College Football, Week 11: Run Like Hell

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The race to the BCS games commences each August as a clown car of near-limitless capacity. It careers into Week 1 crammed with 120-some teams, each anointed with some degree of possibility, however finite, of stringing together a perfect season and hoisting that crystal ball, or tossing oranges into a joyous throng, or ruining a perfectly good mascot outfit with greasy corn chip smears. (And good grief, that somehow looks even weirder written out than when it’s actually happening.) Each week, squads tumble out, forced to trundle along behind. Every so often, bloody-minded interloper clowns with hooks for hands are discovered clinging to the undercarriage. This isn’t symbolic language; why do you think nobody wants to tackle Jordan Lynch?

And no matter how tightly packed the contraption might seem rounding into November, no matter how dearly we might all wish to conclude the regular season with a handful of undefeated teams to confound the half-assed system that puts on the big-money games, it’s just so famously difficult to make it through a full slate of FBS play unscathed.

In Week 11: The intact AQ squads get some elbow room; Oregon gets kicked into the sawdust; and Alabama remains in the driver’s seat, maintaining a level speed of precisely five miles above the legal limit.

SEC

We Went There: No. 1 Alabama 38, no. 13 LSU 17. A week after half the top 10 took a Saturday off, with all the undefeated AQ teams not named Florida State receding for a rest before crashing back into action, to the surprise of precisely no one, what came back was a rolling Tide. Yes, and some rampaging Bears and a stand of immovable trees and some very angry Noles, and just as soon as any of them can snap the Yellowhammer State’s stranglehold on national titles, they’ll get to be in the metaphors. Any time now, you guys.

Good news for those of you craving a little variety in your national title game consumption: Alabama was played close for a good portion of a game, which is a thing LSU tends to do to Alabama, and which no team had done since Texas A&M way back in Week 3.

There is no more good news. Three minutes into the third quarter, the Tide and Tigers were tied, 17-17, which is about when the paving set in. Three clock-devouring Alabama touchdown drives, one LSU punt, and two LSU turnovers on downs later, the Tide were up a seemly 21 points and dissipating the game’s final seconds in victory formations.

There are, as ever, what-ifs that could’ve given the Tigers the edge for longer. LSU fumbles on consecutive possessions in the first quarter stand out. Then again, so do two deflected balls that star Bama linebacker C.J. Mosley might have pulled down for interceptions. But you can’t get too mad at Mosley, not when he put up double-digit tackling numbers and pulled off this stunt.

The last best hope of derailing this dynasty before it again gets to Atlanta lies now in the last game of the regular season. The opponent, of all outfits, is the other major college football program in the state, and the last non-Tide team to claim a national title. Bama’s ability to score is not seriously in question at this point, not between newly minted all-time Tide passing leader AJ McCarron and freak-of-science displacement force rusher T.J. Yeldon. Auburn, back under Gus Malzahn’s control, has been putting up blistering rushing numbers against overmatched defenses, but the Tide’s run defense has been severe. The teams can’t look ahead to Week 14. But you can.

No. 15 Texas A&M 51, Mississippi State 41. A&M’s problem remains a familiar one; namely, having to give the ball back to the other team after Johnny Manziel is through adding points to the scoreboard, and what the Aggies do when that other team tries to score.

And now for a rare allowed instance of feelingsball: Johnny Football basks in the adoration of Kyle Field following what’s very probably his final collegiate home game:

No. 8 Missouri 48, Kentucky 17. Meanwhile, in the still-tangled SEC East, replacement part quarterback Maty Mauk tied a school record for passing touchdowns with five scoring throws at Kentucky. #MAUKtion!

Pac-12

No. 5 Stanford 26, no. 3 Oregon 20. We went there. Following the upset, the Cardinal jumped to no. 4 in the latest set of BCS standings, while the Ducks dipped to no. 6. Between them at no. 5: the undefeated Baylor Bears, who are still shaking off the AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY PAAAOWL stigma despite a high-profile flaying of then 10th-ranked Oklahoma last Thursday. (We’ll come back to that.) Trending upward: the odds of a Stanford–Ohio State Rose Bowl, which the Rose Bowl will love, because how easy is it going to be to match blooms to those uniforms? That, and the creeping terror of what horrors Shayne Skov could wreak on offense:

No. 19 UCLA 31, Arizona 26. Those Stanford players weren’t kidding. In a complementary twist to That Guy Anthony Barr’s conversion from offense to defense, UCLA put freshman linebacker Myles Jack in at running back beginning last Wednesday, then turned him loose on both sides of the ball in Tucson. The yield: 120 yards on the ground, including a 66-yard touchdown, eight tackles, and a fumble recovery.

As ways to commemorate the Bruins’ first win at Arizona in a decade go, this wasn’t too bad. Not too bad at all.

No. 22 Arizona State 20, Utah 19. The Utes may have dropped to 4-5, but they remain the league’s premier tripping hazard. This is a sincere compliment. Nothing livens up a season like losses when there absolutely should not be losses. Thank you for your service, Utah, and [IS TRAMPLED BY ONRUSHING STUDENT SECTION]

USC 62, Cal 28. In this week’s episode of Ed Orgeron, Permissive Stepdad: We learn what happens when you let your charges play too much Grand Theft Auto. The Trojans led 41-14 at the half, thanks in large part to three (THREE) Golden Bears punts converted into enemy touchdowns. Two were returned the old-fashioned way by Nelson Agholor; the third was blocked by Soma Vainuku, then taken in for six by Josh Shaw.

Hold on to something: We’re now edging warily into a scenario in which the Trojans, after firing their coach in September, could end up representing the Pac-12 South in the conference title game. They’d need a lot of help from Arizona State and a bizarro run of luck through their final three conference games, but the possibility is there, so let’s just marinate in that for a little bit.

ACC

No. 2 Florida State 59, Wake Forest 3. Say this for Wake Forest: Jimbo Fisher kept his starters in the game longer against the Demon Deacons than he did in last season’s infamous 55-0 rampage versus Savannah State. Of course, “longer” in this case means “the second quarter.” Wake Forest also allowed more points and scored fewer than Bethune-Cookman did when it played the Noles in September, but the Wildcats are currently 8-2 and lead the MEAC. We should probably stop drawing comparisons here. Anyway: Florida State clinched the Atlantic division, which is right and proper for this Florida State team; we’ll get to the Coastal in a minute, but not before one more goggle at how very, very badly this game went for the Deacs:

Virginia Tech 42, no. 11 Miami 24. Previously: “Miami is coming off a walloping in Tallahassee, while Virginia Tech is riding a two-game losing streak against Duke and Boston College. Miami still leads the ACC Coastal by one game for the privilege of having to play Florida State again. We see no way this could end disastrously.” Saturday: An Isla Nublar–worthy torrential rainstorm resulting in zero turnovers and 549 yards of offense for the Hokies. The battle for the privilege of being torn to bits by Florida State in Charlotte has re-expanded to the four teams in the Coastal division with two conference losses: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Duke, and Miami.

Big 12

Baylor-Celebrates

No. 6 Baylor 41, no. 10 Oklahoma 12. This game will be four days in the past by the time you read this, and you will have heard what went on by now: the discombobulation for Baylor at the game’s outset; the brief, glorious window of time when the score was 5-3; the offensive achievements eventually unlocked by the Bears despite the loss of luminaries Lache Seastrunk, Tevin Reese, and Glasco Martin. For their troubles, the Bears hop from six to five in the BCS standings, but do not pass one-loss Stanford, with the Cardinal moving from five to four.

Opportunities to improve their fortunes abound for the Bears, with four conference games remaining on the schedule, including a road trip to no. 12 Oklahoma State the week after next and the season-finale showdown versus Texas. The league doesn’t play a conference championship game, but the way this has shaken out so far, that last dance in Waco might as well be one: The Longhorns are the only other Big 12 team hanging on to a perfect conference record through Week 11.

Texas 47, West Virginia 40 (OT). Still undefeated in our hearts: West Virginia’s cardigan game. And what a bit of hanging on the Longhorns had to do, surviving what was somehow the first overtime game of the Mack Brown era. The victory was not without cost: Texas announced Sunday that defensive tackle Chris Whaley and running back Johnathan Gray will undergo season-ending surgeries following injuries sustained in Morgantown.

Kansas State 49, no. 25 Texas Tech 26. The Wildcats are a world away from the team that opened the season with an ignominious loss to North Dakota State, and the Red Raiders are well and truly out of the conference race. Healing thoughts in advance to Lubbock, where 101 points have been scored by enemy players in the past two games, and where the Raiders must now prepare to play Baylor in the JerryDome next week.

Big Ten

No. 4 Ohio State 0, macabre Big Ten bye-week fantasies 7. My god, Van Helsing:

No. 24 Wisconsin 27, BYU 17. Honest question for Badgers fans: Is the sting of the horrid way the Arizona State game ended fading with time, or getting worse now because of the Badgers’ ensuing successes?

Nebraska 17, Michigan 13. Beginning to feel spoiled by delicious endings to Huskers games?

Fully expecting Lil' Red to kick a field goal against Michigan State at this rate.

Minnesota 24, Penn State 10. The Golden Gophers finally came into a game as a favorite; the new quarrel now is getting them the rankings love they deserve. In the meantime: Jerry Kill dance break.

AAC

No. 21 Central Florida 19, Houston 14. The Cougars came within seven yards of throwing the American race into hilarious disarray, but the Knights are pressing on in sole possession of first place, and we are left only to wonder why UCF doesn’t play all of its home games at Medieval Times. Tell us you wouldn’t buy season tickets for that. You would. You so would, liar.

No. 20 Louisville 31, Connecticut 10. Not even going to dignify this with a response.

Profiles in Profiteroles

No. 16 Fresno State 48, Wyoming 10. So much for the imagined double-edged pointsplosion. At the end of the first period, the Bulldogs trailed 7-0. At halftime, they led 14-10. In the second half, they outscored the Cowboys 34-0, and if the season ended today, Fresno would be bound for a big-time postseason bid. Still to come between now and then: a by-land-or-by-air battle with New Mexico and a trip to San Jose State the day after Thanksgiving.

And now, a brief safety presentation on the dangers of using ponies in scoring defense.

Grape Job

Grape-Job

Why Eastern Michigan announced the firing of head coach Ron English on Friday morning was a minor mystery until Friday evening, when The Detroit News posted an audio file containing some truly disgraceful invective English delivered to some players. This was absolutely the right call by the university; even if English’s choice of words had been less abusive, some of the sentiments he expressed are insupportable for a man charged with managing the well-being of students. We do wonder what might have happened to English had he amassed more than 11 wins in five seasons at EMU.

Stay Tuned

The blessed November stretch of football-every-day continues apace, with college ball returning in the form of Tuesday and Wednesday MACtion, Thursday CUSAction and ACCtion, and Friday PACtion. (So sorry.) Highlights: Ball State at no. 15 Northern Illinois on Wednesday night and Washington at no. 13 UCLA on Friday night, followed by Georgia-Auburn, Oklahoma State–Texas, Miami-Duke (IT IS TOO A COMPELLING FOOTBALL CONTEST), and Stanford-USC on Saturday.

Filed Under: College Football