NCF Nation: weekend-rewind-111411

Weekend rewind: Pac-12

November, 14, 2011
Taking stock of the 11th week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Oregon took care of business at Stanford with a 53-30 win and has re-emerged as a national title contender. It defeated a top-five team on the road for the first time in school history and won its 19th consecutive conference game.

[+] EnlargeOregon
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireWith a big win against Stanford, the Oregon Ducks are in the running for the national title.
Best game: The only Pac-12 game that was undecided in the fourth quarter was Washington State's 37-27 upset win over Arizona State. The Sun Devils twice drove inside the Cougars 10-yard line in the fourth quarter and ended up with no points on either possession, turning the ball over on downs once and missing a chip shot field goal the second time.

Biggest play: On a fourth and 7 from the Stanford 41-yard line, with Oregon up 15-9 in the second quarter, Ducks QB Darron Thomas dumped a pass to true freshman De'Anthony Thomas, who scooted through the flailing Cardinal secondary 41 yards for a touchdown. That was the moment when you saw how Oregon's speed advantage was going to tax -- big time -- the Cardinal defense.

Offensive standout (s): Washington State's redshirt freshman QB Connor Halliday came off the bench and threw for 494 yards and four TDs in the win over Arizona State. He completed 27 of 36 passes with no interceptions. His yardage total was the best in conference history for a freshman and just 37 yards shy of Alex Brink's school record of 531 yards set against Oregon State in 2005.

Colorado RB Rodney Stewart, playing with a sprained ankle, rushed 24 times for 181 yards and three touchdowns, caught two passes for 23 yards, and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to QB Tyler Hansen in the Buffs 48-29 win over Arizona, the program's first Pac-12 victory.

Defensive standout (s): USC DE Nick Perry had 2.5 sacks in the 40-17 win over Washington, and Utah CB Conroy Black grabbed two interceptions in the 31-6 win over UCLA -- the second of which he returned 67 yards for a touchdown.

Special teams standout (s): Arizona State's Jamal Miles returned the opening kickoff at Washington State 95 yards for a touchdown, while USC's Marqise Lee returned a kickoff 88 yards for a TD against Washington.

Smiley face: Oregon's effort at Stanford was brilliant in just about every way: Outstanding plans on both sides of the ball executed about as well as plans can be executed.

Frowny face: Does anyone want to win the South Division? UCLA gift wrapped a huge opportunity for Arizona State to re-take control, but the Sun Devils flopped in the chill of Pullman. And now Sun Devils coach Dennis Erickson's job might be in jeopardy.

Thought of the week: The North should secede from the Pac-12 union. At least this year. South teams have been dreadful, other than USC, which isn't eligible to win the title due to NCAA sanctions. Arizona State and UCLA, the two frontrunners, are a combined 2-8 on the road this year. Yeesh.

Questions for the week: What might a USC upset at Oregon mean? For one, it wouldn't upset the Pac-12 apple cart, other than eliminating the Ducks from the national championship hunt. Oregon would still go to the Rose Bowl if it won out -- Civil War with Oregon State and Pac-12 championship game -- and Stanford would still be favored for an at-large berth in the Fiesta Bowl. But it would give Trojans coach Lane Kiffin a landmark win and Trojans fans plenty to cackle about. And it certainly would provide the program momentum as it heads forward with scholarship reductions.

Weekend rewind: SEC

November, 14, 2011
Even when the temperatures start to dip, it’s always hot somewhere in the SEC.

Then again, maybe not.


Alabama’s defense: The more you watch Alabama play defense, the more you realize what a headache it is to move the ball and score points against those guys. The way the Crimson Tide tackle on defense has also been known to cause a few headaches. Their 24-7 win over Mississippi State last week was the 11th straight time dating back to last season that they’d held an opponent to 14 or fewer points. The last FBS team to go an entire season without allowing more than 14 points in any game was Oklahoma in 1974. The Sooners won the national championship that year with an 11-0 record, allowing an average of 8.4 points per game. Alabama is allowing an average of 7.1 points through 10 games this season and has given up just two touchdowns in its last five games.


Arkansas’ special teams: Bobby Petrino brought in veteran coach John L. Smith a couple of years ago to upgrade the Hogs’ special teams, and that’s been one of the best moves Petrino has made. They’ve been excellent in the kicking game all season with five special-teams touchdowns. Joe Adams returned his third punt for a touchdown last week in the 49-7 rout of Tennessee, a 60-yard gem that saw him break six tackles.


Tennessee’s second-half offense: Not only have the Vols lost all six of their SEC games this season, but they’ve now gone five straight games without scoring a single point in the second half. In their six SEC games, they’ve been outscored 118-22 in the second half.

[+] EnlargeZac Stacy
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesRB Zac Stacy is one Commodore who has embraced the attitude of coach James Franklin.

Vanderbilt running back Zac Stacy: The Commodores’ junior running back is making a bid to become the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1995. He had 135 yards and three touchdowns last week in the 38-8 win over Kentucky and now has 891 yards on the season. He’s hit the 125-yard mark four different times this season.


Florida’s offense: The Gators were hard to watch on offense last season. It’s been like watching the same horror movie all over again this season, only with different coaches. Charlie Weis’ track record speaks for itself, but the Gators don’t do much of anything well right now on offense. In five of their past six games, their offense has been held to 13 or fewer points.


Western Division race: Arkansas looks like it means business, which could really heat things up two weeks from now. Should Alabama, Arkansas and LSU all finish in a three-way tie, it’s going to be mighty interesting to see how those BCS standings on Nov. 27 shake out.


This week’s schedule: Talk about a weak slate of games. Obviously, SEC commissioner Mike Slive put out some type of secret memo allowing teams to schedule scrimmages in Week 12. Come on, the marquee game is Mississippi State at Arkansas. Check out some of the opponents this week -- Samford, The Citadel, Georgia Southern and Furman.


Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo: The Bulldogs’ free safety is having a terrific junior season and now leads the SEC with seven interceptions. He picked off a pass last week against Auburn and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown.


Auburn’s pass defense: It’s a good thing for the Tigers that Georgia quit throwing in the second half, or Aaron Murray might have had 10 touchdown passes. Auburn looked utterly defenseless against the pass in its embarrassing 45-7 loss to Georgia, which is hard to figure when you consider that the Tigers had two weeks to get ready for the game.


Ole Miss: Offensive coordinator David Lee called last week’s 27-7 loss to Louisiana Tech a “living nightmare,” and he said he was speaking for the offense. He might as well have been talking about this entire season for the Rebels, who’ve lost five straight games and are in danger of becoming the first Ole Miss team since 1946 to win just two games in a season. The defense, despite some crippling injuries, has done its best to hold up, but the Rebels have been a disaster on offense. It’s a tough way for Houston Nutt and his staff to go out, but the reality is that the Rebels have struggled to even be competitive this season. Their average margin defeat in their current five-game losing streak is 21 points.

Weekend rewind: Big 12

November, 14, 2011
Time for our weekly look back at the weekend that was in the Big 12.

Best offensive player: Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State. This was a close one, but Klein made a ton of plays late in a tight game and again erased a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead. He finished with 384 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in a 53-50, four-overtime victory over Texas A&M. A&M forced him into pressure throws late; Klein made them. Honorable mention: Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State; Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Best defensive player: Elliot Coffey, LB, Baylor. Coffey picked off two passes, made a tackle for loss and had 10 tackles. Honorable mention: Damontre Moore, LB, Texas A&M

Best game: Kansas State 53, Texas A&M 50 (4OT). This was the best game of the year and one of the best in Big 12 history. K-State erased deficits of 14 and 10 points and both teams made a handful of huge plays in overtime, including an unbelievable, game-extending touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Uzoma Nwachukwu. It wasn't enough, though, and Klein beat the Aggies in 4OT with a predictable, yet unstoppable QB sneak.

[+] EnlargeBradley McDougald
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerBradley McDougald and Kansas saw their first Big 12 victory in more than a year slip away against Baylor.
Best team performance: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys eviscerated Texas Tech on the road, handing the Red Raiders the worst loss in school history, a 66-6 laugher that could have been even worse. Texas Tech's only points came on a fumble return. Good grief, OSU. Don't hurt 'em!

Best guest: Sal Giunta. As part of the Wounded Warrior Project, Giunta was an honorary captain for the Red Raiders. Very cool scene before the game, too, when Tech and the Lubbock Homes for Heroes charity presented a mortgage-free home to soldier Louis Flores. Giunta was the first living veteran since Vietname to receive the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in the armed forces. He rescued several of his squad members in Afghanistan.

Worst quarter: Kansas' fourth quarter. KU looked on the verge of its first conference win ... until it wasn't. RG3 evaporated a 24-3 fourth-quarter deficit with three long touchdowns and forced overtime, where the Bears won it after a missed 2-point conversion to win it for Kansas.

Worst guest: The injury bug. Seriously, this is getting out of hand. Big 12 talents are having big issues staying healthy. Saturday, it was Missouri running back Henry Josey and Texas back Fozzy Whittaker with awful-looking knee injuries. Terrible.

Worst half: Texas Tech. Even Kansas did better against Oklahoma State. In Stillwater, the Jayhawks trailed, 56-7 and took a 7-0 lead to start the game. Tech? It started with a three-and-out and trailed 49-0 at halftime. Ugly.

Worst self-parody: Texas A&M. I mean, at this point, the jokes are beyond old. Four times this year, Texas A&M has lost double digit leads in the second half, and long after the jokes have gone stale, the Aggies are still losing games late. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. If anyone really knew, it'd be fixed by now. This team just hasn't been able to make plays late.

Worst-sounding injury: Tyler Lockett, WR/KR, Kansas State. Lockett, one of the league's most dangerous return men, is out for the season with a lacerated kidney. Good grief, how does that happen playing football? Don't think I've ever heard of that. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel suffered a "lacerated groin" last week, but that's maybe the only injury I've ever heard of that sounds worse. Here's hoping Lockett's OK long-term.

Worst trip home: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had plane troubles, and got stuck on a plane and in the Lubbock airport for several hours before making it home to Stillwater. Despite leaving the stadium sometime around 3:30, the C0wboys didn't make it back home until 10:30 and had a pretty boring rough afternoon. That's about all that went wrong for them on Saturday, though.

Worst play: Texas Tech's kick return team. Two return men failed to retain possession, and four seconds after going down 28-0, Josh Stewart recovered the loose ball in the end zone to put OSU up 35-0. Not good, Red Raiders.

Biggest guts: Turner Gill, Kansas. Gill's guts didn't pay off, but it was the right call to try and beat Baylor with one play in overtime. Calling timeout before the two-point conversaion probably wasn't the best move, but KU was so, so close to the win. Gotta go get it when you can. Kansas almost did.

Weekend Rewind: Big East

November, 14, 2011
Time to take a look back at the Big East in Week 11 before moving on to Week 12.

[+] EnlargeMohamed Sanu
Richard Mackson/US PresswireRutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu has 94 catches and counting this season.
The good: If you like parity, you love the Big East. Six teams have a shot for either an outright or shared conference title with three weeks left. That might be good for fans of those teams -- Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers, Louisville, Pitt and UConn -- but not so much for national respect. The Big East has no teams in the latest BCS standings, while the Mountain West and Conference USA have two each. ... West Virginia has had major problems with its special teams all season, but its much-maligned unit came up with the play of the day in a 24-21 win against Cincinnati. Eain Smith blocked the potential game-tying 31-yard field goal with no time left, giving him the first field goal block of his career. It also was the first time since 2004 that West Virginia blocked a field goal in the game. Geno Smith was his usual terrific self, throwing for 372 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Smith tied a Big East record with his seventh 300-yard game of the season, matching Brian Brohm of Louisville in 2007. Even though Cincinnati lost, the Bearcats had a season-high 18 tackles for loss in the game. ... Rutgers receiver Mohamed Sanu broke the Big East record for single-season receptions and now has 94 and counting. Sanu is ranked second nationally in receptions (9.4 rpg), trailing only Jordan White of Western Michigan (11.0 rpg). Meanwhile, the Scarlet Knights recorded their sixth non-offensive touchdown of the season after getting a touchdown off a blocked punt. ... Pitt beat Louisville 21-14 for its first road win of the season. The Panthers had been 0-2 going into the game. The win also was the first of the season when they scored fewer than 35 points. Receiver Devin Street has now posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games. ... USF broke its four-game Big East losing streak with a 31-17 win against Syracuse. Eleven different receivers caught a pass in the game, and the Bulls had eight tackles for a loss as they put together their most complete effort of the season.

The bad: Cincinnati took double blows on Saturday, losing the game and starting quarterback Zach Collaros, now out for the season with a broken right ankle. Bearcats fans can look to 2009 to keep their hopes up, when Collaros had to start the season while starter Tony Pike recovered from an arm injury. Cincinnati made the BCS that season. ... What has gone wrong in Syracuse? The Orange dropped their third straight game and have somehow forgotten how to score. After putting up 49 points on West Virginia, Syracuse has scored a combined 48 points in its past three games. ... Louisville also saw its three-game wining streak stopped after another subpar performance from the offense. The Cardinals appeared to be turning a corner, especially in their past two games, in which they had scored 14 points in each of the first quarters. In a loss to Pitt, they managed 14 points the entire game, the sixth time this season they have failed to score 20 or more points. In those six games, Louisville is 1-5. The defense also gave up a season-high 200 yards rushing, to a team missing its best player in Ray Graham.

Milestone watch

Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia. Bailey had his seventh 100-yard game of the season in a win against Cincinnati, pushing him over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Bailey has 1,037 yards on the season.

Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse. Lemon had 10 receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns against USF, giving him 336 receiving yards in the past two games. He is the first Syracuse player to register back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Taj Smith in 2007.

Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati. Pead now has 3,095 career rushing yards, ranking third on the school's all-time list.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse. Nassib has completed 217 passes this season, breaking his own single-season school record of 202, set last year.

Week 12 schedule

Cincinnati at Rutgers, noon, ESPNU

Louisville at UConn, noon, Big East Network

Miami at USF, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

November, 14, 2011
It's time to take a look back at the weekend that was in Landover, Md., where the Irish notched their third consecutive victory.

The Good: Notre Dame played its most complete offensive game of the year Saturday, beating Maryland 45-21. The Irish notched more than 500 yards of total offense for the fifth time in 10 games this season, jumping out to a 17-0 lead early and never looking back. The victory — along with several other dominoes falling into place — has the Irish ranked for the first time since the season began.

[+] EnlargeLo Wood
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireLo Wood's 57-yard interception-return touchdown was the turning point against Maryland.
The Bad: Time to nitpick, and in this case the offensive line (and Tommy Rees) are the unlucky recipients of an extra big microscope in a week the Irish left little to complain about offensively. Still, Notre Dame surrendered three sacks Saturday after not allowing a single one in its last five games. The Irish had allowed just five sacks on the season prior to Saturday.

The Ugly: Maryland's uniforms? Or the Terrapins' play? Tough call here, though watching quarterback Danny O'Brien's season come to an early end because of a broken bone in his upper left arm added injury to insult.

Turning point: Inserted for Robert Blanton (stinger), cornerback Lo Wood came up with a 57-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, the Irish's second third-quarter score, to make it 38-7. It probably would not have been much of a competitive game anyway, but this one sealed the deal with plenty of time remaining.

Call of the day: Jonas Gray punched it in from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal in the final minute of the first half, making it 24-7 Irish at the half. Sure, it's not that difficult to gain a yard (or have faith in your team to), but Maryland had just scored on the previous possession to cut the lead to 10, and a Terrapins stop there could have changed the momentum of the game.

Next up: Notre Dame's next challenge after beating a two-win Maryland team will be beating a three-win Boston College team. The Eagles are coming off a 14-10 win over North Carolina State, their second victory in three games. Keep an eye on linebacker Luke Kuechly, who could finish this season as the leading tackler in the FBS for the second consecutive season. Saturday will also be Senior Day at Notre Dame Stadium.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 14, 2011
Team of the week: Purdue. By beating Ohio State for the second straight time at home, the Boilermakers put themselves in position to make a bowl game for the first time since 2007 if they can beat either Iowa or Indiana in the final two weeks. Shoutouts to Nebraska for winning in a tough environment and Michigan State for exorcising its road demons as well.

[+] EnlargeRobert Marve
Sandra Dukes/US PresswireRobert Marve and Purdue moved to 5-5 overall with a 26-23 overtime victory over Ohio State.
Game of the week: Purdue 26, Ohio State 23. Just by going into overtime, this one would have taken the honors. There was much drama at the end, as the Buckeyes scored with 55 seconds left on a spectacular play by Braxton Miller, who hurdled prone center Mike Brewster while avoiding pressure before finding Jordan Hall across the field for a touchdown. Purdue had a chance to get within field goal range at the end of regulation but threw an ill-advised interception. A big sack by Dwayne Beckford and a tackle just before the sticks by Ricardo Allen put Ohio State at 4th and 1 on the Purdue 16 in the first overtime possession. Luke Fickell played it safe with the field goal instead of relying on his powerful running game to get one yard. That didn't work, and it might cost Fickell his job.

Biggest play: Lavonte David's stop of Silas Redd on 4th and 1 from the Penn State 37 with 1:49 left. The Nittany Lions trailed 17-14 and had all the momentum after scoring two touchdowns to get back in it, and they handed the ball to their best player on the game's biggest play. But Nebraska's star defender was better and made a great, everything-he-had tackle. That play was an illustration of why David is the Big Ten's best linebacker.

Best calls: Michigan State led 31-7 in the third quarter, but Mark Dantonio wouldn't take his foot off the gas. He called for a reverse pass, which Keshawn Martin completed for a 28-yard gain, and later in the drive the Spartans pulled off a fake field goal. You could say the plays didn't mean that much because Michigan State still ended up with just three points on that drive, and Iowa stormed back for two straight touchdowns afterward, perhaps angered by the trick plays. But I loved the fact that Dantonio signaled to his team that they were going for the kill on the road, a place where the Spartans have struggled the past couple of years. They'll need that attitude to finish off the season strong and get to Indianapolis.

Best catch: If you didn't see Iowa receiver Marvin McNutt's one-handed, on-the-run catch against Michigan State, go YouTube it now. Or check out this photo illustration. It's quite likely the catch of the year from the league's top receiver.

Big Man on Campus (Offense): Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. So this guy has been pretty good, huh? He earned his third Big Ten player of the week award for his nearly-perfect performance against Minnesota, in which he completed 16-of-17 passes for 178 yards and four touchdowns. He was 13-of-13 in the first half, and his 94.1 completion percentage ranks as the fourth highest in a game in Big Ten history.

Big Men on Campus (Defense): Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short and Michigan defensive end Ryan Van Bergen. Half of Short's tackles against Ohio State were sacks, as he had a career-high three of those to help slow down the Buckeyes. It's his second weekly award of the season. Van Bergen had seven tackles, including a career-high 2.5 sacks, as Michigan held Illinois to just 37 yards rushing.

Big Men on Campus (Special teams): Nebraska's Brett Maher and Purdue's Bruce Gaston. Maher averaged 45 yards per punt on eight punts, placed five inside the 20-yard line and had a booming 61-yarder to pin Penn State deep late in the game. He also drilled a 41-yard field goal. Gaston blocked Ohio State's extra point attempt with 55 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Best moment: The midfield prayer between Penn State and Nebraska players after the coin toss. After a horrible week, this was a tremendous gesture by both sides to recognize the seriousness of the situation. I don't mind admitting I had goosebumps watching the scene unfold from the press box as the crowd of more than 107,000 fell to a hushed silence. Nebraska assistant coach Ron Brown, the former director of a statewide Fellowship of Christian Athletes, led the prayer. You can listen to what he said to the players here.

Funniest moment: After beating Minnesota to claim Paul Bunyan's Axe, Wisconsin players -- led by Nick Toon, Montee Ball and Aaron Henry -- grabbed the axe and pretended to chop down one of the Gophers' goal posts. Then they ran to the other side of the stadium and did it to the other goal post. Minnesota didn't like it, but to the victors go the spoils. You can see it at the beginning and end of this video. And take note, Iowa-Iowa State and Michigan State-Penn State: this is why you create cool trophies.

Worst hangover: This category is officially retired for the season. There's no way anything can match what happened at Penn State.

Weekend rewind: ACC

November, 14, 2011
Back and forth in the ACC:

The good: Wake Forest’s effort. Anyone watching that game knows Clemson is fortunate to have won. The Demon Deacons gave it everything they had in the 31-28 loss to the Tigers, including a 21-point third quarter. Wake Forest had a 28-14 lead in the third quarter, but the team deserves a lot of credit for pushing a top 10 team to the brink.

The bad: Injuries. Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien fractured a bone in his left arm, Duke starting offensive tackle Kyle Hill suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Virginia, and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins sprained an AC joint in his shoulder, just to name a few.

The ugly: Part I: BC’s offense in the second half. Minus two yards. Total. ‘Nuff said. Part II: Randy Edsall's jacket and Notre Dame's helmets.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
AP Photo/ Richard ShiroQB Tajh Boyd helped Clemson average more than 33 points and 440 yards per game this season.
The undefeated: Clemson finished the season undefeated at home with a 7-0 record and clinched the Atlantic Division title in the process. Not a bad day at the office for Dabo Swinney.

The streaks: Streak I: Virginia stopped its three-game losing streak to Duke. Streak II: Luke Kuechly had 18 tackles against NC State -- nine in the final 13 minutes -- for his 32nd straight game with double digits in tackles. Streak III: The Hokies have extended their ACC record to 12 straight true road wins. Virginia Tech also now has five or more ACC victories for the eighth straight regular season.

The offensive “tackle”: Late in the first half of the game at Boston College, a fan wearing a No. 40 BC jersey ran onto the field from the student section and NC State offensive tackle Rob Crisp clotheslined him. The fan got up and was taken off the field by security.

Top three games of Week 12:

North Carolina at No. 8 Virginia Tech: The Hokies are in the lead in the Coastal Division race, but North Carolina has a chance to play spoiler and help Virginia out. Virginia Tech is coming off a complete performance in its win against Georgia Tech, and with quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson playing so well, it’s going to be a big challenge for the UNC defense.

Virginia at Florida State: The Cavaliers are in a must-win situation if they’re going to challenge Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title this year. Florida State has won five straight games against ACC opponents, though, and has been playing outstanding defense.

Miami at South Florida: The Canes lost this game in overtime last year and are still trying to become bowl eligible. The Bulls are 1-4 in the Big East. Miami should be expected to win this game, but the Canes can’t afford three turnovers and nine penalties.

Weekend Rewind: Non-AQs

November, 14, 2011
Let's take a look back at the non-AQs in Week 11:

[+] EnlargeCasey Pachall
Otto Kitsinger III/Getty ImagesQB Casey Pachall and TCU stopped Boise State's 65-game regular-season home win streak en route to a third straight Mountain West title.
Boise goes down. In all the debates about Boise State last week, the questions always surrounded what had to happen for the Broncos to get into the national championship game. But one thing was taken for granted: Boise had to win out. That was a given, right? Not in the world of college football, where excruciating heartbreak has replaced unbending optimism for the second straight season in Boise. The Broncos are not only beatable, they are beatable at home. TCU proved that Saturday in a 36-35 win on the blue turf, handing Boise State its first conference loss at home since 1998. TCU and Boise State always play tight games, and this was no exception. It was first-year TCU starting quarterback Casey Pachall who made the big plays for his team, throwing for 473 yards, five touchdowns and the game-winning 2-point conversion on a defense that was without its top three cornerbacks. Boise State had its chances to win, but missed them just like last season. In a loss to Nevada, Boise State blew a 24-7 halftime lead. In the loss to TCU, Boise State had a 35-28 lead in the fourth quarter and could not hold on. Championship teams find ways to win. For two years in a row now, Boise State failed. For all the problems TCU had early in the season, the Horned Frogs are now in control of the Mountain West in their final season in the league. TCU is now 4-1 in its last five games against top-5 opponents.

If you like offense ... Houston is averaging a whopping 54.7 points a game and has scored more than 70 twice in the past three games. Is it an understatement to say the offense is really clicking with Case Keenum in charge? The thing is, the Cougars can actually run the ball, too. They showed that in a 73-17 win over Tulane, in which Charles Sims had 207 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Toledo has been involved in back-to-back shootouts in games against Northern Illinois and Western Michigan. The Rockets have both scored and given up 60-plus points. Toledo went 1-1 in those games, which featured 252 points and 2,560 yards of total offense.

Game of the week. Southern Miss 30, UCF 29. The Golden Eagles played a wild fourth quarter against defending league champion UCF. After taking a 19-9 lead early in the fourth, Southern Miss watched as UCF backup quarterback Blake Bortles led an improbable rally. Bortles threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Ronnie Weaver to put the Knights up 23-22. Southern Miss answered when Austin Davis threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Briggs to go up 30-23 with 5:52 remaining. But Bortles was not done, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Worton with no time left. Coach George O'Leary made the same decision as Gary Patterson -- he elected to go for two. But Southern Miss safety Jacorious Cotton got a hand on the pass attempt and the Golden Eagles escaped with the win.

Conference race update. Here is where things stand for the five non-AQ conferences.

Conference USA: Southern Miss (9-1, 5-1) is in control of the East. One more win clinches the division for the Golden Eagles. Houston (10-0, 6-0) and Tulsa (7-3, 6-0) are tied atop the West, setting up a huge showdown in Tulsa in the regular-season finale. If both win this weekend (Houston vs. SMU, Tulsa at UTEP), the team that comes out on top next week goes to the C-USA title game.

MAC: If Ohio (7-3, 4-2) wins out, the Bobcats go to the MAC title game. They have games remaining at Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio). If Northern Illinois (7-3, 5-1) wins out, the Huskies go back to the title game. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Toledo (6-4, 5-1).

Mountain West: TCU (8-2, 5-0) wins out against Colorado State and UNLV and wins the conference.

Sun Belt: Arkansas State (8-2, 6-0) came from behind to beat ULL 30-21 to take control of the conference race. Win out, the Red Wolves are the league champions.

WAC: Nevada (6-3, 4-0) and Louisiana Tech (6-4, 4-1) play in Reno on Saturday with the conference championship on the line. The Wolf Pack win out and win their second straight WAC title, in their final year in the league.

Helmet stickers

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU. Pachall completed 24 of 37 passes for a career-high 473 yards and five touchdowns in a 36-35 win over Boise State, snapping the Broncos' 35-game home winning streak. It was the second-highest single-game passing total in school history.

Brandon Joiner, DL, Arkansas State. Joiner tied an Arkansas State and Sun Belt Conference record with four sacks, and he also tied his personal career high with a team-best eight tackles in a 30-21 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.

Charles Sims, RB, Houston. Sims had 10 carries for 207 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Tulane.

Adonis Thomas, RB, Toledo. Thomas had 30 carries for 216 yards and two touchdowns in a 66-63 win over Western Michigan.

Taveon Rogers, WR, New Mexico State. Rogers had 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in a 48-45 win over Fresno State as the Aggies beat the Bulldogs for the first time in 18 games.

Weekend rewind: Stanford

November, 14, 2011
Before we move on to The Big Game, there is the other big game. While most Stanford fans probably want to forget about what happened Saturday night, there were still a couple of highlights worth looking back at.

Highlight reel: A really nice effort sack by defensive lineman Matt Masifilo early in the game, who tallied both of Stanford’s sacks. The stunt was nice, bringing four guys where there were only two blockers. But it was Masifilo who split the blockers and got hold of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas for a 20-yard loss. With so much talk about protecting the quarterback, I am not surprised it was called dead before the interception.

Best play: The 13-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck to Griff Whalen was a nice slant route and a nice ball by Luck splitting two defenders. Whalen put his head down and let the momentum carry him into the end zone. As good a pitch-and-catch as you'll see in college football.

Who’s hot: Whalen. On a night when it seemed no one was doing Luck any favors, Whalen caught nine of the 10 balls thrown his way for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Who’s not: Everyone else who catches a ball. The drops were horrendous -- especially coming from marquee guys not known to suffer from stony hands.

The good: Stanford is not out of the running for a BCS bowl game. Could still get to the Fiesta Bowl as an at-large team ...

The bad: ... but that's as far as they can get. The loss dropped the Cardinal out of national championship contention.