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17 thoughts on a wild Rivalry Saturday

Petrino fight

1. There was a moment in the Florida-Florida State game that summarized Will Muschamp's entire Florida tenure. With just over 90 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Brian Poole stepped in front of a Jameis Winston pass at the Florida State nine-yard line. It was the Gators' third interception of the first quarter, and a 16-0 lead was in sight. On the very next snap, Treon Harris fired a pass to tight end Tevin Westbrook, the same player who dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass against LSU, the play that started Florida's season-long tailspin, who saw it deflect off his hands and straight to Seminole defensive back Terrance Smith, who raced 94 yards untouched for a pick six. In one moment, a possible 16-0 lead turned into a paltry 9-7 lead. Great defense, bad execution and, as Muschamp himself described it at his farewell press conference, "buzzard's luck" all rolled into one sequence. Florida State won the game, 24-19, hanging on thanks to (what else?) a dropped pass by a wide open Florida receiver on 4th-and-10 on the Gators' last-gasp possession.

2. Just how good is Alabama? The Crimson Tide can allow 630 yards of total offense (456 passing/174 rushing) and surrender 36 points in a span of 27 minutes and still look completely terrifying. Nick Saban's ripped off a ferocious 34-3 run over the bulk of the second half, turning a 33-21 deficit into a 55-36 lead before a garbage time touchdown created a 55-44 final score in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever. Blake Sims completed 20-of-27 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry combined to rush 24 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns, and Amari Cooper caught 13 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns.

This dude was never worried.


3. Dan Mullen let his inner New Englander out following a 31-17 Egg Bowl loss. Mullen has spoken about the clash of his blunt, Northeastern personality meshing with the gentile Southernness of Starkville. Guess which version of himself he unleashed after a losing to Ole Miss while surrendering 28 points and 342 yards of total offense after halftime?

4.Ten teams entered a do-or-die Saturday, and six survived. Illinois, UAB, Fresno State, Tennessee, Old Dominion and Pittsburgh won to improve to 6-6 and achieve bowl eligibility (and in Fresno State's case, advance to the Mountain West championship), while Michigan, Kentucky, Northwestern and Cal lost, finishing the season at 5-7.

UAB and Georgia Southern may not play in a bowl, so let's create one for them.

5. Hey Kentucky, if you're going to pull this stuff, you have to win the game.


Kentucky jumped out to a 13-0 lead and held additional leads at 20-14, 33-28 and 40-37, but lost 44-40, its fourth straight loss to Louisville and fifth straight to close the season. You can see the significant improvement on the field for Kentucky; but this loss will sting a bit.

Source: Neal Brown plans to accept the head coaching position at Troy

6. Georgia Tech's 30-24 win over Georgia was the craziest game of the day. Both teams lost two fumbles, and three were at the opponent's goal line - including one by Georgia Tech that was returned 99 yards for a Bulldogs touchdown after Yellow Jackets quarterback Justin Thomas' forward progress was stopped for more than four seconds. I counted. Apparently the officials' whistles were in their small intestines. Georgia blocked a field goal and an extra point, and Georgia Tech blocked a field goal. This also happened:

Sadly, only Georgia take a 24-21 lead with 18 seconds remaining and find a way to get outscored 9-0 from there. 9. Wisconsin won the Big Ten West in patented Wisconsin style. Minnesota looked primed to win its first Big Ten West title after taking a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter, but Dave Aranda and Melvin Gordon combined to choke the life out of the Gophers from there. Wisconsin took control of the game with a 24-0 run, and Minnesota notched only 119 yards and seven points after halftime. 8. Each Power Five conference will decide its championship in strikingly similar fashion. Every major conference will pit a highly-ranked favorite believing it will either cement its College Football Playoff berth or win its way there (Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State, Baylor) against a two-loss underdog more than capable of wrecking things and hoping the dominos fall their way from there (Missouri, Arizona, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Kansas State). And yes, the Big 12's situation is screwy (One True Champion!) and Wisconsin has to be considered at least a pick 'em with J.T. Barrett out. But still, don't you have to believe at least one of Alabama, Oregon, Florida State and Baylor is going down next week? 9. You have to feel for Ohio State and J.T. Barrett. The freshman phenom is out for the season with a fractured right ankle in the Buckeyes' 42-28 win over Michigan. How does one team lose two Heisman candidate quarterbacks for the year in the same season? That's just awful. 10. Louisiana Tech won the Conference USA West... with authority. Playing Rice in a de facto C-USA semifinal game, Louisiana Tech claimed its first division championship with a resounding 76-31 victory. This from a game that was 28-24 less than a minute into the third quarter. They'll play Marshall next week for their first Conference USA championship. Congratulations to Skip Holtz, Manny Diaz and the rest of that staff. Elsewhere in conference championship games: Boise State vs. Fresno State (Mountain West), Northern Illinois vs. Bowling Green (MAC). 11. A pair of firsts for two mid-majors. Memphis claimed at least a share of its first conference championship since 1971 with a 41-10 win over Memphis, and Georgia Southern won the Sun Belt in its inaugural year in the league with a 22-16 defeat of Louisiana-Monroe. 12. No team is more in need of a break than Notre Dame. For the briefest of moments in the late hours of Oct. 18, Notre Dame thought it had a case to be the No. 1 team in the country. But the Irish fell from fantasy to a hard reality, falling from 6-0 to 7-5 and closing the season with consecutive losses to Arizona State, Northwestern, Louisville and USC. Apparently tired of blowing second-half leads, Notre Dame got the angst out of the way early on Saturday, trailing USC 21-0 after one and 35-7 at the half en route to a 49-14 loss. Ugly. 13. An ugly end to an ugly regular season for North Carolina... Disappointing seasons happen, but the way North Carolina closed its 2014 regular season should not. The Tar Heels got dump trucked at home by a 6-5 N.C. State team, getting out-gained 454-207 and letting the Wolf Pack put up the game's first 35 points before finally denting the scoreboard with 1:48 left in the game. 14. .... and Miami. The 'Canes dropped their sixth game of the season, and fifth by double digits in a 35-23 loss to Pittsburgh. After taking a 23-10 lead on Florida State back on Nov. 15 the Hurricanes were outscored 85-39 over their last 10-and-a-half quarters. 15. Rutgers won the BIG Newcomers' Bowl in a fascinating game you didn't watch. Maryland grabbed a 35-10 lead with 2:52 to go in the first half, but Rutgers came roaring back for a 41-38 win. It was the biggest comeback in the 145-year history of Rutgers football. 16. Texas Tech gave a memorable fight to close a forgettable season. The Red Raiders nearly beat Baylor as 26-point underdogs on Saturday, compiling 712 yards of total offense (609 passing) in a 48-46 loss, fighting back from a 42-17 third-quarter deficit and coming within a two-point conversion of potentially forcing overtime. But as it happened so many times this season, it was too tall a task for Texas Tech to beat the opponent and itself, as the Red Raiders lost four turnovers (including three first-quarter fumbles) and 11 penalties, including an offsides flag that eventually turned a missed field goal into a Baylor touchdown. Still, the fight Texas Tech showed was remarkable - especially after word leaked after the game that both of its quarterbacks would undergo surgery this week to heal injuries that both players played through this season.

17. And, finally, Dabo ended the HBC hex in style. Dabo earned his first win over South Carolina since his interim 2008 season, throwing for 266 yards and rushing for 225 more in a 35-17 win. (Although he did oddly play freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson on a torn ACL.)

The win helped the ACC go 4-0 in inter-conference rivalry games against the SEC on Saturday.