Originally Published: November 20, 2011

Upsets clear a national title path for SEC

By Chris Low
ESPN.com

Just when the rest of the college football world couldn't possibly stomach a heavier dose of the SEC, all hell breaks loose this past weekend.

Now, it looks as though the newest BCS standings set to be released Sunday night will have a distinct SEC flavor.

Brad Edwards, ESPN's BCS standings guru, is projecting that LSU will be No. 1, Alabama No. 2 and Arkansas No. 3, which would mark the first time in the BCS era (dating back to 1998) that three teams from the same conference have occupied the top three spots.

Edwards notes that Oklahoma State is also in that equation and that it could be close between Arkansas and Oklahoma State for that No. 3 spot.

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Troy Taormina/US PresswireCase Keenum's Cougars are one of only two undefeated teams left in the nation.

Even so, the path to an all-SEC showdown in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans has never been clearer, which would guarantee a sixth consecutive national title for the league.

It all started with Oklahoma State being upset by Iowa State on Friday night, which was the Cowboys' first loss of the season. Then on Saturday, Oregon was beaten by USC, and Oklahoma lost in the final seconds at Baylor. It was the second loss of the season for both Oregon and Oklahoma, effectively ending their national title hopes.

At this point, it's just about impossible to come up with a scenario that doesn't include at least one SEC team in the national title game.

LSU (11-0, 7-0) obviously controls its own destiny. But really, so does Alabama. In fact, if the Crimson Tide (10-1, 6-1) can beat Auburn comfortably on Saturday, they might be in the best shape of anybody, especially if LSU wins Friday at Arkansas.

That's because Alabama would be just about a lock in that scenario for one of the top two spots in the final BCS standings and wouldn't have to risk another loss in the SEC championship game against Georgia.

Yes, it sounds crazy, but that's the way it looks right now.

As for Arkansas, the Hogs (10-1, 6-1) are going to have a difficult time making it to the SEC championship game unless Alabama loses to Auburn or looks shaky in beating Auburn and drops in the polls. The tiebreaker in the Western Division if all three teams finish with one loss simply doesn't favor the Hogs, because it almost certainly would get back to head-to-head competition between Arkansas and Alabama. The Crimson Tide beat the Hogs 38-14 in September.

Nonetheless, Arkansas could settle into that No. 2 spot in the final BCS standings just by winning at LSU on Friday and not going to the SEC championship game.

It would really be intriguing at that point to see how the voters in the two human polls vote. On the one hand, it's reasonable to think that a win at LSU on the final weekend of the regular season would push Arkansas ahead of LSU in the polls.

But would some voters give the Tigers the benefit of the doubt because of their overall body of work and because they were the only team to beat Alabama and did so in Tuscaloosa?

Oklahoma State is the only team really lurking that could possibly break up the SEC party at this point. The Cowboys are strong in the computers, but they also have to play Oklahoma on Dec. 3.

It was a wild weekend for sure, but the jockeying these next two weeks could be even wilder.

Something says we haven't seen the last of the upsets, either.

Kicks to remember -- or forget

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

Four little words can and did change the entire BCS picture in Week 12: wide right, wide left.

You think officials are unpopular these days?

Try waking up this morning as Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharp, whose 37-yard field goal attempt with 1:17 left in regulation against Iowa State narrowly went wide right.

Or Oregon's Alejandro Maldonado, whose 37-yard field goal as time expired against USC went -- you guessed it -- wide left.

Even No. 25-ranked Florida State couldn't shake this weekend's kicking curse, as Dustin Hopkins -- one of the most consistent kickers in the country -- missed what could have been a game-winning 42-yard field goal in a 14-13 loss to Virginia.

And don't forget the miserable misses of Boise State. In Week 11, freshman kicker Dan Goodale's 39-yard attempt sailed wide right as time expired to give TCU a 36-35 win. Been there, done that. The Broncos also saw their BCS hopes busted last year when senior Kyle Brotzman missed in regulation and overtime, and Nevada won 34-31 in OT.

These are the game- and season-defining moments that go down in history, but the misses are remembered as much as the game winners, if not more. Three of the top five teams in the BCS standings lost in Week 12, and two of those games were influenced by missed field goals. Oklahoma State, the No. 2 team in the country, had a chance to beat Iowa State in regulation on Friday, but Sharp's miss spiraled into a double-overtime loss. So long, Cowboys. All that stood between previously undefeated Oklahoma State and a spot in the national championship game was Iowa State and Oklahoma.

And a missed field goal.

Oklahoma State's loss opened the door for Oregon to move up in the BCS standings, but the Ducks were stunned by a 38-35 loss to USC in Eugene, Ore. The fourth-ranked Ducks recovered a fumble and marched right down the field to beat USC, but Maldonado -- who even had the benefit of a 5-yard penalty from USC -- hooked it to the left.

Not all of the kickers in the country, though, are hiding in their rooms this month. Miami kicker Jake Wieclaw kicked the game winner against South Florida as time expired on Saturday to boost the Canes into bowl eligibility. LSU kicker Drew Alleman probably could run for governor after his 25-yard field goal beat Alabama 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5.

Alabama, though, missed four field goals in that game.

You could argue that some of these games shouldn't have come down to field goals. Oklahoma State also committed five turnovers. Oregon had three turnovers. FSU had 11 penalties for 94 yards. Those mistakes added up to one critical moment.

For the winners like Iowa State, it will be a November to remember, but for several kickers, it will be one to forget.

Making the case for Houston

By Andrea Adelson
ESPN.com

Down goes Oklahoma State. Down goes Oregon. Down goes Oklahoma.

Which team is still standing in the race for the BCS national title game?

How about Houston?

The Cougars are one of two undefeated teams left in the nation after a 37-7 win over SMU on Saturday. In this topsy-turvy season, with favored teams losing left and right, perhaps it is time to see what a non-AQ team can do if given the opportunity to play for a national title.

That has never happened before, mainly because those outside the automatic qualifying conferences get penalized for their weaker strength of schedule. Teams like Boise State, TCU and Utah have gotten the chance to make a BCS bowl game -- and they all won -- but their undefeated seasons have never been highly regarded by those doing the voting. Computers favor teams from the stronger conferences, too.

Nobody is going to make an argument that Houston plays a schedule that is equal to that of an SEC team. But the Cougars do not have the option of joining the SEC to bump up their strength of schedule.

Houston plays its C-USA schedule and has done it in a convincing manner this season, averaging 53 points a game en route to the best season in school history.

The Cougars have scored at least 35 points in all 11 of their games this season. Among teams to play at least 10 games in a season, only the 1995 Nebraska team accomplished that feat, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Cornhuskers won the national championship that season.

Houston's nonconference wins against UCLA and Louisiana Tech look better today -- the Bruins have a shot to play in the Pac-12 title game; the Bulldogs now are leading the WAC.

Quarterback Case Keenum has shattered NCAA records this season for passing yards, touchdowns, total offense and completions. You could dismiss him and what Houston has done by saying Keenum is a "system quarterback." But how did that system work out for Houston last season, when he was lost for the season and the Cougars went 5-7?

If you want the ultimate proof about how hard it is to win all your games, take a look at what has happened this season. Oklahoma lost to an unranked team in Texas Tech, then could not stop high-powered Robert Griffin III and Baylor. Oklahoma State lost to an unranked team, Iowa State, on Friday night. Oregon lost at home to USC, breaking a 21-game winning streak at Autzen Stadium.

Even Boise State, thought to be invincible on the blue turf, lost at home to TCU.

Take a look at the landscape. What we are left with is a potential rematch between LSU and Alabama. If LSU loses to Arkansas on Friday or in the SEC title game, then what happens?

Houston is sure to move up in the BCS standings Sunday night with all the losses this weekend, but you could make the case that the Cougars deserve to be in the top three regardless of what happens to LSU.

And if you truly believe what the BCS tells us every season -- that its system is best because every game matters -- Houston should be No. 2 and playing for a national title.

Winning all your games should give you that opportunity.

RG3 helps Bears make history against Sooners

By David Ubben
ESPN.com

WACO, Texas -- Robert Griffin III made his way into Baylor's locker room but paused when he opened the door.

Nobody was there. "I was like, where'd everybody go?"

They were still on the field celebrating. There was a postgame party at Floyd Casey Stadium, and everybody wearing green and gold was invited. The Bears had swiped the Sooners' picnic basket.

Before Saturday night, Baylor had never had a chance to celebrate a win over Oklahoma.

With a 34-yard toss from Griffin to Terrance Williams in the back corner of the end zone, that all changed.

"There at the end, God works in mysterious ways," Griffin said with a wide smile. "When I looked down the field, I saw him one-on-one. All this is happening in milliseconds, so I saw him one-on-one and I was like, 'Well, I'll give him a shot.' I threw it up, and he made a great catch."

Baylor 45, Oklahoma 38.

That play, coach Art Briles admitted, was "not the way we drew it up."

"The dude has had the ability to take over a game by himself," said Baylor linebacker Elliot Coffey, "and you saw it."

We all saw it. We saw Griffin prove once again he's the best deep-ball passer in college football, throwing four touchdown passes, even if one of them unbelievably deflected off Tevin Reese's hands and helmet before floating into Kendall Wright's hands for a game-changing, 87-yard score.

Griffin could only shake his head at that one, but he finished with a school-record 476 yards on 21-of-34 passing, breaking his own single-season school record for passing yards. He was also the Bears' leading rusher with 72 yards.

"Another day at the office for Robert," Briles said. "He's been doing that for three or four years. When the ball's in his hand, he's going to make good things happen, because he's very intelligent, very passionate and very gifted."

Said Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon: "You can't really defend him. You have to just take what he gives you."

No run was bigger than a 22-yard scramble on second down on the game's final drive, when Baylor had just 51 seconds left and no timeouts. Oklahoma had three, and when the Bears looked content to try to run it and settle for overtime, the Sooners used one. Baylor knew it needed a first down. The man they call RG3 provided those precious 22 yards.

"Then the whole thing flips," Briles said.

The aggressive move backfired, and the Sooners' fate was in the hands of the most dangerous player in the Big 12. Baylor should have known.

To read the rest of David Ubben's story, click here.

Big Game lives up to billing

By Kevin Gemmell
ESPN.com

STANFORD, Calif. -- David Shaw was having flashbacks. In seconds, the Stanford head coach and former Cardinal wide receiver was re-running every funky play and freaky scenario and wacky finish that have been historic staples of the Big Game.

Here's the scene on a rainy Saturday night at Stanford Stadium: Cal scores a touchdown with 14 seconds left to cut Stanford's lead to 31-28. Here comes the onside kick. Anything can happen, right? A Cal recovery and Hail Mary? The ball bounces off seven Stanford players and Cal converts a 65-yard field goal? It's the Big Game. Seems plausible. At least at the time.

"I got The Play going through my head. I got the 1990 crazy game with the onside kicks going through my head," Shaw said. "We just supported our defense. Even if they went down and scored, we made them take so much time off the clock. We knew if we got the onside kick the game was over."

And it was. The onside kick went right to tight end Coby Fleener, who caught the ball on one hop, cradled and dropped. No crazy bounces. No students or trombones appeared on the field until the clock read 0:00. Game over. Stanford wins the 114th Big Game.

The Axe stays in Palo Alto for at least another year.

To read the rest of Kevin Gemmell's story, click here.

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