College Football Overtime (cont.)
Andrew Luck was considered this season's Heisman favorite from the day he announced he was returning to Stanford, and as the season went on, his expected coronation seemed to become more and more inevitable.
Luck probably could have survived a loss to Oregon with his frontrunner status intact, but not after playing so poorly in a lopsided defeat. Playing without his two fastest targets, receiver Chris Owusu and tight end Zach Ertz, Luck was shaky and hesitant most of the night as his receivers struggled to get open and Oregon's defensive front consistently pressured him. He telegraphed an interception to linebacker DeWitt Stuckey, lost a fumble on a sack and threw a pick-six in the waning moments, albeit on a bobble by his receiver, Ty Montgomery. Stanford lacks the type of receivers to stretch the field, and Luck was relegated mostly to throwing crossing patterns and other underneath throws. He finished 27-of-41 for 271 yards, three touchdowns and two picks.
Luck's "worst game of the year, I guess," as he called it, should hardly eliminate him from consideration. He's still the nation's fifth-rated passer. But it would be hard to logically argue at this point that the fourth-year junior, who's beaten one formidable foe all season (USC), has been the "most outstanding player" in the country.
But who has been? Suddenly, the field is incredibly wide-open for such a late juncture in the season, filled with a bunch of quality candidates one could argue both for and against. They include Houston's Case Keenum (ridiculous numbers but against weak competition), Alabama's Trent Richardson (passes the eye test but couldn't get his team in the end zone against LSU), Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (on pace to throw for well over 4,000 yards but also double-digit interceptions), Wisconsin's Russell Wilson (on pace to break the NCAA pass efficiency record but lost his two biggest road games), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (still putting up phenomenal stats but for a 6-3 team) and Boise State's Kellen Moore (his hopes probably went out the door against TCU).
The list goes on and on: Virginia Tech's David Wilson leads the nation in rushing yards (1,360) but only has seven touchdowns; Oregon's LaMichael James is tops in yards per game (150.9) but missed two contests; Wisconsin's Montee Ball is a touchdown machine (27) but gets overshadowed by Wilson; and how do you choose between Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins?
In recent years, the national championship race and Heisman race have become increasingly intertwined, but No. 1 LSU lacks an obvious candidate. (Sorry, Honey Badger.) That leaves Richardson and Weeden with the best shot to make a statement down the stretch, while Luck will get a chance to redeem himself with a primetime game against Notre Dame on Thanksgiving weekend. Expect a push for Keenum in the coming weeks, too. There are a lot of great players out there, but no one who yet qualifies as "most outstanding."
For nearly a century, Georgia Tech's famous 222-0 victory over Cumberland in 1916 has held a mystical place in college football lore. No team has ever come close to matching it, and in fact two teams have never come close to combining for that many points.
On Saturday, however, NAIA schools Faulkner (Ala.) and Union (Ky.) gave it their best shot. In what's believed to be the highest-scoring college football game since that historic day, Faulkner outlasted Union, 95-89, in triple overtime.
In a game that was tied 75-75 after regulation, Faulkner quarterback Josh Hollingsworth threw for an NAIA-record 637 yards and seven touchdowns, including a go-ahead score in the top half of the third overtime. Ultimately, however, the game was decided on a defensive stop, when a gang of Faulkner tacklers stuffed Union running back Rob Brown on fourth-and-2.
It was both Faulkner's Homecoming game and its season finale.
"We struggled so much defensively today, and all season, but our guys stepped up when we had to have it on that last drive in overtime," said Faulkner coach Gregg Baker. "It's been a tough season. It didn't turn out like we wanted but it ended the way we wanted it to."
Mini-previews for three of this week's big games:
USC at Oregon, Saturday (8 p.m. ET): USC's defense has improved considerably this season, but the Ducks' unconventional offense proved to be NFL guru Monte Kiffin's Kryptonite last year. Meanwhile, the Ducks will have to deal with the most talented opposing receiving corps they've seen.
Nebraska at Michigan, Saturday (Noon ET): When Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson first burst on to the scene, we salivated at the thought of them playing on the same field. But Martinez is no longer a game-breaking runner and Robinson is banged up. Defenses will probably play a bigger role than the QBs.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee, Saturday (7 p.m. ET): It's history, folks: The Commodores are favored over the Vols, for a game in Knoxville. Vandy needs a win to get bowl-eligible; Tennessee needs a win because it's 0-6 in the SEC. It's James Franklin's biggest game to date, and probably Derek Dooley's, too. Seriously.