1. Bedlam lives up to its name. In any game where nearly 100 points are scored and more than 1,300 total yards are gained, it's the (few) defensive plays made that make the difference. First, with the score at 41-41 (more on this in a moment) and Oklahoma State driving in the middle of the fourth quarter, OU punched the ball away from Cowboy running back Chuba Hubbard and Sooner linebacker Kenneth Murray hopped on the ball at the OU 36.
After Oklahoma covered the requisite 64 yards to go ahead 48-41 -- because an OU score was the most foregone conclusion in the history of foregone conclusions -- Ruffin McNeill's defense again needed another stop. Facing a 4th-and-12 at the OU 24, Oklahoma State converted the first down and the touchdown on a strike from Taylor Cornelius to Tylan Wallace. Because OSU kicker Matt Ammendola missed an extra point earlier in the fourth quarter, Mike Gundy was faced with the option to kick and pray for overtime or go for two and the lead. The play was there, the execution was not.
No. 6 OU held on, 48-47.
Oklahoma was near perfect offensively. The Sooners gained 702 yards with near perfect balance (349 passing, 353 rushing). Kyler Murray completed 21 of his 29 throws, and OU running backs Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks combined for 289 yards and five touchdowns.
And it was still barely enough. Cornelius threw for 501 yards and three touchdowns, and Hubbard accounted for 153 yards and three touchdowns. Wallace caught 10 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyron Johnson added 11 grabs for 128 yards and a score.
All this to say: OU's Big 12 and College Football Playoff hopes survived another week, but a trip to Morgantown to face Will Grier, David Sills and company looms in two weeks.
2. Northwestern is your Big Ten West champion. They started the year 1-3. They're not ranked in any major poll. And they're going to the Big Ten Championship.
Thanks to Minnesota's upset of Purdue and Wisconsin's loss to No. 20 Penn State Northwestern could clinch its first Big Ten West championship with a win at No. 21 Iowa. The Wildcats trailed 3-0 at the half and 10-7 entering the fourth quarter, but the offense mounted drives when it had to and the defense shut the door when given the opportunity. After taking a 14-10 lead with 9:27 remaining, Northwestern's defense forced a punt and ended Iowa's last two drives with forced fumbles. That's how you close out a championship march in the Big Ten West.
In truth, this team is much better than its 6-4 record. Since late September, the Wildcats have lost only to No. 4 Michigan (21-17) and No. 3 Notre Dame (31-21). And now they've won themselves a shot at Michigan or Ohio State with the Rose Bowl on the line.
Northwestern has been to Pasadena once since 1948 -- in 1995, when Pat Fitzgerald was the team's star linebacker.
3. Clemson shows once again why it's an elite program. The Urban Dictionary definition of "Clemsoning" still lives: "1. The act of failing miserably on a grand athletic stage, or when the stakes are high. 2. Record-setting failure, usually reserved for college football."
The actual Clemson program out-grew such a name a long time ago, and Saturday was a reminder why. Going on the road to face No. 17 Boston College, on a national stage, at night, with GameDay in town... and Dabo Swinney's team simply took care of business.
BC took a 7-3 lead on a 74-yard punt return in the first quarter, but the Eagles' offense was shutout for the night. Clemson out-gained BC 424-113, limited the Eagles to eight first downs and cruised to a totally boring 27-7 win. In a situation begging for drama, Clemson offered none.
The win, Swinney's 110th at Clemson, came nearly 10 years to the day of Dabo's first win as Clemson's (then-interim) head coach -- a 27-21 victory at Boston College.
By the way, Clemson hasn't surrendered more than 10 points since Sept. 29. Clemson, 32-2 against ACC opponents since 2015, is the first team to reach four straight ACC title games.
4. No Book, no problem for Notre Dame. The Chaos Candidate is now two games away. No. 3 Notre Dame was without starting quarterback Ian Book, but it didn't come close to mattering.
Backup (and opening day starter) Brandon Wimbush picked up where Book left off, firing three first half touchdown passes to stake the Irish to a 32-6 halftime lead, allowing Dexter Williams (202 yards, three scores) to churn Florida State in the second half en route to a 42-13 win.
The Irish now go on the road for their final two games -- against No. 13 Syracuse at Yankee Stadium and at USC. Win those, and Brian Kelly's team can kick its feet up on Championship Saturday, comforted by the knowledge the committee would never leave a 12-0 Notre Dame with a head-to-head win over prospective Big Ten champion Michigan out of the Playoff.
Or would they?
4a. Florida State's 36-year bowl streak is in serious jeopardy. At 4-6, Florida State must beat No. 17 Boston College and No. 15 Florida to avoid its first empty December since 1981 and its first losing season since 1976.
5. Texas is not (totally) out of the Big 12 title race. Nearly 10 years ago to the day, Michael Crabtree hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass to knock off No. 1 Texas. Surely you remember it.
On Saturday, Lil'Jordan Humphrey hauled in a 29-yard touchdown grab in nearly the same spot in front of the same end zone to beat Texas Tech.
Humphrey's grab doesn't carry quite the magnitude as Crabtree's, but it allowed Texas to stave off a season-defining collapse. The Longhorns entered Saturday having lost two straight and nearly turned it into a third after blowing a 34-17 fourth quarter lead.
The Longhorns pulled out a 41-34 win, their fifth one-score win after winning just one such game a year ago. That's a good thing because sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger now has ample experience pulling out close games, but a bad thing because all five wins were only close because Texas nearly blew five double-digit leads.
Still, the 7-3 Longhorns are still in the Big 12 championship hunt -- if they get the right type of help. Wins over No. 22 Iowa State and Kansas plus a WVU win over Oklahoma on Black Friday sets up a Texas-WVU rematch in Dallas.
6. Now we see why Auburn AD Allen Greene said what he said this week. “He’ll be the coach next year and I’m confident — he’s already proven we can get through adversity,” Greene said, via Auburn Undercover. “Every team has it and I’m looking forward to working with him for a long time.”
Those comments came days after Malzahn pulled a rabbit out of his hat, as No. 24 Auburn rallied from a 24-14 fourth quarter deficit to beat Texas A&M 28-24 with just 19 rushing yards. The Tigers close with the most brutal finishing kick in college football -- at No. 5 Georgia, a working off week against Liberty and then at No. 1 Alabama.
Such a stretch would see something like 125 -- at a minimum -- college football teams drop both games, and Auburn is one of those 125. The Tigers were out-rushed 303-102 in a 27-10 loss in Athens, dropping them to 6-4 on the year. A 7-5 regular season looks overwhelmingly likely.
It's a disappointing given Auburn began the year in the top-10, but anyone who knows Auburn's yo-yo history shouldn't be surprised. It's clear Greene wasn't, which is why he gave Greene his vote of confidence before the Georgia-Alabama finish.
7. A loss to Tennessee shows why life at Kentucky is so difficult. All season, Kentucky's offense has lived with a ceiling, but for the first nine games UK was able to live under that ceiling. The Wildcats probably weren't going to score more than about 17 points, but the defense was so good that 17 points was probably enough.
In fact, the defense was so good that UK hosted an honest-to-goodness SEC East championship against Georgia on Saturday. The Wildcats ultimately lost the game, 34-17, but the fact that the game meant as much as it did was victory in and of itself.
However, there is no silver lining to Saturday's 24-7 loss at Tennessee. Kentucky gained only 262 yards of total offense and didn't score until late in the third quarter, when Tennessee already had all the points it would need to win and then some. In fact, this Hail Mary at the end of the first half pretty much sealed it.
Mark Stoops's team will be heavy favorites in its final two games -- against Middle Tennessee and Louisville -- giving UK its first shot at a 10-win season since 1977. This would make 2018 a smashing success. But would also show, with Georgia operating at the height of its powers, Florida regrouping Dan Mullen and now Tennessee gaining strength under Jeremy Pruitt, why Kentucky had never before finished better than 4-4 in SEC play during the conference's divisional era. 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
- Utah State
- Iowa State
9. Odds and Ends
a. Problem: After averaging 51 points a game, Alabama was held under 30 by LSU and Mississippi State. Solution: Don't let them score. In back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, the Tide beat LSU and Mississippi State by a combined score of 53-0.
b. A midfield fight between Baylor and Iowa State led the officials to levy unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on every single player on both teams. That blanket punishment led Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer to getting kicked out in the second half for, as Matt Rhule said, arguing a spot of the ball.
Iowa State won the game, 28-14. After the game, Rhule had more to say.
c. Don't look now (actually, do look now) but SMU controls its own destiny to win the AAC West after a 62-50 win at Connecticut. Sonny Dykes's Mustangs are the Northwesterns of their offices; they began the year 0-3 and aren't yet bowl eligible at 5-5. Wins over Memphis and Tulsa would hand them their first division crown, though.
d. Despite the loss, Randy Edsall will take home $2,000, according to USA Today's Steve Berkowitz, because -- and I kid you not -- UConn was better on third down than SMU. Edsall's Huskies were 9-of-16, while SMU was just 5-of-12. UConn is 1-9, by the way. Here's hoping Edsall is donating these checks to charity.
e. Herm Edwards is bowl eligible in Year 1 at Arizona State, and the Sun Devils could have the Rose Bowl in their sites. Arizona State moved to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in Pac-12 play with a 31-28 win over UCLA. There's a logjam atop the Pac-12 South, but Arizona State controls its own destiny by virtue of wins over Utah and USC, so wins at Oregon and Arizona would send Herm and company to the Pac-12 Championship.
f. Whoever wins the Pac-12 South will be heavy underdogs in San Francisco because No. 8 Washington State is playing championship defense on top of its nation-leading passing game. The Cougars held Colorado to 297 yards and 12 first downs, pitching a shutout over the final three quarters en route to a 31-7 win at Colorado. Gardner Minshew threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns and inspired his head coach to do this.
g. Pitt is on its way to taking its first ACC Coastal championship after a 52-22 win over Virginia Tech. Pat Narduzzi's crew dropped 654 yards of total offense -- the most ever allowed by a Bud Foster defense -- including 492 on the ground, with two players over 180 yards. The 6-4 Panthers can clinch the division championship with a win over either Wake Forest or Miami.
h. While Clemson or Florida State has won the ACC Atlantic every year since 2009, Pitt would be the sixth different program to win the ACC Coastal over the past six years. Only Virginia has yet to break through.
i. No drama in the C-USA West, where UAB has won the division two years after resurrection. Bill Clark's 9-1 Blazers clinched the crown with a 26-23 overtime win over Southern Miss.
j. The most shocking result of the day wasn't a final score, but a single play. Rutgers entered the day with the nation's 112th-ranked rushing offense, without a single run of 50 yards or longer on the year. Michigan entered the day with the nation's best total yardage defense and the No. 5 yards per carry defense, with no opponent runs going 50 yards or longer. So, naturally, Rutgers tied a 7-0 game with an 80-yard touchdown run by Isaih Pacheco in the final minute of the first quarter. Michigan won the game 42-7, and Rutgers rushed for 113 yards outside of that play.
k. In their first game with new defensive coordinator Joe Rossi, Minnesota hammered Purdue, 41-10.
l. Old Dominion rallied from a 28-0 deficit to stun North Texas, 34-31.
m. Duke has taken three in a row over North Carolina for the first time since 1987-89 after a 42-35 win in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
n. Despite playing with a mash unit on offense, Utah managed to beat Oregon, 32-25.
o. Since a 38-31 loss at No. 24 Michigan State to open the year, Utah State has played one (1) game decided by less than 10 points. The Aggies moved to 9-1 with a 62-24 win over San Jose State.
p. Good as the Aggies have been, they're still not in the clear in the MW Mountain. Boise State knocked off No. 23 Fresno State 24-17 on Saturday, setting up a de facto division championship game Nov. 24 in Boise.
q. You just had to know how much a win in Gainesville would've meant to Will Muschamp and, thus, how much Saturday's loss to the No. 15 Gators has to hurt. South Carolina led 31-14 late in the third quarter, but Florida rocketed back for a 35-31 win.
r. In that same vein, you just know how much a Cal's 15-14 win over USC has to mean to Cal head coach and former USC defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. The Bears rallied from a 14-0 deficit to snap a 13-game losing streak to the Trojans and clinch a bowl trip for the first time in Wilcox's 2-year tenure.
s. In addition to Florida State, Miami is also in danger of missing a bowl game after a 27-21 loss to Georgia Tech. The 'Canes, now 2-8 against Power 5 competition since last year's 10-0 start, need to beat either Virginia Tech or Pitt to avoid going from the preseason top-10 to under .500.
t. Troy earned a massive win in beating Georgia Southern 35-21 in Statesboro. The 8-2 Trojans are headed toward a trip to Appalachian State on Nov. 24 with the inaugural Sun Belt East championship on the line.
u. After an 0-6 start, Nebraska is now 3-1 in its last four with the lone loss coming by five points in Columbus. The Huskers racked up 606 yards in a 54-35 win over Illinois.
v. 2-7 UNLV pulled a 27-24 stunner over 7-2 San Diego State. Huge win for Tony Sanchez.
10. And finally... Plenty of seasons ended Saturday at the divisional level, but only one program ended. Division II Humboldt State (Calif.) closed up shop for good with a 23-16 win over Simon Fraser. The people of California have much more serious matters at hand with the wild fires, but the Nuggets holds an additional good thought for all the Lumberjack players and coaches today.