Skip to main content

Big Ten logjam continues, SEC D's raise eyebrows; more Snaps

With his team's BCS and Big Ten title hopes on the line, Pryor took over with 6:05 left, down four, and led the Buckeyes (10-1) on a 12-play, 76-yard drive to go ahead by what wound up being the final margin, 20-17 (RECAP | BOX). Overcoming a seemingly disastrous moment when receiver DeVier Posey dropped what would have been a wide-open 50-yard touchdown on third-and-10, Ohio State went for it on fourth down, converting on a 14-yard Pryor scramble. Pryor then completed a 24-yard pass to Dane Sanzebacher to set up Dan Herron's go-ahead score with 1:47 left. The Buckeyes then stuffed Ricky Stanzi and the Hawkeyes.

It's unlikely Ohio State will play in Pasadena this year (Wisconsin is officially in the driver's seat), but a win next week over Michigan will ensure the Buckeyes a share of their sixth straight Big Ten title. Ohio State is already the first team in conference history to post six straight 10-win seasons. And the Buckeyes are almost definitely headed to their eighth BCS bowl in nine years under Jim Tressel, a remarkable feat.

Meanwhile, Iowa falls to 7-4, an unquestionably disappointing season for a team that returned the nucleus of last year's 11-2 squad. The thing is, last year's Hawkeyes admittedly overachieved, pulling out several close games along the way. This year, all four of Iowa's losses came down to the final minutes. The breaks went the other way.

Let's face it, this has not been a glorious year for the oft-hyped defenses of the SEC, and Saturday's Ole Miss-LSU game may have been the most telling exhibit yet. The 4-7 Rebels -- a week removed from losing 52-14 at Tennessee -- gave the nation's purported fifth-best team everything it could handle before the Tigers ultimately prevailed, 43-36 (RECAP | BOX).

The Rebels, mind you, came in averaging 22.5 points in conference play, the Tigers 24.3, but apparently they just needed to play each other to get things rolling. The teams combined for five fourth-quarter touchdowns in another epic Les Miles-Houston Nutt duel, reminiscent of Arkansas' 50-48, triple-overtime upset of eventual national champ LSU in 2007 when Nutt was coaching the Hogs.

LSU has been the most baffling one-loss team in the country this season, winning at Florida and Alabama but barely surviving sub-.500 Tennessee and Ole Miss at home. The Tigers deserve ample credit for surviving an inarguably tough schedule, but one thing's for certain: They have no business sitting ahead of more dominant one-loss teams like Stanford and Wisconsin in the polls. It's time for voters to take off their SEC blinders and reevaluate their ballots.

Texas A&M installed extra seats to create the biggest student section ever recorded (29,520) and biggest crowd in Kyle Field history (more than 90,000) for Saturday night's showdown with No. 9 Nebraska. The Aggies fans were richly rewarded -- even if it took a long, laborious 60 minutes to get there.

In a completely unexpected defensive struggle, No. 18 Texas A&M (8-3) notched its fifth straight victory, 9-6, with Randy Bullock kicking the go-ahead field goal with 3:02 left (RECAP | BOX). Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez, who hurt his ankle in the first half, gallantly tried to lead the Huskers back at the end, but it was clear he couldn't get full lift off his foot.

But that's not what coach Bo Pelini and Huskers fans everywhere were lamenting Saturday. Pelini spent nearly the entire night haranguing the officials, who flagged Nebraska (9-2) for a school-record 16 penalties to just two for the Aggies. In particular, a questionable roughing-the-passer call helped set up A&M's go-ahead field goal. Pelini looked like he wanted someone's blood as he walked off the field afterward, while Huskers fans took to Twitter to claim that Big 12 representative, bitter over Nebraska's impending departure, called in the fix.

Conspiracy theories aside, the result really didn't change much in the big picture. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State's victories Saturday assured the winner of next week's Bedlam game will win the Big 12 South, while Nebraska will still take the North if it beats Colorado. But try telling the A&M fans that stormed the field afterward their win was "meaningless." Aggies fans haven't had this much cause for excitement about their program in many years.

The Pac-10's expansion and split into North and South divisions can't come soon enough for USC, which will surely welcome fewer trips to Corvallis, Ore.

A week removed from becoming the first Pac-10 team in two years to lose to Washington State, Oregon State (5-5) throttled No. 20 USC, 36-7 (RECAP | BOX). The Beavers defense has struggled all season, but it absolutely stifled the Trojans (7-4), holding them to 255 total yards and their fewest points since 2001. Adding injury to insult, Matt Barkley went out with a sprained ankle just before halftime and didn't return; but by then the Beavers were already up 20-0.

Mike Riley's team desperately needed this win. It's unlikely to win at 10-1 Stanford next week, but it will at least remain in bowl contention when it enters the Dec. 4 Civil War against No. 1 Oregon in what could be the biggest game ever played at Reser Stadium. Barkley's status will be closely watched this week heading into USC's annual rivalry game with Notre Dame.

It was clunky, it was unconventional, but at the end of the day, Saturday's Illinois-Northwestern game at Wrigley Field was unquestionably cool. The standing-room only crowd and the fans watching from the rooftops on Sheffield Ave. got to see two pieces of history: the first college football game at Wrigley since 1938 and a record-setting performance from Illini running back Mikel Leshoure.

The junior carried 33 times for a school-record 330 yards -- the most by an FBS player this season -- in the Illini's 48-27 rout of the Wildcats (RECAP | BOX). And of course, he gained every one of those yards heading west after officials deemed it unsafe Friday to use the venue's cramped east end zone.

The oddity of the set-up was noticeable early on, especially when Illinois recovered a fumble deep in Northwestern territory and everyone picked up and headed to the other side of the field. Ultimately, the ground rules had far less of an impact on the outcome than Illinois' (6-5) utter rushing dominance (519 of its 559 yards came on the ground) and the absence of injured Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa. In Persa's place, freshman Evan Watkins managed just 135 passing yards, and the Wildcats (7-4) converted just two third downs.

For the second straight week, Wisconsin played without reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay, and for the second straight week, the sixth-ranked Badgers (10-1) did pretty much whatever they wanted to against an overmatched conference foe, whipping Michigan 48-28 (RECAP | BOX).

Wisconsin's backfield is just ridiculous. Montee Ball, a third-stringer two weeks ago, ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman James White added 161 and two scores. Both set up play-action for Scott Tolzien, who completed 14 of his 15 pass attempts. If there's a more punishing offense in the country right now, I haven't seen it.

Yet the Badgers still aren't a lock to reach the Rose Bowl due to their early-season loss to Michigan State. The No. 11 Spartans (10-1) kept their own hopes alive Saturday with a tremendous fourth-quarter rally to fend off a Purdue upset bid. The Boilers led 28-13 to start the fourth quarter, but Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two touchdowns and ran for another to claim a 35-31 lead. Rob Henry nearly took the Boilers down the field for a last-minute drive, but all-everything linebacker Greg Jones forced Henry to throw a game-sealing pick on fourth-and-eight inside the Spartans' 20 (RECAP | BOX).

Mark Dantonio's team finishes 7-0 at home for the first time in school history, a remarkable accomplishment for that program, and wraps the season next week at Penn State (7-4). If Michigan State wins, and if Ohio State loses at Michigan next week, the Spartans go to Pasadena. If all three contenders win out, it will be the Badgers.

Baseball voters recently bucked convention and awarded the AL Cy Young to 13-game winner Felix Hernandez, choosing not to penalize the Mariners' ace for playing on a team that couldn't take advantage of his dominance. If the Heisman electorate were so progressive, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson would at least be in the discussion for the stiff-arm trophy right now, but his team's horrendous defense has ruined any hope of that.

Robinson broke the NCAA single-season rushing record for a quarterback Saturday against Wisconsin (he now has 1,593 yards), finishing with 360 total yards and accounting for four touchdowns. Despite missing parts of several games with injuries, Robinson's rushing and passing numbers are comparable to Cam Newton's. But Newton has led his team to an 11-0 start, while the Wolverines are 7-4 and a non-factor nationally, so Robinson won't be visiting New York next month.

Maybe next year.

This one's not exactly a "snap" judgment, seeing as Boise State played on Friday night. It's not exactly a revelation, either. But it bears repeating: Boise's defense is really, really good.

Friday night, the third-ranked Broncos blanked Fresno State, 51-0 (RECAP | BOX). The Bulldogs aren't exactly Oregon or Auburn, but they did come in averaging 34.7 points and nearly 400 yards. They managed 125 yards and one third-down conversion against Boise. Poor Fresno quarterback Ryan Coburn, the nation's 20th-rated passer, finished 6-of-23 with four sacks and two interceptions.

During the game, I tweeted that Boise's D-line (Billy Winn, Ryan Winterswyk, Chase Baker and Shea McClellin) is the best in the country, which elicited inevitable derision from an SEC crowd that's obsessed with Boise's "jayvee schedule." But for two years now, we've watched that front four shut down everyone it's faced, be it Virginia Tech (which gave up trying to run the ball at halftime), Hawaii (which Boise held to its lowest yardage in 12 years) or Fresno. It starts with those guys up front. Hopefully we'll get to see them go up against an elite offensive line in a BCS bowl game.