The Trojans Are Relevant Again… Could USC hang with Stanford for four quarters? Yes, The Trojans edged them 20-17, despite having just 49 scholarship players at hand. Stanford played its game. The Cardinal dominated both lines of scrimmage. Tyler Gaffney ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. They held USC’s rushing attack to a paltry 27 yards on 23 carries. Sometimes, games come down to quarterback agency, though. Those aren’t the sort that 2013 Stanford is going to win.
The Trojans had Agholor and Lee healthy for Cody Kessler who, despite a slow, Kiffin-induced start, now ranks second in passer rating in Pac 12 play. The Cardinal had Kevin Hogan, who completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the fourth time in five games and threw two interceptions.
People crap on A.J. McCarron’s contribution to Alabama, but Stanford is what not having him looks like. The Cardinal don’t press their advantage. They don’t march down the field for that dagger drive that puts teams away. That’s why they are playing for a BCS at large bid instead of a title.
We could lump this under “Stanford losing another game to an unranked team on the road.” But that’s more due to flawed perception. USC is Top 20 in SRS and Top 10 in FEI plus heading into that game, despite the Kiffin stalling. Utah is 31st in SRS, was 20th in FEI plus heading into last week. They lost three games to Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State by a combined eight points in regulation.
The Miracle Catch… Georgia came back from a 20-point deficit against Auburn to take a 38-37 lead. It crumbled, in spectacular fashion. Two Georgia safeties knocked an easy bat down into the air. Ricardo Lewis caught it and ran in for a touchdown. 43-38. Game over. It was a heart-breaking loss for Georgia. It was also a massive win for Gus Malzahn.
Most thought the Tigers would be fortunate to reach a bowl game. But Auburn is now 10-1. The players who went winless in conference play last year are a win away from the SEC West title and a potential vault into the BCS discussion. Most of that can be attributed directly to Malzahn. With him back at the helm, Auburn has improved from 90th to 9th in yards/play offense.
Auburn should return to orbit against Alabama. Regardless, the future looks gleaming on the plains.
Fun While It Lasted… Texas is still Texas. They were just playing mediocre teams with immobile quarterbacks. Oklahoma State took an early lead. With a limp running game and Case McCoy behind center, the Longhorns were in no position to fight back. Yeah, Texas can still win its final two games and win the Big 12. But, with a Baylor loss probable, the dream run to save Mack Brown’s job may be caput. With the big belt buckles at Texas in full-on branding mode, stemmed decay won’t be enough of a selling point.
Out of Their Misery… Florida put up a fight with its 51 available scholarship players, but lost 19-14 at South Carolina. The Gators have been all but eliminated from bowl play. (Mercifully, that inevitable pairing with Michigan in the Gator Bowl has been averted) The game resembled almost every other Florida game this season: a willful war of attrition, that Florida did not win. Will Muschamp injured his hand punching a chalkboard, perhaps in frustration about his team flashing an unscripted dallop of joie de vivre. The loss drops Muschamp to 16-14 vs. BCS conference teams in his third year. Ron Zook was 17-13, before being fired.
Feature Back… Boston College tailback Andre Williams ran for 339 yards and two touchdowns against N.C. State this weekend. He now leads the nation in attempts (288) and yards (1,810) with two games to play in the regular season. It might be a bit too late to jump start that Heisman campaign. Steve Addazio has had an excellent season with the Eagles who return to bowl play for the first time since 2010 and who came the closest anyone has to knocking off Florida State.
Burn the Evidence… Michigan and Northwestern have played some great games. This was not one of them. Michigan did not convert a third down for four quarters, and won. With freshmen Derrick Green and De’Veon Smith combining for 120 positive yards on 27 carries, it was their best offensive performance in weeks. The play of the game was a field goal. This seven-yard punt happened. So, so B1G.
Myles Bleeping Jack… We predicted the Myles Jack novelty would wear off. We were dead wrong. The freshman linebacker ran for a more pedestrian 59 yards on 13 carries. Though he posted four touchdowns, giving him five on 19 career carries. Possibly a different game if Keith Price stayed healthy and Washington practiced ball security. Nonetheless, a great win for the Bruins. UCLA controls its chances for the Pac 12 South, but must beat Arizona State and UCLA in the final two games.
Bowl Eligible… Maryland sacked Logan Thomas seven times and held on for a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech. This stemmed the shorthanded Terps’ three-game losing streak and got them bowl eligible for the first time under Randy Edsall. Maryland still trails Boston College, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, in the battle to become Florida State’s third-best win.
Futility… Illinois lost 60-35 to Ohio State, their 20th straight defeat in the Big Ten. That wasn’t surprising. Losing by only 25 was a decent performance and covered the spread. Though the depth to which this program has fallen was made evident. Coaches nearly resorted to fisticuffs. The student section was almost empty. Just a mess. The few fans that remain pine wistfully for the Ron Zook era.
Sad… Utah doctors discovered a “pre-existing neurological condition” during concussion tests on quarterback Travis Wilson. He’s out for the season. The condition may be career-ending. Utah has not had a starting quarterback go a full season since Brian Johnson in 2008. They went 13-0 and beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
J.J. Worton’s Game-Tying Touchdown Catch for UCF… Was magnificent.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]