When asked about it after the victory against Alabama, Les Miles responded in a way that could be interpreted as further proof that, win or lose, Les Miles has only a tenuous grip on reality.
“I have a little tradition that humbles me as a man, that lets me know that I’m a part of the field and part of the game,” Miles said as a smile widened on his face. “You should have seen some games before this. I can tell you one thing: The grass in Tiger Stadium tastes best.”
There are important ramifications from this game. First, Alabama is essentially barred from repeating as national champions. For all intents and purposes, they’re done in the SEC picture as well. The defending national champions would need a miracle finish to get to Atlanta. Simply, LSU and Auburn need to lose out and Alabama needs to win out. Now, Alabama does get to host Auburn in their final regular season game, but that may not be enough to be anything but a spoiler. Auburn next plays a meek Georgia team, where an Auburn victory seals the SEC West divisional crown. LSU finishes with Ole Miss and ArKansas in the conference. ArKansas can beat LSU, but that won’t be enough for Alabama. Winning out and LSU, Auburn laying eggs in their final two SEC games is the only route.
Speaking of ArKansas, they blasted the Gamecocks in Columbia last night. With that ugly result, South Carolina’s home upset of Alabama earlier in the season is the only victory the SEC East will notch over the SEC West, pending the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” in Week 11 and the SEC Championship Game. Also, guess who moves back to first place in a tie with South Carolina now: yep, Florida. The Gators ripped apart Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday morning, making next week’s South Carolina-Florida game in Gainesville the de facto divisional title game in the last SEC clash for both teams this season. Winner goes to Atlanta. Who knew a divisional title game could also be a cripple fight?
In the Big Ten
There were some interesting results in the Big Ten, though nothing as a final result that is too out of the ordinary. Penn State-Nerdwestern was the only afternoon kickoff. Therein, a five touchdown rally after going down 21-0 was enough to get Joe Paterno win #400. In many ways, it resembled the 2001 benchmark win against Ohio State that put Joe Paterno ahead of Bear Bryant, then leader on the all-time wins list. The Nerds were probably the better team; we were in 2001 as well. Ultimately, a ferocious rally and a bit of magic doomed both teams to make it a red letter day for Joe Paterno. Congratulations are in order, but that won’t make me want anything less than a bloodbath in Columbus this coming Saturday.
The other four games were noon kickoffs. Michigan-Illinois stole the headlines. Who would’ve thought that Michigan could win a game on a defensive stand on its own goal line? Now, granted, that defensive stand came after conceding 65 points through a full game and three overtimes, but it was enough for a victory. With it, Michigan is now bowl eligible and has doubled its conference wins in 2010 (2) from 2009 (1). Such is the state of the program now; a victory over Ron Zook gets you job security. Nevertheless, it’s an impressive win for Michigan for no other reason than they were able to respond every time. Their offense needs to be perfect, and they have an offensive line to make the scheme work. Their defense? Well, Ray Vinopal slipping and falling as if he were in that BW3 commercial with the sprinklers, chasing the Big Ten’s slowest running back en route to a 62 yard TD basically says it all.
Michigan State handled a lifeless Minnesota team with ease. The two other conference front runners, Iowa and Wisconsin, didn’t have it so easy. Wisconsin was down early, which had Buckeye fans giddy that they could possibly be removed from the Big Ten tiebreaker picture. They ultimately put it away in the second half, prompting Buckeye fans to hope for Indiana, Nerdwestern or — sigh — Michigan to take care of them for us. Iowa had no such early 3rd quarter response. They needed a 3 play TD strike with under 3 minutes left, and a dropped Indiana game-winning TD in order to beat the Hoosiers. It was a game Iowa fans would sooner forget.
Some Curious Results in the Big 12
Buckeye fans still holding out hope for a BCS title appearance (I’m not one of them) need Nebraska to lose, perhaps in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. They almost lost in their last game at Ames. Recall that Nebraska’s most inexplicable loss of 2009 came at home against the Cyclones, who beat them in a game void of offense. Yesterday, they almost outscored them. Iowa State-Nebraska went to overtime. The Cyclones matched Nebraska’s overtime-opening touchdown with one of their own. They tried a fake point-after, but were slowing in hitting the tight end in the end zone. It was intercepted and Nebraska escaped with a 31-30 victory.
Oklahoma got Mike Sherman’d. Seriously. I chose to invest more in watching Texas-Kansas State (and was rewarded for it), but I did manage to see the Aggies’ Wrecking Crew defense stonewall the Sooners’ offense on 4th and goal twice in this game. The Aggies took a 19-0 lead to begin the third quarter (after returning the second quarter kickoff for a TD). OU scored the next 17, but a fake field goal attempt for a TD was incomplete. The Aggies went into overdrive to secure the victory. Oklahoma is now out of the national title picture.
Missouri is now out of the national title picture as well. To be sure, they needed some help from the Cornhuskers. Losing to Nebraska meant they needed two Nebraska losses to get to the title game. Losing to Texas Tech’s kludge of an offense means a Big 12 championship, should they still make it to that game, gets them to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl and nothing else.
Texas-Kansas State was probably my favorite game of the day, and probably the most enjoyable one I’ve watched where I had no emotional attachment in seeing one side win or lose. The box score has to be one of the more curious you will see. Kansas State did not complete a forward pass until midway through the third quarter. They only completed two on the game. Kansas State defensive players had three more receptions (5 Gilbert INTs) than Kansas State offensive players (2 Daniel Thomas receptions for 9 yards). Only two players touched the ball for Kansas State before garbage time (i.e. the entire 4th quarter), Kansas State’s quarterback and primary tailback. They ran the most simplistic QB keepers that somehow kept working against Muschamp’s defense. It was good enough to get them to a 39-0 lead, where the Wildcats got a 2pt conversion on their last TD after scooping a blocked point-after for a score. It was a delight to watch.
The Michigan-Illinois game wasn’t the only noteworthy offensive performance of the day. It might not have even been the best on the day. Navy hung 76 points on East Carolina in their stadium, tallying 596 yards. Boise State had 737 yards of offense against Hawaii, winning 42-7. That wasn’t even tops in the WAC. Nevada’s ostrich man led the Wolfpack to 63 points and 844 yards of offense in a 63-17 beatdown of Idaho. Oregon had a ho-hum 522 yards and 53 points day against Washington. Kansas, yes, Kansas, scored 5 4th quarter TDs to rally against Colorado and prevail 52-45. It was one point shy of tying a record for 4th quarter points in a comeback win. Stanford had 42 points and 510 yards in a victory over Arizona, confirming that the Pac 10 just thinks defense is obsolete, man. Texas Christian made a statement, beating the #5 Utah Utes 47-7 and putting up 558 yards of offense.
All in all, another interesting day of college football, made better by not having to fret about what the Buckeyes were doing.