College Football Overtime (cont.)
We knew entering the season that Oklahoma State had Big 12 title potential. There were two big obstacles, however: a questionable defense and a daunting conference road schedule.
There's nothing like overcoming a 17-point halftime deficit on the road against a Top 10 foe to squash those concerns.
Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden (47-of-60, 438 yards, two TDs, zero INTs) had his finest performance to date against Texas A&M, but the story of the game was Oklahoma State's second-half defensive dominance against Ryan Tannehill and the Aggies' offense. As Dr. Saturday detailed in his postgame breakdown: "In the span of 17 plays in a little under 17 minutes of game time, the Cowboys forced A&M into a fumble, two interceptions and two punts on five consecutive possessions. At one point, the Aggies went 14 minutes without a first down or even a completion by [Tannehill]." In turn, Oklahoma State went from down 20-3 to up 30-20 en route to a 30-29 victory.
And they did it during a week in which their co-defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was mourning the loss of his wife, Angela, who died from heart issues last Saturday. His players would certainly have been excused for coming out flat.
"Win or lose, I told them that the way they handled that situation was beautiful," said Cowboys coach Mike Gundy. "The win makes it special, but the way they fought back as a group shows a lot about their character and who they are."
Oklahoma State's victory combined with Oklahoma's 38-28 win over Missouri (in which Landry Jones nearly replicated Weeden's stat line, throwing for 448 yards) may make some wonder whether the teams' Dec. 3 Bedlam date will be the Big 12 equivalent of LSU-Alabama. That's a long way away, with both teams facing several tests before then, including consecutive mid-October trips to Texas and Missouri for Oklahoma State.
But the road may not be such a scary place for the Cowboys after all. Weeden is now 8-0 on the road as a starter.
Any hangover in College Station from Saturday's disappointment likely vanished Sunday with the long-awaited news that Texas A&M's SEC invite is finally official -- the week the Aggies play an SEC foe (Arkansas), no less. With so much football to rehash, I'm keeping the realignment talk to a minimum in this column, but it's worth noting the statement Mike Slive released Sunday along with the A&M announcement.
"When Texas A&M joins our conference, we don't have immediate plans for a 14th member," Slive said. "We aren't thinking in terms of numbers."
Translation: If Missouri decides to remain in the Chuck Neinas-reformed Big 12, don't expect the SEC to rush out and pick any school to accompany A&M. We could be looking at a 13-team league for at least the 2012 season.
When Clemson's schedule was announced last spring, not many Tigers fans were pleased with the ACC office. Following a Sept. 17 date with defending national champion Auburn, the Tigers would begin conference play with the league's two consensus preseason favorites: Florida State and Virginia Tech.
Ever the upbeat optimist, however, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney not only embraced the challenge, but he also came up with a name for it.
"We called it the Schedule of Champions," Swinney said Sunday, noting his team's first five opponents -- Troy (Sun Belt), FCS Wofford (Southern Conference), Auburn (SEC and BCS), FSU (ACC Atlantic) and Virginia Tech (ACC overall) -- all laid claim to a title last season. "If you want to beat a champion, you've got to schedule for it. We have an opportunity if we take care of business to make ourselves relevant."
The Tigers are almost there. One of the season's few big surprises to date, they followed up a breakout 38-24 victory over then 21st-ranked Auburn two weeks ago with an even bigger 35-30 win over No. 11 Florida State on Saturday. Suddenly Clemson (4-0) is ranked 13th in the AP poll and has a leg up in the ACC's Atlantic Division, while the formerly fifth-ranked 'Noles fell to 2-2.
Saturday marked another huge game for first-year quarterback Tajh Boyd (23-of-37 for 344 yards, three TDs and one admittedly heinous INT), who made school history by notching his fourth straight game with at least three touchdown passes. It was one thing for Boyd and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins (eight catches, 141 yards, two TDs) to shred Auburn's porous defense, but quite another to make mincemeat of a respected Seminoles defense.
But Swinney said the Tigers' defense played its best game of the year against an FSU offense reeling without injured quarterback E.J. Manuel and a couple of key receivers. Clemson's secondary remains a work in progress, but its front four, led by defensive end Andre Branch, is a solid bunch.
With Clemson, we've learned over the years to temper expectations, and it's possible the fun will end with Saturday's trip to Lane Stadium in the Tigers' first road game of the season. The Hokies currently boast the nation's fourth-ranked defense. Swinney, who's gotten a lot of TV time the past couple of weeks, is good at both soaking in the attention and throwing out the proper caveats.
"September does not make a season," Swinney said. "It's good people are talking about Clemson. It means we've done something positive for a change. But we've still got all of October and November."
Kings take 3-2 series lead with 3-0 domination of Sharks
Cazeneuve: Rangers keep series alive with OT win