in college football history.
The Case For: Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe's team is ranked nationally by every poll that matters, won 10 games for the first time in school history, will play for the ACC title on Saturday and, with a win, heads to the Orange Bowl, perhaps to play Alabama. It's Duke. There's really nothing else that needs to be said.
The Case Against: Malzahn
No. 4, No. 7, No. 10 and No. 8. That's how Rivals.com ranks Auburn's last four recruiting classes. Last year's collapse notwithstanding, this is how a team with four consecutive top 10 classes should play. What other coach steps into a roster with that much talent and, obviously, has talent specifically recruited to play in their system?
The Case Against: Cutcliffe
You know who isn't surprised by Duke's performance this season? David Cutcliffe. The sixth-year Devils coach will tell you (however irrationally) that this is where his program should be at this point. With six wins last season, it's not as if this year's showing has come completely out of nowhere. And have you seen that schedule? Duke's best win is against either Virginia Tech or Miami, and neither team is ranked. A compelling argument can be made the only reason Duke will play for the ACC title is due to their good fortune of missing both Florida State and Clemson from the Atlantic Division.
Gary Patterson on Art Briles: 'He's picking on the wrong guy'
In case you missed it, there was an altercation at midfield in Fort Worth on Saturday. Earlier in the game, Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon was ejected for targeting for a shot to the head of TCU quarterback/wide receiver Trevone Boykin.
Following the ejection, Dixon didn't immediately leave the sidelines and head for the locker room, as most ejected players do. Patterson and the TCU staff say the caught Dixon laughing under a towel on the Baylor sideline which, obviously, did not sit well with the Horned Frogs' staff.
Went back and watched Ahmad Dixon's ejection. He was blowing kisses at the TCU crowd and laughing while walking to the locker room.— David Ubben (@davidubben) December 1, 2013
Patterson and Briles then exchanged words during the game, and that conversation continued at midfield after the game.
From my seat at Baylor-TCU, it appeared as though Gary Patterson and Art Briles were shouting at each other after Boykin was drilled.— Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) November 30, 2013
Making matters worse for TCU, the Frogs lost the game 41-38 after throwing an interception in the Baylor end zone with 11 seconds to play.
There appears to be video out there of the altercation, but we have yet to see it.
Pretty legitimate beef between Briles and Patterson. Our camera guy in Ft. Worth today got some video/audio of the testy handshake.— David Ubben (@davidubben) December 1, 2013
This is what Patterson had to say after the game:
"Here's the bottom line to it, No. 6 beats a guy up at the beginning of the season, he doesn't get suspended," Patterson said. "He takes a shot, I want him kicked out, head coach comes across the field to me, I got a guy laughing in front of the camera on the sidelines and I got a guy that gets to come in for one play. That's not what I call class is. So the bottom line to it is, we're not going to do that."
He continued: "Gary Patterson lives in Fort Worth. He's got a problem with me, here's where I live. I have respect for (Briles) and I have respect for his program. That's not what I'm going to teach my guys, and that guy's been doing that for four years. The bottom line to it is, it's not funny....It wasn't funny. And to come across the field at me, uh uh. I didn't build this program backing down to anybody, and I'm not going to do it to him. Not in anything we do, not in recruiting, not anything. So you need to understand this: he's picking on the wrong guy. He said, 'leave it on the field.' That's the problem I have. They didn't correct the problem a long time ago. He can say what he wants to. Like I said, I have a lot of respect for the program and for him, but you're not going to come across the field at me and it's not going to be okay to let a guy stand on the sideline and laugh in front of a TV camera when he knocks a guy out and tries to take a shot to hurt him. We're not going to do that. Period. I'm not going to leave it on the field, no. That's not the way we do things. But you're not going to come across the field at me.
"You can go correct your player and say something to him. Nobody said anything to him, I watched. I had to get the officials to go because they let him stand on the sidelines. If I wouldn't have said anything, they would've let him stand there the whole time. It wasn't that cool. If that's what class is, then I don't want to be it."
The three unbeaten teams left in college football: How they got here and where they're going
The BCS has some magical powers, doesn't it? After we spent much of this year, even up to a week ago, fretting about the doomsday scenarios with four or more major conference teams finishing undefeated. And now here we are. Heading into conference championship week, we're left with the picture perfect setting of two unbeaten major conference teams and one unbeaten mid-major.
The puppeteer controlling the strings on the BCS clearly has a sense of humor.
Florida State (12-0) - Florida State is now the top dog left in college football. They'll be a unanimous No. 1 in every human poll and may take a clean sweep of the six computer polls as well. Their remaining path is simple: beat Duke and they're Pasadena bound.
The road ahead: ACC Championship vs. Duke
Ohio State (12-0) - Ohio State has endured some close calls on its 24-game winning streak, but never before had they been one completed pass away from losing. Urban Meyer's team stared death in the face Saturday in the Big House and lived to tell the story.
The road ahead: Big Ten Championship vs. Michigan State
Northern Illinois (12-0) - Fresno State's loss means Northern Illinois' fate is perfectly clear. Beat Bowling Green Friday in Detroit, and the Huskies will head to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Big 12 champion. Lose, and they're probably going to Mobile or somewhere else not nearly as nice.
The road ahead: MAC Championship vs. Bowling Green
Watch (and hear) Auburn beat Alabama
For those that didn't witness it, tied at 28, Alabama ran a draw with about 8 seconds to play from about their own 40. The runner stepped out of bounds as time expired. The refs said the game was over; but upon review it was determined that there was a fraction of a second left and Alabama was allowed one play. On comes the field goal team to try to win the Iron Bowl.
The rest, as they say, is history...
Kevin Sumlin to remain in College Station
Hours ahead of Saturday night's regular-season finale at Missouri (7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN), Texas A&M already has its best news of the day. The school has announced a six-year contract extension with head coach Kevin Sumlin.
“Coach Sumlin has demonstrated why he is considered among the nation’s elite football coaches. His coaching and recruiting abilities are only secondary to his integrity, class and passion for his student-athletes and this University,” Hyman said in the school's release. “Texas A&M is making a sincere commitment to Kevin. We are fortunate that he is committed to remain an Aggie for a long time to come, and we are excited about what the future has in store.”
This is Sumlin's second contract amendment in not yet two complete seasons in College Station. In late February, Sumlin got a raise to $3.1 million from his original $2 million on a contract running through 2017. Terms of the extension were not released and are pending Texas A&M Board of Regents approval, but it's safe to assume Sumlin will no longer be the fifth-highest paid coach in the SEC.
“I am humbled and very appreciative of the commitment that Texas A&M has extended not only to me and my family, but to our football program overall. We have only just begun to lay the foundation for sustained, long-term success here at Texas A&M, and we will work hard every day to make this great institution and the 12th Man proud," said Sumlin.
Sumlin is 19-5 at Texas A&M, and led the Aggies to a win in the 2012 Cotton Bowl. He is 54-22 overall in six seasons as a head coach.
Hyman didn't offer any new numbers on Sumlin contract and said those are forthcoming (including new buyout).— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) December 1, 2013
Hyman said he hadn't been contacted by other programs concerning Sumlin but added "that's not how things are done anymore" anyway.— Brent Zwerneman (@BrentZwerneman) December 1, 2013
Nebraska AD issues statement on Pelini
This morning, Nebraska director of athletics Shawn Eichorst released the following statement regarding Bo Pelini:
"My approach has always been to not comment publicly about our coaches until their full seasons are complete, as I strongly believe it is unfair and counter to best practices. However, given the volume of unfounded speculation and conjecture about our head football coach, I want to reaffirm what I have said many times since I have arrived at the University of Nebraska -- that I positively respect, appreciate and support our football student-athletes, coaches and staff, as we do everyone in the Husker family. We very much look forward to our upcoming bowl game and Coach Pelini continuing to lead our program in the future."
If Shawn Eichorst really wanted to clear the air, he could have chosen to use different words; but he didn't.
There is a big difference between saying (in writing) “in the future” and “for the 2014 season and beyond”.— FootballScoop Staff (@footballscoop) November 30, 2013
I tend to think this was Eichorst's way of letting everyone know that he won't be making this decision (publicly) until after Nebraska's bowl game.
VIDEO: If you've got a high school playoff game today, you'll want to see this
The Shawnee Mission East Lancers will play for the Kansas Class 6A championship on Saturday. As you'd expect, they created a motivational video to give the team that extra oomph it takes to bring home a state title.
This video starts pretty slow, picks up in the middle and then hits high gear at the end. Trust us, you'll want to stick around for the entire thing.