It was Championship Week in college football, so which coaches delivered championship efforts on Saturday? Find out here in our FootballScoop Coaches of the Week.
Head Coach of the Week - Nick Saban, Alabama: Saban's team survived a rip roaring, record-breaking SEC Championship with a 32-28 win over Georgia and now sits on the precipice of history. The Crimson Tide were far from perfect on Saturday (see: special teams) but in the end they were five yards better than Georgia. Alabama came out on top of a game that set an SEC Championship record with six lead changes but after falling behind 21-10 in the third quarter, it was Alabama that scored 22 of the game's final 29 points. Saban's decision to go for two after T.J. Yeldon's 10-yard touchdown run loomed extremely large as it forced Georgia to need a touchdown on the game's final drive rather than a field goal. That one extra point is what caused the Bulldogs to run out of time at the doorstep of the goal line.
Offensive Staff of the Week - Wisconsin: Doug Nussmeier called a great game for Alabama, but Wisconsin's night in the Big Ten Championship can not be ignored. Matt Canada's offense compiled 63 points and 640 yards in a 70-31 thrashing of Nebraska. The Badgers ran 50 times for a mind-boggling 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Melvin Gordon ran nine times for 216 yards (24 yards per carry!) and a touchdown, Montee Ball pounded out 21 rushes for 202 yards and two scores, and James White rushed 15 times for 109 yards and four touchdowns. When they needed to throw, three Wisconsin passers combined to complete 8-of-10 attempts for 101 yards and a touchdown. In all, Wisconsin snapped the ball 60 times and averaged 10.7 yards per play and scored a touchdown on nearly 15 percent of their plays.
Defensive Staff of the Week - Florida State: In his final outing as Florida State's defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops orchestrated a masterpiece. The Seminoles held Georgia Tech to 183 yards on 52 carries (3.52 yards per carry), their second-worst output of the season, and 5-of-16 passing for 118 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Karlos Williams' interception with with one minute to go ended Georgia Tech's last gasp drive and sealed the ACC championship for Florida State. Stoops' unit also played solid red zone defense, holding the Yellow Jackets to two field goals and one touchdown in three trips. Stoops will now move on to assume the head coaching position at Kentucky, but his closing act sent Florida State to its first Orange Bowl since the 2005 season.
Special Teams Unit of the Week - Georgia: A hat tip must be given to Tulsa for returning a punt for a touchdown and blocking a field goal and extra point in their 33-27 overtime win over Central Florida, but Georgia was clearly the best special teams unit of the week. Georgia opened the second quarter with a fake punt pass from punter Arthur Lynch to cornerback Sanders Commings for 16 yards on 4th and 10. The play got Georgia inside the Alabama red zone, and two snaps later the Bulldogs had a 7-0 lead. Then, with Georgia leading 14-10 with just over 6:30 to go in the third quarter, Alec Ogletree returned a blocked field goal 55 yards for a touchdown to put Mark Richt's team up by 11 points.
Call of the Week - Nick Saban, Alabama: It was mentioned above, but deserves further explanation here. After T.J. Yeldon rumbled in from 10 yards out at the 4:19 mark of the third quarter, Saban chose to go for two trailing 21-16. The Crimson Tide was in the midst of a second half feeding frenzy after Yeldon had rushed four times for 47 yards on the drive. Saban gambled that his offensive line could get him two-and-a-half more yards, and he was correct. That extra point was crucial after Georgia drove all the way to the Alabama eight-yard line with 15 seconds left. With no timeouts, the Bulldogs couldn't just spike the ball, send in their field goal unit and play for overtime. Aaron Murray had to throw, and linebacker C.J. Moseley's tipped pass landed in the arms of Georgia receiver Chris Conley in bounds at the five-yard line, essentially ending the game and sending the Tide to Miami.
Ask coaches around the country where Todd Grantham stands among college footballs defensive coordinators and you'll get a consistent message. He's one of the best in the business.
With the Bulldog defense going up against Alabama and Grantham's former colleague Nick Saban (from their time together at Michigan State days) in the SEC title game tomorrow night, there's no question that Grantham will have his work cut out for him.
During a press conference yesterday, Saban noted that Grantham would rank righ up there among the best assistants that he has ever had on staff. Considering the Saban coaching tree, that's some elite company.
Grantham admits that much of his philosophy and preparation stem from what he learned during his time under Saban, including their vision of "big people beat up little people" when football boils down to its essence, and the best thing about working under Saban is that he allows his assistant to focus on coaching.
"My whole thing is matchups. How can we get the mismatch in the rush. You are trying to get your best player on their weakest link on offense." Grantham explained.
"Little people can't block big people,. When you have big people, you don't have to commit all your defensive backs to the run game. You can play what I call a seven-and-a-half-man box. You got the extra half guy in the secondary because your guys up front can seal off gaps and hold the point."
"Big people beat up little people. It's why there are weight classifications in boxing."
Good point coach.
Like most of the country, we're really looking forward to tomorrow's game between the two close friends and former colleagues. March Richt and the Bulldogs have won numerous close games, and had just one slip this season (a 35-7 loss to South Carolina) so you can expect the Bulldogs to be as prepared for the big stage as they've ever been. It should be a good one.
Steve Spurrier can match an SEC record set by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant with a win on Saturday. A win over Wofford will be Spurrier's 64th at South Carolina, tying him with Rex Enright for the school record.
Spurrier is already the all-time winningest coach in Florida history with 122 victories, so, according to the Charleston Post and Courier, a win Saturday would join him with Bryant as the only coaches in SEC history to be the all-time wins leaders at two different schools.
Bryant won 60 games at Kentucky from 1946-53 and led Alabama to 232 victories from 1958-82.
Spurrier is still well behind Bryant for the all-time SEC wins record, but with 185 victories Spurrier will likely pass John Vaught of Ole Miss (190 wins) for fourth place and could close in on Dan McGuin of Vanderbilt (197 wins) for third place. Spurrier is 16 wins behind Vince Dooley for second place all-time. Bryant's record of 292 wins remains safe; Bryant also won 25 games at current SEC school Texas A&M, but the Aggies were, of course, members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference at the time.
Spurrier and Bryant are also the only SEC coaches to win more than 110 conference games. With 116 victories, the Old Ball Coach needs 43 more wins to catch the Bear.
Coaches commonly tell their players to play hurt and fight through pain to help their team. Georgia head coach Mark Richt is leading his team by example as he fights through a hip injury that he has battled for two decades.
Richt reluctantly told reporters how he injured his hip: in a swing set demonstration gone wrong. Here, in his own words, is how it happened.
“I was trying to show (my wife) what a good swinger I was,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was swinging really high on a big heavy swing set with those big heavy chains. Sometimes if you go super high, on the way back you get a little bit of that lag. You've got those big S-hooks on top, and you’re swinging, and I swung enough to where the one on the left came out. So it comes out, but I didn't know. I’m still on the swing. So when I come back down, the chain on [on the right] stayed taut and the other one just goes. I turned sideways and the first thing that hits the ground is my left hip. Just smashed it.
“It was traumatic. I mean, when I hit I was like, ‘I think I broke it.’ I couldn't hardly breathe. Sometimes with an injury like that you get a full-body sweat and a little nauseous. But the pain kind of went away and I went about my business, until about a year and a half ago.”
Richt re-injured the hip doing p90x. He fought through the pain until finally consulting his doctors, who told him he could have the hip replaced when the pain became too much.
The coach kept the injury quiet until athletics director Greg McGarity was told recently when he tried to schedule off-season meetings with Richt.
With the Bulldogs on the verge of winning their second straight SEC East title, expect Richt to coach through the pain for a little bit longer.
Plenty mof great performances were turned in throughout the country yesterday, but these coaches' work stood above the rest to win our Coaches of the Week.
Head Coach of the Week - Mark Richt, Georgia: Considering the way his team entered Saturday's game, and the way Georgia's 17-9 win over Florida was played (nine turnovers, 24 penalties), Mark Richt must feel like Andy Dufresne after he crawled through Shawshank's sewer system and came out clean on the other side. Georgia entered Saturday on a three-game stretch in which, sandwiched around a 28-point loss to South Carolina, the Bulldogs had beaten Tennessee and Kentucky (combined SEC wins: zero) by a total of 12 points. None of that mattered, however, as Richt's team managed to win a game in which it threw three first half interceptions, committed 14 penalties, missed a field goal and nullified a successful onside kick with an offsides flag. The Bulldogs won by forcing six turnovers of their own, erasing Florida's power running game (two yards per carry on 41 attempts) and bookending the scoring with opportunitstic touchdown drives.
Georgia now stands in a position where wins over Ole Miss and Auburn (combined SEC wins: two) will send the Bulldogs to Atlanta in early December for the second year in a row.
Offensive Staff of the Week - Kent State: The Golden Flashes not only got their first win over an AP Top 25 opponent in school history on Saturday, they did it going away by smashing Rutgers, 35-23. Rutgers came into Saturday surrendering just 11.3 points per game, a mark which Darrell Hazell's team bested by the 13:21 mark of the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Brian Rock and offensive line coach Chris Bache's game plan was simple - just do what you do. For the fourth time this season the Golden Flashes topped 200 rushing yards, carrying 50 times for 224 yards and achieving 14 first downs by rush. Mixed with seven turnovers forced by the Kent State defense, Hazell's team was able to occupy the ball for more than 37 minutes on Saturday.
"We came on the road against a very tough opponent," Hazell said. "We knew they were going to be tough, and they did a great job prior to playing us. I thought our kids prepared like crazy this week." The win gives Kent State its first six-game winning streak in 72 years and moves Hazell's squad one step closer to its first bowl appearance since 1972.
Defensive Staff of the Week - Notre Dame: This isn't the first time Bob Diaco and co. have won the Defensive Staff of the Week in FootballScoop's short history of weekly coaching awards, and if the Fighting Irish continue to play like they did Saturday night it certainly won't be the last. Once again Notre Dame forced an opponent into its worst offensive outing of the season by way of sure tackling, stifling red zone defense and timely turnovers. All three ingredients were prevalent in Notre Dame's 30-13 win over Oklahoma. The Irish secondary surrendered the short stuff to the Oklahoma passing game but never let anything get behind them and limited yards after the catch. "We were going to give up yards to keep the points down," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "We could not let the points get out of reach for us. This was the first time we showed we could … put some points on the board. But we could not have won this football game if the points got up in the numbers that were probably out of reach for our offense."
As a result, Oklahoma threw for 356 yards but needed 51 attempts to get there. Notre Dame shut down the OU running game, holding the Sooners to 15 yards on 24 carries, in limiting them to season lows in points, rushing yards and total yards. Notre Dame forced field goals in two of Oklahoma's three red zone trips and, protecting a 20-13 lead late in the fourth quarter, produced a timely interception when linebacker Manti Te'o snagged a deflected ball at the Oklahoma 45-yard line. Six plays later Notre Dame put the game out of reach with a 46-yard field goal.
Special Teams Staff of the Week - North Carolina: It's unclear why N.C. State punted to Giovani Bernard, the nation's leading punt returner, with the game tied 35-35 in the waning seconds before overtime. What is clear is that overtime never happened because Bernard took the punt 74 yards for a score to give North Carolina a 43-35 win. The return was much more than just Bernard - watch below how good his blocking is as he runs behind a wall down the right sideline. But before Bernard ever had a chance to win the game, Tar Heels kicker Casey Barth had to hit a 34-yard field goal with 1:24 left to play to knot the score at 35-35 in the first place. North Carolina punter Thomas Hibbard also had an excellent day with nine punts for a net average of 41.1 yards with a long of 60 and three kicks pinned inside the 20-yard line.
Call of the Week - Mack Brown and Bryan Harsin, Texas: Texas was a quarter away from being the first Big 12 team to lose to Kansas since 2010, and the first current Big 12 team to fall to the Jayhawks since Iowa State in 2009, when Brown inserted backup quarterback Case McCoy to spark the Longhorns to a 21-17 win. McCoy didn't do much in his first drive as Texas ran all nine plays of its 84-yard drive to tie the game at 14-14 with 9:41 to go. After Kansas used a seven-minute drive to reclaim the lead at 17-14, McCoy came alive. He hit five passes in a row, including an 18-yard gain on fourth-and-six and a 39-yard connection to get Texas to the KU three-yard line, before Harsin dialed up a play-action lob where McCoy found tight end D.J. Grant alone in the corner of the end zone on third-and-goal with 12 seconds to play to seal the win.
Another full slate of college football action is now just a mere hours away. What matchups stand out to us on the final college football Saturday of October? Here's nine games that we'll be keeping our eyes on throughout the day.
Florida vs. Georgia (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS): Florida has won 18 of the last 22 in this series, and win No. 19 will lock in a trip to Atlanta in December for Will Muschamp's team. Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease will test Georgia's 72nd-ranked run defense early and often; the Gators have run the ball 319 teams this season and thrown it just 134 times. Georgia will look to turn around an unimpressive three-game stretch that includes a 35-7 loss to South Carolina and two wins by a total of 12 points over Tennessee and Kentucky (combined SEC record: 0-9).
Texas Tech at Kansas State (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX): It's pretty safe to say not many people saw this as a battle for Big 12 supremacy this preseason. The teams that combined to knock West Virginia out of any title conversations square off with first place on the line. Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville's reputation as a giant killer preceeds him, according to blogger Matt Hinton, Tubberville is 7-4 versus top 5 opponents since 2000. Texas Tech, which boasts the Big 12's top defense statistically, meets the conference's most diverse attack: quarterback Collin Klein is the second-most efficient passer in the nation while also rushing for 14 scores, and tailback John Hubert has four 100-yard games on the year. Meanwhile, Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege meets the Big 12's leading pass efficiency defense fresh off a whitewashing of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith (season-low 143 passing yards, two interceptions).
Duke at Florida State (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Saturday's Duke-Florida State game featues a team in control of its own destiny to win the ACC championship, and Florida State. Yes, it is Duke that is alone in first place of the ACC's Coastal Divison, while Florida State needs to win out and a Clemson loss to win the ACC's Atlantic Division. The Blue Devils clinched their first bowl appearance since 1994 with last week's 33-30 win over North Carolina, but to achieve more than that David Cutcliffe's team will need to find a way to slow down the ACC's most statistically-sound team. Jimbo Fisher's squad leads the ACC in nine categories including total offense, scoring offense, total defense and scoring defense.
USC at Arizona (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2): Pac-12 South leading USC travels to Tucson to face 4-3 (1-3 Pac-12) Arizona in what figures to be an easy Trojans win, right? Not exactly. Behind Rich Rodriguez's fifth-ranked total offense, Arizona is the 13th best team in college football according to Football Outsiders' F/+ rankings, six spots ahead of USC. The Wildcats have played better than their record indicates, after close losses to Stanford and Oregon State, Arizona is fresh off a 52-17 pounding of Washington. After losing its conference opener at Stanford, Lane Kiffin's team has feasted on the lower rungs of the Pac-12 standings with wins over California, Utah, Washington and Colorado (combined Pac-12 record: 4-13).
TCU at Oklahoma State (3:30 p.m. ET, FSN): Perhaps Mike Gundy and Gary Patterson can console each other on the hard luck each staff has been dealt at the quarterback position. After redshirt freshman quarterback J.W. Walsh ably stepped in for opening-day starter Wes Lunt, accounting for 461 yards of total offense in a win over Iowa State last week, before he was lost for the season with a knee injury. Oklahoma State will either turn back to Lunt, a true freshman, or to third-string quarterback Clint Chelf. On the opposite sideline, redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin continues to improve as TCU's newly-minted starting quarterback. Boykin threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns in his third start on Saturday versus Texas Tech. Like the majority of games pitting the Big 12's middle class, expect a down-to-the-wire outcome with both teams reaching the mid-30's.
Ohio State at Penn State (5:30 p.m., ESPN): Technically, this is the most meaningless game on the Big Ten schedule in 2012. Or, depending on what you read, it could be the most meaningful college football game played this year. This game could wind up deciding the Big Ten Coach of the Year, as both first year coaches' fingerprints are evident through the improvements each quarterback has shown from 2011. Bill O'Brien's has completely transformed Nittany Lions quarterback Matt McGloin, improving the senior's 2011 totals (1,571 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions) through just seven games. McGloin leads the Big Ten with 1,788 passing yards while tossing 14 scores against just two picks. His counterpart, Ohio State sophomore Braxton Miller, places second in the conference with 2,349 yards of total offense and ranks second among all FBS quarterbacks with 959 rushing yards.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma (8 p.m. ET, ABC): Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly stated earlier this week he wants his program to emulate the success that Oklahoma has enjoyed under Bob Stoops. His team can start with a win in Norman on Saturday night. The closer and more low-scoring this game plays the more it will benefit Notre Dame. Oklahoma teams tend to pounce early on any displays of weakness but can fold in a 60 minute boxing match. After going a solid half-decade without losing in Norman, Oklahoma has lost two of its last six home games. Both losses contained a minus-2 turnover margin for the Sooners, good news for Notre Dame and it's plus-9 turnover balance. Notre Dame needs to improve on its 43 percent third-down conversion rate to keep Oklahoma's explosive offense on the sideline.
Michigan at Nebraska (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2): The Big Ten's most-explosive offense hosts the league's most sneaky-good defense in a game that could ultimately decide the Big Ten's Legends Division title. Nebraska leads the Big Ten and ranks among college football's top dozen offenses in yards gained (512.4 per game, 6.9 per play) and scoring (41.6 points per game) faces a Michigan team that arrives in Lincoln quiety riding a three-game winning streak. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison's unit has held its last five opponents to 13 points or less and checks in at No. 10 nationally in total defense (277.1 yards per game, 4.4 yards per play).
Mississippi State at Alabama (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN): Both of these teams have benefitted from back-loaded schedules to arrive at this game with a 7-0 record. Only one of these teams has something to prove, however, and it's not the Crimson Tide. Mississippi State hasn't beaten Alabama since Nick Saban's first season and has scored 10 combined points through the first three quarters of the past four meetings. Fortunately for Dan Mullen, his team excells at the best ingredient to creating an upset - Mississippi State leads the nation in turnover margin. But unforunately for Mullen, Alabama checks in just two spots behind Mississippi State in the national rankings.