Originally Published: November 3, 2013

The new must-see title game

By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com


Sorry, Baylor, but a win over Oklahoma just won't cut it.

Apologies to Ohio State, but the undefeated Buckeyes are a casualty of the beleaguered Big Ten.

Bring on Alabama-Florida State.

Week 11 was about separation at the top, and for all of the flaws of the current BCS system, it's finding a way of working itself out yet again. With Stanford's 26-20 upset of Oregon on Thursday night and Alabama's 38-17 win over LSU, the gap between No. 2 Florida State and the rest of country became much more distinguishable.

No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State should maintain their positions when the latest BCS standings are released Sunday, and fans should only hope it stays that way through the end of the season. It's a matchup filled with potential and storylines.

Jameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Phil SearsJameis Winston is from Alabama and Jimbo Fisher used to coach under Nick Saban. It's time to reunite them with their roots.

Jimbo Fisher versus Nick Saban. Jameis Winston versus the Alabama defense. ACC versus SEC.

Fisher served as offensive coordinator under Saban at LSU. Winston is the front-runner to win the Heisman trophy, and Alabama's defense has allowed more than 10 points just twice this season -- on Saturday to LSU and in its 49-42 win over Texas A&M in Week 3. The ACC has played in the shadow of the SEC seemingly forever, but Fisher will be the first to dispute that his program has played in anyone's shadow.

Could he prove it against one of his mentors?

Could Baylor? What an offense! Against Wofford. Buffalo. Louisiana-Monroe. OK, and Oklahoma -- after trailing 5-3 early in the game. The Bears can still pad their résumés the next two weeks with games against No. 25 Texas Tech, which lost its third straight game to Kansas State on Saturday, and No. 14 Oklahoma State.

Ohio State's best wins are against Wisconsin and Northwestern, a team that isn't even ranked anymore. But hey, it still has that big game against Michigan, a team that's lost three of its past four.

For Alabama and Florida State, the rest of the season is about not screwing it up and earning some style points in the process.

The toughest games remaining on the Tide's schedule are the regular-season finale against Auburn, and the potential SEC championship game. (Read: Bama shouldn't lose again.) Florida State's biggest challenge will be winning at Florida, which just capped an abysmal four-game losing streak with a home loss to Vanderbilt, and the ACC title game (Read: FSU shouldn't lose again.)

What Baylor and Ohio State have done this fall is impressive, sure, but a win over No. 10 Oklahoma just doesn't carry as much weight as a win at then-No. 3 Clemson, or a win at then-No. 6 Texas A&M.

Alabama and Florida State have looked flat-out dominant. The Tide scored the final 21 points against LSU to break loose from a tied game in the third quarter. Florida State beat Wake Forest 59-3, and the defense forced seven turnovers. That defense is run by first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who spent the past three seasons as the secondary coach at ... Alabama.

It's time for a reunion.

Dancing with the B1G's surprise stars

By Adam Rittenberg | ESPN.com

MADISON, Wis. -- The Big Ten has been a wallflower in college football in recent years, watching from the fringes of the dance floor as other leagues twerked the night away.

While crowds gathered around the SEC, the Big Ten stood in the corner, unwanted and uncool. The league seemingly was too buttoned-up, allergic to fun and clearly lacking a slick nickname (Legends and Leaders didn't cut it). Even if the Big Ten was asked to dance, there were those age-old concerns about it keeping up. And November dance parties were out of the question. Everyone knows the Big Ten goes to sleep before 8 p.m.

But something is happening around the league. A dance party has started, and the guest list might surprise you. November is shaping up to be a lot of fun around the Big Ten.

James White and Melvin Gordon
AP Photo/Morry GashJames White and Melvin Gordon's touchdown celebration has reached viral status.

At Wisconsin, star running backs James White and Melvin Gordon have popularized a touchdown dance -- being called the "UDub Step" -- that's going viral. Green Bay Packers backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks paid homage to it earlier this week during "Monday Night Football."

White and Gordon had three more dance displays Saturday during Wisconsin's 27-17 win against BYU, as White had two rushing touchdowns and a receiving score in one of his more complete performances as a Badger.

"I love that dance," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said.

Perhaps the least likely dance took place in Minnesota's locker room after Saturday's 24-10 win against Penn State, which gave the Gophers four consecutive Big Ten victories for the first time in 40 years. Head coach Jerry Kill, making his way down from the coaches' booth, from which he has witnessed the team's entire win streak, elbowed his way through a wall of players and showed off his moves, to his team's delight.

"We're having fun now," Minnesota running back David Cobb said. "Before it was more of a job coming to work, and you didnt know if you were going to win or not, but now we expect to win. We're having fun during practice. We're having fun during the games."

Who expected Kill or the Gophers to be partying like it's 1973 four weeks ago? Minnesota seemed headed for a lost season, and Kill's coaching future was in doubt after he took a leave of absence to seek additional treatment for his epilepsy. The Gophers are one of the best -- and coolest -- stories in college football right now, as they enter an open week at 8-2 and still very much alive in the Legends division race. Their Nov. 23 game against archrival Wisconsin will be the biggest in recent team history.

To read Adam Rittenberg's full story, click here.

Jack of all trades leads UCLA in tight South

By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

TUCSON, Ariz. -- UCLA is trying to win the Pac-12 South Division championship, and it has been doing so while often playing four true freshmen on offense. So it made perfect sense Saturday on the road against division rival Arizona to take a true freshman starter on defense and hand him the football on offense in a high-pressure situation and, you know, see how things go.

It was third-and-1 on the Bruins' 34-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Arizona had just cut the Bruins' lead to five points. The Wildcats, with their home crowd juiced, had the momentum. But they had no idea they were about to get Myles Jack'ed.

Jack, the centerpiece of a new UCLA offensive package that featured several defensive players, took a handoff, got the edge, threw off a couple of Wildcats and rumbled 66 yards for the Bruins' final touchdown in a 31-26 victory.

Jack finished with 120 yards on just six carries. Oh, and he had eight tackles and a fumble recovery on defense.

"He'll be a first-round [NFL] pick as a linebacker," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We tried to recruit him as a running back."

Sometimes you've got to improvise, but improvisation is only as good as its execution. The package featuring Jack, a dominant two-way player at Bellevue (Wash.) High School last year, was devised only this week. It could have ended up as merely a quirk in the game plan, but it turned out to be the critical game-changer in a key contest that elevated the Bruins in the South race while demoting the Wildcats. They entered the game with identical records, overall and in conference play.

All the fancy stuff is fun, but it's really about winning by any means necessary. It's about survival. UCLA was one of the survivors this weekend.

To read Ted Miller's full story, click here.

Ted Miller | email

ESPN Staff Writer

Like it or not, Alabama is still the team to beat

By Chris Low | ESPN.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's Alabama versus the world, at least the college football world.

That's what happens when you win as much as the Crimson Tide have over the past five years and build a mini-dynasty.

They get sick of you.

And right now, Alabama is making everybody downright nauseous. That is, everybody who doesn't know the words to "Yea Alabama!" by heart.

Just two days after Oregon was bloodied and beaten by Stanford on the West Coast, No. 1 Alabama showed Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium that it's still the master of old-school, impose-your-will football with a 38-17 smackdown of No. 13 LSU.

Nick Saban
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesNick Saban took a brief victory lap after his team imposed its will on LSU.

As Alabama coach Nick Saban said himself, it wasn't perfect. But boy was it effective.

The second half might have been as good a half as the Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) have played all season. A nifty fake punt from their own 41 got them going on their opening possession of the second half, and from there it looked like the Alabama we've grown accustomed to seeing during the run of three national championships in the last four years.

"We didn't play a great first half, but I'll tell you ... we showed a lot of character out there in the second half, controlling the line of scrimmage the way we did," said Saban, whose club hadn't been in a close game to open the second half since winning at Texas A&M 49-42 on Sept. 14.

That was part of the knock on this Alabama team coming into Saturday's game. The Crimson Tide hadn't played anybody who had a chance of staying on the field with them, much less beating them, in more than a month.

So how good, really, is this team?

We got a much more definitive answer Saturday as T.J. Yeldon and the running game chiseled away at the LSU defense for 129 of their 193 rushing yards after halftime.

A 17-17 tie early in the third quarter gave way to three consecutive long touchdown drives by the Crimson Tide, who with the exception of the fake punt didn't do much of anything fancy. Yeldon finished with 133 rushing yards, and Alabama's offensive line reminded LSU's defense what big-boy football was all about.

To read Chris Low's full story, click here.

Chris Low | email

ESPN Senior Staff Writer

OSU's vanilla offense might need flavor

By Brandon Chatmon | ESPN.com

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Just seconds after the ball was kicked off, Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert was streaking down the sideline, poised to put the Cowboys up by one touchdown and help his squad send another message to the rest of the Big 12 with a statement win.

Well, 1-for-2 isn't bad.

No. 14 Oklahoma State hammered Kansas, 42-6, at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, but it was far from the same impressive effort that had become commonplace in the previous few weeks by the team from Stillwater. The Cowboys offense ran 70 plays for 359 yards, averaging 5.1 yards per play against the Jayhawks just days after looking like it had finally found its rhythm with Clint Chelf under center against Texas Tech and Iowa State.

"I hope not," OSU coach Mike Gundy said when asked if his squad had lost any momentum with the offensive performance against the Jayhawks.

The Cowboys' hopes of a Big 12 title could be counting on it. With Texas in Austin and Baylor at Boone Pickens Stadium looming in the next two weeks, OSU's offense will have to look much more like the squad that put up 55 points per game, 456 yards per game and 5.6 yards per play in back-to-back wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State than the group that punted on six of eight possessions during a mid-game stretch against the Jayhawks.

Yet the Cowboys could have a valid reason for the up-and-down nature of their offense Saturday. Gilbert's 100-yard kick return for touchdown to start the game coupled with a Kevin Peterson interception helped OSU take a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Pokes, quite frankly, didn't need an explosive offense against the Jayhawks so they didn't strive to have one, particularly when KU started stacking the box to stop the run.

"We were pretty vanilla," Gundy said. "We felt comfortable with our defense and their ability to play well today. We weren't as wide open as we would normally be on other Saturdays."

They'd better hope so.

To read Brandon Chatmon's full story, click here.

Week 11 Takeaways: FSU can beat Bama

By Travis Haney | ESPN.com

With a month to go in the regular season, the BCS picture might have cleared a bit in the wake of Stanford's win against Oregon.

Alabama and FSU still appear to be on another level, following two more dominating performances. Baylor and Ohio State -- and maybe Stanford, too -- are left hoping for either of the top two to slip, just like the Seminoles were hoping a week ago.

For now, we have a dream matchup for the final BCS title game: similarly constructed teams, pupils and teachers, pros all over the field, a real threat to the SEC dynasty, etc.

That's where we begin our Week 11 Takeaways, which include SEC notes from Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. I was also at USC's domination of Cal and talked beforehand with AD Pat Haden.

1. Florida State looks capable of beating Alabama in a BCS title game matchup.

The Seminoles should not be the only ones thanking Stanford; the college football world should also be appreciative. By knocking off previously undefeated Oregon, the Cardinal just might have saved us all from an evisceration similar to last year's BCS championship game.

To read Travis Haney's full story, click here Insider.

Travis Haney

ESPN Staff Writer

• Insider national college football writer since 2012
• Graduate of the University of Tennessee


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