College Football Overtime (cont.)
Ten years and two jobs later, Steve Spurrier is heading back to the SEC Championship Game, an event he once dominated (going 5-2 with Florida). While Spurrier is best known for his tutelage of a string of standout Gators quarterbacks, the unquestioned star of South Carolina's historic, division-clinching, 36-14 beatdown of Spurrier's alma mater was freshman running back Marcus Lattimore, who carried a school-record 40 times for 212 yards and three touchdowns.
"That was about right, running it about 50 and passing it about 20," said Spurrier. "That's a pretty good formula for us." Lattimore's supreme talents were evident early this season, when I proclaimed him "the most impressive freshman running back since Adrian Peterson," and nothing's changed my opinion. Lattimore has now rushed for 964 yards and 14 touchdowns despite missing the better part of two games with nagging injuries.
Talk about redemption. A week after his potential game-winning 40-yard field goal against North Carolina sailed wide right, Florida State's Dustin Hopkins drilled a 55-yarder (it would have gone in from 65) as time expired to beat Clemson, 16-13. FSU (7-3) remained in first in the ACC Atlantic despite playing without injured quarterback Christian Ponder. In his place, E.J. Manuel ran for 71 yards and threw for 210, including an 18-yard completion to set up Hopkins' kick.
Northwestern's 21-17 upset of No. 13 Iowa was bittersweet. After throwing what became a game-winning 20-yard touchdown to Demetrius Fields with 1:29 left, star quarterback Dan Persa ran to celebrate with Fields and ruptured his Achilles' tendon. He's done for the year. In his place, redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, a suburban Chicago native, will make his first career start at Wrigley Field, where Northwestern and Illinois are playing the first college football game since 1938.
Texas A&M, 3-3 and left for dead a month ago, is now 7-3 and the No. 18 team in the country. Behind three second-half touchdown runs and a fourth straight 100-yard game from tailback Cyrus Gray, the Aggies rallied from a 30-14 deficit at Baylor to win 42-30. Mike Sherman's team has completely reinvented itself since switching to quarterback Ryan Tannehill three games ago and now has its longest Big 12 winning streak in four years. Unfortunately, it's a tad too late to win the division.
And now, I will risk the wrath of readers everywhere by doing the unthinkable: praising Lane Kiffin. All things considered, Kiffin's first USC team has surpassed expectations. Rather than folding after their draining loss to Oregon, the Trojans (7-3) have gone on to beat Arizona State and knock off No. 18 Arizona, 24-21, for Kiffin's first road win over a ranked team. Junior Marc Tyler, who found new life under the new regime, rushed for a career-high 160 yards.
Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon has been rightfully lauded for an almost certain All-America season (he notched another 145 yards in Saturday's 33-16 win at Texas), but it's time to give quarterback Brandon Weeden his due. He's now thrown for a school-record 3,391 yards, 27 TDs and 10 INTs following his second straight 400-yard passing day. "He made some throws tonight that very few college quarterbacks can make," said Texas coach Mack Brown.
Just when you thought Ron Zook had Illinois (5-5) headed back in the right direction, the Illini lose to 1-9 Minnesota on Senior Day, 38-34. This on the heels of a crushing 67-65 triple-overtime loss to Michigan that undoubtedly had a carryover effect. Was Illinois caught looking ahead to a possible bowl berth? Said Zook: "You don't think I don't think they don't think about the bowl game?" Huh?? If they don't win at Northwestern or Fresno State, they're not going to one.
See -- all Colorado needed was a coaching change. In their first game under interim coach Brian Cabral -- a former player and staff member since 1989 -- the Buffs (4-6) snapped a five-game losing streak to rout Iowa State, 34-14. Cody Hawkins threw three touchdown passes while (this is not awkward at all) his fired father watched from the balcony of his former office. "He's Dan Hawkins' son, but he's a Buffalo first," Cabral said of the oft-criticized quarterback, who threw for 266 yards.
What has happened to Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn? The sophomore, who earned MVP honors at last year's Poinsettia Bowl and led the Utes to six of their first eight wins (he missed two games to injury), followed up a miserable performance against TCU with a 28-3 loss at then 4-5 Notre Dame. Coach Kyle Whittingham chalked the loss up to "ineptness on offense" and admitted he considered pulling Wynn for backup Terrance Cain. Controversy.
Miami (7-3) may have a quarterback controversy on its hands, too, but with good reason. Since replacing the injured Jacory Harris as starter, freshman Stephen Morris has led the 'Canes to consecutive wins over Maryland and Georgia Tech and consecutive 500-yard offensive outputs for the first time since 2002. But heading into a crucial game against division leader Virginia Tech, coach Randy Shannon insists Harris will be the starter as soon as he's cleared by doctors to return.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson may be down to his last days. Following yet another near-miss, a 17-13 loss to No. 6 Stanford (which hadn't previously scored fewer than 31 points), the Sun Devils stand 4-6. Four of their losses have come to currently ranked teams, three of those by less than a touchdown, but because two of their wins came against FCS foes, they'll miss a bowl for the third straight season. "It is very disappointing," said Erickson, who dropped to 23-24 at ASU.
This week in the Big East: Jordan Todman's 37-carry, 222-yard night led Connecticut (5-4, 2-2) over Pittsburgh (5-4, 3-1) last Friday, yet the Panthers remain alone in first. Syracuse (7-3, 4-2) beat Rutgers (4-5, 1-3) to stay within a half-game, but previously lost to Pitt. Its best hope is to beat the Huskies and hope the Panthers lose twice more to fall into a possible tie with USF (6-3, 3-2) or West Virginia (6-3, 2-2), both of whom the Orange have beaten.
Speaking of Syracuse, coach Doug Marrone already has more wins (11) in his first two seasons than predecessor Greg Robinson had in four (10).
No. 6 Wisconsin's 83 points against Indiana marked the most by a Big Ten team since 1950, the most by the Badgers since 1915 and begged the question: How many would they have scored had John Clay played?
Texas (4-6) is one loss away from becoming the first team to miss a bowl entirely a year after reaching the BCS title game.
Florida International (4-5, 4-1 Sun Belt), 9-27 in coach Mario Cristobal's first three seasons, knocked off Troy (5-4, 4-2) to take over first place in the Sun Belt.
College Football Championship Week roundup: Michigan State spoils Ohio State's BCS hopes
Spartans spoil Ohio State's BCS title hopes