What do you get when fully half of the teams in the BCS top 10 don’t appear on the weekend schedule and four of those that do put on decisive wins of varying degrees of ruthlessness? We come not to criticize our corporate mothership, which did not engineer the expansive talent gaps between the Buckeyes and Boilermakers or the Tigers and Cavaliers, but by the second quarter of the noon games our remote trigger finger had achieved a measure of sentience and was creeping of its own free will toward the National Treasure/National Treasure: Book of Secrets double feature on ABC Family. You snort, but behold the results from Week 10's top BCS teams:
1. Alabama: OFF
2. Oregon: OFF
3. Florida State: PUMMELED NO. 7 MIAMI, 41-14
4. Ohio State: ANNIHILATED PURDUE, 56-0
5. Stanford: OFF
6. Baylor: OFF
7. Miami: PUMMELED BY NO. 3 FLORIDA STATE, 41-14
8. Clemson: OBLITERATED VIRGINIA, 59-10
9. Missouri: TROUNCED TENNESSEE, 31-3
10. Oklahoma: OFF
And here is Nicolas Cage straddling a banister and screaming about haggis:
Take heart: Week 10 may have been short on suspense, but it produced a revealing crest for the ACC’s regular season and served as the inhale before the plunge for every other undefeated title-contending team. And what else do you get when half of the top 10 isn’t on the schedule? Four of those five teams are scheduled to play one another three days from now.
But let’s not skip to Week 11 just yet. Interesting things went on in Week 10. We’re acting like they didn’t. They did. We’re sorry. Haggis weakens our morals and so does Helen Mirren. Movements and moments from all over:
• No. 3 Florida State 41, no. 7 Miami 14. Heading into Saturday, the ACC had two undefeated teams in the top 10, one that assuredly belonged there, and one that was widely suspected of being unworthy. The Hurricanes tried to make liars of conventional wisdom, hanging on to a 21-14 deficit at halftime. That they didn’t end up losing by 40 is a credit to the Canes, and that’s a sincere compliment.
With a squad as talented as Florida State’s is position to position, there’s just so much that has to go wrong, at the same time or at least in quick succession, to derail it. Jameis Winston, it turns out, is capable of making throws befitting his status as a redshirt freshman quarterback, and both his interceptions were rapidly converted into Canes touchdowns. But Winston got help, on both sides of the ball and from both sidelines. Even without offensive miscues from Miami’s Stephen Morris and Matt Goudis, it’s tricky to imagine the likes of Winston, Devonta Freeman, James Wilder, Nick O’Leary, Kelvin Benjamin, the O-line, and the defense all executing concurrent face-plants. Neither team played its most complete game against what will certainly be the last ranked opponent of the regular season, but on their version of an off night, the Noles were still 27 points better.
The sailing at Miami won’t get smoother from here. The Hurricanes still hold a half-game lead in the Coastal Division; to hang on to it, they’ll have to shake this off and surmount Virginia Tech and Duke, games that are certainly winnable but also losable. And they’ll have to do it without diminutive and fantastic running back Duke Johnson, who fractured his ankle in the third quarter of the Florida State game and is done for the year. And if they win their remaining four conference contests, the prize will be a rematch with the Seminoles in Charlotte.
Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, where the “WE WANT BAMA” chants began reverberating three minutes before halftime, Wake Forest, Syracuse, Idaho, and Florida round out the schedule. The Seminoles leapfrogged idle Oregon to move back up to no. 2 in the latest BCS standings, but the biggest potential problem moving forward is how much better Florida State is than every remaining opponent. This is a nice problem to have, but one the team may not be able to solve through any direct action. As the national focus inevitably shifts to high-profile late-season games for Alabama, Oregon, and Baylor, all the Noles can do is keep putting on fireworks shows and, more crucially, wait for missteps from the other undefeated teams.
That, and avoid success-induced malaise. We’ve been bitterly surprised by betting on the ACC before, but Florida State’s bad days have been better than everybody else’s bad days so far, and its good days nigh untouchable. Winston, after what qualified as a bad day for him culminated in a resounding rivalry win, put a garnet-and-gold bow on the night in the postgame crush with Tom Rinaldi: “I learned I have to keep my composure. I learned I’ve gotta keep playing, because” — here he beamed — “I learned I have an amazing team.”
• Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27. With three conference losses already and a home in the same division as Florida State, BC is quite out of the conversation for the ACC championship game. That said, one remaining hot topic is Eagles running back Andre Williams, who has recorded 100-plus yards in six of eight games this season, including two 200-plus-yard showings. He carried 28 times for 149 yards against FSU back in September, and 33 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia Tech. Before it met Williams, Tech had not allowed more than 3.25 yards per carry. If you’re into early bandwagon jumps for dudes who will be super rich in a few years, Williams is putting together a pretty neat little season.
With Alabama on a bye, God’s chosen football conference relied upon pure scorn for entertainment in Week 10. In descending order of dispensed vitriol:
• Georgia 23, Florida 20: Deep-seated, long-standing mutual team resentment coupled with lashings-out at circumstances beyond anyone’s control. The Bulldogs and Gators arrived in Jacksonville possibly able to field a third entire team out of previously injured starters and key contributors, and promptly put on the most overtly spiteful Cocktail Party contest since the dance break of 2007. First, the good news for fans of Georgia and of football in general: Todd Gurley, clearly not even close to all the way back from that ankle sprain sustained against LSU, still put up a perfect 100 yards and Georgia’s first touchdown. Now, the good news for folks who simply like a good cackle: EVERYTHING ELSE.
The third-quarter clock was down near the six-minute mark before the cameras caught the first proper scuffle, between Gurley and Florida’s Dante Fowler, but from there the Dawgs and Gators picked up the tempo con gusto. Two minutes of game clock later, UGA’s Josh Harvey-Clemons horse-collared UF’s Solomon Patton and brought players and coaches from both sides out in a moderate ruckus. The last play before Georgia trotted out the victory formation was augmented by a Florida hands-to-the-face penalty. The victory formation itself dissolved into more fighting, which is the most entertaining possible manner short of a thrice-tipped Hail Mary by which to end a football game. Aaron Murray — AARON MURRAY — drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty right around this time, along with what felt like every other player on the field, and the referee visibly attempted to stifle laughter as he rattled off all the jersey numbers. Will Muschamp engaged in shouty antics with a fan as he exited the field, which it turns out looks like Will Muschamp doing pretty much anything else.
A modest proposal: Both teams had a bye week prior to the Cocktail Party. Both teams have FCS games scheduled for November, Georgia’s next week and Florida’s in Week 13. They really both ought to have their rest-up contests scheduled for the post-WLOCP slot at all times, so that each team can come in fresh, fight its hissing heart out, and serve all necessary suspensions against vastly overmatched competition. This we humbly suggest in the name of extracting the greatest possible entertainment value from the already appealing Cocktail Party, the most fun one can have in Jacksonville short of a harrowing but ultimately life-affirming deep-sea fishing charter accident.
• No. 11 Auburn 35, Arkansas 17: Brand-new and oh-so-promising detestation between two new head coaches. Football first: Auburn’s Tre Mason scored a season-high four touchdowns and recorded 168 rushing yards on 32 carries, and could do even more damage next week at Tennessee, and ooooh ooooh oooooh how we cannot wait to see this highly irresistible force meet the largely immovable objects of Alabama’s ground defense in the Iron Bowl.
Intersection of haterdom and football second: Bret Bielema and Gus Malzahn is your new favorite coaching rivalry. The Kelvin scale is required to measure the amount of fucks given between the two of them.
Past-tense haterdom third: This is true, but let’s not mistake it as a cosmic strike at the Bielemas specifically, and instead as more of a general and much-needed course correction by the universe against anyone and everyone who uses “karma” as a retort in a sports setting.
Future-tense haterdom fourth: If you carry no particular bias toward or against Arkansas, you want Bielema to succeed and the Razorbacks to flourish for entertainment value reasons alone. Where Bielema goes, good television follows, and has for some time. Remember Wisconsin–Penn State 2006? Now that guy’s turned loose in the SEC West. Truly, we are #blessed.
• No. 9 Missouri 31, Tennessee 3: Abhorrence of hangovers. #MAUKtion! Mizzou took a double-overtime loss versus South Carolina in stride, it turns out, returning previously injured cornerback E.J. Gaines to action, throwing true freshman quarterback Maty Mauk back out for the still-injured James Franklin, and confidently clinging to its SEC East lead.
• No. 12 Texas A&M 57, UTEP 7: Overcoming adversity in the form of lingering Halloween spookiness. The score of this game was 2-0 for approximately six minutes of the first quarter, which is the most logical data point you’ll find when plotting a game that involves UTEP, an after-dark kickoff, and a stadium known for its bat population. Then Johnny Manziel scored six touchdowns. That’ll happen.
While Oregon and Stanford sharpened their schematic stabbing implements
• USC 31, Oregon State 14. Here’s Marqise Lee’s first touchdown catch since September:
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 2, 2013
As for Oregon State’s imploding jack-o'-lantern maneuver: Are we comfortable blaming this on the idle Cardinal? After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Beavers scored 14 points in 14 seconds in the second. They would not score again.
• Arizona 33, California 28. Chased for most of the game by a one-win Bears outfit, the Wildcats are still an intriguing jigsaw piece in the Pac-12 South puzzle — although that may be largely a function of schedule. Arizona lost to its only ranked opponent, then–no. 16 Washington, 31-13 in September; three of its four remaining games are scheduled against conference rivals in the Top 25. Arizona State at UCLA in Week 13 still looks like the not-to-be missed division game from here.
Before Baylor joins the cannibalization
• No. 18 Oklahoma State 52, no. 15 Texas Tech 34. The Rally Fox has fallen short, and that’ll do it for the Red Raiders in this conference race. But between Kliff Kingsbury’s interchangeable set of quarterbacks and Jace Amaro, don’t tune out of Lubbock on account of two conference losses if all you’re looking for is a good time.*
You can, however, shift your appointment television priorities. The Pokes’ schedule is the most backloaded in a very backloaded Big 12; they have Kansas at home and Texas on the road before getting Baylor and Oklahoma in Stillwater. And that November 23 visit from the Bears is looking like the conference game of the year, at least from this middle distance. OSU’s defense is allowing 4.72 yards per play, second in the conference only to Baylor, and stayed mean Saturday in collecting three turnovers and forcing two TTU turnovers on downs in garbage time.
*And given the unbroken block of increasingly significant games the Big 12 is putting on the rest of this month, who knows? Want to get weird? Try adding up how many ways these teams could be tied in the conference standings by Week 15.
• No. 4 Ohio State 56, Purdue 0. Buckeyes-Boilermakers, in graphic form:
Ohio State backup QB Kenny Guiton vs. Purdue: Rushing statistics pic.twitter.com/845YbTZgq9
— Ramzy Nasrallah (@ramzy) November 2, 2013
The Buckeyes have Florida State’s problem — a conference schedule that wasn’t loaded to begin with, has already peaked, and only gets less interesting from here — but also share the benefit of having a conference championship game, against what will presumably be a ranked opponent, in which to make a final case for a BCS title game bid.
P.S.: Congratulations to Ohio State’s Tom Herman and family on the new addition, and may his baby-naming strategy be adopted by all expectant American parents.
The Spartans celebrate their 29-6 win with the Paul Bunyan Trophy. pic.twitter.com/wbsRkDXp6A
— Spartan Football (@MSU_Football) November 2, 2013
• No. 22 Michigan State 29, no. 21 Michigan 6. After sacking Devin Gardner seven times and holding the Wolverines to NEGATIVE 48 RUSHING YARDS, and with Nebraska, Northwestern, and Minnesota remaining on the Spartans’ schedule, it looks as though the nation’s best defense will be tasked with shutting down the Buckeyes’ bewildering array of offensive weapons in Indianapolis. It’s a tidy championship matchup. Jim Delany will be pleased.
• Houston 35, USF 23. John O’Korn is a quarterback you want to be riding on Halloween weekend:
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 31, 2013
The fate of the AAC still looks as though it’ll be determined in the next two weeks, with conference leaders Houston and Central Florida meeting in Orlando followed by the Cougars’ trip to Louisville.
Profiles in Profiteroles
Just leaving this reminder of what continues to be at stake for Northern Illinois and Fresno State here
• No. 17 Northern Illinois 63, UMass 19. Jordan Lynch recorded three rushing touchdowns in the game’s first quarter. For the sake of variety, here is an NIU defensive player doing something:
• No. 16 Fresno State 41, Nevada 23. This one was closer than it looked, but put away late by a field goal and a Marteze Waller rushing touchdown. It was also a career night by a long, long shot for Fresno receiver Josh Harper, whose 253 yards outstripped his previous season high by 130 yards, and whose 17 catches from Derek Carr set a program record.
• North Texas 28, Rice 16. Now bowl-eligible for the first time since 2004: the Mean Green, led by the utterly delightful Dan McCarney:
• Florida Atlantic 34, Tulane 17. Now re-tied: Conference USA West, thanks to the Owls and Green Wave losing on the same night.
• No. 25 Notre Dame 38, Navy 34. The Mids lost late, but Air Force’s win over Army kept the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in Annapolis.
Lest you ever doubt the existence of a sovereign universal force that loves you and college football: Week 11 begins with the onset of Tuesday #MACtion, continues with Wednesday #MACtion, and contains TWO top-10 games (Oklahoma-Baylor and Oregon-Stanford) on Thursday night alone. And that’s just during your work week.