1. Nick Saban said Thursday he hoped Alabama elected to kick ass. They did. The thing about playing No. 1 Alabama is that you can hold down their offense and still be completely overwhelmed by an elite unit on the other side of the field.
No. 3 LSU’s defense got its shots in against the Alabama attack. They held the Tide out of the end zone on their opening drive for the first time all season. They snatched Tua Tagovailoa’s first interception of the year. They even made him play all four quarters!
It still didn’t come close to mattering.
LSU mustered only 196 yards of total offense — 12 on the ground — in a 29-0 Tide win. If you want to know the state of affairs in this rivalry, consider that LSU has not scored a point on Alabama since there were 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter… of the 2014 game.
Still, LSU held the Tide to just over half of their scoring average and more than a yard below their 8.30 yards per play average. It was enough to prove Alabama can be credibly challenged… by Georgia, by Clemson, and maybe by a couple other teams.
LSU is not in that group, and it’s hard to see Ed Orgeron’s Tigers joining it until the offense totally transforms.
LSU’s last win in this series came in the 2011 Game of the Century, a memorable 9-6 overtime win. In the last eight meetings, all Tide wins, LSU has averaged 9.1 points.
1a. Ed Orgeron came into the game saying LSU had to be aggressive. He didn’t heed his own words. With scoring chances few and far between, Orgeron kicked inside Alabama territory four separate times. Once was a punt on 4th-and-14 from the Alabama 47. The others:
- A punt on 4th-and-2 from the Alabama 42 with LSU still in the game, trailing 6-0. The punt sailed into the end zone and Alabama answered with a field goal.
- A punt on 4th-and-8 from the Alabama 38 (!!!) with LSU trailing 22-0 in the third quarter. In a 3-0 game, this might have made sense. But it was LSU’s deepest penetration to date in the game, and the Tigers trailed three touchdowns to zero points. LSU had a better chance of gaining eight yards on one play than punting, holding Alabama’s defense and scoring three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
- A 33-yard field goal with LSU trailing 22-0 in the fourth quarter. LSU needed three touchdowns and two 2-point conversions to stage a miracle rally. A field goal still leaves LSU needing… three touchdowns. The football gods intervened and blew Cole Tracy’s field goals wide right.
Even if none of those gambles worked out, LSU would have ended the game with exactly as many points as playing a traditional, close-to-the-vest style got them: zero. Orgeron coached like the 15-point favorite on his sideline, not the opponent’s.
2. There’s an elite team in the SEC East, too. Georgia went to Kentucky for a showdown of top-10 teams and an honest-to-God SEC East title game, and showed the division has one elite team who happens to wear black and red.
Georgia took the one advantage Kentucky was supposed to have — the ground game — and dominated. The Bulldogs rolled up a season-high 331 yards while limiting Kentucky to 84, the third time in four games UK has rushed for less than 100 yards.
As a result, Georgia led 28-3 in the third quarter and cruised to a 34-17 triumph.
Following a 20-point loss at LSU, No. 6 Georgia beat No. 11 Florida by 19 and No. 9 Kentucky by 17, enough to clinch the club’s second straight SEC East title and seventh overall.
2a. Mark your calendars now: Alabama vs. Georgia, Dec. 1, at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It’ll be the first Alabama-Georgia SEC Championship since the 2012 game that turned out to be a de facto national championship game and a rematch of last season’s actual national championship game and it’ll be in the same stadium as last year’s title game.
3. Michigan’s revenge tour rolls forward. All year long, Michigan has been on a tour of vengeance, taking the lunch money of all who beat them a year ago, “with interest,” according to defensive end Chase Winovich. They got Wisconsin on Oct. 13, 38-13. They got Michigan State on Oct. 20, 21-7. And they got another scalp in a big way on Saturday, trucking Penn State 42-7.
The Wolverines out-rushed Penn State 259-68, limiting a Nittany Lions offense that rolled up 492 yards against Ohio State to 186, their fewest since the first game of the 2015 season.
Afterward, Jim Harbaugh literally sung the praises of defensive coordinator Don Brown.
Hear Harbaugh sing a jingle about Don Brown (about 1:15 mark) pic.twitter.com/Af5SIcOVcu
— angelique (@chengelis) November 3, 2018
There’s now but one name on Michigan’s list, and it’s the most important of all. The Wolverines head to Columbus in three weeks, and they’ll go there with the better team. Ohio State has real defensive problems, evidenced by the 450 yards Nebraska gained in a 36-31 Buckeyes win on Saturday.
Michigan has a real opportunity ahead of it. A Big Ten championship and Playoff berth not only can happen, but should happen. The maize and blue let a golden opportunity slip away in 2016. An even better one lays before them now. To miss again would cloud the rest of the Harbaugh era, however long it lasts.
4. Holgo came to Austin to win, not tie. Trailing 41-34 with 2:34 to play, Dana Holgorsen sent his No. 13 West Virginia offense on the field with the knowledge the game wasn’t going to overtime. Either they’d score and get a 2-point conversion, or they’d lose.
West Virginia got its touchdown with 16 seconds left, an absolute dime from Will Grier to Gary Jennings, Jr., from 33 yards out to the back of the end zone, over the heads of two Texas safeties. Then, after two Texas timeouts, including one that wiped away a successful WVU conversion (more on this theme later), Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital called up the last thing anyone in orange expected to see.
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) November 3, 2018
It was Grier’s only keeper of the game, and it gave WVU a crucial 42-41 win, pulling away with a win in a game it trailed five separate times.
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) November 4, 2018
4a. In any Big 12 shootout, it’s the (few) defensive plays that make the difference. A key one in the game between No. 13 West Virginia and No. 17 Texas came on the opening drive of the second half, with Texas leading 28-27. On a 4th-and-1 from the WVU 5, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger kept and was ruled on the field to have the first down by about two inches. However, after a 3-minute review, officials ruled Ehlinger’s helmet came off before he crossed the line to gain, rendering the play immediately dead. (If the Big 12 officials had a definitive view of this, they didn’t share it with the Nuggets.)
Texas made a pair of stops in the third quarter, stuffing a 3rd-and-2 run for a loss of three and a 4th-and-1 rush in their own territory, but the Longhorns made two more red zone penetrations that ended without touchdowns, which proved to be the difference.
Another play that mattered greatly down the stretch? With nine seconds left in the first half and Texas leading 28-24, Tom Herman called timeout to ice WVU kicker Evan Staley. The timeout came so late that Staley still got the kick off… and it sliced wide left. His kick after the timeout was good.
4b. West Virginia has now fully recovered from that awful Iowa State loss. The Mountaineers are now 7-1 and fully in control of their fate. They’ll be heavy favorites in the next two weeks against TCU and Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma comes to Morgantown on Black Friday. Win that one, and they could get an immediate rematch with the Sooners in Austin.
4c. Texas’s season is on the brink of cratering. After heading into their bye week at 6-1 and on the cusp of the top-5, Herman’s club could be out of the rankings soon. More pressing, the Longhorns played without their starting strong safety and lost a starting cornerback and a starting defensive end to injuries on Saturday. Texas goes to Lubbock on Saturday and then hosts white-hot Iowa State.
5. Oklahoma survives a Lubbock scare, stays perfect in November. A week ago, then-No. 6 Texas went on the road to a tough Big 12 environment in ABC’s Saturday Night Football game and fell in an early hole the Longhorns never climbed out of.
On Saturday, in ABC’s primetime game, No. 7 Oklahoma went to Texas Tech and immediately fell behind 14-0 thanks to two Kyler Murray interceptions.
The difference between Texas and Oklahoma, though: OU has Kyler Murray.
Oklahoma had the lead by the 4:22 mark of the second quarter and went in front for good at the 12:05 mark of the third quarter. Murray threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 100 and another score in leading OU to a 51-46 win over Lincoln Riley’s alma mater.
The win was Oklahoma’s 19th straight victory in a true road game and its 14th consecutive November triumph. It’s no wonder this program is working on a fourth straight Big 12 championship.
5a. They say it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s best to be lucky and good. Trailing 31-28 at halftime, Oklahoma caught a major break when Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman injured himself in halftime warmups and did not return. He was 21-of-26 for 227 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.
6. Louisville has hit rock bottom. Two years ago, Louisville went to Clemson as the No. 3 team in the country, with a quarterback in the midst of a Heisman Trophy season, and battled the eventual national champions to the wire. You surely remember that game, a 42-36 Clemson win that ended with Louisville at Clemson’s 3-yard line.
Bobby Petrino’s program was at the cusp of the national elite that night. Two years later, they’re as far away as they’ve ever been.
In a return trip to Death Valley East, Clemson bludgeoned their way to a 77-16 win.
That 61-point margin is explanation enough, but Clemson ran the ball for 492 yards and five touchdowns on 13.3 yards a pop. Dabo’s kid even scored a touchdown.
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) November 3, 2018
Dabo Swinney just got his son a touchdown, which, if you think about it, is the ultimate troll of Bobby Petrino and his staff.
— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) November 3, 2018
Louisville is now 2-7 on the year, with wins over FCS Indiana State and 1-8 Western Kentucky — by three. They’ve dropped all seven games against Power 5 opponents, by an average of 28.6 points per game.
A Louisville regent is on record with the Louisville Courier-Journal saying the school can’t afford Bobby Petrino’s $14.5 million buyout. At this point, it may cost more in the long run to bring him back.
6a. Clemson keeps getting better and better. Since the near-loss to Syracuse, the Tigers have beaten Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State and Louisville by a combined score of 240-36. That’s an average score of 60-9.
7. Bill Clark is the national Coach of the Year, and it’s not close. After not fielding a football team two seasons ago, Clark has re-built UAB into a legitimate top-25 team. The Blazers are 8-1 and 6-0 in Conference USA after a 52-3 win at UTSA.
UAB does it the old fashion way, by being bigger, stronger and meaner than the team across from them. The Blazers ran for 419 yards and four touchdowns in their demolition of UTSA while limiting the Roadrunners to 84.
Clark’s team will wake up Sunday as the nation’s leader in scoring defense at 12.1 points per game. Five of their last six opponents have scored seven points or fewer; the one exception was a 29-21 win over North Texas where UAB trailed 21-10 at the half but pitched a second half shutout.
In six @ConferenceUSA games this season, UAB has allowed 38 total points 😳😳😳
Charlotte – 7
La. Tech – 7
Rice – 0
North Texas – 21
UTEP – 0
UTSA – 3
— UAB Football (@UAB_FB) November 4, 2018
The Blazers go to Texas A&M on Nov. 20 for what’s supposed to be a working bye week before the Aggies’ finale against LSU. The Aggies had better buckle both chin straps.
8. The Super 16. The Nuggets is once again honored to vote in the FWAA-NFF Super 16 poll. Here’s this week’s ballot.
- Notre Dame
- West Virginia
- Washington State
- Ohio State
- Fresno State
- Utah State
- Iowa State
9. Odds and Ends
a. In a result everyone in the world saw coming except yours truly, Michigan State smothered Maryland. The Terps gained 100 yards on the dot in a 24-3 loss.
b. Auburn rallied from a 24-14 deficit to stun No. 20 Texas A&M 28-24, but be careful in drawing any long-term conclusions. The Tigers ran for 19 yards, their fewest in any game since 2000, and have trips to Athens and Tuscaloosa waiting.
c. TCU rallied from last week’s loss to Kansas to beat Kansas State, 14-13.
d. Oklahoma State capitalized on the big Texas win with a 35-31 loss to Baylor.
e. Reports from Iowa State’s 27-3 win over Kansas in Lawrence say there were 15,000 on hand and half of them were wearing Cyclones colors.
f. Army beat Air Force 17-14 in Colorado Springs and, thanks to Air Force’s win over Navy earlier this year, will keep the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the first time in the 37-year history of the honor.
— Army WP Football (@ArmyWP_Football) November 3, 2018
g. There will be no winless teams in FBS this year. UTEP earned its first victory of the Dana Dimel era in a 34-26 decision at Rice.
h. Most surprising score of the day: Illinois 55, Minnesota 31. The Illini hadn’t scored 50 in a Big Ten game since a 67-65 loss to Michigan on Nov. 6, 2010.
i. How about this capper to Troy’s 26-16 win over Louisiana-Lafayette?
How about this day for Kyler Knudsen?
First career start.
— Troy Trojans Football 7x⚔️ (@TroyTrojansFB) November 3, 2018
j. It’s Nov. 4, and 5-4 Pitt leads the ACC Coastal after a 23-13 win over No. 25 Virginia on Friday.
k. It’s Nov. 4, and 5-4 Arizona State leads the Pac-12 South after a 38-20 win over No. 15 Utah.
l. It’s Nov. 4, and 5-4 Northwestern still leads the Big Ten West despite a 31-21 loss to No. 3 Notre Dame.
m. Two weeks after scoring 49 in a win over Ohio State and one week after scoring 13 in a loss to Michigan State, Purdue yo-yo’d back up with a 38-36 upset of No. 16 Iowa.
n. Second most surprising score of the day: SMU 45, Houston 31. The Mustangs led 17-0, let Houston back in at 17-14, then surged back to a 38-17 lead through three quarters. After starting 0-3, SMU can win the AAC West in Sonny Dykes’s first with wins in their final three games and one more Houston loss.
o. I’m aware this is Willie Taggart’s slogan, but it doesn’t quite land as intended when you’re down 20.
2-9 for 6.
— FSU Football (@FSUFootball) November 3, 2018
p. Florida Atlantic beat Florida International 49-14, but FIU pulled this off.
Your Catch of the Year of the Day, courtesy of FIU's Bryce Singleton
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) November 4, 2018
q. Duke beat Miami in Miami for the second time ever, and first since 1976. The natives didn’t take it well.
Mark Richt video comes up on the Jumbotron during a timeout. He got booed. Loudly.
— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) November 4, 2018
r. It nearly slipped by unnoticed, but Oregon won Chip Kelly’s return to Eugene, 42-21.
s. Oregon State has a turnover chainsaw.
— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) November 4, 2018
10. And finally… I can’t think of a better way to close down the week than a 95-yard punt.
FOLKS WE'VE GOT FOOTAGE OF A DIVISION III 95-YARD PUNT pic.twitter.com/p6rtDGXMpw
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 3, 2018