Kudos to whichever ESPN programming whiz came up with this week's "Roadblock Saturday" theme. Michigan State and Missouri, two of the nation's four BCS-conference unbeatens entering the day, looked like road kill nearly as soon as their games began.
Having suffered two last-minute losses, No. 18 Iowa (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) seemed to be taking out a season's worth of frustration on No. 5 Michigan State (8-1, 4-1), jumping to a 30-0 lead by halftime en route to a 37-6 win (RECAP | BOX). This was the suffocating Hawkeyes defense we've been waiting to see all season, cashing in on three interceptions of previously solid Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins. In the play of the game, All-American safety Tyler Sash picked off a pass at his own 28 and deftly lateraled it to cornerback Micah Hyde, who crisscrossed the width of the field en route to a 66-yard touchdown return that put Iowa up 17-0.
The Hawkeyes' win throws the Big Ten/Rose Bowl race into chaos. Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State all have one conference loss, with the Badgers having beaten the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes but lost to the Spartans. Iowa will play Ohio State on Nov. 20, which will eliminate one contender, but a three-way tie is entirely possible, and the tiebreaker could be infinitely complicated. It's worth nothing that the Big Ten uses overall records before BCS standings, so Iowa's nonconference loss to Arizona will hurt its chances.
In its last game before next week's showdown with No. 4 TCU, No. 8 Utah's offense sputtered but its defense bailed it out in a 28-23 win at Air Force (RECAP | BOX). The Falcons outgained the Utes 411-327 but committed five turnovers, and Utah made two big fourth-quarter stops in the fourth quarter to preserve its lead.
An ugly outing at the Academy is nothing new for am Air Force opponent -- the same thing happened to TCU last year -- so, there's no reason to be concerned for Utah. It still moved to 8-0, and with losses by No. 5 Michigan State and No. 6 Missouri, next week's clash in Salt Lake City figures to be a showdown between No. 4 and No. 6. It will be the Mountain West's week in the sun.
Did you think you'd ever again see the day that a Baylor quarterback takes a knee in victory formation at Texas' Royal-Memorial Stadium?
The No. 25 Bears' improbable rise and the Longhorns' (4-4) baffling implosion both continued Saturday with a 30-22 Baylor victory (RECAP | BOX) in Austin, its first win there since 1991, which also marked UT's first three-game home losing streak since 1988. Down 19-10 midway through the third quarter, Baylor (7-2) rolled off three straight touchdowns, with should-be Heisman candidate Robert Griffin III running for one and throwing another. Texas' season of miscues continued. Fittingly, its last-ditch drive began with a muffed punt and personal foul and ended on a fumble.
With the win, Baylor remains in first place -- yes, first place -- in the Big 12 South heading into a suddenly huge game next week at Oklahoma State. Presumably, Oklahoma remains the favorite to win it. One team that most certainly won't: Texas.
Meanwhile, any momentum No. 7 Missouri hoped to carry over from last week's breakthrough win over Oklahoma went up in smoke about a minute in against Nebraska, when I-back Roy Helu Jr. broke a 66-yard touchdown. It would become a familiar sight, as Helu later scored on runs of 73 and 53 yards to finish with a school-record 307 rushing yards in the Huskers' 31-17 victory (RECAP | BOX).
Nebraska did most of its damage in the first half, leading 24-7 at the midway point before quarterback Taylor Martinez left with a deep thigh bruise. But Blaine Gabbert couldn't lead the Tigers back, going just 18-for-42 for 200 yards against the relentless Blackshirts. It was quite a reversal from last week, when Missouri's defense slowed Oklahoma's rushing attack and Nebraska's defense surrendered 495 yards to Oklahoma State.
Both teams now stand at 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12, with Nebraska holding the tiebreaker atop the Big 12 North. Which begs the question: How the heck did the Huskers lose so badly to Texas? Martinez, who was benched in that game, has been stellar in both games since, while the Longhorns lost last week to Iowa State. The Huskers could still get back in the national-title hunt, but they'll need a lot of help. A more realistic goal is their first BCS bowl berth since 2001.
The scene at Notre Dame Stadium early Saturday evening was so strange and surreal, it's hard to properly digest. On one side, members of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane celebrated an unquestionably historic triumph, having beaten the storied Fighting Irish, 28-27, in their own stadium (RECAP | BOX). At nearly the same time, Notre Dame's coaches and players locked arms and sang their Alma Mater -- and man was it depressing.
Just days after the death of student assistant Declan Sullivan, the Irish lost their only experienced quarterback, Dayne Crist, to a season-ending knee injury (ruptured patella tendon), then lost to Tulsa (5-3) when backup Tommy Rees threw an interception in the end zone with less than a minute remaining. Irish fans immediately took to Twitter to question why coach Brian Kelly would call such a play when he has a kicker, David Ruffer, who's made all 13 field goals this season.
Kelly will have far bigger questions to answer in the days ahead. The school and the state are investigating the circumstances that led to Sullivan's fatal fall from a video tower. Kelly's first Notre Dame team is now 4-5 after consecutive losses to Navy and Tulsa, with games against ranked Utah and USC teams still ahead -- games Kelly's going to have to play with a true freshman at quarterback. And to think, he couldn't wait for Cincinnati's bowl game to get a head start on all this.
Mike London's first ACC victory as Virginia head coach may also mark the beginning of the end for Miami head coach Randy Shannon.
The Cavaliers, who entered Saturday 3-4 overall and 0-3 in the ACC, opened up a 24-0 lead, then fended off a furious fourth-quarter rally to beat the 'Canes 24-19, likely ending Miami's hopes for a conference title (RECAP | BOX). (At 4-0, Virginia Tech now holds a two game lead in the Coastal Division.) After losing quarterback Jacory Harris to injury on a vicious second-quarter hit, the 'Canes first tried backup Spencer Whipple, then burned freshman Stephen Morris' redshirt, but the pair combined for four interceptions. Virginia ground out 185 rushing yards.
A 48-0 Virginia win at Miami back in 2007, Shannon's first season, marked the low point from which the 'Canes have been gradually building back for four seasons, but clearly that progress has stalled. With or without Harris, a Miami team that entered the season ranked in the top 15 has no business getting dominated by a team that's gone 12-20 since 2008.
It's a big win for London, who was visibly emotional afterward. He'd already begun garnering optimism in Charlottesville, but now has something to show for it. It's quite a different story for Shannon, however, whose four-year record fell to 26-20, and who will find his seat quite toasty when he returns to Coral Gables.
Florida sufficiently tweaked its previously inept offense during its bye week. The Gators rolled up 450 yards Saturday against rival Georgia, in part by rotating quarterbacks John Brantley and Trey Burton (17 carries, 110 yards), in part by bringing back suspended running back/receiver Chris Rainey (16, 84) and injured tailback Jeff Demps (11, 71) and in part by simply blocking better.
Yet it still took a 37-yard Chas Henry field goal in overtime for the Gators (5-3) to pull out a 34-31 victory and avoid a dreaded four-game losing streak (RECAP | BOX). Georgia's offense had ample success itself (439 total yards), including a whole bunch of big throws by budding star quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw three touchdowns. But Murray also threw three picks and coughed up a fumble, and his interception in overtime, which Will Hill nearly took the distance, dropped the Dawgs to 4-5.
There will likely be renewed calls for Georgia coach Mark Richt's head after this loss, but don't read too much into them. The Dawgs' future looks bright with Murray. Meanwhile, the Gators' immediate future is starting to look a little less murky. In fact, Florida can still win the mediocre SEC East if it beats South Carolina.
With star receiver Justin Blackmon serving a suspension and Oklahoma State suffering a fumbling problem early, the 20th-ranked Cowboys turned to a surprising weapon against Kansas State: their defense. Not exactly Mike Gundy's forte, the unit nonetheless slowed down Wildcats running back Daniel Thomas (3.5 yards per carry) and held K-State to 289 total yards in a 24-14 win (RECAP | BOX).
Even without Blackmon, Oklahoma State (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) racked up its usual 511 yards, but had trouble finishing drives. In the past, that might have doomed the Cowboys to defeat, but their defense played its best game of the season. It's time to start taking the Cowboys seriously in the Big 12 South race. They've got a bigger-than-anticipated game next week against No. 25 Baylor and also host the season-ending Bedlam game against No. 11 Oklahoma.
An emerging candidate for national coach of the year: Syracuse's Doug Marrone. In just his second season at the helm of his alma mater, which in recent years had been arguably the worst BCS-conference program in the country, Marrone has the Orange at 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the Big East following their third straight conference road win, a 31-7 rout of two-time defending champ Cincinnati (RECAP | BOX).
Syracuse would need a Pittsburgh collapse to win the conference (the Panthers are 3-0 and beat the Orange head-to-head), but the fact that it's even a possibility is one of the biggest surprises of the season. Syracuse is doing it with defense, holding Cincinnati to 277 yards and scoring 17 points off turnovers, including a crucial goal-line interception and 60-yard return by linebacker Derrell Smith that thwarted any hope of a second-half Bearcats comeback.