Week 7 of the college football season is in the books, and there are fourteen results that are most noteworthy in the races for conference championship games, major bowl bids and ultimately the January 7 BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena. Here’s the games and some thoughts on how they played out.
Missouri 41 Georgia 26: Missouri scored 21 points in the second quarter and then when Georgia closed to within 28-26, pulled right back away in the fourth quarter. Turnovers were the story, as Missouri played mistake-free and Georgia coughed it up four times.
It’s the Bulldogs second loss of the season and realistically takes them out of national title contention. Their defeat opens the SEC East race back up to South Carolina, and also helps Florida. And, oh by the way, it means Mizzou has to be taken seriously as a contender in this division and possibly for the SEC’s second at-large bid to the BCS. No game in the country had as many ripple effects across the board as the Tigers’ upset in Athens.
LSU 17 Florida 6: The Gators got the grinding style of game they needed, but LSU showed that their defensive problems of this season could be solved by a dose of the inept Florida offense. Even though the Gators didn’t commit turnovers, they had nothing positive going for them. The Tigers at least got a running game going, as Jeremy Hill ran for 121 yards on 19 carries.
LSU is in great position in the SEC right now–if they win out, which includes a trip to Alabama, the Tigers will play for a national title. If they simply win all games except the Tide–which include Texas A&M, then LSU will almost certainly get a Sugar Bowl bid.
Texas A&M 41 Ole Miss 38: Ole Miss had this game in their grasp, leading both 31-24 and 38-31 in the fourth quarter. But Johnny Manziel put the Aggies on his back, built his Heisman case further and kept his team in both the national title and BCS at-large chases. Manziel ended up 31/39 for 346 yards passing, and also ran for 124 yards. The latter was the biggest difference as the Aggies outgained the Rebs 241-133 on the ground.
Oregon 45 Washington 24: This one was close after three quarters, with Washington in striking distance at 31-24, but the Ducks had too much offense. Marcus Mariota was brilliant in the passing game, at 24/31 for 366 yards, and it was Oregon’s passing advantage that gave them the edge in this game. And when the Ducks don’t turn the ball over, as was the case Saturday, they’re almost impossible to stop.
Utah 27 Stanford 21: If the Missouri-Georgia game had the most far-reaching consequences, the Utes’ upset of Stanford might have been the biggest shock. It’s not just that Utah won–they had, after all, been close to UCLA–but the way Utah won. They just whipped the Stanford defense up front, with Bubba Poole rushing 22 times for 111 yards. In a yardstick-to-yardstick game, Utah got more first downs than Stanford, 21-13 and used a last-minute goal-line stand to win it.
Texas 36 Oklahoma 20: The Longhorns just bullied the Sooners, with two different rushers–Jonathan Gray and Malcolm Brown–rushing for over 100 yards. This is a Texas team that got pushed all over the field by both BYU and Ole Miss. This is either a searing indictment of Big 12 quality, or a tough commentary on the focus Oklahoma brought to this game. Texas is now 3-0 in conference play and has new life.
Baylor 35 Kansas State 25: No one in Baylor is going to complain about a conference road win that gets them to 5-0, but there was little in this game that inspires confidence in the Bears’ ability to rise into a BCS-caliber team. They were hammered on the ground. Kansas State ran for 327 yards, with Daniel Sams going off for a 199-yard game and a K-State team that hasn’t even looked bowl-caliber led 25-21 after three quarters.
Virginia Tech 19 Pitt 9: Virginia Tech got an early 10-0 lead and with their defense, that was enough to manage the game the rest of the way. Logan Thomas was nothing spectacular, but 19/34 for 239 yards is enough offensive life to help a team that plays defense this well, especially when there are no turnovers. The Hokies have won the preliminary battle in the ACC Coastal Division, which is to establish who the pre-eminent challenger to Miami is.
Clemson 24 Boston College 14: Looking at the box score for this game, it’s hard to see how Clemson trailed 14-10 after three quarters at home. Tajh Boyd had a nice 30/44 for 344 yards outing and Roderick McDowell rushed for 91 yards on 18 carries. The Tigers also played well defensively. But they still got a scare. We might reasonably attribute this to looking ahead to next week’s big battle with Florida State. Or Boston College, which also gave the Seminoles a little push, might be turning into a nice bowl-caliber team before our eyes.
Wisconsin 35 Northwestern 6: UW absolutely annihilated Northwestern in the trenches, with Melvin Gordon rushing for 172 yards and James White rolling for 101. For Northwestern’s sake, you have to hope this was a post-Ohio State letdown. In either case, it gave Wisconsin a big leg up in the race for an at-large BCS bid.
Penn State 43 Michigan 40 (4 OT): This game was tied 34-34 at the end of regulation, which makes you wonder just how incompetent the teams have to be to have two different overtime periods go without points. Devin Gardner played well for Michigan, passing for 240 yards on 15/28 and running for 124 more. But he got no help from the conventional running game, as Fitz Touissant ran 27 times for 27 yards.
It’s Michigan’s first loss of the season, although the way they were playing the Wolverines certainly didn’t have the feel of an undefeated team.
Michigan State 42 Indiana 28: This one’s noteworthy, because with Northwestern having lost twice, Michigan struggling and Nebraska in turmoil, Michigan State could end up the favorite in the Big Ten Legends Division. Sparty beat what’s been a pretty good Indiana team this year thanks to a two-pronged rushing attack of Jeremy Langford and Delton Williams .
Louisville 24 Rutgers 10: Last week, TheSportsNotebook took a closer look at Louisville and their prospects for going undefeated and maybe even sneaking into the BCS National Championship Game. This game showed why I’m pessimistic on the former and the latter is simply unthinkable. Rutgers played a poor game, turning the ball over four times and Louisville still struggled to put them away. The Cardinals are a good team, and Teddy Bridgewater (21/31 for 310 yards) has to be in the conversation to get to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but let’s not make them more than they are.
Northern Illinois 27 Akron 20: NIU joins Fresno State as a candidate to break into the BCS from the midmajor level, but not the way the Huskies played here. Akron’s been a competitive team under Terry Bowden, most notably at Michigan, but they were still 1-5 coming into this game and had it not been for ten penalties, the Zips might have pulled the upset.