College Football Top 25 Review
Darron Thomas passed for three touchdowns and ran for another and top-ranked Oregon earned at least a share of a second consecutive Pac-10 title. LaMichael James shrugged off talk of an injury to run for 126 yards and two scores for the Ducks (11-0 overall, 8-0 Pac-10), who trailed 19-14 at halftime but surged in the second half to stay on course for a trip to the BCS title game.
There's no question this was a tale of two halves. The host Tide (9-3 overall, 5-3 SEC) lead 21-0 before Auburn even picked up a first down and had a 314-2 lead in total yards at one point in the first half. But Cam Newton (left), delivering his signature performance in a season of controversy, rallied the Tigers (12-0, 8-0) for a victory, stunning the more than 101,000 Alabama fans in attendance and keeping Auburn on course for a shot at the national championship.
Two missed kicks, and Boise State went from being the darling of BCS busters everywhere to just another team looking for a bowl game. Nevada roared back from a 17-point deficit to notch the biggest win in program history, snap Boise's 24-game win streak and end any hopes the Broncos had of playing for the BCS championship. Anthony Martinez's 34-yard field goal in overtime proved decisive.
Boise State's BCS dreams may have been dashed, but TCU's remain very much intact. The Horned Frogs (12-0, 8-0 Mountain West) capped their second straight undefeated season despite losing quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw three touchdown passes before leaving the game with an elbow injury.
Big Ten foes should shudder at the thought of what Wisconsin running back Montee Ball will do next season. The sophomore rushed for 178 yards and four scores against Northwestern, his fourth straight game with 100-plus yards and multiple scores since stepping in for injured starter John Clay. The Badgers (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) continued to roll as well, securing a share of the Big Ten title and likely wrapping up a Rose Bowl berth.
This one was not as close as the score indicated. Ryan Mallett passed for 320 yards and three touchdowns and Arkansas (10-2, 6-2 SEC) outgained LSU (10-2, 6-2) 464 yards to 294. The Tigers were in line to earn a BCS at-large berth, but that's now a more likely possibility for the Razorbacks, who finished second in the loaded SEC West.
Andrew Luck threw four touchdown passes to set a single-season school record and No. 7 Stanford stated its case for a berth in the Bowl Championship Series. Stepfan Taylor ran for 115 yards and a touchdown and Doug Baldwin caught two TD passes for the Cardinal (11-1 overall, 8-1 in the Pac-10), who set a school record for wins with an emphatic close to the regular season.
Make it seven straight wins for Ohio State (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten) over archrival Michigan (7-5, 3-5). And make it six straight shared or outright Big Ten titles for the Buckeyes, who chose a good day to wear throwback uniforms in honor of the school's 1942 national title team. Ohio State stymied Michigan's normally torrid offense and the Buckeyes rolled off 37 points behind a huge day from tailback Dan Herron, who rushed for 175 yards and a score. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is now 0-3 against Ohio State.
Landry Jones matched the school record with 468 yards passing and threw two long touchdown passes in a wild finish to the Bedlam game as Oklahoma forged a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South. Jones threw an 86-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Kenney then answered Justin Gilbert's kickoff return score for Oklahoma State (10-2 overall, 6-2 in the Big 12) with a 76-yarder to James Hanna 29 seconds later as the Sooners (10-2, 6-2) survived to likely earn a spot in the Big 12 title game.
Michigan State wrapped up an 11-1 season and its first share of the Big Ten title since 1990 by beating Penn State, but it may not be good enough to make the BCS. What's more, getting that 11th win wasn't easy. The Nittany Lions (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) scored 19 fourth-quarter points, but failed to recover an on-side kick in the final minute. Regardless of their ultimate BCS fate, the Spartans can relish their first win in Happy Valley since 1965.
It was a rough start to the season for Virginia Tech, which opened with consecutive losses to Boise State and James Madison. But the Hokies (10-2, 8-0 ACC) have flipped the script, completing an undefeated ACC season by beating in-state rival Virginia (4-8, 1-7) on Saturday. Next week's appearance in the ACC Championship Game will be Virginia Tech's fourth in six seasons.
Missouri drew 95 yards in penalties, but it didn't matter. The Tigers (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) dominated the Jayhawks (3-9, 1-7) in the 119th meeting between the programs, netting 393 yards to Kansas' 142. Kansas has lost 16 of 19 since opening with five straight wins in 2009.
Stephen Garcia threw for two touchdowns, Alshon Jeffery (right) had his seventh 100-yard receiving game and No. 18 South Carolina posted its third nine-win season ever. In a season of milestones, this was likely one of the sweetest for the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division winners, who beat the Tigers in consecutive games for the first time since 1968-70. The Gamecocks (9-3) have only won nine games twice before in 117 seasons of football.
Rex Burkhead made sure Nebraska's final Big 12 regular-season game would be a laugher. Burkhead rushed 19 times for 101 yards and a touchdown and also completed both his passes for touchdowns as the Huskers won the Big 12 North and secured their spot in the Big 12 title game.
Texas A&M heaped one final insult on Texas' miserable season. Cyrus Gray (center) rushed for 223 yards and had two long touchdowns as the Aggies sent the Longhorns to their first losing season since 1997. "We set out at the beginning of the season to do this," Texas A&M senior center Matt Allen said. "Beat Texas and win in November." Gray had touchdown runs of 84 yards in the second quarter and 48 yards in the third.
Maryland came up short of the ACC Atlantic title, but the Terps managed to spoil NC State's divisional bid. Danny O'Brien threw for a career-high 417 yards and four touchdowns, all to speedy receiver Torrey Smith, and Maryland (8-4, 5-3 ACC) outlasted NC State (8-4, 5-3), delivering the division to Florida State in the process.
Florida State spent six straight years losing to Florida. The Seminoles only needed one half to end that streak, posting 21 second-quarter points to build a 24-7 halftime lead. Florida (7-5, 4-4 SEC) finished its worst regular season under Urban Meyer, while FSU (9-3, 6-2 ACC) secured the ACC Atlantic Division title thanks to its win and NC State's loss.
BYU and Utah ended their final game as Mountain West rivals in fittingly dramatic fashion, as the Utes' Brandon Burton blocked BYU's last-second 42-yard field goal attempt. The Cougars held a 13-0 lead, but the Utes mounted a comeback to lock up a 10-win season and snap BYU's four-game win streak.
The Floyd of Rosedale Trophy has changed hands for the first time in four years. Iowa (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) closed a disappointing season in fitting fashion, dropping its third straight game by four points or fewer. Duane Bennett scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:31 remaining and DeLeon Eskridge (pictured) delivered 95 rushing yards and a score for Minnesota (3-9, 2-6).
Chris Relf threw for a career-high 288 yards and three touchdowns as Mississippi State dominated early and then held on late for its first win in Oxford since 1998. After the game, MSU's players circled Vaught-Hemingway Stadium exchanging hugs and high-fives with the considerable amount of Bulldog fans celebrating in the stands. Vick Ballard (right) rushed for 43 yards and a TD for the Bulldogs, bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007 and only the second time in a decade.